VisitEngland’s “101 things to do” to mark St George’s Day

The world’s largest greenhouses and its best mountain biking routes, a first edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Europe’s first international dark sky reserve all help make up VisitEngland’s “101 things to do”, revealed to mark St George’s Day on 23 April 2013. altalt

Coasteering at Mullion Cove, Cornwall
Coasteering at Mullion Cove, Cornwall

The Eden Project, Dalby Forest, John Rylands Library and Exmoor National Park are just four of the nominations that were submitted by the public and chosen by the national tourist board, along with a panel of experts, in a bid to find the best and most quintessentially English things to see and do. 

VisitEngland’s Chairman, Lady Cobham, commented: “The selection process wasn’t easy – we have such an embarrassment of riches in this country, that we couldn’t include every single landmark – but the end result is a mix of the most incredible and unique experiences, with something for everyone.”

What’s more, the nominations revealed some fantastic “well I never!” facts from around the country and a fascinating insight into how the English view their own country:

History & Heritage 

Ancient standing stones of Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, England UK
Ancient standing stones of Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, England UK

The history and heritage is held dearest to the heart of the English people, with the category generating over a third of the total submissions. Suggestions for castles, cathedrals and UNESCO World Heritage sites were in abundance, with Tintagel, Lincoln and Stonehenge all making the list respectively.

Some hidden gems, which didn’t make the final 101, still deserve a mention: Who knew, for example, that the Chester Clock is the 2nd most photographed clock in the world (after Big Ben), that Ryde Pier is the oldest pier in the world or that Dry Doddington’s St James Church spire leans over one degree further than the Tower of Pisa?

Wildlife & Nature

Red squirrels, puffins and greater horseshoe bats jostled for position alongside Kent’s monkey orchids and snowdrops at Fountain Abbey in this, the 2nd most populated, category. It was this section which revealed that England is home to one of the most important wetlands in Europe (Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire) and the 2nd highest tidal range in the world (The River Severn).

puffin ©Paul Bunyard Wild About Images
puffin ©Paul Bunyard Wild About Images

Food & Drink

The food & drink section generated 100 suggestions, proof that we are very proud of our much-maligned culinary offerings. Cornish pasties, fish & chips, cream teas, oysters and gin all feature in the bucketlist, with England’s oldest pub (Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham) and Ian Fleming’s former watering hole (DUKES Hotel in St James’s) both securing a hotly-contested place on the list.

Whitstable Oyster Festival ©Visit Kent
Whitstable Oyster Festival ©Visit Kent

Arts & Culture

Arts & Culture was the most varied of all categories, with Europe’s smallest cinema (Screen 22, Nottingham), the book shop where the original ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ poster was found (Barter Books, Alnwick) and the world’s fastest car (ThrustSCC, Coventry Transport Museum) all jostling for position. With such a varied culture, encompassing art, museums, festivals and nightlife, it was a tough category to judge, but Manchester’s Football Museum, Newcastle’s nightlife and Banksy’s original street art all made the final cut.

Banksy in Park Street, Bristol
Banksy in Park Street, Bristol

Health & Fitness

As you would expect from a nation of sports fans, this category was also surprisingly varied. Yes, football, rugby and cricket were well-represented, but so too were Olympic sports – a strong example of the Olympic  legacy. Sailing in Weymouth and white water rafting in Essex both feature in the list.

Bath Spa in Bath, people relaxing and enjoying the experience, steam rising off the water with Bath Abbey in the distance.
Bath Spa in Bath, people relaxing and enjoying the experience, steam rising off the water with Bath Abbey in the distance.

Because it’s Awesome

Last, but by no means least: The 101st experience, chosen by none other than Wallace & Gromit. The pair had an enormous list of awesomeness to choose from such as View from the Shard (tallest building in Western Europe); Bristol Balloon Fiesta (Europe’s biggest ballooning event); and the World Gravy Wrestling Championships (Google it!). And the winner is the quirky, eccentric and incredibly English past-time of cheese-rolling. The annual event at Cooper’s hill in Gloucestershire is centuries old. You’d think we’d know better by now.

A couple walking together past a sculpture by Anthony Gormley. Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.
A couple walking together past a sculpture by Anthony Gormley. Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

To agree the list, VisitEngland worked with Rough Guides’ Publishing Director, Clare Currie and a panel of expert judges, including Bill Oddie, Sonali Shah, Clemency Burton-Hill, Skye Gyngell and a Yeoman Warder from the Tower of London who each helped select 20 experiences in their respective categories: Wildlife & Nature, Health & Fitness, Arts & Culture, Food & Drink and History & Heritage. Wallace & Gromit were tasked with finding one overall “Because it’s Awesome” suggestion.

Competitors racing down a hill at cheese rolling event in the Cotswolds
Competitors racing down a hill at cheese rolling event in the Cotswolds

About England 

Historic yet contemporary, traditional yet cutting-edge, metropolitan yet wild: England is truly a unique destination and a real powerhouse in global tourism.

With ancient Hadrian’s Wall straddling the wild north and the world’s biggest indoor tropical rainforest nestled in the far south, England really is the ultimate mix of old and new as well as being home to some of the most iconic sites in the world, including Stonehenge, the honey-hued Georgian terraces of Bath and the towering peaks and glistening meres of the Lake District.

Did you know that in 2010 there were 96.4 million domestic overnight trips in England, 25.5 million inbound visits and 872 million tourism day trips?

Below is the full list, where you can see how many of the experiences you have done and create your own bespoke “to-do” list. 

Food & Drink

  • Oysters in Whitstable, Kent
  • Have a pint in England’s oldest pub, Nottingham
  • Fish ‘n’ chips in Aldeburgh, Suffolk
  • Ludlow Food Festival, Shropshire
  • Tour Brixham Fish Market, Devon
  • Mix martinis in Bond’s spiritual home, London
  • Indulge with The Pudding Club, Cotswolds
  • Eat a proper Cornish pasty, Cornwall
  • Tour a Gin Distillery, Devon
  • Afternoon Tea At Bettys, Yorkshire
  • Go for a curry in Birmingham, West Midlands
  • Start the day with a full English, London
  • Eat chocolate in York, Yorkshire
  • Brixton Village and Market Row, London
  • Taste Grasmere gingerbread, Lake District
  • Dine in Bray, Berkshire
  • Tour an English vineyard, Surrey
  • Taste Colston Basset stilton, Nottinghamshire
  • Drink real cider in an orchard, Herefordshire
  • Have a truly English cuppa, Cornwall

History & Heritage

  • Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
  • Ancient history in Northumberland, Northumberland
  • Punt along The Backs, Cambridge
  • Visit the Code-Breakers, Bletchley Park
  • Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln
  • Royal Armouries, Leeds
  • Ride the Settle-Carlisle steam train, Northern England
  • Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent
  • Maritime history in Buckler’s Hard, New Forest
  • Visit Stonehenge, Wiltshire
  • Chester Rows, Cheshire
  • Sleep at Hampton Court Palace, Greater London
  • See the Changing the Guard ceremony, Buckingham Palace, London
  • Royal Observatory at Greenwich, Greenwich, London
  • Follow in Roman footsteps, Bath
  • Tower of London, London
  • Portsmouth Historic Dockyards, Hampshire
  • St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
  • Windsor Castle, Berkshire
  • York Minster, Yorkshire

Arts & Culture

  • Experience London’s South Bank, London
  • A weekend in Brighton, Sussex
  • Visit free museums and galleries, London
  • Follow in Jane Austen’s footsteps, Hampshire
  • Dress up for Royal Ascot, Berkshire
  • Devote a weekend to football, Manchester
  • Art in Margate, Kent
  • See the Blackpool Illuminations, Lancashire
  • Have a night on the toon, NewcastleGateshead
  • Escape to Another Place, Merseyside
  • John Rylands Library, Manchester
  • Take a Magical Mystery Tour, Liverpool
  • See Banksy’s graffiti, Bristol
  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire
  • Dress up for Bestival, Isle of Wight
  • Tate St Ives, Cornwall
  • Shop ‘til you drop at Birmingham’s Bullring, Birmingham
  • Discover Shakespeare’s Stratford, Warwickshire
  • Ashmolean Museum, Oxfordshire
  • Watch an open-air play, Cornwall

Wildlife & Nature

  • Farne Islands, Northumberland
  • Holkham Beach, Norfolk
  • Catch the Severn Bore, Gloucestershire
  • Eden Project, Cornwall
  • Twitch on Lundy Island, Devon
  • See exotic plants and animals, Scilly Isles
  • Glimpse rare red squirrels, Dorset
  • Spot Deer in the City, Surrey
  • Roam the Peak District, Peak District National Park
  • Search for monkey orchids, Kent
  • Spot damsels and dragons, Cambridgeshire
  • Join a bat patrol at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
  • Bempton Cliff’s bird colonies, Yorkshire
  • Dartmoor’s ponies, Devon
  • Malham Cove, North Yorkshire
  • Snowdrops at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire
  • Havergate Island, Suffolk
  • Dungeness, Kent
  • Watch starlings circle West Pier, Brighton

Health & Fitness

  • Coasteering in Cornwall, Cornwall
  • Scale England’s highest peak, Lake District
  • Sail like an Olympian, Dorset
  • Walk to the White Horse at Uffington, Oxfordshire
  • Go ice skating on the Fens, Cambridgeshire
  • Walk the South West Coast Path, South West England
  • Pony trekking in The New Forest, The New Forest
  • Mountain biking in Dalby Forest, North York Moors National Park
  • Soak in Bath’s thermal waters, Bath
  • Caving in the Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire Dales National Park
  • Canoe along the Wye Valley, Herefordshire
  • Wild swimming in Grassington, Yorkshire Dales National Park
  • Surfing in Newquay, Cornwall
  • Rock climb in the Peak District, Peak District National Park
  • Up at The O2, Greenwich
  • Trek from coast to coast, Northern England
  • Learn the art of mountain biking, Lake District
  • Go Ape in Sherwood Pines, Nottingham
  • Walk the Pennine Way, Northern England
  • Raft down an Olympic course, Essex

Because it’s Awesome!

  • Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire
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