A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.
This autumn, 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 Eastern Midlands including Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Huntingdonshire.
Three miles east of the A6 at Desborough, near the village of Rushton, Northamptonshire, sits the mysterious Rushton Triangular Lodge.
It was designed and constructed between 1593 and 1597 by Thomas Tresham (1534-1605). Tresham was the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire. He was a Roman Catholic and imprisoned for a total of fifteen years in the late 16th century for refusing to convert to Protestantism. On his release in 1593, he designed the lodge as a secret affirmation of his faith.
The design incorporates hidden codes. Tresham’s belief in the Holy Trinity is represented everywhere in the lodge by the number three, the magic number of codes, secrets and riddles. It has three walls, each 33 feet long, and each with three triangular windows surmounted by three gargoyles and three gables. The building has three floors upon a basement, and a triangular chimney. Three Latin texts, each 33 letters long, run around the building on each facade. The Triangular Lodge is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public.
Tresham then embarked on another project, Lyveden New Build, on the estate of the family’s second home, Lyveden Manor near Brigstock in Northamptonshire. Owned by the National Trust, it is a Grade I listed building,
The design is also based on religious symbolism, with a Greek cross footprint and many motifs dedicated to the power of five, after the five wounds of Christ. The exterior is also decorated with Christian emblems. However, it remains a shell. It was never completed as Thomas Tresham died in 1605. One wing remains of Lyveden Manor House, which is in the care of the National Trust.
Rushton Hall had been the ancestral home of the Tresham family since 1438. In 1605, Gunpowder Plotter-in-chief Robert Catesby asked the Tresham’s for the use of Rushton Hall as their headquarters. Even though the family is said to have refused, Thomas Tresham’s son Francis died in the Tower of London in 1605 having been imprisoned for his involvement in the plot. Rushton Hall then passed through several owners. Charles Dickens visited a number of times and some claim that Haversham Hall in Great Expectations was based on it. It is now a Grade I listed luxury hotel.
If you get the chance, stop at the village of Geddington, in between Rushton and Brigstock, and home of the Eleanor Cross. Eleanor of Castile was King Edward I’s queen who died in 1290 in Lincolnshire. Her body was carried down to London to be buried at Westminster Abbey. In those days it took several days to travel from Lincoln to London and there were 12 stopping places along Eleanor’s great funeral route. At each stopping place, Edward decreed that a memorial should be erected. These became known as the Eleanor Crosses. One was erected in Geddington. It is the best preserved of the three original crosses which still survive.
Rushton – now there’s a day out to puzzle over!
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)
- 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)