Celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local!

Celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local!

So you’ve done it. You’ve bought the ticket – you’re off to London for Christmas and New Year!

But if you’re going to head to the UK at the festive season, you need to do it right. How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a native? What are the best things to do in London at Christmas?

Having spent every Christmas of my life in the UK, let me tell you how to have an authentic British experience and enjoy the best of the season – the way the locals do! 

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Kyle Taylor from London, 84 Countries [CC BY 2.0 (https-::creativecommons.org:licenses:by:2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Before Christmas Day

Check out the lights

Christmas lights in London are a Big Thing. From Regent Street (the most famous) to Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Covent Garden, the city goes all out each year to produce the most spectacular lights imaginable, often on a specific theme. Take an impromptu Christmas lights tour of London after dark (4pm in December!), and follow it up with a traditional pub dinner.

Visit the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square

Every December, an enormous Christmas tree is set up in Trafalgar Square. The tree is a gift from the people of Norway, and has been presented to the people of the Britain every year since 1947 in recognition of the support given to Norway during World War II. The tree, one of the largest in the city, is a dramatic sight which is well worth a detour.

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Do some last-minute Christmas shopping

So you’re in London, Christmas shopping is in full swing and you want to do it like a Londoner. So you head to Harrods, right? Wrong! Unless you’re super-rich, all you will get from Harrods or its equally fancy cousin, Fortnum & Mason, is something tiny, delicious and wallet-emptying. Head instead to Oxford Street, where you will find high street stores and all the Christmas goodies you could wish for at everyday prices. For something a little fancier but still affordable, check out Selfridges, Harry Selfridge’s flagship department store which is still doing a brisk trade on Oxford Street to this day.

Take in a show

London’s West End easily matches Broadway for sheer spectacle. What the West End does, Broadway adopts next year, and you can catch the best Broadway shows in London, too.

Tickets for London theatre at Christmas can be pricey, but head to the TKTS tickets booth in Leicester Square to pick up last minute tickets at (often) bargain prices. If you’re a solo traveller, you might get an especially good deal on those single seats which the theatres can’t sell! If you’ve got a specific show in mind, though, you might be better off buying online well in advance of your trip to avoid disappointment.

For something especially festive but even more upmarket, Britain’s Royal Ballet stages The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House every December. Tickets go fast and aren’t cheap, but the stunning Opera House itself plus the quality of the dancing, sets and costumes are more than worth the money if your budget will stretch that far.

Go ice skating

Temporary outdoor ice rinks have become big business in London in recent years. Top rinks include Somerset House and the Natural History Museum in central London, Canary Wharf and Skylight London in the Docklands area, and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. But to combine ice skating in London with a bit of history, why not head to the historic royal palaces of Hampton Court or the Tower of London to truly skate in style?

Check out Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

Winter Wonderland has become a London Christmas tradition. Every Christmas, Hyde Park is transformed into a spectacular family attraction with Christmas markets, fairground rides, professional ice shows, an outdoor ice rink, circus, and festive food and drink. Entrance is free, although your wallet is likely to get emptied once you’re inside!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the day Britain starts to wind down for the family celebration of the festive season. Expect some shops to close early, while theatres may not have an evening performance. Christmas in the UK is celebrated in the home, so shops and restaurants will close to allow their staff to spend the time with loved ones.

Having said that, Christmas Eve is just the prelude in the UK, as all the festivities happen on 25th. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things to do on Christmas Eve in London! Despite earlier closing times, shops will still be open most of the day, and pubs will do a roaring trade until late into the evening.

For Christians, or those interested in the Christian celebration of Christmas, churches will normally hold services in the early evening for families, and also close to midnight to ring in Christmas day itself. Entrance will be free; check out a church near your hotel to find out service times. The midnight service may include Holy Communion; if you are not Christian (or not religious), you are very welcome to the service, but it is appropriate to just stay in your seat during communion.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day in London as a visitor is one that will require some planning, and a focus on downtime. Christmas is a family celebration, so all shops and many restaurants will be closed, including (possibly) the restaurant in your hotel. So what can you do?

Start your morning with a visit to church for the Christmas service, or take a stroll through one of London’s many parks. The good news is that the restaurants that are open will likely be serving a traditional Christmas dinner (held at lunchtime!), so now is the time to really experience a British Christmas with turkey, stuffing, Christmas pudding and paper hats. Note that you will definitely need to pre-book this meal several months in advance. Check out London Christmas dinner venues close to your hotel; almost all will allow you to book online or over the phone.

After lunch, head back to your hotel and turn on the television. Christmas Day is when the classic movies and Christmas specials are out in full force, so there will be plenty to watch and you will know you are sharing the experience with the rest of the UK! At 3pm, don’t miss the Queen’s Christmas message, which is broadcast on BBC1 and repeated later in the day. It’s an institution, and many families’ celebrations are put on pause as they sit down to watch.

Later in the day, take a walk through the city to enjoy the relative peace and festive lights. Pubs are the one place that are normally open on Christmas Day, so when your legs give out, head into the nearest one for a pint or glass of wine, and to witness the great British tradition of a night at the pub!

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Between Christmas and New Year

If you’re wondering what to do in London between Christmas and New Year, never fear – you will be spoiled for choice! Of course, London is a major tourist attraction year round, and all the major sights and museums will be open during this period. But if you want to really see the season like a Brit, here are some other options.

The Boxing Day sales

The day after Christmas is another public holiday in the UK, known as Boxing Day, but one that is very different. This is the day that the after-Christmas sales begin, when shops discount their stock and there are huge bargains to be had. But with huge bargains come huge crowds, so shopping on Boxing Day isn’t for the faint-hearted!

If you prefer (slightly) less of a crush, wait a day or so: there will still be plenty of bargains left. The Christmas sales in London are definitely an institution!

Enjoy a pantomime

Originating in the 19th century, pantomimes are still a huge Christmas tradition in the UK. Normally based around a fairy tale, expect colourful sets, men dressed as women (the beloved “pantomime dame”), deliberately terrible acting and the corniest jokes you’ve ever heard. Cries from the audience of “it’s behind you!” and “oh no it isn’t!” are traditional and will be encouraged, and audience members (often children) may be brought up on stage to participate in the show. Pantomimes are the perfect place to take the kids, although grown-up kids will love them too, and there are normally a few adult jokes thrown in just for the parents!

To find out what pantomimes are playing in London at Christmas, check out the Big Panto Guide.

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Take a day trip from London

The period between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time to take a day trip out from the city. You might want to visit Stonehenge, OxfordCambridge or even Manchester. Or for something a little different, take a train ride to historic Ely in Cambridgeshire. The quaint town with its beautiful cathedral and links to Oliver Cromwell makes the perfect day out!

New Year’s Eve

31 December is upon us, and your festive trip to London is almost at an end. So how can you ring in the New Year, and ring out your British adventure, with a bang?

New Year’s Eve in London is another day that might involve some planning. Hotels hold New Year parties, but will need to be researched and booked in advance. If you prefer to do your own thing, make sure that restaurant tables have also been booked in advance as they will be busy. For once, pubs are also normally ticket-only, so if you see somewhere you like the look of, pop in a few days ahead of time to get your ticket.

The iconic celebration of New Year in London takes place down by the River Thames, where live music and fireworks light up the city at midnight. Once again, entrance is by ticket only to keep numbers to a safe level. Tickets for the 2018/19 celebrations cost £10 and can be purchased at www.london.gov.uk.

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Photo: Pixabay


London transport over Christmas

By far the simplest and easiest way of getting around central London is to walk – distances are often closer than you think.

For longer journeys I recommend using the Underground network, which is easy to navigate and has the advantage of being under cover! If you have a contactless credit card, you might be able to use this to tap in at entry gates, in which case you will automatically be charged the cheapest fare with a daily cap at the cost of a 1-day travelcard. Make sure you tap in and out at the end of your journey with the same card to avoid unforeseen charges!

For those without a contactless card, or if the card doesn’t open the barrier, consider buying a one-day ticket. If you will be staying more than a few days an Oyster card is a good option; it can be topped up from ticket machines, which will accept all foreign credit and debit cards.

Be aware that all transport networks in London will be operating on limited hours on certain days over the festive period. Plan your travels accordingly so you don’t get stuck; taxis will be an expensive choice if you get stranded!

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Max Pixel

Weather in London at Christmas

The weather in London at the end of December is best described as changeable. Expect temperatures somewhere between 0C and 10C, with some rain (although it rains nowhere near as much in the UK as people think!). Grey skies are likely, but that just adds to the cosy atmosphere.

There is almost never any snow in Central London, at any time of year. Be prepared for dark evenings, though: it gets dark around 4pm in late December.

Where to stay in London at Christmas

I am normally a big advocate of staying in a London hotel outside the city centre, close to an Underground station, where prices are cheaper. However, for a Christmas and New Year visit, a city centre location will enable you to walk to most destinations and avoid any issues with transport closures over the festive period. Check out these recommendations from fellow bloggers for London hotels at New Year!
The Moxy London Excel
Park Plaza London Waterloo
Great Northern Hotel Kings Cross
Ampersand Hotel Kensington
Shangri-La Hotel Shard
Novotel London Canary Wharf


Unless otherwise indicated, photos in this post are sourced from Pixabay and Pexels under CC0 Creative Commons. No attribution required.


Want to experience Christmas and New Year in London for yourself? Pin this post for later!

If you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in LondonIf you’re heading to the UK for the holidays, why not do it like a Brit! How can you celebrate Christmas and New Year in London like a local? | London for Christmas and New Year | Best things to do in London at Christmas | Christmas lights in London | London Christmas shopping | London theatre at Christmas | Christmas Eve in London | Christmas Day in London | What to do in London between Christmas and New Year | London at Christmas | New Year’s Eve in London | New Year in London

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Secret Britain: 7 home-grown destinations Brits love!

Secret Britain: 7 home-grown destinations Brits love!

The UK is a deservedly popular spot on the tourist trail. Well, I would say that – I’m biased, as I have lived here all my life. But so many overseas visitors head for the same old places: London, Oxford and the Lake District, to name a few. But where do the British like to go when we are vacationing in our own country? Check out these 7 great destinations Brits love, as my fellow bloggers and I spill our secrets on the best way to get an authentic British experience on your visit to this diverse country. There’s truly something here for everyone!

Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: Loch Lomond (Image: Kirstin McEwan, The Tinberry Travels)

Loch Lomond, Scotland

Visitors on a short visit to the UK often only leave a few days to explore Scotland, meaning they can only squeeze the ultimate highlights in.

Loch Lomond often loses out to the more famous Loch Ness and those in search of the mythical Nessie, but the area is well worth adding to your itinerary. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is a firm favourite for locals and, being only a 45-minute drive from Glasgow and with a handy train station at the foot of the water, it’s certainly not hard to fit into even a short trip.

Perfect for a weekend away, camping holidays or even just a quick afternoon stroll, Loch Lomond definitely shouldn’t be missed and is where you’ll find a large swathe of the Glasgow population on any sunny day. While perfect for hikers too, the area has so many short walks with outstanding views that enjoying the amazing scenery is accessible to everyone. If you’re short on time check out spots like Conic Hill, Inchcailloch Island and our favourite spot; Duncryne Hill, for a snapshot of the stunning National Park but, if you can, factor in some time to fully explore the amazing nature this site has to offer!

Kirstin McEwan, The Tinberry Travels
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Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: Dartmoor. (Image: Becky Angell, www.beckythetraveller.com)

Dartmoor National Park, Devon

Sitting in the heart of England’s West Country in the far southwest, Dartmouth can be a trek but rewards its visitors well beyond the effort involved to get there. Around 4 hours’ drive from London, it can also be reached by train to Exeter, but you will definitely need a car to explore the moor properly.

Dartmoor is a vast area of moorland which is largely national park. Leafy valleys and pretty rivers around the edge of the park soon give way to barren uplands, where sheep reign supreme (they often wander across the roads, so keep a look out!) and dry stone walls dot the landscape.

The big draw on Dartmoor is hiking. Head to one of the visitor centres for local routes, or check out www.dartmoor.gov.uk for inspiration. The weather on Dartmoor can be unpredictable, especially in winter, so be sure to take local advice and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you’ll be back.


Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: Ludlow (Image: CC0 Public Domain)

Ludlow, Shropshire

On the Welsh borders, deep in the English countryside, you’ll find the small and perfectly formed town of Ludlow.  Renowned as a foodie destination, it has restaurants and local produce that big cities struggle to match.  Then there’s Ludlow Castle, early home of the Princes in the Tower, and now a fascinating spot to visit, complete with cannon and fortifications.  The town has a packed schedule of festivals and arty pleasures including the Fringe and an annual food festival in the grounds of the castle.  Plus a magnificent number of listed buildings, making the town a beautiful spot to explore.

Stay over at the black and white timbered Feathers Hotel, and enjoy an atmospheric break, complete with log fire in the upstairs sitting room in the colder months.  Grab yourselves a fine picnic from the wonderfully named Mousetrap and the nearby deli, and head out to roam the glorious Shropshire Hills and the Stiperstones.  You can also fit in some gliding or hang-gliding if adventure is upon you.  Ludlow manages to pack so many treasures into its schedule, you’ll be planning your next visit before you leave.

Bernadette Jackson, A Packed Life
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Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: Blackpool (Image: CC0 Public Domain)

Blackpool, Lancashire

Ah, Blackpool. It’s a British institution!

Located on the northwest coast of England, Blackpool is a mecca for seaside enthusiasts. With its pier, promenade and historic amusement park – known as the Pleasure Beach – Blackpool is just made for tacky holiday fun! You won’t find any classy tearooms here (or at least, not many), but you will thoroughly enjoy throwing yourself into the spirit of the town. Stay in a local bed & breakfast, and don’t forget to the check out the many fish & chip shops before a visit to Blackpool Tower, which dominates the seafront and is home to the world-famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Then grab a stick of rock, the traditional British seaside candy, before hitting the many bars and nightclubs of the town… or heading to a pub for some (slightly) more sedate local fun.

Tired of seaside frivolity? Blackpool is also well positioned for exploring the neighbouring resort of St Anne’s, as well as Morecambe Bay further up the coast. And the Lake District is right on the doorstep.

To get to Blackpool, take the train via Manchester and Preston, or consider a hire car if you want to explore beyond the town limits.


Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: Orford Castle (Image: Cassie Pearse, Mexico Cassie)

Orford Castle, Suffolk

Orford Castle has been one of my favourite places in the entire world for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure it never rains there, it’s always perfect blue skies and green grass in my mind. We moved to Suffolk when I was eight, and from my first visit to the castle, I was hooked. Now my own kids love going there when we’re back in East Anglia.

While it isn’t the cheapest castle to visit (English Heritage members free or £7.40/£4.40 adults and kids as of May 2018), it is a fabulous place. It looks just like a castle keep should look: tall and incredibly uninviting! But because we aren’t invaders we don’t need to feel scared, we can just explore the nooks and crannies of this fascinating place. A few rooms contain displays, but the most exciting thing about this castle is that it’s just great for exploring. Head up to the roof for magnificent views of Orford Ness. Once you’re done inside, if you have kids, then take a break while they run and play in the dry moat and surrounding grass area. Then either head into the village for a cream tea, or to the Ness for a walk and an ice cream. While you’re there, why not pick up some smoked fish, something for which the village is rightly well known!

Cassie Pearse, Mexico Cassie
Follow her on Instagram


Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: Ely, Cambridgeshire (Image: Reading the Book Travel)

Ely, Cambridgeshire

Ancient Ely, Cambridgeshire, is an easy day trip by train from London. Standing high above the Fens, Ely was an island of safety above the flood-prone land in times gone by. Today it is home to a quaint old town which used to be home to Oliver Cromwell, whose 17th century home still stands, and the River Great Ouse with its narrowboats, waterfront restaurants and a long stretch of river which is home to the Cambridge University rowing team, which can often be seen practising on the river alongside local crews.

But the highlight of Ely is its cathedral, one of the most spectacular in the country. Head inside to admire the stunning ceiling and stained glass windows, or sit in the old-world Cathedral Close to gaze at the gothic architecture.

Ely can be reached by train from London in just over 1 hour. For more, check out my post Explore historic Ely, Cambridgeshire.


Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: North Wales (Image: Reading the Book Travel)

North Wales

The North Wales coast from Rhyl in the east to Anglesey in the west is a favourite holiday destination for British families from Liverpool, Manchester and the surrounding area. There is so much to do in this region, from traditional seaside resorts such as Rhyl and Llandudno to ancient castles such as Conwy and Beaumaris. You can head inland to the Snowdonia mountain range that forms a backdrop to the coastal strip, and try your hand at scaling Wales’s highest peak, Snowdon itself, or just drive through the valleys and admire the rivers, waterfalls and pretty villages that dot the inland region.

Accommodation in North Wales is part of the fun. If you’re on a budget, check out the many campsites with spectacular views of the coast, or perhaps a traditional static caravan for the full holiday park experience! For those who prefer something a little more private, rent a cottage or stay in a traditional bed & breakfast, whether in one of the seaside towns or in the mountains. For a combination of stunning landscapes, ancient history and the fun of a British seaside, North Wales is a great destination!

To reach North Wales, take a train to Liverpool or Manchester and then collect a hire car to give you the most flexibility. Many towns such as Llandudno can also be reached by connecting train from the major cities.

Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Destinations Brits love: North Wales (Image: Reading the Book Travel)


If you’ve been inspired to check out some of the lesser-known British sites on the tourist trail, why not look a little further afield at some of the most beautiful and underrated cities in Europe? It truly does pay to follow where the locals go!


Think you might check out some destinations Brits love for yourself? Pin this post for later!

Want a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravelWant a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravelWant a truly authentic experience for your British vacation? Ditch the crowds and check out these 7 destinations Brits love to visit ourselves! | United Kingdom | UK destinations | Visit Britain | Visit the United Kingdom | Ludlow | Dartmoor | Blackpool | Loch Lomond | Orford Castle #visitbritain #ukdestinations #uktravel

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Ultimate Tower of London visit: Everything you need to know!

Ultimate Tower of London visit: Everything you need to know!

The Tower of London is one of the jewels of the British capital. Standing proudly on the banks of the River Thames, the Tower dates back to the 11th century and has been the foremost bastion of the nation since the days of William the Conqueror. Today, close to the iconic Tower Bridge and surrounded by the skyscrapers of modern London, the Tower has lost none of its might and magnificence. But how can you create the ultimate Tower of London visit, and why is it a must-see on your trip to the city?

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The modern entrance to the Tower of London: passing through the Middle Tower

Getting there

The location of the Tower of London is imposing: the fortress sits in the heart of the city on the banks of the River Thames, just to the east of the ceremonial centre and west of London’s modern Docklands district. Tower Hill underground station is just a short walk from the entrance – look for it on the District (green) and Circle (yellow) lines. Alternatively, Tower Pier is a stopping point for river buses and tour boats along the Thames, and allows you to approach the Tower just like the visitors – and prisoners – of old.

Entrance times and prices

The Tower of London is open each day from 9am to 5:30pm (10am to 5:30pm on Sundays and Mondays). Last entry is 30 minutes before closing.

The best time to visit the Tower of London is first thing in the morning, before the crowds build up. To really enjoy your visit, aim to arrive no less than 2 hours before closing.

Tickets can be bought at the ticket office, but to save money it’s best to book online at www.hrp.org.uk. As of May 2018, entry prices for adults were £26.80 on the gate or £22.70 online (£12.70 or £10.75 for children aged 5-15; family discounts are available). Note that you will need to print off your ticket; electronic copies or confirmation emails are not accepted.


Tower of London highlights

The Crown Jewels

The Tower of London is a prison no more, but it is still the guardian of arguably the greatest treasures of the nation: the spectacular Crown Jewels. Dating mostly from the reign of Charles II, the Restoration king of the 17th Century who ascended the throne after the death of England’s only republican ruler, Oliver Cromwell, the Crown Jewels replaced the earlier versions which were destroyed when Charles I was executed and the monarchy temporarily abolished. Some of the jewels date from even earlier – including a pearl belonging to Elizabeth I which is incorporated into the Imperial State Crown. Come and be wowed by the incredible orb and sceptre, the beautiful jewelled sword and, most famously, the two crowns most associated with the monarch, one used at the Coronation and the other worn on many state occasions by Queen Elizabeth II and recognisable all over the world. The Crown Jewel also include a fabulous display of other gold and jewelled items, all stunningly lit to maximise the sparkle and set the jewels off to their best advantage.

Entry to the Crown Jewels is included in your ticket price. Be prepared to queue for up to 1 hour, as the exhibit is popular! No photography is allowed inside the building.

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The stunning Waterloo Block has been home to the British Crown Jewels since 1994. A visit to this historic treasure-trove is essential for the ultimate Tower of London visit!

The White Tower

The keep in the heart of the Tower of London is the original tower from which the fortress took its name. Built in approximately 1080 AD in the reign of William the Conqueror, winner of the Battle of Hastings, the immense tower is a must-visit.

One of the joys of visiting is knowing you are entering such an ancient building; strip away the modern exhibits and imagine yourself in early medieval times. Today, however, the three floors of the tower are given over to exhibits on weaponry, including a magnificent collection of suits of armour for both men and horses. The top floor houses an original execution block complete with axe, as well as a modern exhibit allowing children of all ages to try out many historic weapons via digital media.

Bear in mind that the White Tower has over 200 steps to negotiate (100+ up and 100+ down). There is a lift for disabled access.

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The White Tower is the oldest and most recognisable part of the Tower of London

The Bloody Tower and the Wakefield Tower: torture at the Tower of London

In 1483, child-king Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were the subjects of a dastardly takeover which saw them locked in the Tower of London. They were never seen again, and their ghosts are said to haunt the Bloody Tower to this day. The adjoining Wakefield Tower is now home to an exhibit on medieval torture, which makes for fascinating, if disconcerting, viewing. Torture was actually very rare in England; most took place during Tudor times, and most of that at the Tower of London.

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The bloody Tower of London: This gruesome executioner’s block is on display in the White Tower

The Medieval Palace

A fortress and prison it may have been, but the Tower of London was also a home, and this is evidenced in the medieval palace where visitors can roam the rooms and imagine themselves living a life of luxury in this most forbidding fortress. Wander the rooms in varying states of restoration, including a recreation of a medieval bedchamber and a hall with a spectacular fireplace. The Medieval Palace was once home to Henry III and his son Edward I, and dates from the 1270s.

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There is a spectacular view of Tower Bridge from the ramparts

The Ramparts

The ramparts of the Tower of London are accessed at the end of your visit to the medieval palace, and offer a magnificent view of Tower Bridge, as well as a fascinating blend of old and new as the ultra-modern Shard tower rises from behind the ancient western end of the Tower of London complex.

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Traitors’ Gate is the historic entrance to the Tower from the River Thames. Anne Boleyn was brought through this gate when she was imprisoned (and later executed) at the orders of Henry VIII

Traitors’ Gate

This ancient entrance to the Tower of London (built in the 1370s) saw much of its activity in Tudor times, when prisoners including Anne Boleyn made their way to the fortress by river. In modern times the gate is some way back from the water’s edge, although an inlet from the river still allows visitors to imagine it as it once was.

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A magnificent collection of suits of armour is housed in the central White Tower

Tower Green

The quintessentially Tudor half-timbered houses of Tower Green provide a picturesque backdrop. But this spot has a gruesome history, as it is the site of most of the Tower of London’s executions, including those of Queens Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for 9 days in 1553 on the death of Edward VI. The execution block has today been replaced by a modern memorial marking the spot.

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Tower Green was the last thing many prisoners saw. Among others, Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey both met the executioner’s block here

The Tower Menagerie

From the 13th to the 19th century, the Tower of London was renowned for its menagerie of exotic beasts. In the days before modern zoos, visitors would flock to see such creatures as lions, elephants and even polar bear; but in 1835 the animals were rehomed and the menagerie was closed for good. Today there is an exhibit recounting the history of this iconic mini-zoo, and animal statues can be found all over the Tower complex.

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Ancient and modern: the new Shard building dominates the skyline far beyond the medieval fortress walls


How long should I allow?

To fully appreciate the Tower of London, allow at least 3 hours for your visit. Note that, while most exhibits are undercover, the Tower itself is an outdoor attraction and you will need rain gear on bad weather days. The entire complex is cobbled and good footwear is essential.

Other Royal Palaces

The Tower of London is one of the Historic Royal Palaces. Why not visit more during your trip to the UK – if you will visit more than two Historic Royal Palaces, annual membership may work out cheaper than several single tickets.



Want to discover more about the UK? Check out these other posts:
Explore historic Ely, Cambridgeshire
Punting in Cambridge: The quintessential English pastime!
Little Moreton Hall: A Tudor timewalk


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Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Ulster travel: Discover the highlights of all nine counties

Ulster travel: Discover the highlights of all nine counties

Ulster. The name of the province is synonymous with Northern Ireland, but did you know that Ulster province is made up of more than just the six counties of the north? Having visited every county in Ulster for myself, I know that each one has its own character and highlights, tied together by a shared history and the instantly-recognisable Ulster accent. If your Ulster travel knowledge needs a boost, here are some great suggestions for what to see in each county!

The nine (yes NINE) counties that make up the province of Ulster are spread across both sides of the United Kingdom/Ireland border. From north to south – roughly! – they are:

County Donegal – Ireland
County Londonderry – United Kingdom
County Antrim – United Kingdom
County Tyrone – United Kingdom
County Fermanagh – United Kingdom
County Armagh – United Kingdom
County Down – United Kingdom
County Monaghan – Ireland
County Cavan – Ireland


County Donegal

Did you know the most northerly point of the whole of Ireland is actually in the “south”? Malin Head is the tip of Ireland, and the starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way that winds down the western coast in a series of breathtaking vistas. Donegal has a reputation for wild beauty that is well deserved.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal

Glenveagh National Park

Combining spectacular moorland with picturesque loughs, Glenveagh National Park is not to be missed. Try visiting Lough Beagh, where a lakeside walk takes you to a beautiful Irish castle and tea rooms. The walk from the visitors centre is approximately 45 minutes each way, or take one of the shuttle buses and just enjoy the view!

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Slieve League Cliffs, Co Donegal

Slieve League

The Slieve League cliffs are rivalled only by the Cliffs of Moher further south for sheer awe-inspiring magnificence. Rising 600m from the Atlantic Ocean as it crashes far below, the cliffs will take your breath away. Easily accessible by car.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Donegal Town, Co Donegal

Donegal Town

The town which gives the county its name is compact and quintessentially Irish. Check out the traditional pubs and Donegal castle, or take a boat trip. It’s a great place to stay the night on your travels around Ulster.

Donegal is also a great jumping off point to discover the magical castles of the west of Ireland.


County Londonderry

Across the international border (in reality, there are no border controls; see my post Crossing the Irish border for more information), County Londonderry has a troubled history. But look beyond the city that bears its name and there is much to see and do along the beautiful coastline.

Derry/Londonderry

The city with two names is famous for the Bogside district and its peace murals. But Derry (to use the shorter form) is so much more. There are medieval city walls to explore, as well as a great food scene. Check out Discover the highlights of Derry/Londonderry more information.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Derry City Walls, Co Londonderry

Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple

High on the clifftops of Northern Ireland’s north coast, the atmospheric ruins of the Downhill Demesne are a photographer’s dream. As you explore the wild hillside, make your way to the cliff edge to check out Mussenden Temple, a folly which seems to teeter on the very cliff itself. Spectacular views can be had all the way along the northern coast.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Downhill Demesne, Co Londonderry

Portstewart

The seaside town of Portstewart is a popular spot for family holidays on the Northern Irish coast. Child-friendly beaches are backed by caravan parks, and an international golf course which plays host to the Irish Open every summer. If you want to experience a typical British/Irish seaside resort, this is the place to come.


County Antrim

If I had to pick one county which is overflowing with things to do and see, it would be County Antrim. The Giant’s Causeway, the Glens of Antrim, Carnlough, Slemish, Dark Hedges and Ballintoy (both made internationally famous by Game of Thrones), Lough Neagh… there is so much to cover in this county that it is hard to pick out favourites.

Dunluce Castle

Sitting on the Northern Coast just west of the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce is a ruined castle which perches on a headland overlooking crashing waves below. If you want to get a sense of the Ireland of the Middle Ages, wild and historic, this is a great place to come. There is a charge to enter the castle ruins themselves, but it is free to negotiate the steep steps down the cliff to the lower levels with ruined archways and fairy grottos. Dunluce is a lovely spot to visit on a summer evening, and offers spectacular photo opportunities.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Dunluce Castle, Co Antrim

Bushmills

Famous as the home of Northern Ireland’s favourite whiskey (note the E which differentiates Ireland’s tipple from its Scottish equivalent), Bushmills is a pretty small town with plenty of restaurants and places to wander. Visit the distillery itself to taste Ulster’s finest, and buy a few bottles to take home!

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Co Antrim

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

Located just off the Causeway Coastal Route which winds around the coast of Northern Ireland from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede is not for the fainthearted! A 10-minute walk from the car park brings you to the bridge itself, suspended high above the crashing Atlantic. Fishermen have long used the tiny island of Carrickarede to launch their boats, using the rope bridge to cross from the mainland. The bridge itself has of course been modernised and is completely safe, but still a vertigo-inducing walk if you’re brave enough!

Cushendall

If you fancy a stop on your tour of County Antrim, there is no better place than Cushendall. This hilly small town on the edge of the Glens of Antrim has a number of great restaurants, including the original Harry’s Restaurant, famous across the province for its local food, and fish in particular. Make bookings in high season, and enjoy the best local produce.


County Tyrone

Just south of County Londonderry is landlocked County Tyrone. Home to Omagh, the town that suffered one of the most notorious bombings of the Troubles, Tyrone now is a peaceful county with pretty country roads and villages.

The Sperrins

The Sperrin Mountains lie along the border between County Tyrone and County Londonderry, and make for spectacular walking on their high moorland. Wild and untouched, they are a haven for wildlife. Walkers can enjoy the heather-covered hillsides and stone circles that remind you, in case you forget, that Ireland’s history goes back into ancient times.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Ulster American Folk Park, Co Tyrone

Ulster-American Folk Park

Located just north of Omagh, the Ulster-American Folk Park is a world-class outdoor museum that recalls the mass migrations of Irish men and women to the United States during the 19th century. The museum takes you past historic buildings ranging from farmhouses to schools and shopping streets as you explore the Ireland of times gone by. Heading through a mock-up of a migrant ship, you then pass into the streets of New York City and finally into the American hinterland where so many of the Irish population found a new life. If you enjoy exploring historic buildings and want to know more about the reasons for Irish migration and the challenges migrants faced, this is somewhere not to be missed.


County Fermanagh

With borders with both County Donegal and County Cavan to the south, County Fermanagh marks the southwestern extremity of Northern Ireland.

Enniskillen

The town of Enniskillen is another Northern Irish name synonymous with the Troubles. Today it is a functional, day-to-day town which is a great jumping-off point for the waterways of County Fermanagh

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh

Lough Erne

Fermanagh’s crowning glory is its loughs, and Lough Erne is the greatest of them. While away your time on the water, where public jetties provide plenty of opportunities to moor up and explore. A peaceful part of the province, and a world away from the big cities, this is another popular spot for locals looking for a short break.


County Armagh

Armagh is not one of Northern Ireland’s more dramatic counties, and is home to the Belfast commuter belt towns of Portadown and Craigavon as well as the county town of Armagh. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do.

Armagh

The county town is home to St Patrick’s Cathedral, a spectacular Roman Catholic building which is well worth a visit. Armagh is a great place to stroll, and has some fantastic restaurants.

Ring of Gullion

Topped by the mountain of Slieve Gullion, the Ring of Gullion is a series of hills rising high above the Armagh landscape. With walking trails and a scenic driving route, it is a great day out.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh

Bordering several counties including large stretches of County Antrim and County Tyrone, Lough Neagh also has shoreline in County Armagh. The largest stretch of fresh water in the British Isles, Lough Neagh dominates maps of Ireland and is a great place for boat trips, discovering the local bird life, or just strolling along the shoreline.


County Down

Just south of Northern Ireland’s great city of Belfast, County Down holds some of Ulster’s greatest hidden gems.

Stormont

Seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the governing body of Northern Ireland, Stormont Castle is set in magnificent grounds lined with sweeping driveways and planted with groves of different native trees. It’s a great place for an afternoon stroll, and displays also teach visitors a little about Northern Ireland’s political history at the same time.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Stormont Castle, Co Down

Strangford Lough

Southeast of Belfast, Strangford Lough is an inlet from the Irish Sea which offers picturesque coastline and plenty of places to stop and admire the view.

Newcastle

The town of Newcastle, on the edge of the Irish Sea, offers what is arguably Northern Ireland’s premier hotel, the Slieve Donard Hotel. It takes its name from Slieve Donard, the high peak which is unmissable from the town. Newcastle is a bustling small down with shops and great restaurants, as well as a great wheelchair-accessible promenade along the seafront. Don’t miss the quirky building and street art down side streets near the beach. And if your budget won’t stretch to 5* luxury, check out the more affordable Donard Hotel in the town centre, which is a comfortable hotel in the traditional Irish style, which does a great Irish breakfast!

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Street art, Newcastle, Co. Down

The Mourne Mountains

The Mournes are probably the most spectacular region of Northern Ireland, or even of Ulster in general. The mountains are not high by international standards – Slieve Donard is the highest at 850m – but offer stunning moorland grazed by fluffy sheep, beautiful mountain view falling down to the sea, and the best walking in the province. Explore the many walking trails through the mountains, but beware – the weather can be unpredictable and can change quickly, and every year a handful of unwary hikers come to grief here, so stick to marked paths and let people know where you’re going. For a tamer walk, but one that still offers gorgeous mountain views and a close-up encounter with the historic Mourne Wall, try Silent Valley Nature Park near the town of Annalong in the southwest of the mountains.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Silent Valley, Mourne Mountains, Co Down


County Monaghan

Back across the border into the nation of Ireland, County Monaghan is a gentle county full of winding roads, bucolic landscapes and attractive places to drive. Monaghan, the county town, is a great place to stop off and explore.

Lough Muckno

Lough Muckno is home to world-class angling and wakeboarding. Located in the east of the county close to Castleblayney, Lough Muckno Leisure Park also offers walking trails and waterskiing for those who like an active day out.

Lacemaking

Clones lace and Carrickmacross lace are techniques which have been used for Royal wedding dresses for centuries. The traditional hails from County Monaghan, and lace is a theme you will encounter all over the county.


County Cavan

The last stop on our Ulster travel tour is County Cavan, arguably the least known of the counties of Ulster and one that is not typically on the tourist region. But like its neighbour across the northern border, County Fermanagh, Cavan is a hidden gem where lakes are its crowning glory.

Cavan County Museum

Located in the town of Ballyjamesduff in the south of the country (“Bally” is a common prefix for town names in this part of the country, and is derived from the Irish word for “town”), the Cavan County Museum is an award-winning museum which will take you through the history of County Cavan, with special exhibitions on medieval times and the Great Famine of the 1840s which was the catalyst for much of the Irish migration to the New World.

Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

Ulster travel: Castle Lake, Co Cavan

Forest parks

Cavan is overflowing with forest parks offering beautiful woodland walks around picturesque loughs. It is one of the joys of the county, and not to be missed when you are exploring County Cavan.


So there we have it – the joys of each one of the nine counties of Ulster. Has it inspired your own dreams of Ulster travel? Have you ever been to any of the Ulster counties? Let me know in the comments!


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Discover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravelDiscover the highlights of each of Ulster's nine counties, both north and south of the border - and experience Ulster travel for yourself! | Ulster Northern Ireland | Ulster Ireland | County Cavan | County Monaghan | County Donegal | County Armagh | County Fermanagh | County Tyrone | County Londonderry | County Antrim | County Down #ulstertravel

 

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Slemish: St Patrick’s Mountain in Northern Ireland

Slemish: St Patrick’s Mountain in Northern Ireland

I have been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland over many years, visiting the town of Ballymena, County Antrim. And anyone familiar with the approach to Ballymena will recognise Slemish. Towering over the surrounding flat landscape, Slemish is unmistakable and, when the mists clear, unmissable. It is also St Patrick’s mountain.

slemish

Slemish stands proudly above the Antrim countryside

The story goes like this: at the age of 16, the teenager who would become St Patrick was captured in England and brought to Ireland against his will. For the next 6 years he was forced to work as a swineherd on Slemish, looking after his pigs on the lonely and exposed mountain. It was during this period of solitude and loneliness that, they say, he became closer to God and developed into the saintly man he would become.

But what is Slemish? What makes it so striking in a landscape that is otherwise lush, but unremarkable? Well, the answer is millions of years old. Slemish is a volcanic plug, formed when magma forced its way out of the earth’s crust and solidified into rock. Over the millennia the surrounding softer rock eroded away, but the harder volcanic rock remained, and now stands proudly above the landscape.

Is it a mythical mountain? Probably not. Is it inextricably linked to Ireland’s history? Very much so.

slemish

The views over the surrounding area are spectacular

Plan your visit to Slemish

Slemish can be visited all year round, although caution should be taken in wet or icy weather as it can be slippery. I drove most of the way up until I reached the exposed rock; from there it is possible to pick your own path to the summit. The round trip takes about 90 minutes, depending on the weather and your fitness levels. Be prepared for a steep scramble.

Because of the association with St Patrick, it is especially popular to climb Slemish on St Patrick’s Day (17 March). If you do the same, expect plenty of company – but expect also to participate in a local tradition that is deeply rooted in Irish myth and legend.

How to get there

Slemish lies approximately 5 miles to the east of Ballymena in central Co. Antrim. Follow signs for Broughshane and make a right-hand turn in the centre of the village. Brown road signs point the way, but these are hit-and-miss so a map or GPS will be helpful.

St Patrick’s Trail

Slemish is part of the St Patrick’s Trail, a 92-mile driving route linking sights across Northern Ireland associated with St Patrick.

slemish


Inspired to discover a little more about Northern Ireland? Check out my other posts!
Northern Ireland: Discover the highlights of Derry/Londonderry
5 Reasons you will love Northern Ireland…
Discover Northern Ireland’s beautiful Causeway Coast
Crossing the Irish border: everything you need to know for a stress-free visit!
Portrush to Castlerock: Discover Northern Ireland’s northwest coast
The Mourne Mountains: Northern Ireland’s beautiful southeast



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Visit Northern Ireland and discover the stunning mountain of Slemish in County Antrim. Steeped in the legends of St Patrick, locals climb Slemish every St Patrick's Day. Visit County Antrim for yourself to discover Slemish, or read on to learn the myths and the practicalities for yourself!

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Little Moreton Hall: A Tudor timewalk

Little Moreton Hall: A Tudor timewalk

Few periods of European history have quite the splendour and mystique of Tudor England. The age of Henry VIII and his six wives, of Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I, the period is known for its violent history and religious upheaval, set against a backdrop of elaborate fashions where doublets, hose and ruffs were the order of the day. But the period is also known for its distinctive architecture, and Little Moreton Hall in South Cheshire is a spectacular example.

A traditional half-timbered manor house, Little Moreton Hall was not the home of a prince or courtier, but rather that of a well-to-do local family who lived in genteel middle-class prosperity. As a result, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of the period.

Little Moreton Hall - 2

The splendid entrance to Little Moreton Hall clearly shows how the building has warped over the centuries.

Little Moreton Hall is owned by the British National Trust, and is located on the A34 a few miles south of Congleton in Cheshire, within easy reach of Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester. Surrounded by farmland where sheep graze in a typical English pastoral scene, the house is imposing as you round the corner and glimpse it for the first time. Set amongst lawns, the Hall is a higgledy-piggledy building in traditional Tudor black-and-white half-timbered style, its eccentric lines the result of centuries of movement in the wooden-framed building. Entry to the building itself is across a formal moat and through an archway into a cobbled courtyard.

Little Moreton Hall - 3

The central courtyard. Fancy watching Shakespeare here? It’s an incredible experience.

The Hall is entirely open to visitors, with each room containing displays of Tudor life and explanations of the architectural features and furnishings of the period. From the ground floor kitchens, dining room and chapel, visitors can head upstairs to bedchambers, period costumes and an original Tudor toilet – a long drop hole in the floor, opening straight into the moat below! The top floor of the building is a Great Hall which was added later, the weight of which is largely responsible for the amount of warp the building has suffered over the years. Walking over the uneven floor and learning about the metal pinning that makes it safe today is almost as interesting as experiencing the Tudor rooms below.

Little Moreton Hall - 4

The Long Hall. Walking on the uneven floor here is quite an experience!

Outside, the rear of the building has a pleasant footpath along the moat, and a formal Tudor knot garden complete with yew hedges. On a summer’s day, events are held frequently, including music and costumes of the period, and Tudor games for the children. Shakespeare’s plays are performed here every summer, with performances in the central courtyard surrounded by half-timbered elegance. It makes for a spectacularly authentic setting.

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The traditional Tudor knot garden

Little Moreton Hall is open from February to October, plus a 3 week Yuletide celebration in December, and is free to National Trust members. Check the National Trust website for opening days and times, which can vary throughout the year. Non-members pay an entrance fee of £10 adults/£5 children (December 2017), which gives access to the whole house and gardens. The property also has a tea room and gift shop.

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Lambs play in the fields surrounding the Hall


If you enjoyed reading about Little Moreton Hall, why not check out some other posts on my beautiful home country of England:
Explore historic Ely, Cambridgeshire
How to go punting in Cambridge – and look good doing it!


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Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!