Throughout 2014 we visited many stunning places, most of which I have written about on this blog, however there are a few that I shall have to leave for 2015. This short guide will show you our favourite places that we visited month by month throughout 2014, although there are many many more I wish we could add in as well:
Starting off our January adventures was the beautiful English city of Coventry, located in the West Midlands. We visited the bombed out Cathedral from 1941, and climbed up to the top of the tower to get a great view out across the city. It was a poignant reminder of the virtues of peace, and the Cathedral is a permanent memorial to the Coventry Blitz which destroyed the building and much of Coventry’s historic city centre.
Later that same month we headed back to the Midlands, but this time to the East, where we visited 1st the city of Leicester, and then moved on to the town of Oakham. One of Oakham’s most interesting landmarks is the great hall of Oakham Castle, shown above, with the spire of All Saint’s Church in the near distance behind it.
In February we spent a lot of time on and around the River Mersey, which separates the historic counties of Lancashire and Cheshire. Starting in New Brighton on the Cheshire side, we explored the old Lighthouse, Fort and promenade, before turning to get a beautiful view back up the Mersey, with the city of Liverpool visible in the far bank, and the town of Wallasey further down the promenade.
Arriving in Wallasey, we boarded one of the Mersey Ferries to enjoy a trip along the river, giving some unrivalled views of Liverpool’s most famous buildings, the Three Graces, consisting of the Liver Building, Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. We could also see the Radio City Tower, Liverpool’s 2 Cathedrals, and the historic Albert Dock.
In March, we arrived in Staffordshire for a day out, where we visited the city of Stoke-on-Trent, formed out of 6 towns who merged to create one city. Stoke has many varied attractions, and leaving the train station we came face to face with Josiah Wedgwood, a famous pottery maker from the city, whose statue greeted us. In the city centre we found an Elephant Trail in the Potteries Shopping Centre, various Town Halls that the different towns were once run by, a beautiful public park and Stoke Minster on the far side of the train line, amongst other things.
From Stoke, we did a 6 mile walk to the town of Newcastle-under-Lyme which is contiguous with Stoke. Here we found the impressive Guildhall in the centre of the Market Place, which heralded the end of our walk, although of course we still had to walk back again to get our train home!
April heralded a return to the Mersey, but this time we went a little further, to spend the day at the National Waterways Museum in the town of Ellesmere Port. Here you could walk around a wide variety of different canal boats, tugs and other vessels, and explore the old warehouses which were in use when this was an actual port. In the background the skyline of Liverpool can just be seen, and between us and the city lies the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey.
Later on in the month, and over 100 miles away, we arrived in the city of Durham, which we had visited previously in 2012 however we couldn’t resist but make a return visit to this beautiful place. The river Wear runs through the city centre, and high up above it on the clifftop sits the majestic figure of Durham Cathedral, alongside Durham Castle. The front end of the Cathedral was used as part of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
Later that day we moved on to the nearby city of Newcastle to cross some of the famous bridges over the river Tyne, including the most famous one, the Tyne Bridge, which carries traffic between Newcastle and Gateshead. The Tyne forms the boundary between the historic counties of Northumberland and Durham.
May began in the town of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, which is home to one of my favourite buildings in England. Rochdale Town Hall, with a Clock Tower to rival even that of the Palace of Westminster, rises up into the sky, with a beautiful Union Jack flying below it. It sits in the centre of the town and is part of a much larger, grander building that we could ever have imagined. Elsewhere in Rochdale there is fine architecture and a lovely old church on top of a hill overlooking the Town Hall. The same month we also visited other towns in Greater Manchester, such as Bury, Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham and many others, all of which have plenty of attractions.
Moving further North into the historic county of Westmorland, now part of Cumbria, we had a few hours in the town of Appleby. The centre of the town contains two Market Crosses, one at either end of the hill that forms the main road in the town, leading down to the Parish Church at the bottom, and Appleby Castle at the top.
We returned a month later to the area consisting of Westmorland, when we paid a call to the town of Kendal. It’s majestic Town Hall is the centrepiece of the town centre, along with a number of other stunning buildings. Kendal sits at the Southern edge of the Lake District, surrounding by stunning open countryside, and is of course famous for Kendal Mint Cake, which is readily available in the town.
Moving on from Kendal, the same day we moved down towards North Yorkshire, where the Settle to Carlisle line forges a path through the countryside, moving through the hills via the Ribblehead Viaduct, pictured above. There is a small station at the South end of the viaduct, so once you have travelled over it you can stop for a look at this masterpiece of engineering.
A lot of July has been spent closer to home, with our 1st stop being the city of Lancaster in Lancashire. Following the walkway along the Carlisle Bridge which carries the West Coast Main Line through the city over the river Lune, you get what is perhaps one of the best views in England. You can see towards the city centre, with the Millenium Bridge, Lancaster Castle, Ashton Memorial, Lancaster Cathedral and the Clock Tower of Lancaster Town Hall all visible. It’s an outstanding view, showcasing a beautiful city.
Later that day, on the way up to Carlisle, we stopped at Oxenholme Lake District station, to enjoy some of the local countryside. The station was very busy with trains towards Glasgow/London/Manchester/Edinburgh flying through, as well as local trains arriving from Windermere in the Lake District. A plaque at the station commemorates a local policeman called George Russell who was shot and killed during a stand off with criminals at the station.
In August we had an epic voyage down to the South of England, through the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, through Bristol and Somerset, towards Devon. From there we also visited Cornwall, and had a day out to the most Southwesterly point on the island of Great Britain, Land’s End. We posed with the famous signpost, in this rare opportunity.
Just a couple of weeks later, we embarked on our 1st trip outside of the British Isles, as we flew out to the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, which borders Spain and overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar, on the far side of which lies Morocco and Africa. The rock is a stunning sight, rising high up above surrounding Spain, and there is a never ending list of things to see in the territory, from the famous Apes who live up on the rock, the Cable Car up to the rock, the city defenses, the Governors House, 2 Cathedrals and the Lighthouse at Europa Point looking out to Morocco. We also took a bus into Spain itself, to the border town of La Linea and the city of Algeciras further around the coast.
September saw the arrival of Southport Air Show, and we were treated to incredible displays by the Red Arrows as they performed their famous routine above Southport Beach. Various other acts, including Lancaster Bombers, a Hurricane, rescue Helicopters and many more also joined the party, to the delight of the crowds.
On my birthday, the 23rd of October, we had a drive out to some local Halls in Lancashire, starting with Samlesbury Hall, just outside Preston, a fantastic 13th century mansion, which is open to the public. You can visit the gardens, the various floors and the old rooms which are still furnished with some original items. It is located close to Samlesbury Airfield, and within easy reach of the M6 Motorway.
Not far away from Salmesbury, lies Hoghton Tower, another Hall high on a hill looking out across the local countryside. It too is open to the public, and once you get to the top of the incredibly long drive, you can enter the old stone courtyard through the main gate.
November saw a return to the south of England, as we met up with a friend in the town of Leamington Spa, located midway between Birmingham and Oxford. A lot of the town centre is made up of a large park with the river at its edge, full of Plants, Memorials, a Lake and an Arboretum. Elsewhere in the town the towering Parish Church overlooks the river, and has a great little cafe where we stopped for lunch.
Moving on from Leamington Spa, we met another friend in Reading, and together we took a trip to Guildford, where we encountered the enormous brick form of Guildford Cathedral, sat on a hill overlooking the rest of the town. Despite a rather brutish exterior, the interior was finely furnished, and a joy to explore. The rest of the town is full of attractions, from the remains of Guildford Castle Keep, the top of which affords some stunning views, to the Guildhall on the cobbled pedestrianised shopping street that runs through the centre of town. This area is home to various old buildings, such as Churches, Almshouses and fine architecture in general.
To round off the year, one final set of trips. 1st up is the village of Sefton in Merseyside, which is a conservation area which takes in the ancient Church, as well as some other local buildings. Also in the village is the local War Memorial, and the site of a Medieval Well called St Helens Well, the Saint that both the Church and the nearby major town of St Helens are named after.
The village is close to other nearby attractions such as the Hall at Ince Blundell, the Memorial in Hightown, and the Hall in Little Crosby.
Our final picture is of the view from the remains of Hadrian’s Wall in the village of Banks up in Cumbria, not far from Carlisle. The sun was setting, and illuminated the silhouetted form of the mountains that make up the Lake District, a spectacular view to round off 2014!
To everyone out there I hope you had a great 2014, and all the best for the New Year, and 2015. There will be many more places featured on this blog throughout next year, including those shown on this list from Gibraltar onwards, so I hope you will rejoin our adventures for another year!