The lively Piccadilly Circus, brightly lit by the neon lights of advertisements, is the favorite place for Londoners to meet; and also the tourists who tend to become lost in the confusing maze of streets. Its name originates from the word “piccadillies”, which was the name for several kinds of collars which were worn by the local dandies in the 17th century.
ELGIN CATHEDRAL RUINS
The northern Scottish town of Elgin is famous for wonderful whisky, warm cashmere and the medieval cathedral called the Lantern of the North. Even though only the ruins of this building have survived to this day, they still carry the imprint of their past majesty. High lancet windows, massive arches, and the remains of stone carvings on the tombs – the art of the ancient craftsmen is amazing.
ST MICHAEL’S MOUNT
On a high rocky island clothed in green is one of the oldest castles of Cornwall – St. Michael’s Mount. This granite outcrop in the sea, which was named ‘Ictis’ in ancient times, served as an important port for the export of copper and tin to Europe. Legend says that in the year 495 a local fisherman had
a vision of St. Michael on a rocky ledge of the island, after which it became a destination for pilgrims for many years. In the mid 11th century a church was built there, followed by a Benedictine monastery, which survived several wars. It was turned into a castle and was eventually purchased by Colonel St. Aubyn. His descendants still look after the castle and museum. This castle on a picturesque mountain is not only to be admired from the coast, but also from the island itself. You can reach the island on a ferry or a motorboat, and during low tide when the paved causeway is accessible you can even travel there on foot. Inside, there are expositions of ancient weapons and a collection of paintings by the English painter, John Opie, who was known as “The Cornish Wonder” in his lifetime. Behind the castle unfolds a breathtaking view over the subtropical gardens and the ocean.
ROYAL PAVILION IN BRIGHTON
The Prince of Wales, who was also the future King George IV, led a life ill-becoming a man of his rank: he was a hard drinker, had endless love affairs and gambled a lot. He did not enjoy popularity with the common folk, but he valued art and favored the artists. Maybe it was due to his eccentric temper and disposition towards all that was refined that the unusual East Indian style palace appeared in Brighton.
An already existing building, the Maritime Pavilion, was taken as a basis for the construction. It took John Nash, an outstanding architect favored by the Prince, eight years to turn the building of the Maritime Pavilion into an impressive oriental palace with tracery balconies, cupolas and minarets – the Royal Pavilion. Nash also designed the garden to match the Pavilion with winding paths and natural landscapes.
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is rich in festivals of all kinds, the most important of which is, beyond a shadow of doubt, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This is a grand musical-theatrical event with a military theme that is held throughout the month of August on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle and is honored by the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal family. Military orchestras, drummers, bagpipers from all over the world take part in the festival and African tribesmen from British Commonwealth countries have performed there. Most of the military bands have some sort of Scottish connection, but many countries are now invited to participate. Edinburgh is visited by over 200,000 people during the time of the Tattoo.
THE ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH
The Royal Crescent in Bath is a row of 30 three-story terraced houses built in a curve – hence the name of ‘crescent’. These elegant houses were built on a height for a reason – so that each window had a wonderful view of the city. When the Crescent was built, each buyer bought a length of the façade, which is decorated by a hundred ionic columns, and had their own architect design the interior – what seems to sometimes be two houses is in fact one large one. However, the houses must retain their original façade at the front, while the view of the backs of the houses shows that they are all different.
The houses have had many distinguished owners throughout their history; the Crescent has been home to singers, actors, princes and princesses and politicians.
Being one of the biggest Ferris wheels in the world, the London Eye enjoys uncommon popularity with the visitors to the city. The Eye impresses with its dimensions: it is 443 feet high and the whole city is clearly visible from it. One turn of the Eye takes half an hour, so that visitors can take their time enjoying the astonishing panorama while sitting in one of the 32 transparent capsules. At night, the wheel is lit up with bright lights which can be changed to suit different occasions.
Windsor Castle is one of the symbols of British monarchy and one of Queen Elizabeth ii’s official residences. Majestic and unassailable as a medieval fortress should be, it towers above the town of Windsor and the River Thames. The history of Windsor castle began with King William the Conqueror, by whose order the wooden fortification was erected so as to control the west road to London.
SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
Snowdonia National Park is one of the most picturesque areas of Wales. The whole area was named after Mount Snowdon which, at 3,560 feet, is the highest mountain peak of the Cambrian Mountains and is often covered in snow, while Crib Goch, another mountain in the area, is the rainiest place in the United Kingdom with almost 180 inches of rain per year. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to reach the summit; you can ride on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, a rack and pinion track which has been in use since 1894. The Snowdonia National Park will amaze you with its endless deserted beaches, small bays and really beautiful rocky capes. But the Cambrian Mountains are not limited to these treasures; there are many more. Here, you will also find a large number of rivers, lakes, mountain waterfalls, valleys and fields of heather as well as rare birds and mammals.
Not all kinds of whisky deserve to be called Scotch, only those that are made from pure barley and barley malt according to the classical Scottish tradition and must be no less than three years of age. The production, advertising and even the labeling of Scotch whisky is carefully regulated, while single malt whiskey must be bottled in Scotland. Scotch whisky was first distilled in 1495 by John Cor, a friar at Lindores Abbey in Fife. The drink of that time was substantially different from the one we know today and was only used for medicinal purposes. But the commoners soon got used to the “medicine” and private distilleries sprang up like mushrooms after rain. In the 17th century the production of homemade whisky had reached such a scale that the English authorities had to introduce taxes and licensing, which eventually resulted in the manufacture of large distilleries.
The Duke of Devonshire’s wonderful estate, Chatsworth House, is located in an amazing park on the picturesque east bank of the River Derwent. The original house was built in the middle of the 16th century and is considered to be one of the true national treasures of Great Britain. It houses a unique collection of paintings, drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other art objects enriched and passed on from generation to generation by the Dukes of Devonshire. It is no wonder that Chatsworth House has gained the title of the best country estate numerous times.
The landscape of the park is no less beautiful than the house itself. Paths wind amid the venerable trees and flower gardens, ponds, sculptures, fountains and the famous water cascade that is over 300 years old; they can make the walk around the estate unforgettable even for the most sophisticated visitor.
Some rooms of the palace, the garden and the park are open for tourists. The house can also be rented for wedding ceremonies and film shoots.
NATIONAL PARK OF GLENVEAGH
The national park of Glenveagh is one of the natural treasures of Ireland. Thanks to its favorable location in the picturesque mountains of Donegal in the northwest of the country where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream create a mild climate, there are many gardens containing exotic plants which are not native to the country. Glenveagh is home to a large herd of red deer, diverse bird species; and also, here you will find the majestic golden eagles which were almost extinct before being carefully introduced to the park.
On the shore of a majestic lake there is a beautiful neo-gothic castle. Almost buried in the trees with its massive granite walls, you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a medieval building. In fact, it was built by one of the most infamous of English landlords, John Adair, who is said to have evicted over 200 of his tenants to gain access to the land for his grand house. His wife created the famous gardens with their wonderful landscape design where one can admire exotic plants from all around the world.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS
There is a huge number of parks, public gardens and other green areas in London, but the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are undoubtedly the most popular of all.
This area of nearly 300 acres is always in blossom: roses, orchids, water and alpine plants, the arrangements of cacti and palms. All in all, there are over 30,000 plant species in the open flowerbeds and large greenhouses; the Gardens also house the world’s largest herbarium which contains an amazing seven million preserved plant specimens. Here, scientists from all over the world carry out their research, and there is also an extensive seed bank. There are many interesting buildings within the Gardens: from the 163-foot Chinese pagoda to the Japanese Gateway and from the Orangery to Kew Palace. For the more adventurous there is the 18-foot-high Treetop walkway.
When you see this natural wonder, you will understand why the ancient Irish had their doubts about the natural origin of this place. Imagine a road by the sea stretching for many miles, paved with densely laid hexagonal stone columns which seem to have been buried carefully in the ground – it really does look like it was created by giants. But however much one would like to believe in the existence of mythic giants, the fact is that this wonder is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Who said there are no more mysteries to be found in Europe? The ancient monument of Stonehenge is one of the greatest mysteries in Great Britain. The monumental prehistoric masterpiece is formed by a circle of stones on Salisbury Plain in the west of England. It is only when you visit this ancient monument that you begin to understand the mystery and magnitude of this place, despite the active traffic on the nearby road. There are numerous legends connected with it, as well as theories of all kinds, none of which has received any confirmation so far. There is still no clear answer as to what made the ancient people put so much time and effort into creating this enormous construction.
CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW
Live flowers, wonderful plants and impressive landscape architecture make the Royal Horticultural
Society’s Flower Show in Chelsea the most famous flower and garden event in the world. For five days in May it draws a huge number of visitors wanting to take part in one of the best events of the year in the City of London. Many visitors come here to see the beauty of the show gardens designed by leading horticulturalists and to take home some special ideas and plants for their own gardens. For more than a century this event has welcomed visitors with its unusual and amazingly beautiful designs for garden beautification. With its special style developed over the years, the show is considered the most prestigious and reputable event in the field of landscape design and floriculture in Europe. The best of the world of gardening is demonstrated in the gardens of the Royal Hospital, located in the luxurious area of Chelsea. Here you can see the latest in plant selections, borrow unusual ideas for garden decoration, see the incredible fantasies of landscape designers and familiarize yourself with the modern trends in floristic display.
Cashel castle – a complex of medieval buildings with unassailable walls high on the stony Rock of Cashel – is one of Ireland’s most important historical and archeological monuments and one of its most impressive and most visited sights. The Cathedral and the wonderful Romance style Cormac’s chapel indicate the high religious importance of the place. According to the legend, St. Patrick himself was here in the 5th century and converted the local king to Christianity, and a carved stone cross was erected to commemorate that event. But the castle also remembers some of the black deeds of history; during the siege of 1647 three thousand of its inhabitants were brutally murdered and its saint’s relics plundered. From that time on, Cashel has been considered to be the finest symbol of Irish courage and determination.
EILEAN DONAN CASTLE
Eilean Donan Castle is a true icon and landmark of Scotland. It is built on a small island in Loch Duich in western Scotland. The castle fits the stereotype of the Middle Ages so perfectly that it has been one of the most photographed images of Scotland and a Hollywood favorite for a long time, having been used as a setting for many films. Just as in any other castle of its kind, Eilean Donan has the reputation of being a haunted castle. Currently, the ghostly “residents” of the castle are a Spanish soldier killed during the siege of the castle in 1719, who carries his head under his arm, and the spirit of the murdered Lady Mary, who is frequently encountered in one of the bedrooms.