By Samantha Kuhr
On a recent holiday in the UK with my family, we needed to cancel our scheduled trip to Jordan at the last minute. We found ourselves with six extra days in the UK and simply no plans (or reservations) whatsoever. After getting over the initial disappointment, it was hugely liberating figuring out where to go. We decided to avoid London and head to other less-traveled spots, and were quite pleasantly surprised. Read on to discover our five fun adventures outside London.
- The Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a gorgeous medieval town in the West Midlands, and probably most famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Filled with quaint shops, old teahouses and restaurants, the River Avon runs right through the center of town. Tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre need to be reserved months in advance, however we learned that returned same day tickets are sometimes available. We rushed to the box office, and were thrilled to secure four tickets for the evening performance of The Tempest.
We hurried back to our hotel to freshen up, stopping at one of the local pubs for supper. These are incredible places to eat, especially for families, as they are reasonably priced and serve local delights all day such as fish and chips, steak pie and chips, gammon and chips, or a fresh ploughman’s lunch. Of course, everything is better washed down with a nice scrumpy cider or Marston’s Pedigree on tap. After supper we headed to the theatre, and spent the next three hours lost in an amazing production. It was a fantastic experience, and one we will always treasure.
- Old Trafford – Manchester
There’s nothing more stereotypically English than going to watch your favourite football team play on Boxing Day. Our boys had never been to Old Trafford to see their favourite Red Devils, Manchester United, play, so when ‘Santa’ left them tickets under the tree, they could not have been more excited. Since this was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences, we had tickets to the Warwick VIP suite, and decided to make it an all day affair. We arrived at noon, and were taken to our suite for canapés and cocktails. There was lots of mingling with sponsors and we were served a delicious buffet lunch as the stadium started to fill. The excitement began to build, and we were taken to our seats for the 3pm kick-off (after the waitress had taken our half-time drink order, of course). The roar of 75,000 people filled the stadium and we relished every pass, free kick and goal. The boys were in heaven (secretly so was I) as we cheered our Red Devils to victory. At half-time, it was so luxurious being able to head into the warm suite and be served chilled champagne, hot chocolate for the boys, and hot meat pies!
The second half was even more exciting (it could have been the champagne, too, in all fairness), and we were sad when the final whistle blew. We finished our drinks, said goodbye to the DJ and reluctantly left Old Trafford. This experience was truly special, memorable and a rather decadent way to watch the match.
- Cheddar Gorge
Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in England with majestic cliffs standing over 450ft tall and stalactite caves. We began the three mile hike with over 300 steep steps towards the Lookout Tower. We continued to climb the muddy trail, which clung to the side of the cliffs until we reached the highest point overlooking Horseshoe Bend. After taking in the awesome view, we carefully descended to Black Rock Gate. My family is pretty active, however the mud and rain made the conditions slightly treacherous for us all. We could only imagine how stunning those views would be on a hot summer day. When we reached the bottom we were wet, tired, and hungry, so headed to a local coffee shop in the village of Cheddar for, you guessed it… cheddar cheese!
Bristol is located in the South West of England, and over the past few years has reinvigorated itself as a hip college town filled with trendy coffee shops, wine bars and artsy restaurants. The city is quite ‘gritty’ and is well known for its street art, most famously the political and controversial pieces created by Banksy, who uses stencils to paint graffiti images on public property, typically with political infused messages. We spent the day checking out street art and Bristol Cathedral, and in the evening made our way to Gloucester Road for dinner. The next day we stopped at Clifton Suspension Bridge, one of Bristol’s great engineering accomplishments. This bridge is an absolute work of art and definitely worth a visit to see the stunning panoramic views of the city.
Stonehenge has many different meanings to different people. It is a ‘wonder of the world’, and to many, a spiritual place and source of inspiration. The day we planned to visit it was drizzling rain, windy, with occasional hail, but we didn’t let that deter us. It’s recommended you book your visit online prior to arriving and reserve a time slot. We were all excited to visit, but in the spirit of keeping it real, we found the experience rather underwhelming.
(Sorry, just being honest). Perhaps it was the weather, but we walked to the stones, took our pictures, and decided to leave rather quickly. We did spend about an hour at the cool exhibition in the visitor’s center, and discussed visiting another time… in the summer.
Contributor Samantha Kuhr lives in Hermosa Beach, California, with her husband and two active boys. She continues to travel to off–the–beaten–path places with her family and documents those trips on her blog, mytravellingcircus.com and on Instagram.