21 June 2012
The Torch Relay is once again travelling down the country, and we are following it to some of the most remote and some of the best-known places in the UK. Today we will accompany the Torch Bearers as they start in Scotland and journey down the North West of England, picking out the best sights for you to visit near the route.
Day 34 starts across the border in the market town of Dumfries, before heading south, through the town of Gretna, where young couples came to wed away from English marriage law, and on through the North West England. The North West coast is known for fantastic sunsets, and for the beginning of Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman defence fortification separating England from Scotland and stretching the width of England’s northern border. After seeing the Torch pass through Maryport, why not find out more about the Roman occupation of Britain by visiting the Senhouse Roman Museum. Set dramatically on cliffs overlooking the Solway Firth and next to a first-century Roman Fort, the museum displays the largest group of Roman military alter stones and inscriptions and houses a collection of international importance.
A visit to this part of the country would not be complete without a trip to the Lake District National Park and as you follow the torch to Keswick, why not take in some fantastic views of the area’s dramatic landscapes. Cat Bells, poised above Derwent Water, is probably one of the most popular low-level fell walks and its ascent is rewarded with breathtaking views over Derwent Water. This area was made famous by writers such as Wainwright and Beatrix Potter and immortalised as a national heritage site. Another way to witness the beautiful landscapes of the Lake District is to head to Castlerigg Stone Circle. This is one of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain, built around 5,000 years ago. It is on a low-level hill and has stunning views across Skiddaw, Blencathra and Londscale Fell. The day ends in the Lake District Park with an evening celebration in Bowness-on-Windermere.
If you are looking for a rest, after the energetic hill walking of Day 34, join the relay at Morecambe and have a slow stroll along the town’s Promenade, enjoying the seafront. The Promenade has seen extensive refurbishment over recent years and the Stone Jetty, originally restored in 1853, has been revamped and is now a great place to see public art. As you walk along the Promenade don’t miss the wonderful art deco Midland Hotel and the Winter Gardens – the theatre where Stan Laurel is said to have made his professional debut, now being restored by a local charitable trust. Back inland, the relay visits Lancaster, home to Lancaster Castle, one of Europe’s longest serving operational prisons. Many alleged witches were brought to the Castle to face trial, the most famous being the Pendle Witches, who were tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1612. Visitors can experience what it would have been like to be locked in the ancient dungeons. The day comes to a close with an evening celebration in Blackpool, whose Opera House and Winter Gardens are worth a visit whilst the Torch Bearers have a well-deserved rest, where you can admire the Opera House’s spectacular barrel-vaulted ceilings, sparkling chandeliers and ornate balconies.
On Day 36, why not give those legs a complete rest, let the Torch Relay runners do the work and take a journey on the Ribble Steam Railway. This gives the visitor a chance to travel along the 1.5 mile dock and riverside line in a steam train, as well as access to the newly built museum and workshop. Further south in Manchester, another way to take a much-needed break is to visit the John Rylands Library. A masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture, it looks much more like a cathedral or castle than a library. The library also contains a world-class collection of books and manuscripts, including the oldest known piece of the New Testament, the St John Fragment and a number of magnificent illuminated medieval manuscripts.
Day 37 sees the Torch and its bearers travelling from Lancashire into Yorkshire, a region of proud industrial heritage. Our first stop for the day is the Hat Works Museum in Stockport. Hat Works is a museum dedicated to the hatting industry, of hats and headwear. The museum is housed in a restored Grade II listed Victorian Mill that was once a thriving hat factory. There are live demonstrations of working machinery combined with an extensive collection of hats. Another industry-based site is Saltaire, near Bradford. Designated a World Heritage Site in 2001, the village was founded by Sir Titus Salt, who made his fortune in the Bradford textile industry. He wanted to escape the polluted and overcrowded town centre and decided to relocate his business and employees. With his architect he planned a new community where the workforce would be healthier and more productive. Finally, after a blog of hill walks and fantastic scenery, we appropriately end Day 37 with another hike, this time on Ilkley Moor, an expanse of moorland lying directly above the pleasant spa town of Ilkley in West Yorkshire. There are many attractions on the moor, including prehistoric rock carvings.
We hope you will enjoy the next couple of days of discovery and exploration, with a contrast of ambling around the Northern countryside, enjoying the fantastic views, and experiencing the Northern industrial character. We will be back on Monday with more cultural gems and places to experience as the Torch travels down the country through Yorkshire and the West Midlands.
Post by Hannah, Discovering Places team.
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