A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.
This September, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.
Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.
In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.
This week, the Welsh-English Borders.
Technically, the county of Worcestershire does not have a border with Wales, but is in the far west of England with the River Severn and M5 corridor running through it, and flanked by the border counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire, with which it is often bounded together from a geographical perspective.
Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire and a very pleasant town to visit, with a particularly fine cathedral. Worcester was once famous for the manufacture of leather goods such as boots, shoes, gloves. In 1777, Dents built the first glove factory on the South Quay on the River Severn. The Fownes Glove Factory was built in 1887 on the canal side but closed in 1974. It is now a hotel.
At Shrub Hill is the famous Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce factory built in 1897. The original recipe is said to have come back to Worcester from India. Two chemists, Lea and Perrin, made the first sauce in 1837 in Broad Street in Worcester, where there is a commemorative blue plaque today. But the original sauce was actually inedible. However, they found that after a year’s storage it matured. The secret recipe is a special blend of salted anchovies, garlic, tamarind, red onions, pickled in malt vinegar and aged in barrels. Essentially foreign ingredients making a fundamentally British product. Worcester Sauce is known around the world as being the key ingredient in a ‘Bloody Mary’.
It is quite incredible to think that the most picturesque area of Worcestershire is also a hive of industry. The Malvern Hills, which echo to music of Worcestershire-born composer Elgar, are rich with limestone and granite resources. Meanwhile, the local water which flows from about 70 springs here has a pure taste. It is not so metallic tasting as other spring waters as the granite purifies it leaving very few minerals. It has given Worcestershire another global industry of its own, as Malvern water is now sold all over the planet. You can try the water for free at Colwall, where there is a public fountain, part of a mid-Victorian water bottling plant, the oldest mineral water plant in world. Indeed, the world’s first health farm was established here in the 19th century and it was where Charles Darwin brought his ailing daughter. Surprisingly, the Malvern Hills is also the home of a sports car industry. The factory for the famous hand-built Morgan is here, and aficionados from all over the world may visit on a tour.
Other interesting places to visit include Hartlebury Castle, one-time residence of the Bishops of Worcester, which features an authentic medieval Great Hall, and also contains the Worcestershire County Museum, and the Elizabethan manor house Harvington Hall, which is situated three miles south-east of Kidderminster. Run by the National Trust it contains a network of ‘priest holes’.
The Pitmaston Pine is a local variety of apple (Pitmaston was famous for its orchards). Worcestershire is also renowned for its plums. Indeed, around August every year Pershore holds a festival which is a celebration of plums and all things made from them.
Worcestershire: a source of many good days out.
Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.
For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com
*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:
- Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
- Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
- Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
- Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
- South coast (Hants/Dorset)
- Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
- South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
- Wales (north & south)
- Welsh Borders (Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
- Western Midlands (Brum/Warks/Staffs)
- Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland/Hunts)
- Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
- East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
- Yorks (all ridings)
- North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
- North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
- Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
- Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
- Ireland (Northern/Southern)