A wealth of cultural gems just waiting to be discovered..
“Nowhere else in the world will you find the strength, depth and breadth
in the arts and culture that you do in England.”
England is the birthplace of some of the finest playwrights, artists, poets, composers and actors the world has ever known. And we have always taken arts and culture very seriously indeed, not just in London but right across the country.
Says Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman of Arts Council England: “Nowhere else in the world will you find the strength, depth and breadth in the arts and culture that you do in England. From the Brighton Pavilion exotic royal pleasure palace and its extraordinary collections to the sculpture in the green and pleasant land of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, there are so many cultural attractions – the only problem is trying to fit them all in.”
A fitting place to start is Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, where Dr Diana Owen runs the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. “We are proud to be the custodians of not only the five Shakespeare Houses, but also our internationally renowned Shakespeare Library and Archive Collections,” she says. While there, you can take a personal behind-the- scenes tour of the theatre, try on costumes and hold legendary props like Yorick’s skull before watching a performance by the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company. For the perfect end to your day, dine in the Theatre Tower viewing platform, accompanied by live music and views across Shakespeare’s Stratford.
To really deepen your understanding of England’s greatest Bard and more of the world’s greatest authors, take a tailored tour with cultural experts Martin Randall Tours. Their impressive range of carefully curated cultural experiences features lectures by specialists and visits to the homes and important places in the lifetimes and works of writers such as Dickens, Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and Chaucer; visits to private art collections not normally accessible to the public; and niche interest tours like Victorian architectural achievements, and York’s distinguished music festivals.
Murder mystery fans can trace the footsteps of another of our world-famous authors, Agatha Christie, to Devon’s Burgh Island Hotel. Cut off from the mainland at high tide, this glamorous art-deco hotel, where guests still dress for dinner, feels like something from one of the writer’s novels. “To think of Christie crossing conversation with Noel Coward in the Palm is thrilling,” says owner Deborah Clark. “If you take a tour around the craggy rocks and silver beaches, you can locate most of the scenes from the two books written here: And Then There Were None and Evil Under the Sun.”
In London, the Handel House Museum is a cultural gem Londoners would prefer to keep to themselves. This was where Handel, who lived here from 1723 until his death in 1759, composed some of the greatest music ever written, including Messiah, Zadok the Priest and Music for the Royal Fireworks. It is open to the public and holds regular recitals but the museum will also organise private recitals for small groups in the room where Handel once rehearsed his latest operas and oratorios. It’s also worth looking for private viewings and late-night openings with added extras such as those on offer at the Whitechapel Gallery, Britain’s first purpose-built arts gallery: after an exceptional curator-led tour of its world-class exhibitions, you can sit down to a five-course dinner, prepared by a Michelin-starred chef.