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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Carisbrooke Castle

Historic Carisbrooke Castle is located in the village of Carisbrooke, near Newport, on the Isle of Wight. King Charles I was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle in the months leading up to his trial and subsequent execution in 1649. A museum on the premises describes how he tried to escape from the castle in 1648, but was unable to get through the bars of his window. After his death, his two youngest children were confined in Carisbrooke Castle, and Princess Elizabeth died there.

Carisbrooke Castle, England.

The site of Carisbrooke Castle has probably been occupied since pre-Roman times. The site became an Anglo-Saxon stronghold during the 8th century. Around 1000 AD, a wall was built around the hill in order to defend against Viking raids. Between 1066 and 1086, William FitzOsbern was granted the Isle of Wight, and he probably built the first castle to secure the Isle of Wight for the Normans.

Carisbrooke Castle, England, UK.

The visitor to Carisbrooke Castle can climb the seventy-one steps leading up to the keep which commands a fine view. Domestic buildings, which are mostly from the 13th century, occupy the centre of the castle enclosure. Some of these buildings are in ruins, but the main rooms served as the official residence of the Governor of the Isle of Wight until the 1940s, and they are in good repair. Rooms open to the public include the Great Hall, Great Chamber and several smaller rooms.
Carisbrooke Castle, England.

Visitors to the Isle of Wight should also view the nearby Needles and Tennyson Memorial.

Carisbrooke Castle
Castle Hill
Isle of Wight
PO30 1XY

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Oxford Street Christmas Lights 2015

The Oxford Street Christmas Lights have been turned on again this year.

Oxford Street Christmas Lights, London

Kylie Minogue flicked the switch as early as November 2 this year from a booth outside Pandora store close to Marble Arch and Selfridges department store to light up London's premier shopping street.

Oxford Street Christmas Lights, London

The 750,000 LED lights on Oxford Street, which give the impression it is snowing will remain illuminated until January 6, 2014.

Oxford Street Christmas Lights, London, UK

Fleur East, Foxes, Gabrielle Aplin and X-Factor winner Ben Haenow performed before the lights were turned on.

Oxford Street Christmas Lights, UK

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park

If you're in London over the Christmas period there's no better way to get into a festive mood than a visit to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. This free-to-enter event in one of the capital's most famous parks includes a host of Christmas-themed fun and activities, including big top shows, an observation wheel, an ice bar and a sprawling German-style Christmas market.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, London.

This year visitors to Hyde Park can skate around a picturesque ice rink, enter the Magical Ice Kingdom with its "ice forest" of frozen sculptures and gleaming ice castle, and enjoy the acrobatic wonders of shows at the award-winning Zippos Circus and Cirque Beserk. Younger children will enjoy more sedate rides such as carousels and helter skelters, while high adrenaline roller coasters cater to a thrill-seeking older crowd.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, London.

2015/2016 dates: November 20, 2015 to January 3, 2016. Open from 10am to 10pm every day (except Christmas Day).

Find more things to do and see during winter in Britain.

Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line) Marble Arch (Central Line) Green Park (Victoria, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines)
Victoria (Victoria line and National Rail)
Paddington (Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Circle & District lines and National Rail
*Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch get very busy and visitors are advised to use alternative stations.
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Black Friars Distillery Plymouth

Black Friars Distillery, also known as the Plymouth Gin Distillery, is located in the Barbican neighbourhood of Plymouth in Devon. Black Friars has been in operation since 1793.

Black Friars Distillery Plymouth Devon.

The beautiful distillery building dates back to the early 1400's, with the most intact part of the complex - a medieval hall with a fine hull-shaped timber roof known as the Refectory Room - one of the oldest buildings in the city and formerly a Black Friars monastery. After Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries the buildings were used as a debtors' prison, a meeting hall and a reception centre for Huguenot refugees from France. The Pilgrim Fathers stayed here on their last night in England before setting sail for the New World in 1620.

Not surprisingly with this long history, the Plymouth Gin distillery is the oldest working distillery in England.

Soon after Black Friars was established Plymouth Gin became a firm favourite in the numerous countries it was shipped to. The gin drinking of the Royal Navy considerably enhanced gin's prestige and Plymouth became popular across the world. In more recent times there has been an increase in the popularity of the distinctive sweeter and lighter but stronger Plymouth flavour, compared to the more usual London Dry Gin.

Black Friars Distillery Plymouth Devon.

Black Friars offers a range of tours, ranging in price from a 40-minute, £7 inspection through to an in-depth, 2.5-hour "Master Distiller's" outing (£40) where visitors get to create (and take away) their own bespoke gin. The distillery complex also has its own cocktail bar and brasserie.

Black Friars Distillery
60 Southside Street
The Barbican
Plymouth PL1 2LQ
Tel: 01752 665 292
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday 11am to 5pm

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Scapa Distillery Orkney

Scapa, the "artisanal" single malt Scotch whisky from the Orkney Islands, owned by Chivas Brothers, recently unveiled its first-ever distillery visitor centre as it seeks to educate malt connoisseurs about its unique production process, provenance and quality.

Scapa Distillery Orkney, Scotland.

The opening marks the first occasion that the Scapa facilities have been open to the public since the distillery began business back in 1885.

The Scapa whisky distillery had been distilling since long before, having been founded by Messrs. Macfarlane and Townsend in 1885. The little huddle of buildings lies just outside of Kirkwall at Scapa Bay, and the distillery draws its waters from the Lingro Burn. Scapa is unique for an island whisky as its malted barley is entirely unpeated - this produces an especially honey flavoured alcohol.

Scapa Distillery Orkney Scotland UK.

The Scapa distillery is the second most northerly distillery in Scotland (half a mile farther south than the nearby Highland Park distillery).

The new Scapa visitor centre and tour are open to adults seven days per week from April to September, and five days per week from September to November.

Scapa Distillery
Scapa Flow
KW15 1SE
Tel: 01856 876585

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is a one third sized railway that runs through Romney Marsh in East Kent, south east England.

Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

The RH&DR runs for 13 and a half miles from Hythe to Dungeness. There are stations at Hythe, Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, Romney Warren, New Romney, Romney Sands and Dungeness.

The RH&DR opened in 1927 and was the fulfillment of the dreams of two rich, model train enthusiasts of the day - Jack Howey and Count Louis Zborowski (the latter tragically killed in a motor racing accident before the railway opened).

Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, Kent.

Check the website of the RH&DR for full information on fares and timetables.

New Romney Station

New Romney,
Kent TN28 8PL
Tel: 01797 362353

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hever Castle and Gardens

With its parapets, moat, ghosts, armour and gruesome torture devices, Hever Castle is what most people imagine a castle to be.

Hever Castle and Gardens, Kent.

The original Hever Castle was built in 1270. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Hever Castle was home to the powerful Boleyn family. Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. The marriage of Henry and Anne led to the King renouncing Catholicism and creating the Church of England.

Hever Castle was later owned by another of King Henry VIII's wives, Anne of Cleves.

Hever Castle and Gardens, Kent, UK.

After a period of decline, William Waldorf Astor, a wealthy American, restored the castle. Astor built the Tudor Village, which is now called the Astor Wing as well as the lovely gardens and a lake.

Hever Castle's panelled rooms contain fine furniture, tapestries, antiques and one of the UK's finest collection of Tudor portraits.

Hever Castle and Gardens, Kent, UK.

Hever Castle
Hever Rd
Kent TN8 7NG
Tel: 01732 865224

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Deal Castle

Deal Castle in East Kent in the south east of England is along with nearby Walmer Castle, a major attraction of this part of the Kent coast.

Deal Castle, Kent, England.

Deal Castle was built by Henry VIII between 1539 and 1540 as an artillery fortress to protect England from overseas invasion. This part of the English coastline would have been ideal for landing an invasion fleet and indeed, Julius Caesar had done just that way back in 55 BC. An earthwork or "fosse" was built to connect the three fortresses of Deal, Walmer and Sandown.

Deal Castle is constructed of brick and stone taken from religious buildings after Henry's dissolution of the English monasteries. The fortress was strengthened during the time of the Napoleonic threat from across the Channel and was used as an Observation Post during World War II, when it was also bombed by the Germans. In 1951, Deal Castle was taken over by English Heritage.

Deal Castle
Marine Rd, Deal
Kent CT14 7BA
Tel: 0370 333 1181

Deal Castle is open every weekend 10am-4pm
Admission £5.40 (adults)

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dreamland Margate

The Dreamland amusement park first opened in 1920, as holiday makers and day-trippers, mainly from London began to arrive in numbers to the East Kent coastal resort of Margate.

Dreamland Margate, UK.

After years of decline, however, many of Dreamland's big rides were dismantled in the 1990s, with the park finally closing in 2003.

After years of renovation, Dreamland finally reopened in June this year with beautifully restored retro-fitted rides and amusements taking visitors back to the golden age of the great British seaside holiday. The Dreamland Arcade for example is a classic British seaside arcade with modern and vintage games including Punch & Judy, pinball and retro roller skating.

The rides include a wooden Scenic Railway, the oldest roller coaster in Britain, a 1920's style Helter Skelter and a Wedgewood tea cups ride.

Dreamland Margate, Kent.

With Kent voted Europe's top family holiday destination by readers of Lonely Planet, there's no better time to take the children.

The food on offer ranges from fish and chips, of course to spicy Thai curries. The art deco ballroom hosts a variety of events throughout the year including Soulgate on Sea and Screamland at Halloween time.

Marine Terrace, Margate, CT9 1XJ
Tel: 01843 295887

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland in the north east of England, to the north of Newcastle, is one of England's most spectacular castles.

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland.

The seat of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle was first built following the Norman Conquest, in 1096. The castle was expanded and improved during the 14th century to serve as a strong fortress on the Anglo-Scottish border.

Rebuilding and reconstruction of the castle continued in the 18th and 19th centuries as the castle served as the family home of the dukes of Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, UK.

Alnwick Castle is now open to the public throughout the summer and after Windsor Castle, just outside London, it is the second largest inhabited castle in England and one of the most visited, receiving around 800,000 visitors a year.

Public interest in Alnwick Castle has increased as it was used as a stand-in for the exterior and interior of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series of movies as well as in a number of other films and TV shows. The romantic architecture and dramatic setting of the castle has also drawn numerous artists to depict it including Caneletto, who painted the castle in the mid-18th century and J.M.W. Turner in the early 19th century.

Alnwick Castle by Caneletto, circa 1750.

The modern Alnwick Garden set around a cascading fountain is another major tourist draw.

Alnwick Castle
NE66 1NQ
Tel: 01665 511 100

Alnwick Castle is less than a mile off the A1 and can be reached by X15 and X18 bus from Haymarket in Newcastle.

East Coast mainline trains from London to Edinburgh in Scotland stop at Alnmouth, four miles (6km) from Alnwick. Take a taxi or the X18 bus from Alnmouth (10 minutes).

Alnwick Castle by Turner.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Walmer Beach

Walmer Beach in East Kent is a shingle beach stretching from Walmer to Deal and is ideal for strolling or walking with views of the French coast on very clear days.

Walmer Beach, East Kent.

Begin at the 1000ft-long Deal Pier and head south past Deal and Walmer castles to the Zetland Arms (one of Kent's finest pubs) and then up over the white chalk cliffs to Kingsdown, where The Coastguard pub also offers a range of food and fine Kentish ales.

Walmer Beach, Kent.

Julius Caesar is thought to have landed on Walmer Beach on his mini invasions of Britain in 55 BC and 54 BC.

Now the only invasions are by people jogging, cycling and sea fishing. In fact, Walmer is one of Britain's quieter beaches with people coming here in the summer to enjoy the free music on the bandstand and maybe and fish and chips on the front.

Walmer Beach, Kent, UK.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre in Cambridge Circus is one of London's most popular theatre venues and a landmark of the West End of London.

Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus.

The brick and terracotta, 1,400 seat Palace Theatre was built on the west side of Cambridge Circus in 1891 originally to stage opera performances. Now the Palace Theatre is home to many successful musicals which began to be staged here from the 1920's onwards.

Famous musicals with long runs at the Palace Theatre include the Sound of Music, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables, Monty Python's Spamalot and most recently The Commitments.

The Palace Theatre was owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber from 1983 until 2012, when he sold the building to Nimax Theatres.

Palace Theatre
Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 5AY

The nearest underground stations to the Palace Theatre are Leicester Square to the south and Tottenham Court Road to the north. The Palace Theatre is close Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and the British Museum, all within comfortable walking distance.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Crown & Anchor Covent Garden

The Crown & Anchor on the corner of Neal Street and Shelton Street in the Seven Dials area of the Covent Garden district in London is a popular pub with theatre-goers, shoppers, tourists and workers in this lively area of the English capital.

Crown & Anchor Covent Garden, London.

There are downstairs and ground floor bars with the upper floor available for private functions. This free house pub serves a selection of British cask ales, continental lagers and serves British classics such as beer battered fish and chips, sausage and mash and a range of succulent pies.

Crown & Anchor Covent Garden, London.

Crown & Anchor
22 Neal Street Covent Garden
Tel: 020 7836 5649

The Crown & Anchor keeps more or less traditional British pub hours open 11am-11pm Monday-Thursday, 11am-11.30pm Friday & Saturday and 11am-10.30pm on Sunday. Food is served noon to 9pm.

The nearest tube station is Covent Garden Station and the pub is within easy reach of a number of London's attractions including Leicester Square, the British Museum, Trafalgar Square and The National Portrait Gallery.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Cambridge

The Cambridge on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Moor Street in London is right next to the Palace Theatre. The Cambridge is popular with both theatre-goers and the actors and staff of theatres in the area.

The Cambridge, Moor Street, London.

Along with some fine real ales, The Cambridge serves a full English breakfast, afternoon tea and Sunday roast.

The Cambridge
93 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0DP
Tel: 0207 494 0338

The Cambridge is a 3 minute walk from Leicester Square tube station and is close to Soho, Covent Garden and the gay enclave around Old Compton Street.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Pankhurst Centre

The Pankhurst Centre in Manchester consists of numbers 60 and 62 Nelson Street which have been saved from demolition due to their historical importance. The buildings now serve as a museum and a women's centre.

The Pankhurst Centre, Manchester.

It was at 62 Nelson Street that the first meeting of the Suffragettes was held in 1903 and it was here that Emiline Pankhurst (1858-1928) lived with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia from 1897-1907 before they moved to London.

Saved from being torn down by a public outcry in 1979, the properties were taken over by the Pankhurst Trust which raised the money to restore them in 1984. The Pankhurst Centre was officially opened on 11th October 1987, the anniversary of the first meeting of the Suffragettes in 1903.

Emiline (aka Emily) Pankhurst and her husband became part of a politically active circle in Britain which included Annie Besant, Keir Hardie, George Bernard Shaw and William Morris.

The Pankhurst Centre, Manchester, UK.

Manchester had been at the centre of the demand for women's suffrage with the first public meeting on the subject held at the Free Trade Hall (now the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel) in 1868.

However, it was to take a further 60 years of struggle before women in Britain were granted full voting rights in 1928.

It was the establishment of the women-only Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) at 62 Nelson Street in Manchester and the increasing militancy of its members that forced the issue with the governments of the day.

After World War I, certain women over 30 were granted voting rights. In 1928 women were granted full voting rights in the UK just days after Pankhurst's death.

The Pankhurst Centre
60-62 Nelson Street
Chorlton on Medlock
M13 9WP
Tel: 0161 273 5673

Opening hours: Thursday 10am-4pm

The Pankhurst Centre, Manchester.

The Pankhurst Centre is located within the precincts of Manchester Royal Infirmary off Oxford Road close to the University area. From Piccadilly Station take a 147 bus or from Piccadilly Gardens bus station take any of 15, 16, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46, 48, 111, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143, X57.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Birmingham Big Hoot

There is still a few weeks left to catch the Big Hoot, the biggest free public art event ever held in Birmingham. Until the end of September, 89 large sculptures of owls are on display all over the city.

The Birmingham Big Hoot.

The vast majority are located outside, but a few are indoors. Each sculpture is 165 cm in height and has been uniquely painted and decorated by national and local artists and designers. Maps can be downloaded or picked up at various locations that show a variety of routes to visit the owls by walking, cycling, bus or train.

The Birmingham Big Hoot, UK.

An app for smart phones or tablets let you scan each owl and find out about the unique story behind each design. After the project has finished the statues will be auctioned and all proceeds will go to Birmingham Children's Hospital.

The Birmingham Big Hoot, England.

Running concurrently is the Little Hoot, featuring 122 smaller owl sculptures decorated by children at local schools and other community organizations. These are on display at 18 "parliaments", the collective noun for a group of owls, also scattered across the city. The Big Hoot and Little Hoot have been organized by Wild In Art, an organization that has produced dozens of similar events across the country and in several other countries.

Jake Davies



The Birmingham Big Hoot, UK.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Deaf Institute Manchester

A short walk west into the University area from O2 Apollo is The Deaf Institute, a trendy music venue that was once an institute for the deaf and dumb. The building dates from 1877 and is a Grade II Listed. Altogether The Deaf Institute has three floors, with three bars, a kitchen & a roof terrace with the basement bar open to hire for private parties.

The Deaf Institute Manchester.

The Deaf Institute is run by the people behind the successful Trof bar in the Northern Quarter and offers live music and club nights to complement the food and drinks that begin about 4pm in the main bar. There is free Wifi and a promise of something happening most nights.

The Deaf Institute is located on the corner of Grosvenor Road and Oxford Road very close to Manchester Metropolitan University, All Saints Park, the Manchester School of Theatre and Manchester Aquatics Centre.

The Deaf Institute Manchester.

135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester, M1 7HE
Tel: 0161 276 9350

A number of buses run along Oxford Road including the 147 from Piccadilly Station and the hourly 173 from Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

The Deaf Institute Manchester.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

O2 Apollo Manchester

The O2 Apollo in Ardwick Green, Manchester is an iconic and long-standing music venue close to the city centre. Formerly known as the Apollo Manchester, the building is Grade II Listed and was built in 1938 as a cinema in art deco style.

O2 Apollo Manchester, UK.

The O2 Apollo is an atmospheric venue with a seating capacity of just over 2,600 and 3,500 standing.

There are four licensed bars.

O2 Apollo Manchester, UK.

O2 Apollo
Stockport Rd
Ardwick Green
Manchester M12 6AP
Tel: 0161 273 692

The following buses are all convenient for the O2 Apollo: the #192 from Stockport, #201, #203, #204 and #205. The nearest train and Metrolink station is Piccadilly Station. The University area of Manchester is about 10 minutes away on foot.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

George Inn in Bathampton

The George Inn in Bathampton, Somerset was once a 13th century monastery. Today, it's a Grade II listed, ivy-clad pub beside the Kennet and Avon Canal.

George Inn Bathampton, pub, Bath

Visitors to the George Inn in Bathampton will often find lovely canal boats moored next to the pub. The owners of those boats often come ashore to sample the delicious wines and cask ales. The George Inn in Bathampton features a waterside location, delightful rural setting and ample outdoor terrace. The George Inn boasts loads of character indoors, too. On chilly days, visitors can enjoy the low ceilings, nooks and crannies, and real log fires.

George Inn, Bathhampton, Bath, pub, canal

The George Inn in Bathampton is located on the bend of Mill Lane in the Somerset village of Bathampton. It sits across the road from St Nicholas Church, and the Kennet and Avon Canal flows gently past the pub's spacious beer garden.

Visitors can find the George Inn by walking along the towpath from central Bath after enjoying the sights along the Kennet and Avon Canal Trail. Walking even further along the path will lead the visitor to the impressive Dundas Aqueduct

George Inn
Mill Lane
Bathampton, Bath
Tel: 01225 425079

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Discovery Museum Newcastle

The Discovery Museum in Newcastle is one of the city's prime attractions. At the Discovery Museum Tyneside's rich history of science, technology and industry is presented through a fascinating series of exhibits.

Discovery Museum Newcastle.

The Discovery Museum occupies three floors of the former Co-operative Wholesale Society building.

The central exhibit is the 30 meter-long Turbinia, the fastest ship in the world at the turn of the twentieth century. The vessel was designed in 1894 by the local Tyneside engineer Sir Charles Parsons and was the first ship to be powered by steam turbines. Another North East invention is honoured with a replica of first incandescent light bulb by Joseph Swan (1828-1914). Swan's house in Gateshead was the first in the world to be lit by light bulbs.

There's also a fascinating section dedicated to Tyne shipbuilding, an interactive science maze for kids, and a "Story of Newcastle" section giving the low-down on the city's history, from Pons Aelius (Newcastle's Roman name) through to Cheryl Cole now just Cheryl.

Play Tyne, which costs 1 GBP, is a special play area for the under 7's, focused on the role of water in the development of Tyneside and the way water is used.

Discovery Museum Newcastle.

The Discovery Museum includes many wall panels as well as hands-on exhibits that are popular with kids. Teachers can download 2 worksheets for the museum from the website below.

Discovery Museum

Blandford Square
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0191 232 6789
Hours: Monday to Friday: 10am - 4pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11am - 4pm
Bank Holiday Mondays: 10am - 4pm
Admission: Free

The Discovery Museum is a short walk from Newcastle Central Station and the Metro.

The second floor Turbinia Cafe serves a range of hot and cold meals, sandwiches and drinks.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Rotunda Birmingham

The Rotunda in Birmingham in the English Midlands is an early 1960's high rise that has been preserved amid the recent redevelopment of the Bullring area of the city that has seen much 1960's and 1970's architecture swept away.

The Rotunda, Birmingham.

The Rotunda is an 81 meter tall Grade II listed building and was completed in 1965. It was completely refurbished by the developers Urban Splash between 2004 and 2008 and now contains private flats as well as serviced apartments on the 2nd, 18th, 19th and 20th floors.

The image below shows how The Rotunda used to look before its redevelopment.

The Rotunda Birmingham - pre-refurbishment.

The Rotunda is very close to Birmingham New Street Station.

Book a luxury, serviced apartment at The Rotunda provided by Staying Cool.

Urban Splash

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