I think its safe to say that 2020 has not been the year for travel, and although I was lucky and got a couple of trips in before lockdown, I have definitely been suffering from wanderlust during the summer. With travel opportunities hopefully starting to open up again in the near future, I’ve decided to do a series of blogs covering places on my bucket list. This one has five places within the UK, and next week one will follow with five places in Europe.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Situated in the east of the country and at the mouth of the River Lagan, Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, is definitely near the top of my list of places to visit in the UK. Having grown up near the furthest point from the sea in the UK, I enjoy being near the coast and maritime history fascinates me. Home to the famous shipbuilders Harland & Wolff (H&W), builders of the Titanic, Belfast is certainly full of history and unsurprisingly two of my top three paces to visit in Belfast relate to this history:
- Titanic Belfast – This is the museum that covers the history of the RMS Titanic, as well as its sister ships the RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. Situated on the site of the former H&W shipyard where the Titanic was built, the museum costs £19 for adults and £8.50 for children. Although not the cheapest, the Titanic is one of Belfast’s most notable pieces of history, so I think it would definitely be worth the visit.
- HMS Caroline & SS Nomadic – These historic ships are both moored within the city’s Titanic Quarter with Nomadic in Hamilton Dock and Caroline in Alexandra Dock. HMS Caroline is one of only three remaining World War I Royal Navy warships and is listed as part of the National Historic Fleet along with ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Belfast. SS Nomadic was a tender for the White Star Line, ferrying passengers from Cherbourg to the RMS Titanic and Olympic which were too large to dock in the town’s harbour. The Nomadic was built on No. 1 slipway of the Arrol Gantry, alongside the larger ocean liners she tendered for which were build on Nos. 2 and 3 respectively.
- Parliament Buildings – To the east of the city is the Stormont estate, home to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. The main parliament building is Grade A listed (equivalent to Grade I listed in England), whilst the executive is housed within the original 19th century Stormont Castle. The main parliament building can be visited Monday to Friday, however the Castle is only open for visits on the weekend of European Heritage Open Days.
The most northerly city in the UK, and capital of the Highlands, Inverness is full of things to do and is also just a few miles away from the fabled Loch Ness. The city and its surrounding area are also full of history, and two of my top three places to visit are part of this history:
- Fort George – This 18th century fortress sits on a spit of land that juts into the Moray Firth and therefore controls the approach by sea to Inverness. Built following the Jacobite rising of 1745, the fort is still an operational barracks, however much of the site is open to the public with the former Lieutenant Governor’s house home to the Highlander’s Museum.
- Culloden Battlefield – Site of the Battle of Culloden, the final confrontation of the Jacobite uprising, the battlefield saw a decisive victory for the British Government force led by the Duke of Cumberland. A visitor’s centre is now located nearby with the intention of preserving the battlefield in a condition similar to how it was during the battle.
- Loch Ness – Reputably home to the Loch Ness Monster ‘Nessie’, Loch Ness is the largest loch/lake in the British Isles and astoundingly contains more water than all of the lakes in England and Scotland combined! The Loch is 230m deep, which would completely submerge London’s Heron Tower (the UK’s fifth tallest building).
Another major maritime city of the UK and home to some of the country’s best-known cultural icons, Liverpool has an interesting mix of culture, architecture and history and was the 2008 European Capital of Culture. Some of the city’s most iconic buildings have made my top three places I want to visit:
- Maritime Mercantile City – The Mercantile City is a UNESCO World Heritage site since it was granted the status in 2004. The heritage site includes The Pier Head (home to The Royal Liver Building and 7 other listed buildings) and The Albert Dock (home to 26 listed structures) as well as other dockyard and city centre areas. All in all the UNESCO site includes more than 100 listed buildings and structures, however in 2017 UNESCO warned the city could lose its status due to various planning and development proposals.
- Merseyside Maritime Museum – Housed in one of The Albert Dock’s listed warehouses, the Merseyside Maritime Museum houses an number of exhibitions and collections covering all aspects of the city’s seafaring heritage, ranging from its role in the transatlantic slave trade to the much more modern UK Border Agency’s national museum which is housed in the basement.
- Liverpool Cathedral – At an impressive 189m long, Liverpool Cathedral is the longest cathedral in the world and at 101m high it is also on of the world’s tallest non-spired church buildings. As Anglican buildings go, the cathedral is relatively modern, with construction having only begun in 1904 and the most recent parts having been finished in 1978. Unlike some cathedrals, Liverpool Cathedral is free to visit and is open for visitors from 1100 to 1430 daily.
The city of Newcastle sits on the north bank of the River Tyne and forms the conurbation of Tyneside along with Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside. The city is a hub for culture within the Northeast and, in keeping with the unintended nautical theme of this post, prides itself on its maritime history:
- Newcastle Castle – Newcastle’s castle is actually the new castle built on the site of the old new castle which gave Newcastle its name. The Keep is a Grade I listed building, a scheduled ancient monument and also notable due to having the East Coast Mainline running through the grounds.
- The Quayside – Along the north bank of the Tyne, The Quayside is a cultural quarter with a great Sunday market. Providing great views of the Tyne and its bridges, it also provides easy access to the Baltic art gallery on the river’s south bank.
- The Discovery Museum – Newcastle’s answer to London’s Science Museum, Manchester’s Science & Industry Museum as well as many others, The Discovery Museum has a bit of everything. From the 104ft Turbinia ship and examples of early lightbulbs (invented on Tyneside) to the regimental museums of the Light Dragoons and Northumberland Hussars, the museum is completely free to visit!
Last, but not least for my top five UK places I want to visit is the capital city of Wales, Cardiff. The city has more than 1,000 listed buildings and areas such as Cardiff Bay have undergone recent regeneration into tourist hotspots:
- Cardiff Castle – As castle’s go, Cardiff’s is definitely a ‘castley castle’! With the shell keep sitting on the motte high above the bailey and the rest of the fortifications, the castle has history ranging from the Roman period right up to the modern ‘Interpretation Centre’ built in 2008. The castle isn’t currently open to the public (Covid – sigh!) but if you live or work in the city, you can get a Castle Key for £6.75 which gives you free entry for 3 years!
- Cardiff Bay – The beating heart of Wales’ coal exports for many years, the dock area at one point hosted communities from 45 different nations. With the industry closing down post WW2 the area became derelict, however the construction of the Cardiff Bay Barrage in 1999 has injected new life into the area and the bay is now home to the Welsh Senedd and Welsh National Opera aswell as many other attractions.
- Centenary Walk – This walking route, just over 2 miles in length, covers 41 of the city’s landmarks and historic sites. Established as part of the celebrations to mark Cardiff’s 100th year with city status, the walk starts and finishes at the Old Library, running clockwise around the city.
Hopefully this blog has given you some inspiration to start planning trips, especially within whatever country you may live. With all the measures airlines and rail companies are putting in place, it is becoming safer to travel and as long a you’re following local laws and guidelines, it may well be worth visiting somewhere local on your bucket list.