Bozen /Liverpool – ‘If only the weather were better Great Britain (and Ireland) would be a great place to spend the summer’ is the oft heard cry, and lo and behold in recent years the weather does seem to be getting better and certainly less extreme than in southern Europe. So what is it that makes the islands in the north a possible holiday destination?
No better place to start than with the weather itself. Rarely do temperatures get up into the thirties and therefore it is possible to go about one’s business and one’s holiday itinerary without any suffocating heat. The long summer evenings where even in August it is light until 10.00 in the evening mean you can certainly have a full day out and still eat dinner in a pleasant outdoor setting. And even if the weather does interfere and remain true to its reputation, the general nature of the beast is for squally unpredictable showers often giving way to blue skies as the day goes on. This is not to paint too bright a picture for there are times when the showers do become relentless blasts of horizontal rain driven on by a sort of wind machine. Exciting stuff indeed.
Heritage is a word which readily comes to mind when thinking of the British summer, and even the Royals do not desert the fair isles in the mid-year vacation period. Certainly the Queen and her consort Prince Philip have a liking for the outdoor life and go north of the border to visit Balmoral as soon as constitutional duties permit. They are often seen at such events as the Highland Games (a Scottish pastime comprising of all weird and wonderful contests such as ’tug-of-war’ and ‘throwing the timber’. In fact it is the perennial traits of British life, an indulgence in times gone by which make for the quintessentially distinctive character. Whilst mentioning Scotland in this context the now more powerful than ever Scottish nation (post 2015 general election) has a wealth of both vibrant and peaceful locations to attract the enquiring visitor. Edinburgh and Glasgow are the most modern of cities offering a vast choice of contemporary and not so contemporary cultural activities (the ‘Edinburgh Fringe Festival’ comes to mind) and the island hopping to remote destinations off the west coast is the height of heavenly peace, especially if one comes across a whiskey distillery.
On a more serious note nothing can detract from the wealth of stately homes, castles, and National Trust properties and landscaped gardens which give a fascinating glimpse into times and lifestyles gone by and provide an excellent ‘day-out’. In fact the ‘day-out’ concept is one of the bastions of British society. Not for the Brits is the lazy week on a beach, ‘chance would be a fine thing’ they say, but the traditional one day break to a place of interest or a place of relaxation has a presence in society which goes back to Victorian times. Of course part of the fascination of doing ‘days-out’ is that one can budget to the size of one’s pocket and always get back to base in the evening to avoid expensive hotel costs. Another factor which contributes to the great British holiday is the shape of the place. No location is more than a couple of hours journey from the sea and you can even change country in a day and be exposed to different sights and different customs, and if one ventures to Wales there is even the bonus of a different language. Certainly part of the fascination of holidays in Great Britain and Ireland is that there are five countries for the price of one, and that is why touring holidays are a great solution for that different type of vacation. Such an option is being facilitated by the bed and breakfast experience whereby many guest houses will provide a breakfast fit for a king and one sure to take the traveller through to the evening without need of further sustenance.
Strange to say but many British cities are just recovering from the Second World War and only in recent years are expressing themselves to their full potential in tourism terms. In the sixties and seventies with the advent of the package holiday and relatively cheap air travel it is fair to say that most people were trying to get out of Britain in the summer rather than heading excitedly towards it. The industrial strife and political unease of the seventies added to this picture of Britain as a nation somewhat behind the times and beset with problems of its own making. The decline of the great ports and the manufacturing industries necessitated change and a shift to the services industries, and naturally tourism falls into this category. Nigh on a revolution has taken place in the past twenty years and not only the better known cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham have emerged from the depths of despair to become vibrant, culturally orientated metropolises but smaller English cities such as Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, have transformed from sights for sore eyes to attractive centres prioritising the tourism package.
London is a law unto itself and the quote from a 17th century poet that ‘when one is tired of London one is tired of life’ still holds true. Not only is it the majesty and grandeur of London which appeals but the multitude of sub-cultures gives the visitor a choice beyond compare. And then of course there are the hidden gems – not the royal jewels in this instance but locations and activities which do not readily come to mind – the London parks for example are a marvel of mankind and again a testament to the inventiveness of the Victorian age – it was not all about steam engines and bridges. No need to spend vast sums of money if a walk in the park or a stroll through the many and varied markets is the order of the day.
Leading on from talk of London, but not a feature of British ways exclusive to London is the fact that museums and art galleries are essentially free of charge unless there is a price fixed for a special exhibition. Well worth consideration are what can be termed as the alternative tours which are emerging in major cities where there is no charge for the tour and one can simply make a donation if the experience and information has been appreciated. All in all a British holiday need not be a cash spend bonanza. In the new found tourism friendly environment it is even possible to use bikes provided by the local council at no or very little cost, although a quick course on how to drive on the left side of the road might be advisable, and a rainproof jacket to hand a useful accessory for the journey.
Sport has always been a mainstay of the British way of life and this is manifestly evident in the summertime. Not many in the world will not have heard of Wimbledon, golfers will know that The Open is the most prized golf tournament in the world, this July to be played at the home of golf in St Andrews (the town’s other claim to fame is that it is here on the eastern Scottish shores that William and Kate met whilst at University), and the list goes on and on. Cricket will be the centre of attention for the months of July and August as the Australians visit and play a series of matches of five days each against the home team, a contest which has for a century or more caught the imagination of the two nations involved. The buzz of the sporting summer permeates into all walks of life and rather than a country relaxing and winding down after the trials and tribulations of a difficult working year there is an energy to be appreciated everywhere. Be it horseracing, rowing, athletics, or the more leisurely pursuits of fishing or croquet the air is filled with leisure.
Risky to dedicate too many lines to the subject but even British food comes to the fore in the summer months. Again the light evenings contribute to this in that be it at a local pub, a street-side restaurant, or a simple café there is time to ponder and eat and drink at leisure. Pub life is a hive of chat and local beers and wines imported from the world over and conversation to friends and strangers makes for a friendly atmosphere.
There is no particular conclusion to what has gone before but just maybe a certain curiosity has now been implanted in the reader’s mind. Is it too late to add a northern destination to one’s list of preferred holiday destinations?
lo and behold: siehe da!
to go about st.: etw. angehen
heritage: Erbe, Überlieferung
beset with: geplagt von
nigh on: nahezu
a cash spend bonanza: einen Haufen Geld kosten
to come to the fore: in den Vordergrund rücken