With a number of world trips under her belt, Katie Stokes has plenty of suggestions on why you should see more of the UK than just London.
You’ve been living in the UK four months. You’re earning some pounds, enjoy your daily bath and think The Sun is a respectable newspaper. You’ve seen London’s sites - Big Ben, the Tate Gallery and the equally famous backpacker-haunt ‘The Church’ but, like many working holiday makers, you’re yet to venture beyond the London Underground.
The two-year working holiday visa for the UK provides you with ample time to visit all the quintessential tourist sites (Oxford, Stonehenge, Brighton) as well as the more quirky, abstract and ‘real Britannia’ attractions. In fact, if you’re working a normal 9-5 Monday to Friday gig, it gives you 104 weekends. So escape the grind and get out there, you’re supposed to be a backpacker after all.
See Historical England
Throughout the year, museums and castles across England host historical festivals and events. See re-enactments of the Roman Invasion, demonstrations of the ‘onager’- a large catapult used to throw large stone balls over enemy ramparts and squirm as ‘knights‘ mount horses and charge each other with lances in jousting tournaments.
More info: historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/LivingHistory
Bath is a gentrified city – the kind that makes you pull up your socks and tuck in your shirt. But for a very different perspective of Bath take the Bizarre Bath Walking Tour. It’s an improvisational tour of raw roots street theatre that pokes fun at the city, as well as unsuspecting passers-by. The tour runs every evening through spring and summer. If you visit in summer, visit the Roman Baths of an evening to see them under torchlight. These religious baths were built by the Romans over Britain’s only hot springs.
Get Cosy in Harrogate
If you prefer to sit in a spa rather than wander around one, visit Harrogate’s Turkish Baths and Health Spa. Harrogate is also home to the original Betty’s Café Tea Room. Betty’s is “fresh and dainty” just as founder Frederick Belmont envisaged, and it has remained a family business since it first opened in 1919. Today, there are six “Betty’s” across Yorkshire and all of the cakes, breads and chocolates are made by hand at Betty’s Craft Bakery (isn’t that just the cutest name). So while it may not be Grandma Belmont baking your scones out back, these little treats do warm your tummy with that home-made feeling. A pianist plays at Betty’s in Harrogate every evening from 6pm.
More info: bettys.co.uk
Whether you’re into rap, rock, hip-hop or Beyonce you must visit the King’s College Chapel to hear the King’s Choir. Surrounded by gothic architecture and soaring vaulted ceilings even atheists have to agree it’s pretty special. While in Cambridge cycle to Grantchester (25-minute cycle from Cambridge) for afternoon tea under the cherry blossoms of The Orchard. Established in 1868, this tea pavilion was once frequented by literary figures such as Virginia Woolf and John Keynes.
Take Flight in Duxford
Visit one of London’s op shops, buy yourself a leather jacket and get out to Duxford to ride in a Tiger Moth. This classic, old model aircraft from the thirties is typically English and, like eating spotted dick, you may only do it once, so do it here.
Also located at the base of the Duxford airfield is the Imperial War Museum, reputed to be Europe’s premier aviation museum. With several hangers housing jets, helicopters, planes, tanks, military and naval vehicles, even if your airline knowledge is limited you’ll still be enthralled by the immensity and mechanics of these machines.
More info: iwm.org.uk
YHA Travel offers excellent airfares to its members. See preprod.yha.com.au to locate a YHA Travel Centre.
Take the stress out of travel and book YHA Travel’s London Easy Deal. It includes 2 nights accommodation at City of London YHA, transfer from Heathrow airport to YHA and a 3 day London travel pass. From $257 multi-share.
Hire a car from YHA Travel and save 7% off the car hire and an additional 15% off car hire insurance when purchased together.
YHA UK has a large network of hostels around England and Wales including 6 in London. There are also YHAs in Cambridge, Liverpool, Bath (Bathwick Hill) and Stow-On-The-Wold in The Cotswolds.