With less than an hour’s travel time to reach the other side of the pond by air, and just a hop, skip and a jump by ferry, a trip to visit the very best parts of England is one holiday that can be planned without breaking the bank.
President Michael Higgins set the wheels in motion recently when he became the first Irish head of state invited by Queen Elizabeth on an official state visit to England last week.
While the president paid a visit to a number of well-known English spots, including 10 Downing Street, Windsor Castle and the Royal Albert Hall, England’s national tourism board, Visit England, has come up with the perfect way to holiday like an Irish president, giving holidaymakers a sneak peek into how to go about receiving a proper royal welcome.
Already a published poet, it came as no surprise that President Higgins paid a visit to Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. One of the best known parts of Westminster Abbey, it was here that Seamus Heaney unveiled a memorial to Ted Hughes in 2011, and CS Lewis, born in Belfast, was officially inducted into Poet’s Corner in 2013. The Abbey welcomes over a million visitors each year and is open Monday to Saturday through most of the year.
A short stroll from Westminster Abbey is the House of Parliament, where President Higgins made a speech during his tour. Visitors can take guided tours of the Houses of Parliament on Saturdays throughout the year and on selected weekdays during Parliamentary recesses including Easter, summer and Christmas. President Higgins also stopped off at London’s City Hall, home to London’s Lord Mayor, visitors can see parts of City Hall and its various London-related exhibitions for themselves Monday to Friday.
Meanwhile First Lady Sabina Higgins had the opportunity to indulge her long standing love of the theatre with a visit to the Royal Academy of Drama and Art (RADA).
Here there are three theatres which regularly host a variety of productions, where visitors might just catch sight of a rising theatre star. Lord Attenborough and Sir Anthony Hopkins learned their craft here. (www.visitlondon.com)
During their recent visit, President Higgins and his wife stayed at Windsor Castle. While regular visitors will have to put themselves up in a hotel down the road, they can take a tour of the State Apartments where the president stayed, as well as watching the ceremonial changing of the guard inside the castle grounds.
Beside the castle is the bronze statue of an Irish Guard, which is dedicated to all Irish Guardsmen, past, present and future. Just in front of Windsor Castle is Windsor Great Park, 4,800 acres of beautiful parkland that provides the perfect place for picnics, walking, cycling and horse riding.
What the president missed out on however, are the numerous quintessential English villages nearby including Bray, home to the fine dining at Heston Blumenthal’s renowned The Fat Duck restaurant. (www.windsor.gov.uk)
From here, President Higgins made his way to Warwickshire, a region already popular with tourists for activities and attractions. Being Shakespeare County, the president and his wife paid a visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, which coincided nicely with the upcoming450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth on April 23. Events marking this occasion take place throughout the year.
For more holiday ideas in England, go to www.visitengland.com.