12 July 2012
Over the next few days, the Olympic Flame will continue through the South West and head across the Solent and the English Channel across to the Isle of Wight, Guernsey and Jersey. On Day 55, we start our journey in Salisbury and head west towards the Dorset town of Shaftesbury. This settlement is perched on a hill 219 meters above sea level and provides spectacular views of the surrounding Dorset countryside. If you are in the area, take a look around the Shaftesbury Gold Hill Museum, where local Dorset life is portrayed through artefacts, costumes and photographs.
From Shaftesbury, the Torch will make its way towards the coast and in the afternoon it will arrive at Lyme Regis. This Dorset seaside town, nestled in an area of outstanding beauty, is linked to smugglers, the Civil War and literary greats (including John Fowles and Jane Austen). A visit to Lyme Regis is not complete without exploring the South West Coast Pathnational trail which runs along the famous Jurassic Coast a rugged world-heritage coastline famous for its fossils dating back 185 million years. Many of these fossils are on display in the geological galleries of the Lyme Regis Museum which retells Lyme Regis’s lively history through archaeological, maritime and domestic objects and images.
Towards the evening, the torch will end its journey on Day 55 at Weymouth. Weymouth is famous for its sailing heritage and as such has been chosen as the venue for the sailing events during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Along the coastline is the beautiful Chesil Beach an 18 mile stretch of pebble coastline which has been separated from the mainland by an area of saline water known as the Fleet Lagoon. As the sun sets on Day 55, why not enjoy a stroll along this famous beach and take in the beauty of the Dorset coast and the sunset from this view point?
It’s Day 56 of the Torch Relay, and we’re continuing our journey along the South West coastline. Torch Relay followers will begin their day at Portland Bill, a narrow promontory (known as a ‘bill’) which forms the most southerly part of the Isle of Portland and, by extension, Dorset. The most distinct feature on this Isle is the Portland Bill Lighthouse which once guided vessels safely from the dangerous Portland Race, a meeting of strong tides between the Bill and Shambles sandbank. As the Torch travels away from this promontory and into the Isle of Purbeck, the Olympic Flame will pass by the picturesque village of Corfe Castle, a village almost entirely constructed from local Purbeck limestone. One feature not to be missed is the dramatic ruins of the eponymous Corfe Castle. Have a look around the castle today and you will find murder holes and arrow slits that are testament to the Castle’s turbulent past.
In the afternoon, the Olympic Torch will race towards the coastal resort of Bournemouth where it will rest for the night. Bournemouth, best known for its resplendent sandy beaches, is also home to some beautiful early twentieth century architecture. The Pavilion Theatrestill used as an entertainment venue today, has retained its elegant and original 1920’s features. A slightly earlier piece of architecture is the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. Once the seaside home of two avid Victorian collectors, Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes, the house was designed to a distinct Scottish baronial and Italian Renaissance style. If you have time, take a look around the inside of the house (now a museum and art gallery) where their couple’s extensive collections can be admired in this unique setting.
Day 57 and we head from Bournemouth in the South West, through New Forest National Park and then towards the South East coast. The Olympic Flame will travel across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Following a visit to the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria famously stated that, “it was impossible to imagine a prettier spot.” Not far from Totland, where the Flame will arrive, lies the Needles Headland. The Needles, three distinct chalk stacks located on the Western extremity of the Island, are synonymous with the Isle of Wight, as is the Old Battery. Perched just above the Needles, the Old Battery is a Victorian fort that was built in 1862 and played a major role in both World Wars. Along these high chalk cliffs also lies Tennyson Down so named because the beautiful open downland and dramatic sea views provided inspiration for the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (who lived in the area for 40 years).
From this westerly peninsular, the Olympic Flame heads further inland and bypasses Carisbrooke Castleand the remains of a Roman Villain Newport. At East Cowes the Flame will pass the former Royal residence of Queen Victoria, Osbourne House The classical marble sculptures in the Grand Corridor and Indian themes in the Durbar room reflect Victoria and Albert’s love of classical art as well as their imperial connections. If you visit the house, don’t forget to take a lazy summer stroll through the extensive gardens, admire the flowers from the Italian terraces and experience the timber-built Swiss Cottage (designed to educate the Royal Couple’s children in the art of Household Management!). By the evening, the torch will arrive at Southampton for the evening celebration.
Day 58 and the Olympic Torch starts its journey at the port of Southampton. Situated on the Waterfront along the Solent inlet, Southampton (known as the Gateway to the World) has a rich association with many famous ships, including the Queen Mary and the more unfortunate Titanic. You can find out more about Southampton’s Titanic story at the SeaCity Museumwhere there is also a memorial garden to the last survivor of the Titanic, Millvina Dean.
From Southampton, the Flame will head across the English Channel to the Channel Islands. The first port of call will be the capital of Guernsey, St Peter’s Port. Guernsey’s rich Georgian and Regency architectural styles have been influenced by an influx of French émigrés, such as the novelist Victor Hugo who was exiled from France in 1851. Today visitors can explore Hauteville House where he lived, and wrote many of his famous novels, during the fifteen years he spent on the island. From Guernsey, the flame will head across a stretch of the English Channel to Jersey, the most southerly of the nine Channel Islands. The Olympic Flame and its Torchbearers will make a brief appearance at the Island’s capital, St. Helier. Not far from the city centre lies the heritage site of La Hogue Bie. The site encompasses much of Jersey’s rich history, including a series of Neolithic passages, a medieval chapel, a command bunker built during German Occupation in World War II and a museum.
From Jersey the Torch heads back towards the South Coast resting for the night at the maritime city of Portsmouth. Complete your tiring Torch Relay trek across the Channel with a walk through the city’s Historic Dockyard , home to such famous vessels as the Mary Rose, the HMS Warrior and the HMS Victory.
We hope you enjoy the seaside and coastal delights of South East and South West England and the Channel Islands over the weekend. Join us again on the blog on Monday when we’ll be highlighting unique places to discover back in the South East.
Post by Katy, Discovering Places Team
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