One of the views from London’s new ArcelorMittal Orbit.
“Oh to be in England now that April’s there,” begins a well-known poem by Robert Browning. Although he was extolling the virtues of mid-19th-century England’s natural splendors—and there are still plenty of them to be enjoyed—visitors in 2014 will find several new attractions debuting in April and throughout the year.
One of the biggest will be opening in Browning’s home town of London. As of April 5, 2014, people will be able to explore more of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as the newly landscaped south of the Park opens to the public for the first time since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. There are more than two dozen art installations across the park, including Anish Kapoor’s landmark ArcelorMittal Orbit. The 375-foot-tall Orbit is also scheduled to open in April and will afford views of London from one of two platforms in its observation tower.
About two hours by train from London, Stratford-upon-Avon will be celebrating the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare with special birthday celebrations April 26 and 27, including a grand procession from Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Holy Trinity Church, where he is buried. A Shakespeare Five House Pass (about $37) gains admission to the Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm, Nash’s House and Shakespeare’s Grave. For details and related events in 2014, visit www.shakespeare.org.uk.
For dedicated enthusiasts of the Bard, Ciceroni Travel offers a ‘‘Shakespeare’s Way’’ tour from May 16-21. It is inspired by the journey Shakespeare likely made between the Globe Theatre in London and his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, passing through such English towns as Oxford and Woodstock. It includes lodging, luxury coach travel, and behind-the-scenes tours and performances at the Globe and Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Price is $2,570.
Keeping with the literary theme, the impending release of a new, highly anticipated film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd is likely to stir interest in the southern England county of Dorset, often referred to as “Hardy Country.” Visitors can explore two of the writer’s houses—his childhood home, and Max Gate, the property Hardy designed himself and moved into with his wife Emma.
Another southern county, Hampshire, will host Milford-on-Sea Food Week, April 7-13. Celebrity shows, themed dining evenings, Professional Cookery Theatre, Sunday food market, cooking demonstrations, educational talks, wine tastings, children’s activities and more will be among the festivities.
Also in Hampshire, Bombay Sapphire’s new gin distillery and visitors center—housed in the renovated 19th century Laverstoke Mill—is expected to be up and running and offering tours when April rolls around. Visitors can observe the gin-making process, learn the history of both Bombay Sapphire and the mill, and have cocktails at the onsite river-view bar.
“And after April, when May follows” (to take another cue from Browning), there will be more new things to look forward to, according to VisitEngland, which has identified all of the above and more among the top 2014 vacation highlights in the UK. Other upcoming attractions include events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 175th anniversary of the Henley Royal Regatta in July.