18 June 2012
The Torch Relay is back in England for Day 31 and in the next couple of days it will be travelling around the North East, into Yorkshire, and heading across the country to the North West by the end of Day 33. As we follow the progress of the Olympic Flame and its Torch Bearers we will be pointing out the best of what to see and do near the route.
Day 31 kicks off in Middlesbrough, perhaps better known for its industrial heritage than its art. Despite this we suggest making a trip to MIMA (Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art), whose collection comprises outstanding examples of fine and applied art from 1900 to the present day. Rather than having work on permanent display, works from the collection are chosen to fit in with the exhibition programme, which allows the curators constantly to re-invent the way the works are presented.
Before travelling west, the Flame will head to Saltburn-by-the-Sea on the East Coast, giving Torch Relay followers a chance to visit Saltburn Pier, a prime example of Victorian engineering and heritage. Saltburn Pier was the first iron pier to be built on the North East coastline, at an impressive length of 1500 feet. It is the most northerly surviving British Pier – quite an achievement if we consider its exposed position facing the strong winds and crashing waves of the North Sea and the number of disasters it has faced over the centuries. The original pier has unfortunately been reduced to a length of 681 feet from being exposed to the harsh elements. However, it has been completely refurbished in recent years to reflect its original appearance and exceptional design.
Further down the coastline in Whitby is another beautiful piece of architectural design (albeit from a very different era), Whitby Abbey. Set on the headland high above the popular seaside town, it is easy to see how Bram Stoker was inspired by its gothic splendour when writing Dracula. Managed by English Heritage, the history of the Abbey and daily life of the monks is reconstructed at the impressive visitor centre. If you have been inspired by the stamina of the Torch Bearers then why not try walking up the 199 ‘abbey steps’ which lead up from the Whitby harbour area – not quite an Olympic feat, but still a great test of strength and determination!
After the exertion of yesterday and the evening celebrations, why not start Day 32 with a more leisurely morning in Hull’s Wilberforce House. This is the birthplace of William Wilberforce, a famous campaigner against the slave trade. The museum tells the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition as well as dealing with contemporary slavery.
From spectacular people to spectacular mechanics, further down the route we reach Brough, close by to the Bingley Five Rise Locks. This is the steepest canal staircase in Britain and an amazing feature on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one lock forming the bottom gate for the next one. The Lock was opened in 1774 and has a total fall of 60 feet.
If you fancy something a little more exotic than Yorkshire during the Torch Relay’s afternoon break, make the journey to Harewood House and visit their Himalayan Garden. Harewood House is the family seat of the Earl and Countess of Harewood and is a member of the Treasure Houses of England, with stunning architecture and an outstanding art collection. The Himalayan Garden boasts a cascading waterfall and the only Bhutanese Stupa in Western Europe.
As the Torch moves across to Harrogate, find time to fit in a trip to cure your ailments at the Royal Pump Room Museum before heading to the London 2012 evening celebrations in York. Housed in Harrogate’s premier spa building, on the site of Europe’s strongest sulphur well, it tells the story of Harrogate as a spa town. It houses a display of bizarre spa treatments that made the town a favourite with the Victorians. You can also taste the waters, which were believed to have healing qualities, curing anything from gout to lumbago. The day ends in York with the Torch Relay’s evening celebrations – don’t forget to take a walk around the impressive city walls before the festivities begin.
As Day 33 kicks off in York, the Torch Bearers have hopefully sampled some of the Harrogate sulphur water and are now raring to go! Today the Olympic Flame will make a cross-country trip from Yorkshire to the North West. As the Torch makes its way towards Carlisle, it is a good opportunity for visitors to take in some of the fresh northern air and make for the hills. For those unused to hill walking, the Hallin Fell Walk, close to the town of Penrith, offers a gentle ramble across the hills. Hallin Fell, while only 3 miles long and not the most demanding of walks, offers one of the National Park’s greatest views. You can look out over Lake Ullswater, and on clear days, you can even see as far north as Scotland.
At the end of the day, the Torch Relay will travel close to the Scottish border and make its overnight stop in Carlisle. As an ancient border town, Carlisle has a host of historical places to visit before the evening celebrations begin. Carlisle Castle is the physical symbol of the long history of the city, having stood since the 12th century. Since its construction the castle has been under almost continuous military use, which makes it unusual among medieval castles. It has also been held under siege ten times in its history, making it the most besieged place in the British Isles. Carlisle Cathedral has also been affected by centuries of warfare; however, since its foundation in 1122, services have been said and sung daily in the cathedral for nearly 900 years. There are several spectacular features to spot in its architecture, from 14th-century stained glass to a magnificent 16th-century carved Flemish altarpiece in St Wilfred’s Chapel.
We hope you will enjoy the next couple of days following the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay across country from the North East to the North West, uncovering some of the region’s hidden gems, and enjoying the fresh Northern countryside air. We will be back on Thursday with more sights and sounds of England as we accompany the Torch and its bearers around the North West and into South Yorkshire.
Post by Hannah, Discovering Places team.
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