Thanks to a raft of exciting new activities across the UK, you don’t have to go far to have fun in 2020
Wheels and heels
1. Island hopping, Outer Hebrides
Just in time for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 300th birthday, The Carter Company has launched a new eight-night, self-guided cycling holiday in Young Pretender territory. The Highlands and Hebrides tour combines self-propulsion on a surprisingly flat route and ferry-hopping between gorgeous Barra, with its famous white sand airport runway and the two Uists, which are connected by a causeway, before heading over the sea to Skye. At the end, put your feet up on the West Highland Railway to Fort William.
Year round. From £2,530 per person based on two sharing (01296 631671; the-carter-company.com).
2. Now we are 10, South Downs
The South Downs National Park, stretching from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne on the south coast, opened in April 2010. Time to celebrate its 10th birthday, then, with Inntravel’s six-night, self-guided South Downs Way walking holiday, from Petworth (stuffed with antique shops, arty spots and good pubs) looping west to end up on the Solent, in East Lavant. Follow the ancient ridgeway and enjoy sights such as the ancient yews at Kingley Vale, some of which are 50 times older than the park.
Departs April 1 to Oct 31, from £530 per person (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk).
3. Sacred cycles, Wales
The National Churches Trust project Experiencing Sacred Wales works to raise the profile of pan-denominational places of worship. The new Churches by Bike tours start in May, with two circuits on the Isle of Anglesey led by Green Lane Bike Tours: one goes from Llangefni to a church in the sea at Aberffraw and 12th-century St Cwyfan’s; the other explores the sacred sites of Ynys Môn. Tours are around 20 miles and include a typical Welsh lunch and a donation to the churches.
Churches by Bike tours cost from £60 per person. Bike hire from £15, £30 for electric (020 7222 0605; explorechurches.org).
4. On the nightingale Trail, London
Follow in the footsteps of Britain’s most famous nurse, who was born in Florence in 1820, but recruited her Crimean nurses and founded her famous Nightingale Nursing School in 19th-century London. The walk begins on Park Lane, taking in the house where she died, the hotel where she wrote Notes on Nursing, and the hospital where she founded the world’s first nursing school. It ends at the Florence Nightingale Museum and lasts around two and a half hours.
Mar 6 to Sep 22, from £25 (020 7188 4400; florence-nightingale.co.uk).
5. Velo-Wales, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthen Velodrome celebrates its 120th birthday this year, and Carmarthenshire is going all out to woo cyclists. Twenty new cycle trails cover the county, from the coast to the Cambrian Mountains, including the route of the 2019 Women’s Tour of Britain into the Black Mountains and Towy Valley. Cambrian Escapes has opened a third cottage in the Cambrian foothills that is perfect for intrepid riders.
6. Saints go marching on, Co Durham
Spring sees the eagerly awaited launch of six long-distance walking trails based on the ancient pilgrimage routes that once crossed England’s Christian north. The region is blessed with saints, from Cuthbert to Oswald, and spectacular scenery; paths such as the Way of Light from Hexham to Durham, and the Angels’ Way from Seaton Sluice to Durham via Newcastle and Chester-le-Street, deliver the best of both.
7. Jake of all trades, London
Book now for a rare live appearance in the English capital by Jake Gyllenhaal, starring as the painter Georges Seurat in a short season of the Pulitzer-prize winning Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George. Previews begin at the Savoy Theatre on June 11 for the three-month run.
Jun 11-Sep 5; tickets from £25 (0844 871 7615; sundayinthepark.co.uk).
8. Girls on tour, Derry-Londonderry
Series three of Lisa McGee’s hit show Derry Girls returns to Channel 4 later this year. Those who can’t wait patiently for the release date should check into the Maldron Hotel (the only hotel within the walls of Derry-Londonderry) for a Girls Wanna Have Fun weekend, including cocktails, dinner and bed and breakfast. Erin, Clare, Orla (and James) would love it. You can even do a Derry Girls Tour with Derry Guided Tours.
9. Brent parties on down, London
Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture opened with a bang in January. Put July 11 in the diary for The Kilburn High, a mile-long street party on an ancient route between Kilburn’s two stations, which will be traffic-free for the day. There’ll be food, drink and fun reflecting Brent’s dazzling multi-racial history – and it’s free.
Until Dec 31 (brent2020.co.uk).
10. Art of Granite City, Aberdeen
The spectacularly revamped Aberdeen Art Gallery will stage Scotland’s first exhibition by Haroon Mirza, who probes the relationship between sound, light and electricity. Waves and Forms runs until June, coinciding with the Nuart festival in April. For the more dedicated fans, the art-heavy Chester Hotel is a 30-minute walk away, via several Nuart installations.
Mar 21 to Jun 7; free (0300 020 0293; aagm.co.uk). Doubles at the Chester Hotel from £109 (01224 327777; chester-hotel.com).
11. When I’m 78 (or 80), Liverpool
It’s a big year for the former members of the Beatles. Paul McCartney will play the main stage at Glastonbury in June, just after his 78th birthday, while John Lennon would have been turning 80 in October. Book early to visit the ever-popular childhood homes of the two stars, Mendips (Lennon) and 20 Forthlin Road (McCartney), reopening after conservation work. Tours include the return bus ride from Liverpool.
Adult £27.50, child £13.75; National Trust members: adult £9.50, child £4.75 (0344 249 1895; nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles-childhood-homes).
Wet wet wet
12. Flotilla fun, Hampshire
Sunsail celebrates its 45th birthday this year, and is launching its first flotilla holiday in Britain to celebrate, leaving from Port Solent in Hampshire on the Summer bank holiday weekend. Flotilla holidays work for both experienced sailors and newbies (who can pay extra for a skipper). The luxury Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410 yachts launch this month and will follow a picturesque route along England’s south coast, including a visit to the sailing hub of Cowes.
May 23-25, Aug 29-31. Three-day mini cruise for up to nine people from £1,320 (023 9222 2221; sunsail.co.uk).
13. Splash into the sun, Isle of Wight
Tapnell Farm sold milk in the West Wight in a former life, before becoming an all-weather farm park. In May it will open the island’s first outdoor, floating Aqua Park, fed from its own borehole, with safe kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming, an inflatable assault course and viewing platform. Stay on-site at Tom’s Ecolodge in a family “Modulog” (lodge made of logs) or a Safari Tent for a three-night self-catering break.
14. See the light, Belfast
Titanic passed the Blackhead Lighthouse, built in 1902 beside Belfast Loch, which features as one of four lighthouses in a new series of short films from contemporary filmmakers commissioned by Great Lighthouses of Ireland (greatlighthouses.com). The Irish Landmark Trust has three restored keepers’ houses beside the lighthouse, so you can make a night of it.
Blackhead Cutter costs from £320 for two nights and sleeps four (00 353 1670 4733; irishlandmark.com).
15. Underneath the arches, London
Illuminated River aims to dazzle the capital in 2020 by lighting up the Thames bridges – 15 will be lit by the end of the project. Artist Leo Villareal and architecture firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands illuminated the first four last summer, with five more (from Waterloo to Blackfriars) to be switched on this year. Events include mudlarking, kayaking, walking tours and Thames Clipper tours.
Autumn 2020. Boat tours from £7.50 for adults (020 7647 2778; illuminatedriver.london).
Movies and music
16. Wonder Wales, Snowdonia
The superhero re-reboot Wonder Woman 1984 hits cinemas in June. Gal Gadot and other cast members filmed stunts at Swallow Falls in Snowdonia, owned by Betws-y-Coed council since 1913. Book a camping pod at the Swallow Falls Hotel, over the road, where many cast and crew stayed. The best time to visit is during spring or autumn, when the falls will be thundering and running swiftly.
Camping pods sleep four (one double, one twin), from £50 per night. Bring your own bedding or hire from reception (01690 710796; swallowfallshotel.co.uk).
17. Dev and Ed, Bury St Edmunds
It’s a double whammy for Bury St Edmunds: Jan 10 saw the launch of The Personal History of David Copperfield – starring Dev Patel and filmed partly on Angel Street – while, further along the road, the Abbey will celebrate 1,000 years since its foundation on the site of St Edmund’s relics. The year’s events all year lead up to St Edmund’s Day on Nov 20.
18. Crowning glory, Leicestershire
After hosting the cast and crew for series three of The Crown, Belvoir Castle is offering Crown-inspired Champagne afternoon teas in the State Dining Room, with accompanying castle tours for Mother’s Day (Mar 20) and Afternoon Tea Week (Aug 10-16), including locations not normally open to the public.
19. Happy birthday, Doctor! Bedfordshire
2020 marks a century since the birth of gimlet-eyed Doctor Who star Patrick Troughton, who played the Second Doctor from 1966-69. Celebrate with fellow Whovians at the Utopia fan convention – held at Wyboston Lakes Resort, set beside a lake and golf course in Bedfordshire. Book soon, as it often sells out by April.
June 12-14. From £79 per person (fantomevents.co.uk/utopia-2020).
20. Watcher in the Rye, East Sussex
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, home to 200 rare species of wildlife, celebrates its 50th birthday this year by opening a new Discovery Centre with community garden and café. Join a five-mile 50th Anniversary Walk around the reserve on Sunday March 15, with a stop in the Halpin bird hide (don’t forget your lunch). The Old Vicarage Rye Harbour B&B offers packed lunches, binoculars, maps and bikes on loan.
Doubles at the Old Vicarage from £95, seven nights self-catering from £435 (01797 222088; oldvicarageryeharbour.co.uk).
21. Stars of sea and sky, Lulworth
New three-night weekend breaks at the Lulworth Estate on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast feature a three-hour coasteering trip and a night walk to famous Lulworth Cove to see the Milky Way (late spring/early summer is the best time of year to see it). You can stay in one of the estate properties, the largest of which sleeps up to 18 people.
Weekends May 2-June 27. Three nights from £205 per person (01929 400888; lulworth.com); activities are weather-dependent.
22. Dogged determination, Goodwood, Chichester
Goodwood, the country estate famous for racing cars and horses, stages its first “Goodwoof” this late May Bank Holiday. Take your dog along to see canine stars, including Crufts winners, as well as specialists and trainers. Better still, enter your pooch for the agility and flyball events. Dogs are welcome at the hotel.
May 24-25. Adults (over 21) £19.50; age 13-21 £9.75; under-12s free; free parking. A double room (up to two dogs) is available at the Goodwood Hotel from £365 (May 23-25), including show tickets and breakfast (01243 755055; goodwood.com).
23. Finding your level, Somerset
BBC wildlife expert Mike Dilger is leading his first three-night spring wildlife break on home turf. The beguiling, reclaimed waterscape of the Somerset Levels is home to the reintroduced common crane, seven species of heron, grass snakes, newts and marsh flowers.
June 7; from £675 per person (01305 267994; naturalist.co.uk).
24. Glasto turns 50, Somerset
We are not Worthy, O Farm… it’s half a century since Somerset dairy farmer Michael Eavis lent a barn to a bunch of musicians and started a phenomenon. This year’s festival takes place from June 24-28 and you can still register for the resale of returned coach and ticket packages (on sale April 16, 6pm) and general admission (on sale April 19, 9am). Good luck with that.
25. Mayflower madness, countrywide
Four hundred years ago, on Sept 20, 1620, a converted wine ship named the Mayflower left England for modern-day Massachusetts, with a cargo of religious separatists. It was captained by Essex-born Christopher Jones and its arrival on the east coast of the New World would change the course of America’s history and have a profound impact on the indigenous population. All four nations involved, the UK, the United States, the Netherlands and the Wampanoag Nation, will be staging events throughout the year. In Britain, this involves 11 different locations and includes the opening of Jones’s house in Harwich; the Southampton Mayflower Maritime Festival (Aug 14-16); the Dartmouth Regatta (Aug 27-29); the Mayflower Muster in Plymouth, involving British, US and Dutch navies (Sept 19-20); and Wampum: Stories and Shells from Native America, a touring exhibition (April 3-Oct 20) that gives the other side of the story, featuring tales of descendants. A new wampum belt, the traditional belt of the Wampanoag people, will be on display here for the first time.
All year. Mayflower 400 (mayflower400uk.org).
26. Sky high, Ambleside, Lake District
Fresh from directing Waltham Forest’s triumphant year as the first London Borough of Culture in 2019, Sam Hunt is launching a new “festival of sounds and words” in and around the Lake District’s Ambleside in late March. The idea is to use existing venues – including a church, a cave and a lake steamer – to celebrate the region and its landscape as a source of inspiration for contemporary artists.
Mar 26-29; from £15 (aerialfestival.com).
27. Upfest goes green, Bristol
Europe’s biggest free street and graffiti art event returns to south Bristol in 2020 with 250 international artists and a new greenfield site at Greville Smyth Park, in addition to its Tobacco Factory venue. People will pour into the city that spawned Banksy to see mural painting, listen to live music and buy portable art. The event dovetails neatly with two new street art exhibitions opening the following week: “Vanguard” Bristol street art: The evolution of a global movement can be found at M Shed from June 6-Nov 1, with loaned works and originals from street art favourites (including Banksy). RWA’s Streets Ahead, Bristol Street Art 2020 will also open June 6 and run until Aug 23.
Upfest: May 30-June 1; free (upfest.co.uk/page/upfest-festival). Vanguard and Streets Ahead: £6 each or £10 for both.
This sporting life
28. Fife Regatta, Firth of Clyde
2020 has been declared Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Rivers, and the celebrations will include the return of the historic Fife Regatta – named not after the place, but after its founders, the family business William Fife & Co, who have been boat builders in Fairlie, North Ayrshire, since 1812. Held every five years, it stars the elegant Fife yachts familiar from the America’s Cup and Duran Duran’s Rio music video. The yachts muster in Largs Yacht Haven, then spread out across the Clyde Estuary.
June 4-11; free (fiferegatta.com).
29. Cricket century, UK-wide
Love it or hate it, the UK’s 100-ball one-day series, The Hundred, will take the cricket world by storm in July. Eight groups of players will battle it out across the country at 16 major grounds, from Edgbaston to The Oval.
Jul-Sep (thehundred.com/fixtures). The Hilton Garden Inn Manchester Emirates, overlooking Old Trafford Cricket Ground, has doubles facing the Fan Village from £95 per night (0161 868 7100; hiltongardeninn.com).
30. Olympic warm-up, East London
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is hosting four Olympic qualifiers in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in July. Move at Olympian speed to get tickets for boxing (March 14-24), diving (March 27-29) and swimming (April 14-19) and, an Olympic sport for the first time this year, skateboarding.
From March 14; tickets from £5 (queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk).
Words and pictures
31. Doves and daffs, Grasmere, Lake District
Dove Cottage, the Lake District home shared by William and Dorothy Wordsworth, reopens on April 7, William’s 250th birthday, with a new café and visitor route. New walking trails and a revamped museum will follow. The Victorian House Hotel in Grasmere recently opened and is a great option for outdoor lovers, as it aims to connect visitors with the landscape – it has a shepherd’s hut and four Stargazer rooms complete with huge windows and telescopes.
32. It’s a rematch, Hampton Court
Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King celebrates 500 years since the diplomatic luxe-fest that was the Field of the Cloth of Gold tournament, when Henry met his rival Francis I near Calais. A never-before-seen Tudor tapestry will be on show at Hampton Court from April, followed by jousting and wrestling in May and a month of Great Tudor Games in July.
Apr 10-Aug 31; from £22 (033 3320 6000; hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace).
33. Birthday Brontes, Yorkshire
The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire, the former home of the Brontë sisters, out-bid all competitors late last year for Charlotte’s tiny book, The Young Men’s Magazine, which went on show on Feb 1. An exhibition on the life of Anne, the youngest sister, also recently opened, marking the end of the Brontë Society’s five-year project, Brontë 200, commemorating the births of all four children.
Until Jan 1, 2021. Adults £9.50 (01535 642323; bronte.org.uk).
34. Alice comes to town, London
A very merry 200th birthday, John Tenniel, satirical cartoonist and arguably the definitive illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books. This summer, the V&A opens its Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition, examining Alice’s many incarnations in art, fashion and theatre, from Tenniel to Tim Burton.
Jun 27-Jan 10, 2021. Tickets on sale from Mar 3; adults £20, under 12s free (020 7492 2000; vam.ac.uk).
35. Dickens comes home, Kent
In 1870, Charles Dickens died, aged 58, of a stroke at his home Gads Hill Place in Kent while working on his novel Edwin Drood. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of his death, the annual Dickens Festival in Rochester will run for an extended five days, followed a week later by the Broadstairs Dickens Festival.
Fun for all the family
36. Gangsta Granny, Staffordshire
Crime pays in Alton Towers’ newest 4D ride based on David Walliams’s hit Gangsta Granny novels. Join Ben and his international jewel thief Gran in a royal carriage en route to steal the Crown Jewels. There’s a whole new World of David Walliams in the park, with rides and attractions, plus four new Gangsta Granny-themed rooms in the Alton Towers Hotel. There’s also free park entry for real grannies (and grandads) over 60.
Opens spring, day passes from £34, under-threes free (0371 222 3330; altontowers.com).
37. Wild castle, Isle of Skye
Dunvegan Castle has been the seat of the Clan MacLeod for 700 years. This April, a new Wildwood Trail opens in the woods, developed with the pupils of Dunvegan Primary School. It has a bug hotel, magnifying glasses for smaller specimens and a photo wall made from an old tree root.
38. Ahoy there, crew! Belfast
HMS Caroline, the sole British ship to survive the Battle of Jutland during the First World War, has a berth in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. This year they have launched a “Meet the Crew” tour, with costumed guides playing the parts of the sailors.
Standard ticket £10.75; family of two adults and three children £23 (028 9045 4484; nmrn.org.uk).
39. Battle of the boinngggg, Hampshire
Go Ape! at Moors Valley recently opened its new Nets Adventure – 120 sq m of bounce nets on three levels and two super-speedy slides for zooming back to earth. Adults and children over one year old can share the fun, battling giant inflatable balls and crawling along tunnels.
Nets Adventure from £20 per person (01603 895500; goape.co.uk).
40. Into the canopy, BeWILDerwood, Cheshire
It has been 12 years since the children’s author Tom Blofeld opened BeWILDerwood, a very English adventure park on his family estate in the Norfolk Broads. This spring, the Twiggles, Boggles and the vegetarian Crocklebogs will be popping up near Cholmondley Castle in Cheshire when BeWILDerwood: The Curious Treehouse Adventure opens, with the same mix of low-key adventure, a ban on junk food and a lack of electronics aimed at under-16s.
Opens in May. From £16.50 (01829 830730; cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk).
The pull of the past
41. Masterminds of Dunkirk, Dover
This May marks the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk rescue mission famous for the participation of “little ships”. It was co-ordinated from the secret wartime tunnels in the cliffs at Dover Castle, where you can see re-enactors play the men and women who brought home the British Expeditionary Force, and imagine Winston Churchill watching the Battle of Britain in August of the same year.
May 26-Jun 4. Adult £20.90; child £12.50 (0370 333 1181; english-heritage.org.uk).
42. Stonehenge meets Japan, Wiltshire
Did you know that Japan has stone circles of roughly the same age as Stonehenge, some of which are also aligned with the sun? In September, English Heritage launches an exhibition exploring the work of the early 20th-century archaeologist William Gowland. Known as the “‘father of Japanese archaeology”, he applied many of the techniques he learnt there to his work at Stonehenge. The display includes Twenties’ woodblock prints of Stonehenge by Japanese artist Yoshijiro Urushibara.
Adult £19, child £11.40, English Heritage members free (0370 333 1181; english-heritage.org.uk).
43. The mind of a king, Kew
This year marks the bicentenary of the death of George III, the monarch most strongly associated with Kew Palace. George III: The Mind Behind the Myth opens here next month, celebrating the achievements of a curious, well-educated king and examining his struggles with mental illness and formidable royal doctors.
Apr 3-Sep 30. Included in entrance fee for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; adult £12.50, young person (16-24) £8, child (4-15) £4.50 (033 3320 6000; hrp.org.uk/kew-palace).
44. Spymaster supreme, Lincolnshire
William Cecil, born 500 years ago this autumn, served three monarchs and became spymaster to Elizabeth I. He rebuilt Burghley House, which will stage events all year, including The Age of William Cecil, Builder of Burghley, an exhibition featuring his atlas and other precious possessions. Walk from the William Cecil Hotel in Stamford, where a Burghley Break includes dinner, bed and breakfast and Burghley tickets.
45. The Last Post, countrywide
At 2.55pm on May 8, cadet buglers from across the Armed Forces will play Last Post and Reveille atop the UK’s four highest peaks to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Four women will also be climbing the peaks in memory of the women who undertook and endured so much during the war. At 3pm, they will raise a glass and lead the Nation’s Toast to the Heroes. You can attend similar events across the UK, from cities (including on the Isle of Man and Channel Islands), to our furthermost points: Land’s End, Lowestoft, St David’s, Unst in the Shetland Islands, Enniskillen and the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire, the highest pub in Britain.
46. Made it, Derbyshire
The city of Derby, famous as a manufacturing hub, is this year opening the Museum of Making, in the Derwent Valley Mills, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The museum will be a contemporary space that both tells Derby’s 300-year old manufacturing story and hosts workshops, events and demonstrations for visitors of all ages. The city’s Made in Derby walk of fame, using public art installations with augmented reality, is also going to expand in 2020.
Sep 19; free (01332 641901; derbymuseums.org).
Eat, drink and be merry
47. Wine and roses, East Sussex
Tillingham is a biodynamic vineyard based on an old hop farm in Peasmarsh in the beautiful East Sussex countryside. It recently opened 11 rooms, serving dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It also has a series of events scheduled throughout the year, including winery tours, tastings, dinners, foraging, craft courses, seminars and sourdough baking weekends.
Doubles with dinner, tour and tasting from £300 for two (01797 230734; tillingham.com).
48. Come into the kitchen, Borough Market
Borough Market Kitchen opened in London’s Borough Market late last year with a communal seated dining space serving food from 20 stands. Now it has announced a series of events for 2020, including marking St Patrick’s Day (March 17) with demonstrations, tastings and workshops from market chefs.
Open Monday-Friday; free (020 7407 1002; boroughmarket.org.uk).
49. Pick of the bunch, Lympstone, Devon
In 2018, chef-patron Michael Caines planted vines at Lympstone Manor, his 21-room hotel overlooking the Exe Estuary in Devon. The first harvest is this autumn, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to September, the vineyard manager will host tours with a tasting tutorial, aperitifs and four-course lunch.
May-Sep; £98 non-residents, £35 residents (excluding lunch). Doubles from £350 per night (01395 202040; lympstonemanor.co.uk).
50. Gin o’clock, Hensol Castle, South Wales
Grade I listed Hensol Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan turns 400 this year. To celebrate, it has opened a craft spirit distillery and gin school. The Vale Resort offers a one-night Gin Break, including Welsh breakfast, a three-course dinner and a 90-minute “gin experience”.
Gin Tour £25; Gin Break from £199 per person (01443 665803; hensolcastle.com).
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