Category: Hit the North

How to spend a Roman-heritage weekend in Hadrian’s Wall country

My latest assignment took me to the wide-open spaces of Northumberland.

I was there researching a feature for Discover Britain magazine about events to celebrate the 1900 years since the Romans started building Hadrian’s Wall [pictured above].

The Wall, built over seven years from 122AD, comprised a series of a gates or milecastles every Roman mile (0.92 miles), to control the troublesome frontier of northern England. It used some 800,000 cubic metres of hand-carved stone, gouged laboriously from local quarries.

But this trip wasn’t just about Roman heritage. I was interested in the way that two icons of British history hail from the Northeast.

As well the 1900 Festival this year along the length of Hadrian’s Wall, there’s also a major art exhibition coming to a gallery in travel-hub Newcastle.

The Lindisfarne Gospels, the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts on loan from The British Library, will return to the Northeast for the first time in many years.

Julie Milne, Chief Curator of Art Galleries, including the Laing Art Gallery, says:

“The shiver-down-spine moment for me was when I first saw The Gospels close up. I’m fascinated by the intricacy of the artwork, especially given the hard conditions under which they were produced.”

Back on the Roman-heritage trail, I later visited the Great North Museum, where the Hadrian’s Wall Gallery includes an evocative set of Roman tombstones [pictured below] amongst the exhibits.

Most of all, I learnt how, far from a remote outpost of a dwindling empire, the Northeast of England is a hotbed of historical interest.

The events that connect the Wall and the Gospels this year offer living testimony to Northeast England’s crucial part in British history.

Read my feature in the August/September issue of Discover Britain.

The Lindisfarne Gospels are at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, from September 17. 

More travel information here.

Why the hidden-treasure town of Nantwich should be your next staycation

Spring finds me driving the rural backroads of south Cheshire.

I’m here on assignment for Telegraph Travel, writing a postcard from Cheshire as part of a series of articles by writers around the UK.

Each one is about an under-the-radar destinations for UK staycations with a sprinkle of celebratory stardust.

My journey took me to Nantwich, the historic market town, and the Combermere Estate on the Cheshire-Shropshire border.

I also visited the new Three Wrens gin distillery, where I met distillery dog, Rocky [pictured above].

Here’s a taster of my article:

The historic market town of Nantwich has all the history of county-hub Chester, albeit on a smaller scale.

The jumble of cobbled streets and half-timbered houses have hosted Norman lords, survived medieval fires, and been occupied by the Parliamentarian forces during the mid 1600s when Nantwich defied Chester, coming out against Charles I during the Civil War.

The Market Hall has been singing the praises of Cheshire Cheese since the town’s genteel Victorian era.

“I think visitors appreciate the slow-travel tranquillity of South Cheshire while being surprised by the quality of its local produce,” says Sarah Callander-Beckett, the owner and current lady of the manor at Combermere Abbey.

“This region is steeped in rural heritage but has moved with the times to offer high quality and an individual experience.”

Read the full story, The charming Cheshire town that hasn’t yet been ruined by WAGs.

How to mark St David’s Day in Wales for food lovers and walking fans

St. David’s Day in Wales this week and I’ve got two articles out to mark Wales’ patron-saint day.

The first is a piece about foodie breaks for spring and my contribution focused on the local flavours and fairytale architecture at Portmeirion [pictured above], North Wales, one of my favourite places to spend time.

Why? Read the full story to discover why via Waitrose Food Magazine.

The second is the publication of copy-writing work for a tourism client, outlining story angles around the tenth anniversary of the Wales Coast Path — it’s coming up in May.

The 870-mile, long-distance walking trail, launched in 2012, forms the first ever continuous waking circuit of a nation.

The anniversary will be accompanied by a programme of key celebratory events, starting from March 1st, St David’s Day.

According to research by Ramblers UK, some 89 per cent of people find walking amongst nature improves health and mental wellbeing. Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, is one way of meeting medical experts’ recommendations for adult physical activity.

Read the full media pack here via Natural Resources Wales.

How to discover hidden Manchester on an alternative city tour

I’m always on the look out for an alternative city walking tour.

It’s a great way to see a city in a new light and gives me with inspiration to help design my own themed tours of my home city of Chester.

I was introduced recently to Hayley Flynn, whose Skyliner alternative walking tours of Manchester are inspired by the city’s hidden heritage.

My interview with Hayley is in today’s Guardian Saturday magazine as part of the Locals Guide To … series.

It coincides with the 30-year anniversary this year of the renaissance of city’s Northern Quarter, stretching between Piccadilly and Victoria trains stations.

The council first commissioned the artist-in-residence, Liam Curtin, in 1992 to create art to trigger organic growth in the area.

The tour includes the Tib Street public-art trail with the poem Flags by Lemn Sissay set into the pavement, and the wall murals telling stories of the traders from the old Smithfield Market.

Hayley says:

“I also keep uncovering snapshots of leftover history around here, such as the original mosaic-tile sign of the old ice-cream parlour on Port Street.”

I also asked Hayley about her favourite nightlife spots and she recommends the bar YES on Charles Street for its alternative karaoke night in the downstairs karaoke dungeon.

“My go-to karaoke tune? Jesus, He Knows Me by Genesis.”

Read the full feature here: A Local’s Guide to Manchester.

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