VisitEngland reveals why poshtels, the arts and lycra will be shaping our English holidays in 2014
Monday 14, October 2013
With a spate of new and refurbished luxury hostels opening throughout the country, a rush of British musicals hitting the West End and a 15% annual growth in cycling, VisitEngland predicts that “poshtels”, the arts and lycra will all play a part in English holidays next year.
Check into a poshtel
Glamping is going one step further in 2014, with budget holidaymakers opting for the homier comforts of a poshtel (posh hostel, of course!). The YHA has recently spent over £10million on refurbishments, creating not just private rooms with en-suite bathrooms, but bridal suites with roll-top baths and four-poster beds and even on-site art galleries – YHA York now boasts a six-foot art installation charting the history of the Rowntree family. It also has a brand new hostel on the South Downs, offering a contemporary take on country life. In other poshtel news,Hoax is a new luxury hostel brand which launched with its first opening in Liverpool in August 2013 to rave reviews, and of course we have to give a mention to the Safestay Hostel in London’s Elephant & Castle, recently awarded 4 stars in VisitEngland’s accommodation quality assurance scheme. The hostel, situated in a beautiful 18th Century Georgian building, formerly the Labour Party Headquarters, features private twin rooms and family rooms with 40” plasma TVs and is one of series to open across London over the next three years.
It’s an art attack
If 2012 was the year of sport and 2013 was the year of culture (Benjamin Britten’s centenary and 200 years of Pride and Prejudice, to name just two events), 2014 looks set to be the year of the arts. Manchester sees two key openings: Manchester Central Library, will open in the spring as the city’s “living room”, a unique space that will house a brand new lending library and performance, exhibition and creative spaces, including a BFI mediatheque which offers free access to films from the National Film Archive; the Whitworth Art Gallery will reopen following a £15m investment that has funded two entire new wings, connecting the building to its surrounding parkland and creating a café in the trees and an art garden. The West Endwill also see a bumper year with not one, but six new British musicals opening. The Commitments has kicked off the spate of homegrown shows and will be followed by Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward, Marianne Elliot (erstwhile producer of War Horse) and The Light Princess, I Can’t Sing – the X-Factor Musical and Rupert Goold’s, Psycho, starring former Dr Who, Matt Smith. Outdoor art also continues to go from strength to strength with Hauser & Wirth Somerset opening at Durslade Farm on the edge of the ancient town of Bruton, where visitors will enjoy new and innovative pieces of contemporary art and architecture, designed to mirror the remarkable Somerset landscape. Also new is Alex Chinneck’s From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toes, a remarkable trompe l’oeil installation which appears to show the front of a house slipping into the front garden. It’s an exciting addition to the blossoming arts scene of Margate. More exciting arts projects will be announced in January 2014, as part of VisitEngland’s three-year partnership with the Arts Council to help fund cultural experiences.
The so-called Wiggo effect (not to mention Hoy, Pendleton and Storey effect), has seen a phenomenal number of people jumping into the saddle. The cycling market is growing 10-15% per annum and will be worth over £3bn by 2015. As such, investment in infrastructure abounds - £160m will be spent cycle-proofing Britain’s roads, National Parks are investing £12m in cycle paths, seaside towns are opening up their promenades to cyclists and new city-centre cycling hubs are in the pipeline. VisitEngland’s own research shows that 25% of us (3.8 million) are keen to go cycling on holiday, and cycle they can! In March 2014, the Lee Valley VeloPark opens to the public, allowing access to its four cycling disciplines (track, BMX, road and mountain biking) and L'Eroica, the famous historic Tuscan bike tour dubbed as 'the most handsome bike race in the World' is coming to the UK in June 2014. L'Eroica Britannia will travel through the Peak District National Park on a three day festival, known as 'The Great British Adventure', celebrating the joys of heritage, wellbeing and local food and drink, as well as the joys of cycling. Adventurers can choose a 30, 50 or 100 mile route to be ridden on pre-1987 bikes. Plus of course, there is the thrilling matter of the Tour de France, starting in Yorkshire next year. Yorkshire’s Grand Départ 2014 will feature two stages of the world’s largest annual sporting event taking riders from Leeds to Harrogate, then York to Sheffield, before the Tour moves south for a third stage from Cambridge to London. Give the course a test ride before the experts saddle up, or come along to line the route and enjoy the spectacle of what is the world’s best cycle race.
A recent survey by VisitEngland showed just what a foodie nation we have become and gastronomic hotels (gastrotels, if you will) are more popular than ever. Stats reveal that 13 million day visits last year involved a trip to a food festival or farmers’ market, and what’s more, 26.2 million of us want to go to a food festival on our next holiday. Research also reveals that nearly 8/10 (76%) of us want to dine at restaurants serving local dishes, so these hot new openings should find a very receptive audience: The Pig, currently consisting of two “restaurants with rooms” in the New Forest and Southampton, will expand with new properties in Bath (Feb 2014) and Studland, Dorset (May 2014), both of which will offer the renowned 25-mile menu; Heckfield Place, a manor house hotel in Hampshire, has been reunited with its 330 acre farm, which means its restaurant – overseen by Skye Gyngell, of Petersham Nurseries fame – will be stocked with hyperlocal produce when it opens in spring 2014. Drink connoisseurs will be interested to hear about Hampshire’s other notable opening:Laverstoke Mill, a Bombay Sapphire Distillery also opening in the spring. Thomas Heatherwick has designed the glasshouse, which will house Bombay Sapphire's 10 botanical ingredients and there will be a bar school on site.
The evolution of the stately home
Gone are the days where you could only peer at a stately home’s treasures from behind a dusty red rope. In a bid to woo tourists, historic houses are opening their doors wider than ever, with increasingly inventive ways for visitors to enjoy the house and grounds. 2013 saw the introduction of a new flower show at Blenheim Palace, a glampsite at Leeds Castle and the world’s biggest assault course – aka The Dirty Weekend – at Burghley House. All proved so successful that they will be back again in 2014, as will half-marathons, car rallies, jousting tournaments, gigs, dog shows and much, much more!
Battling the elements (and no, we don’t mean the English weather)
VisitEngland has noticed a distinct trend towards holidays that connect with nature and pit people against the elements. Wild swimming and barefoot walking are both fairly recent phenomena and new openings last year included WildRootz at Pensthorpe Wildlife & Gardens in Norfolk, where children can get up close and personal with nature, and Bear Grylls Survival Academy, which, despite being in Surrey, delivered the ultimate in self-preservation skills. Next year will see the opening of The National Forest Way, a 75-mile footpath from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire that showcases the transformation from a rural landscape, through industrialisation and its decline, to the modern-day creation of a new forest. English Heritage meanwhile are busy working on a series of underwater trails of some of the shipwreck sites off our coast, complete with waterproof guidebooks and seabed signage. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy!
Let’s not forget that 2014 also marks the centenary of the start of World War 1, a time for reflection and commemoration. The Imperial War Museum is co-ordinating a programme of cultural events throughout the country and over 1,400 partners have signed up so far, from museums to music and art organisations. Events will range from new works for the English National Ballet, inspired by the Great War, an exhibition of works by celebrated war artist Stanley Spencer at Somerset House and, of course, the reopening of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London following the £35 million refurbishment of its First World War galleries. 4 August, the day we entered the war, will be marked with a candle-lit vigil of prayer at Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm, the time that war was declared.
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