Saturday, January 21, 2012

ENGLAND-MIDLANDS

(includes East Midlands (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire) and West Midlands (Staffordshire & Worcestershire)).

EAST MIDLANDS
DERBYSHIRE (includes Castleton & Pilsley)
Hotels
Devonshire Arms at Pilsley – Route A619 (Pilsley); 011-44-012-4658-3258; devonshirepilsley.co.uk; run by Duchess of Devonshire; 7 rooms.
Sights & Sites
Calke Abbey – Ticknall (Derby); 011-44-013-3286-3822; nationaltrust.org.uk/calke-abbey; taxidermy.
Ilam Hall & Park – Ilam (Ashbourne, Dovedale); 011-44-013-3535-0503 or 011-44-084-5371-9023; derbyshire-peakdistrict-co-uk.leia.parcomweb.net/ilamvisitorcentre.htm or peakdistrictinformation.com/visits/dovedale.php; make sure to hike to Reynard’s Kitchen Cave.
Peak Cavern – Winnats Road (Castleton); 011-44-014-3362-0285; peakcavern.co.uk; easily reached by pretty streamside walk from village center; largest natural cave entrance in England, known (not so prettily) as “Devil’s Arse”; visits by hourly guided tour only.
Speedwell Cavern – Winnats Road (Castleton); 011-44-014-3362-0512; speedwellcavern.co.uk; includes boat trip through flooded mineshaft, where glide in eerie silence (save for garrulous guides) to reach huge subterranean lake called “Bottomless Pit.”
Treak Cliff Cavern – Buxton Road (Castleton); 011-44-014-3362-0571; bluejohnstone.com; show cave part of Castleton Site of Special Scientific Interest; all Blue John stone deposits on visitor route preserved; Blue John is regularly mined from areas not seen by visitors; crafted into jewelry, small bowls, ornaments and other decorative items for sale in gift shop.


Leicestershire (includes Leicester & Nuneaton)
Services
Tourist Information Centre – 7-9 Every Street (Leicester, on Town Hall Square); 011-44-084-4888-5181; goleicestershire.com.
Sights & Sites
Battle of Bosworth Heritage Centre & Country Park – Sutton Cheney (Nuneaton, near Market Bosworth); 011-44-014-5529-0429; bosworthbattlefield.com; Battle of Bosworth (or Bosworth Field) was War of Roses’ last significant battle (civil war between Houses of Lancaster & York in 15th Century’s latter half); fought on August 22, 1485; Lancastrians won; their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by his victory became Tudor Dynasty’s 1st English monarch; his opponent, Richard III, House of York’s last king, killed in battle, marking Plantagenet dynasty’s end.
Bow Bridge – #1 West Bridge (Leicester, A47); britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-188681-bow-bridge; dating from 1861, this bridge replaced earlier 1666 one, which in turn replaced much earlier one over which King Richard III crossed in 1485 on his way to Bosworth Field.
Castle Park – Castle Motte (Leicester, west of city center, between Saint Nicholas Circle to north and De Montfort University to south); le.ac.uk/richardiii/history/leicestercastle.html; probably built around 1070; remains now consist of mound (motte), along with ruins; Great Hall used for Parliament sessions, most notably Parliament of Bats (1426).
Guildhall Building – Guildhall Lane (Leicester); 011-44-011-6253-2569; leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/leicester-city-museums/museums/the-guildhall; timber-framed building; earliest part dates from 1390; was town hall until 1876; majority of building dates from 15th Century; located in old walled city; 1st used as Guild of Corpus Christi meeting hall.
Jewry Hall – 156-160 St. Nicholas Circle (Leicester); 011-44-011-6225-4971; leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/leicester-city-museums/museums/jewry-wall-museum.
Leicester Cathedral – 21 St. Martin’s (Leicester); 011-44-011-6261-5200; cathedral.leicester.anglican.org.
Greyfriars Car Park – New Street (Leicester, at Friars Lane); le.ac.uk/richardiii; where archaeologists dug up Richard III’s 500-year-old bones.


Lincolnshire (includes Boston, Dunston, Gainsborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Scunthorpe, Snarford & Stamford)
Hotels
White Hart Hotel – 87 Ballgate (Lincoln, across from Cathedral close); 011-44-015-2252-6222; whitehart-lincoln.co.uk; charming; has parking.
Winteringham Fields – 1 Silver Street (Scunthorpe); 011-44-017-2473-3096; winteringhamfields.co.uk; characterful 16th Century house with comfortable, antique-furnished bedrooms (those in cottage are most stylish).
Restaurants
Jews House – 15 Strait (Lincoln); 011-44-015-2252-4851; jewshouserestaurant.co.uk; city’s best restaurant; housed in city’s most picturesque and oldest building.
White Hart Hotel – 87 Ballgate (Lincoln, across from Cathedral close); 011-44-015-2252-6222; acceptable food but Jews House is better.
Wig & Mitre – 30 Steep Hill (Lincoln); 011-44-015-2253-5190; wigandmitre.com; Victorian, pub-style restaurant that features traditional pub fare like braised beef and roast wood pigeon.
Winteringham Fields – 1 Silver Street (Scunthorpe); 011-44-017-2473-3096; winteringhamfields.co.uk; characterful 16th Century house with elegant dining room & several private rooms; complex, modern cooking, offering set price or tasting menu at lunch & daily “Menu Surprise” of up to 10 courses at dinner; much of produce is from their small holding.
Sights & Sites
Boston Guildhall – South Street (Boston); 011-44-012-0536-5954; bostonguildhall.co.uk.
Burghley House – 61 St. Martins (Stamford); 011-44-017-8075-2451; burghley.co.uk; built and mostly designed by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1555-87 CE; 35 major rooms on ground and 1st floors; more than 80 lesser rooms and numerous halls, corridors, bathrooms, and service areas; lead roof extends to 3/4th acre; restoration and rebuilding began in 1983 and took nearly 10 years to complete; visitor facilities include Orangery Restaurant, Gift Shop, Gardens of Surprise, and beautiful walks around historic parkland laid out by Capability Brown and still occupied by herd of fallow deer.
Culverthorpe Hall Walk – Dunston to Grantham (begin at “Stepping Out” car park, Dunston Fen Lane [signposted off B1188 at Dunston]); walkingbritain.co.uk/walks/walks/walk_b/2312; short walk (4 miles) explores Culverthorpe Hall parkland and surroundings, using local and “Stepping Out” paths; Culverthorpe estate has grand façade and outbuildings, own farm, landscaped parkland, lakes, mature trees and far-reaching vistas; Culverthorpe Village in Domesday Book; Culverthorpe Hall is 17-18th Century (begun about 1680 by Sir John Newton, Isaac Newton’s cousin & Grantham MP); Sir John built middle section described as “French chateau”-like; original house extended by Sir John’s descendant, Sir Michael and his wife Countess Coningsby around 1730 (tragedy struck when their 3-year old Viscount son killed by pet monkey throwing him over their London home’s balcony); as you enter “Stepping Out” car park, look for exit at back, lefthand corner; go here & turn right across causeway between 2 lakes and at far shore turn right through gate onto fenced, lakeside path; at far end (at path junction), turn right across lake dam to reach road; on opposite side, just to left, is footpath sign pointing along farm track; follow for about .5 mile until reach another lane where turn left for “short” mile; at (another) “Stepping Out” path on left (clearly marked as it zig-zags downhill into shallow valley and crosses North Beck); take it; beyond this, make final left turn and begin to head back to Culverthorpe (total of 4 left & 3 right turns involved in this section); on reaching road near Culverthorpe, turn right into village and then left at 1st junction; keep ahead through imposing gateway to enter park surrounding hall (if you wish to see rebuilt chapel, however, 1st walk few yards along lane to right); continue along estate road to pass in front of hall itself and then bear left to go downhill back to lakes and causeway; retrace outward route back to start.
Gainsborough Old Hall – Parnell Street (Gainsborough); 011-44-014-2761-2669; gainsborougholdhall.co.uk; over 500 years old; among England’s best preserved medieval manor houses; built by Sir Thomas Burgh in 1460, who also founded Chantry and Alms House (Gainsborough); in 1484 Sir Thomas entertained King Richard III in hall; in 1510, Sir Thomas Burgh’s son, Edward Burgh, 2nd Baron Burgh, incarcerated at Hall upon being declared lunatic; Sir Edward died in 1528, leaving hall to eldest son, Sir Thomas; in 1529, this son’s heir, Sir Edward, married Catherine Parr, later Queen consort to King Henry VIII; Henry VIII visited Gainsborough twice; once in 1509 and again in 1541 with doomed Queen Catherine Howard (later accused of indiscretions both at Gainsborough and Lincoln); Hall sold in 1596 to William Hickman; he and his mother Rose supported John Smyth and Pilgrim Separatist movement, allowing them to meet and worship at hall until they sailed to Holland; John Wesley preached at hall several times in 1759.
Lincoln Cathedral – Minster Yard (Lincoln); 011-44-015-2256-1600; lincolncathedral.com; John Ruskin called this England’s “most precious” architectural example; portions Da Vinci Code filmed here.
St. Botolph’s Church – Wormgate (Boston); 011-44-012-0536-2864 or 011-44-012-0535-4670; parish-of-boston.org.uk; lovely.
St. Lawrence Church – Market Rasen (Snarford, just north of A46); built between 12th and 16th Centuries; filled, unexpectedly, with extravagant alabaster statuary.


Nottinghamshire (includes Nottingham, Scrooby & Sturton Le Steeple)
Bars & Nightclubs
Tilt – 9 Pelham Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5950-1226; tiltbar.co.uk; blues music and expertly mixed cocktails; try “Porn Star Martini” (Stoli Vanilla & passion fruit liqueur with shot of sparkling wine).
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – Brewhouse Yard, Castle Road; 011-44-011-5947-3171; triptojerusalem.com; reportedly, pub on this spot since 1189; built on caves series under Nottingham Castle; England’s oldest inn; crusaders stopped here for drinks before heading off to Jerusalem.
Restaurants
Broadway Cinema – 14-18 Broad Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5952-6611; broadway.org.uk; café and 4 screens that show indie movies.
Jam Café – 12 Heathcoat Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5948-3566; jamcafe.info; cheap eats; especially good breakfasts.
Lee Rosy’s Tea – 17 Broad Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5959-8890; lee-rosy.co.uk; tea and regular knitting nights.
Walk – 12 Bridlesmith Walk (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5947-7574; thewalkcafe.wordpress.com; dainty patisserie.
Shopping
Collard Manson – 22 Carlton Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5941-4900; collardmanson.com; punk elegance, with Vivienne Westwood.
Cow – 2 George Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5958-3133; 2nd-hand store for clothes, especially boots, belts, and handbags and on-staff seamstress to rework outdated outfits.
Cuadros Contemporary Art Gallery – 1a Heathcoat Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5924-3555; cuadros.co.uk; local artists and some international.
Sights & Sites
Broadway Cinema – 14-18 Broad Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5952-6611; broadway.org.uk; café and 4 screens that show indie movies.
Nottingham Castle – Lenton Road (Nottingham, at Castle Rock); 011-44-011-5876-1400; nottinghamcity.gov.uk/article/22175/Nottingham-Castle; situated in 6 acres Victorian-inspired gardens; in Middle Ages, major royal fortress & occasional royal residence; in decline by 16th Century, largely demolished in 1649; Duke of Newcastle later built mansion on site; burnt by rioters in 1831 & left as ruined shell; later, art gallery & museum, for which purposes still used today; notable collection elements include 15th Century Nottingham alabaster carvings, watercolors by Richard Parkes Bonnington & Paul Sandby, Joseph Collection (Wedgwood Jasperware), Ballantyne Collection (contemporary ceramics), salt-glazed stoneware, including locally-made “bear jugs,” costume collection (including Nottingham lace-making); also fine art from Britain & continental Europe by artists from Nottinghamshire such as Thomas Barber, Richard Bonington, Henry Dawson, Paul Sandby & John Rawson Walker, and 20th Century works by Edward Burra, Tristram Hillier, Ivon Hitchens, Dame Laura Knight, Harold Knight, L.S. Lowry, William, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Stanley Spencer, Matthew Smith and Edward Wadsworth.
Screen Room – 25b Broad Street (Nottingham); 011-44-011-5924-1133; screenroom.co.uk; 21-seat theater.
Scrooby Manor House – Manor Road (Scrooby); scrooby.net; only portion of original structure remains; where American Pilgrims’ separatist movement began.
St. Peter & St. Paul Church – Littleborough Road (Sturton Le Steeple).



WEST MIDLANDS
SHROPSHIRE (includes Beckbury, Bridgnorth, Cosford, Ludlow, Oswestry, Ryton, Shifnal, Shrewsbury, Stokesay, Telford & Willoughbridge)
Hotels
Meeson Hotel – Telford; 011-44-019-5254-1262; meesonhall.co.uk; stunning old house lost in countryside; period splendor; beautiful bedrooms & panelled hall wait.
Pen-y-Dyffryn Hotel – Rhydycroesau; 011-44-016-9165-3700; peny.co.uk; handsome Georgian house; homely rooms; warm atmosphere & lovely setting with view worthy of Turner; 4 Coach House bedrooms benefit from small individual patios; generous breakfast is superb.
Sights & Sites
Bridgnorth Castle & Grounds – West Castle Street (Bridgnorth); 011-44-075-0093-7092; aboutbridgnorth.com/bridgnorth-castle; founded in 1101 by Robert de Belleme, Earl of Shrewsbury; square great tower built during Henry II’s reign; during Civil War, Bridgnorth among Midlands’ main Royalist strongholds; following 3-week siege, Cromwell ordered castle be demolished; great tower still remains in parts, but because of damage caused during Civil War, now leans at 15 degree angle (4 times that of leaning tower of Pisa).
Caynton Caves – 820' west of Caynton Hall (near Beckbury); man-made underground chambers; comprise neo-Romanesque chambers & passages hollowed out of sandstone, with carved archways, pillars, symbols & niches, apparently for candles; beneath privately-owned woodland, within disused stone quarry; since at least 1980s, caverns sometimes used for informal secret ceremonies & rituals; vandalised & closed to public in 2012; later reopened.
Caynton Hall (Coynton) – Caynton Road (Ryton); parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/5040; not open to public.
Dorothy Clive Garden – Willoughbridge; 011-44-016-3064-7237; dorothyclivegarden.co.uk; intimate & informal with lovely views over Shropshire hills.
Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust – Ironbridge Gap (various locations); ironbridge.org.uk; industrial heritage organization that runs 10 museums; manages 35 historic sites within Ironbridge Gorge in region widely considered Industrial Revolution birthplace; includes numerous settlements important to industrial history & with heritage assets, including Ironbridge, Coalport & Jackfield along River Severn, & also Coalbrookdale & Broseley; area is World Heritage Site (since 1986) & anchor point of European Route of Industrial Heritage; Blists Hill Victorian Town, including Hay Inclined Plane; Broseley Pipeworks; Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron; Coalport China Museum; Coalport Tar Tunnel; Darby Houses; Enginuity; Iron Bridge & Tollhouse; Jackfield Tile Museum & Museum of Gorge.
Ludlow Castle – Castle Square (Ludlow); 011-44-015-8487-3355; ludlowcastle.com; ruined medieval fortification, standing on promontory overlooking River Teme; probably founded by Walter de Lacy after Norman conquest & among 1st stone castles built in England; during 12th Century Civil War castle changed hands several times; when Edward IV seized throne in 1461, it passed into Crown ownership; extensively renovated throughout 16th Century; during English Civil War of 1640s, besieged & taken by Parliamentarian army in 1646; contents sold; leased from Crown in 1772, with extensive landscaping of ruins; after 1900, Ludlow Castle cleared of vegetation & extensively repaired by Powis Estate; still owned by Earl of Powis & operated as tourist attraction; consider among England’s finest castle sites.
Quarry – Shrewsbury (on River Severn); 011-44-017-4323-4050; shrewsburytowncouncil.gov.uk/quarry-and-dingle; 29-acre parkland; at its center lies Dingle, formal floral masterpiece created by world renowned gardener Percy Thrower of Blue Peter fame - during his 28 years as Parks Superintendent; beautiful sunken garden landscaped with alpine borders, colorful bedding plants, shrubbery & water features.
Royal Air Force Museum – Lyssander Avenue (Cosford, Shifnal); 011-44-019-0237-6200; rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford; museum dedicated to aviation history & Royal Air Force in particular.
Stokesay Castle – Ludlow (Stokesay, near Craven Arms); 011-44-037-0333-1181; english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stokesay-castle; fortified manor house built in late 13th Century by Laurence of Ludlow, then leading wool merchant in England; among best-preserved medieval fortified manor houses in England.
Wollerton Old Hall Garden – Wollerton Old Hall (Wollerton, Market Drayton); 011-44-016-3068-5760; wollertonoldhallgarden.com; maybe most beautiful garden in England; mere 3 acre plantsman’s garden developed around 16th Century house (not open); intensive cultivation of perennials using planting combinations with emphasis on color & form, as well as many rare and unusual plants.


STAFFORDSHIRE (includes Stafford, Stourbridge & Weston Bank)
Restaurants
Weston Hall (Cellar) – Weston Bank; 011-44-018-8927-1082; weston-hall.co.uk; surrounded by 20 acres of breathtaking scenery; retains many Elizabethan features including open stone fireplaces & oak beams; built in 1550 as small dower house; extended around 1660 into 3 gable structure with 3 high pitched roofs; towards 19th Century end 4th high pitched roof built; incorporates informal dining venue called Cellar; reservations.


WORCESTERSHIRE (includes Malvern)
Sights & Sites
Hagley Hall – Hall Drive (Stourbridge); 011-44-015-6288-7290; hagleyhall.com; Grade I listed 18th Century house; creation of George, 1st Lord Lyttelton (1709-1773), secretary to Frederick, Prince of Wales, poet & man of letters and briefly Chancellor of Exchequer; John Adams & Thomas Jefferson visited here.
Madresfield Court – Malvern; 011-44-016-8457-3614; elmley.org.uk/madresfield-court; open only by appointment only, between April & July each year; ancestral Lygon family home, eldest son of which bore title Earl Beauchamp between 1815-1979, when 8th (last) Earl died; contains outstanding collections of furniture, pictures, porcelain & objets d’art & wonderful library designed by C.R. Ashbee; particularly center of Arts & Crafts movement; Chapel, commissioned from Birmingham artists & craftsmen in 1902, is widely regarded as most complete, & perhaps most lovely of all British Arts & Crafts achievements; house has strong connections with Evelyn Waugh who visited frequently; in Brideshead Revisited, his imaginary house (especially Chapel) partly modeled on Madresfield & most of main characters are drawn from Lygon family members.

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