Category: Travel Writing

A visit behind the scenes at Witley Court, Worcestershire

Witley Court: the great fountain via Flickr

A winter trip behind the scenes at one of England’s great stately homes brought a touch of Downton to January.

I was on assignment for Discover Britain magazine and here’s a preview of the feature in a forthcoming issue:

It was one of the great British country estates.

Set in extensive private grounds in rural Worcestershire, the house would have been alive with music and laughter in its Victorian heyday.

But the glamour of those society soirées, once frequented by the Prince of Wales, the later King Edward VII, has long since faded.

Today Witley Court is one of Britain’s most spectacular ruins, the fire-damaged structure an eerie reminder of its former glory.

Only the gardens, restored by English Heritage some 20 years ago, still display the vital signs of a quintessential English stately home.

Louise Bartlett, Senior Properties Curator for English Heritage, says:

You can still get a sense of the grandeur of the place, although you will have to use your imagination to conjure up the atmosphere of the house in its prime from the mid to late 1800s.”

More here.

Why you should visit Lyon’s new foodie hub

My final travel assignment of the year was a return trip to Lyon.

France’s foodie hub is one of my favourite French cities for food and culture.

While my main commission was based around the Lyon Light Festival, I also had a look behind the scenes at the newly opened Cité de la Gastronomie.

The site is located next to the InterContinental hotel in the redeveloped Grand Hôtel-Dieu [pictured above].

The historic city-centre building served as its former hospital from the 15th century onwards.

The Lyon opening is the first of four similar projects — coming soon to Dijon, Tours and later Paris-Rungis in time for the 2024 Olympic Games.

The network celebrates the 2010 designation by Unesco of the French gastronomic meal to its Intangible Heritage list.

Each site will examine a different aspect of French gastronomy with Lyon’s foodie hub focused on the relationship between food and health.

The exhibition explores the history of gastronomy with a section devoted to Lyon’s most famous chef, Paul Bocuse, who died in 2018.

The upstairs kitchen, meanwhile, hosts guest chefs from across the world to create new tasting menus.

“The French gastronomic meal was given Unesco status because of the way it brings people together,” says Director Florent Bonnetin.

“It’s the community aspect of eating together that is the single most defining aspect of French life.”

Read more about my Lyon trip, both the Light Festival and the Cite de la Gastronomie, in articles to be published in the new year.

More from Only Lyon Tourism

How to spend a cultural weekend in Galway, Ireland

I’m just back from a weekend in Galway, the southern Irish city that will be next year’s European Capital of Culture.

The west-coast city has always been something of a cultural hub with its annual summer arts festival. It’s also known, of course, for its traditional pubs [pictured above] and hospitality.

But, as I found over a couple of days in the city, the whole cultural regeneration associated with the European title comes at an interesting time for a place outside of the Westminster-Brexit bubble.

As Bridgette Brew, Head of Tourism for Galway 2020, told me:

“Galway has always had a freedom of mindset, an ability to see a different perspective. It comes from our hinterland looking out to The Atlantic.”

From the Wild Atlantic Way coastal driving route to an interesting take on the burgeoning slow-food scene via a Sunday morning stroll with Galway Food Tours, the weekend offered me plenty of new angles on the familiar story of the illusive Irish craic.

Read the full story in Telegraph Travel here.

How a Liverpool children’s home inspired a Beatles classic

Strawberry Field, the childhood refuge of John Lennon, re-opened to the public last weekend.

I attended a preview a few days before, writing an article for iTravel.

Here’s a preview of my feature:

The former Salvation Army children’s home, made famous in the 1967 Beatles song, has re-opened with a new permanent exhibition about Lennon’s early life [pictured above], a community garden and café.

The young Lennon would often play in the garden after he moved to live nearby with his aunt Mimi when his mother started a new relationship.

He would meet Paul McCartney at a local church fete in the late Fifties.

But Strawberry Field remained, as Lennon later expressed in the song’s lyrics, a place where, “Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about”.

“John always said Strawberry Field was his favourite song and he referred to it as his psychoanalytic poem,” says Julia Baird, Lennon’s younger, half-sister and the Honorary President of the Strawberry Field project.

Read the full story in iTravel here.