Halloween is here in eerie England, spooky Scotland and weird Wales!

Do you believe in ghosts?  You may well do after your Britain vacation!  In the wake of Halloween I have been asked about where to visit for a good fright-fest and in a nation with such a long history, it seems that there are eerie goings on whenever and wherever you visit! 

Pumpkin on Halloween
Pumpkin on Halloween

In Scotland you should start of course with a visit to the eerie waters of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands.  For years there have been sightings of the famous Loch Ness Monster, an unidentified sea creature which reputedly lives in the depths of the murky lake.  After a cruise on the Loch with one of the local guides you’ll definitely come away believing there really is something down there!  From the Highlands to historic Edinburgh where there are a wealth of walking tours to choose from to hear the city’s ghost stories; only the bravest however will venture beneath the city’s old town itself to Mary King’s Close, a warren of alleys which were buried beneath the city and sealed from the outside for centuries and which are haunted by victims of the black plague!

London too is host to a number of chilling tales.  Why not embark on a tour which visits the sites of the grisly murders of a number of women at the hands of one of the most notorious murderers of England, Jack the Ripper; try to discover his true identity and solve one of Victorian England’s greatest mysteries.  For something a little lighter, you could take the children to the Harry Potter film studios to discover the secrets of the Dark Arts, see the study of professor Snape and meet the Dementors face to er… hood.  In the West Country of England the brave may choose to venture down 50 000 year old natural caves to unravel the mystery of the Witch of Wookey Hole who, according to local legend, was turned to stone and still stands lurking in the shadows of the caverns.

Mary King's Close - Edinburgh
Mary King’s Close – Edinburgh

Crossing the border, you’ll visit the ancient land of Wales which is renowned for its Medieval castles which were the setting for torturous killings and bloody battles.  Almost every fortress has at least one resident ghost and eerie tales of hauntings from the depths of the dungeons to the tops of the towers.  Conwy Castle in the north is haunted by a soldier whose wife and child fell to their deaths from the watch tower whilst at Cardiff Castle look out for the Marquess of Bute who roams the library and passes through a wall to the chapel where he breathed his final breath.

If you’re not scared yet, why not come and see for yourself if they’re real on your own Britrain vacation!  For further information on visiting any of the above locations or tours, let us know.  Or if you have your own eerie tale, why not leave us a comment below!

50 Years of the Beatles!

I am no paperback writer, but thought I would jot down a few words from me to you about the Beatles event this weekend that saw over sixteen hundred people come together to sing one of the fab four’s greatest hits.

Beatles Story Exhibition, Liverpool
Beatles Story Exhibition, Liverpool

Ok, enough of the puns! Throughout 2012 Liverpool in England has played host to a series of events and festivals to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Beatles and their dramatic rise to world-wide fame.  From humble beginnings, growing up in suburbs of one of the North of England‘s most rugged cities, the Beatles performed their first gig in August 1962 at the 17th annual dance of the horticultural Society of Liverpool, and they never looked back!  As part of the celebrations and on the 50th anniversary of the release of the group’s first single “Love me Do”, Saturday (October 5th 2012) saw the people of Liverpool break an official world record.  Taking place at the Pier Head in front of Liverpool’s famous Liver Buildings, and co-ordinated by staff from

Albert Docks and Liver Building, Liverpool
Albert Docks, Liverpool

the nearby Beatles Story exhibition, the gathering of 1631 people singing in a round was verified by Guinness World Records adjudicator Anna Orford as an official world record.  The group, singing “Love Me Do” which reached number 17 in the charts in 1962, consisted of 934 members from local choirs including the Liverpool signing choir, who recently performed at the Olympics closing ceremony, as well as hundreds of locals and visitors to the city.  Congratulations to all who took part!

Liverpool is jam packed with Beatles heritage and well worth a visit or a day trip(per) at any time of year.  Oh dear, that’s another pun – now I just need to work out how to fit in “Yellow Submarine” and “I am the Walrus”!

Downton Abbey has the X Factor

With the Autumnal weather setting in here in Britain, and the Summer holidays well and truly over, many people dread their Sunday evenings at this time of year.  For me however Sunday evenings just got a whole lot better as I can once again indulge in a guilty pleasure with the return of Downton Abbey to our television screens.

The period costume drama, set in Edwardian middle England, has just returned to the British television schedules for its third season and appears to be going from strength to strength.  Whilst it wouldn’t do my street cred much good to admit I’m a fan, I can’t be the only one tuning in; last Sunday’s episode saw it watched by over a third of the viewing public with figures at times reaching levels achieved by the latest series of Simon Cowell’s X-Factor which precedes it in the schedules.

Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey

One of the show’s attractions has to be the top class acting; Maggie Smith has just scooped a grammy for her role and there is a raft of other young British talent in the cast.  For me though, the main appeal is the escapism, the opportunity to lose myself in a bygone era of smart dress suits and frilly dresses and all set against the magnificently grandiose back drop of the Abbey itself.  The show is filmed at the magnificent Highclere Castle, a Victorian manor in central England which is still privately owned by the Carnavon family whose generations have lived there since the 17th century.  The family however open their home and gardens to visitors throughout the Summer months and next year it is at the top of my list for places to visit.

Downton Abbey is currently screened in over 100 countries around the world, so if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss a chance to tune in when it comes to a network near you.  Or if you fancy the real thing, why not come over to England and wander the gardens and grounds of Highclere Castle yourself as you pretend to be one of the Crawley family – I won’t tell anyone if you won’t!

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Britain is renowned for its weather – or more accurately its rainy weather – and our obsession with it as a topic for social conversation, so this Summer we have had lots to talk about!

2012 to date has been one of our wettest years on record with the rainy weather hitting all areas of Britain even through the “Summer” months when we should be experiencing some sunshine.  Music fans have seen concerts and festivals interrupted and sporting events have been affected at the British Grand Prix (where the car parks werewaterlogged) and at Wimbledon where almost every day of the tournament saw interruptions of play due to rain (thank heavens for the roof on centre court!).

Wild Bee Orchid in English Meadow.
Wild Bee Orchid in English Meadow.

However, always one to focus on the positive, there has been one winner comeout of all this: the British countryside!  England, Scotland and Wales are renowned for their lush green landscapes and the rain fall this year has seen our woodlands and meadows come out in bloom with an unprecedented vigour.  Horticulturists have been in their element as their gardens have blossomed and as a host of new and rare wild-flowers have flourished in our countryside.  In particular a number of rare species of Orchid have thrived including the unique and beautiful bee orchid whose colourful bloom appears like a small bee insect perched in the centre of the pink and purple petals.

The 15th of July in Britain is known as St Swithun’s Day, a day dedicated to the 1st century Bishop of Winchester.  According to folklore the weather that occurs on his day each year will continue for the next forty days.  It is a bright morning today here in Cardiff so I will be selectively superstitious and hope that the next month or so will bring some sunny weather, not least for the Olympic games which is coming to London in a couple of weeks time!  But whether the weather rains or shines, if you’re walking in the countryside this Summer, make the most of the colourful array of rare flowers and keep an eye out for the bee orchid!

Wimbledon 2012 – Murray Makes History!

Yesterday evening most of the British population were glued to our televisions sets whilst perched on the edge of our seats as British Andy Murray made history in his Wimbledon semi-final against Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

Wilmbledon Logo
The Wimbledon Logo

Annually around this time of year again we Brits become avid and obsessive tennis fans for two weeks as our television screens are filled with the sight of the prim green courts of Wimbledon Tennis Club in South West London.  And each year the tournament ends leaving us with a slightly dispirited feeling of disappointment as our home players are dumped out in the early rounds with the exception of one or two who manage to make it to the latter stages only to lose against the big names of the game.  So much is our obsession with Wimbledon and our national players that in the late nineties the word “Henmania” was officially recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary as a result of the annual national frenzy surrounding Tim Henman’s progress (or lack thereof) at the tournament.  Tim did indeed reach the semi-finals on four occasions during his career.

This year however it will all be different!  On Friday evening Andy Murray from Dunblane, Scotland, battled his opponent and the pressure of expectation of a nation, as he won his opponent and the pressure of expectation of a nation, as he won his semi-final encounter!  In fact Murray is now the first British player to reach the Wimbledon Men’s Final in no less than 74 years!  In that year Englishman Fred Perry won the event.  Murray is also the first Brit in the men’s and women’s games to reach the finals since Virginia Wade won the ladies tournament in 1977.

Centre Court Wimbledon
Centre Court Wimbledon

So now all eyes are on Murray to seize the moment and go one better on Sunday’s final where he’ll face a stern challenge in the form of seven-times champion Roger Federer.  The superstitious may have notice that Virginia Wade won the event in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (2012 is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee) and that Andy Murray’s and Fred Perry’s Birthdays are just three days apart and Perry was 25 when he won the tournament – Murray turned 25 in May.  Also, the last time Britain held the Olympics (1908) a Brit, Arthur Gore, was champion at Wimbledon and the Olympics are coming to London in 2012.  So are the stars aligning for a momentous British Wimbledon victory?  Either way the British public are looking forward to a Sunday afternoon of nail biting, gut wrenching drama and will live every minute with Murray!