Country events include duck-penning by sheepdogs in Coniston, well-dressing in the Peak District, and Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling in Cumbria. By way of contrast you could explore the Sellafield Nuclear Power Station or visit the Apollo 11 Moon Landing Anniversary Exhibition at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire.
For family fun, Alton Towers has opened its heart-stopping Nemesis ride, while Blackpool has responded with the Big One: a giant roller coaster. Parents and children afflicted by vertigo might prefer the gentler delights of the National Trust's Museum of Childhood in Derbyshire, Beatrix Potter's watercolours in the Lake District or the great railway museums in York and Darlington. And, with the seaside resorts of the North-east, and the lakes, fells, dales and moors of five National Parks, there is no shortage of open-air attractions to choose from. As for the best places to stay, we've picked out a selection ranging from a Blackpool guesthouse to a neo-classical pigsty and a Northumbrian lighthouse.
THE PEAK DISTRICT
Alton Towers: The battle of Britain's theme parks reaches a new intensity this year as each strives to offer the most stomach-turning ride. Alton Towers (just outside the National Park near Ashbourne) opened 'Nemesis' this spring, but the jury is still out as to how it compares with the new big dipper at Blackpool.
Chatsworth House: On the eastern edge of the Peak District, Chatsworth scores well for the superb gardens (and there's an adventure playground) but the house itself is gloomy and disappointing inside.
Dovedale: The walk along the River Dove north-west of Ashbourne cuts through the ash woods and under limestone outcrops. It's delightful, but often completely blocked by pedestrian traffic jams. Try early weekday mornings and evenings, or it will feel like a day out on Oxford Street.
Kinder Scout: At the heart of the Peak District and its highest point, there are fine views on a clear day - but it's bleak and potentially hazardous when the weather closes in. In fact much of the so-called 'dark' Peak District to the north of here is grim walking country when the ground gets sodden and the wind gets up.
Monsal Trail: This former railway line, running through some of the best of the Peak scenery, is ideal for walking or easy cycling. The best section is at Monsal Head near Bakewell.
Museum of Childhood: The National Trust has established this museum at Sudbury Hall, near Ashbourne, as one of the better exhibitions of children's toys and games. The toys, dolls and doll's houses are mainly from the Victorian and Edwardian periods - but there's a good balance of activities to keep children amused, including a 'chimney' for would-be young sweeps to climb.
National Tramway Museum: Top marks to the staff here who bring the working trams to life on the short trip through the Derbyshire countryside near Crich. The depots are crammed with highly polished trams from around the world.
Pennine Way: The path which follows the backbone of England begins at Edale before finally reaching Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders 270 miles later - not a journey to be undertaken lightly.
Riding Stables: For lessons or trekking try Ladybooth Riding Centre, Edale (0433 670205) or Curbar Riding Stables near Bakewell (0433 630584).
Styal Country Park: Industrial heritage at its best: as well as the excellent working museum in Quarry Bank Mill (a Georgian cotton mill near Manchester airport) there are guided tours around the Apprentice House which has been restored to its original state as a dormitory for the child labourers.
Gardens: Haddon Hall; Hardwick Hall (both in Derbyshire).
13-31 July. Buxton Opera Festival: Mozart's Il Re Pastore,
Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci are the operas but there are a number of other concerts throughout the festival (0298 72190).
16 July-2 September. Focus on the Moon: Jodrell Bank Science Centre, Lower Withington, Cheshire: 25th Moon Landing Anniversary Exhibition.
30 July-8 August. Bradwell Well-Dressing: Traditional summer decorating ritual.
3 August. Bakewell Show.
17-24 August. Barlow Well-Dressing. See Bradwell above.
20 August. Ashbourne Show.
20-21 August. Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire: English Heritage open-air opera performances - Die Fledermaus and La Boheme (071-413 1443).
27 August. Autumn Fair, Tideswell, Derbyshire.
27 August-4 September. Well-Dressing at Eyam, Derbyshire - the plague village.
28-29 August. Transport Gathering: National Tramway Museum, Crich near Matlock.
29 August. Chesterfield Market and Funfair.
30 August. Barrel Inn Fell Race, Eyam.
3-4 September. Chatsworth Country Fair: A chance to see Chatsworth House and garden.
GOOD PLACES TO STAY
Croft Hotel, Great Longstone, near Bakewell, Derbyshire (0629 640278).
Edale Mill, Edale, Derbyshire. Landmark Trust flat sleeping four - see Further Information on page 63.
Highlow Hall, Hathersage, Derbyshire (0433 650393).
Stanshope Hall, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire (033 527 278). No babies in the dining- room in the evening.
THE LAKE DISTRICT
Beatrix Potter Heritage: Her sublime cottage (Hill Top) in Near Sawrey, which forms the background to many of the illustrations, is often overrun by Japanese tourists, but the National Trust is careful to limit the numbers in the house at any one time - you may have to queue, but at least you can explore in peace. The watercolours themselves are beautifully displayed at the Gallery in Hawkshead down the road; and for those with a shorter attention span there's a hi-tech World of Beatrix Potter exhibition in Bowness.
Dove Cottage, Grasmere: Wordsworth's cottage became the centre of the literary world during the 1800s. Unfortunately it is now the centre of Grasmere's tourist trade, and although the interior still retains its atmosphere, the outside is hemmed in by development.
The Fells: It's worth avoiding the big names such as Helvellyn and Skiddaw, which quickly get crowded on fine days. The fells around Crummock Water and to the east of Windermere and Ullswater are often a better bet. For information on walks and activities contact Brockhole Visitor Centre (Windermere), the National Park Headquarters (05394 46601). Good riding stables include those at Wynlass Beck (05394 43811) and the Claife and Grizdale Riding Centre (05394 42105), both near Lake Windermere.
The Lakes: Windermere gets clogged with steamers and motorboats; Coniston (the setting for Swallows and Amazons) is quieter but suffers from a road along both sides; Derwent Water is probably the most peaceful of the larger lakes, and Ullswater arguably the most scenic.
Sellafield Visitors Centre: Isolated on the windswept coast to the west of the National Park, the much maligned nuclear reactor/reprocessor attempts to win back public opinion with a glitzy account of the industry.
Steam Yacht Gondola, Coniston Water: The restored Victorian pleasure boat steams the length of the lake and back - it's an uncanny experience since the boat glides along with hardly any noise. For steam enthusiasts, there's also a steamboat museum at Windermere.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill: This working example of a 19th century mill for turning cotton reels is tucked away in the woods at the south-west end of Lake Windermere. The guides pull no punches in demonstrating exactly how dangerous the machinery could be for workers.
Townend: The 17th-century Yeoman's House in the Fells above Ambleside is beautifully maintained by the National Trust. Much of the original furniture, made and inscribed by the owners, is still on display.
Gardens: Holehird Gardens; Fell Foot Country Park (both near Lake Windermere);
Levens Hall; Sizergh Castle (both near Kendal); Stagshaw Garden, Ambleside.
Until 6 September. Music for a Summer Evening, Hawkshead: Weekly classical recitals in the 15th-century church.
16-30 July. Keswick Convention: Annual Christian meeting.
24 July. Keswick Sports: Wrestling and foot-racing.
28 July. Ambleside Sports.
29 July-8 September. Lake Artists' Society Annual Exhibition, Grasmere.
30 July. Classic Motorboat Rally, Windermere.
30 July. Cockermouth Show.
30 July-12 August. Lake District Summer Music Festival: Music throughout each day at numerous venues around the Lake District. Artists taking part include the Chilingirian String Quartet and Pasadena Roof Orchestra (0629 825272).
31 July. Coniston Country Fair: Rural activities including duck-penning by sheepdogs.
4 August. Lake District Sheepdog Trials, Ings, Windermere.
18 August. Grasmere Sports.
23 August. Hawkshead Show.
26-28 August. Kendal Folk Festival.
27 and 29 August. Cartmel Steeplechases.
31 August. Ennerdale Show.
GOOD PLACES TO STAY
Bridge Hotel, Buttermere, Cumbria (07687 70252).
Ees Wyke, Near Sawrey, Ambleside, Cumbria (05394 36393). No young children in dining-room for evening meals.
Howthwaite: Landmark Trust house just above Wordsworth's Dove Cottage - see Further Information on page 63.
Mosedale House, near Mungrisdale, Cumbria (07687 79371).
Old Church Hotel, Watermillock, Ullswater, Cumbria (07684 86204).
Lake and Fellside Cottages: The National Trust can provide a good selection - see Further Information on page 63.
Bamburgh Castle: One of Britain's best and most substantial castles, the great, square Norman keep is set dramatically on a rocky outcrop on the Northumbrian coast. Exhibits include a fine collection of armour from the Tower of London. Nearby the Grace Darling Museum is a poignant tribute to the lighthouse heroine, and includes the boat used for her famous rescue from the stricken SS Forfarshire in 1838.
Bronte Parsonage Museum: It's cramped and crowded, but this is still an atmospheric preservation of the Bronte home in Haworth, West Yorshire, with much of the original furniture restored to the house. Follow the signs for the nearby walk to the Bronte Falls and the open North York Moors.
Castle Howard: Vanburgh's extravagant and overblown country palace in Malton, North Yorkshire, was built for the Earl of Carlisle in 1699. It's probably best known now as the setting for the television version of Brideshead Revisited.
Durham Cathedral: Set high above the River Wear, the great Norman cathedral has the most stunning location of any English church. Don't miss the Chapel of the Nine Altars with its superb carved bosses and capitals, and try to allow time for a walk along the river banks below.
Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve: RSPB reserve in Fairburn, Northumbria, for waders and water birds.
Hadrian's Wall: The best place to see Hadrian's defence against the marauding Scots is at the Birdoswald Roman Fort, overlooking the picturesque Irthing Gorge in Northumbria.
Holy Island: This eerie island can move from peaceful sanctuary to a bleak outcrop with a slight shift in the wind. Lindisfarne Castle, which was converted into a private residence by Lutyens, and the Priory nearby can be reached across the causeway at low tide.
Jorvik Viking Centre, York: This year is the 10th anniversary of this ground-breaking centre which is built on the site of some of York's revealing archaeological excavations. The highlight is a remarkably successful reconstruction of a 10th-century street scene, including sound and smell effects.
National Railway Museum, York: A trainspotter's delight, the museum tracks the history of the iron horse from the great locomotives to the carriages and signalling systems. Enthusiasts will also want to head north to the Darlington Railway Centre and Museum to see Stephenson's Locomotion which pulled the first passenger train. Those who belong to the Margaret Thatcher school of railway appreciation might prefer the Hull Museum of Transport which focuses on 150 years of road transport.
The North of England Open-Air Museum: The extensive site in Beamish, County Durham, gives a lively insight into life during the early part of this century. Its success lies in its completeness - there's a town with its own tram line, pub, shops and houses; a railway station; a colliery; and a working farm.
Northumberland National Park: Most of the open moorland which makes up the park between the Cheviot Hills and Hadrian's Wall is over 1,000ft above sea level. It is one of Britain's least spoilt National Parks, although Kielder Water, to the west, is a popular location for water sports.
North York Moors National Park: Heathcliff's wild and open moorland stretches right to the cliffs of the North Sea coast. To view it in comfort, take the North York Moors Railway, a steam train running for 18 miles through the heart of the National Park, starting at Pickering.
Pleasure Island: Cleethorpes' own theme park includes such irresistible-sounding attractions as the Tinkaboo Sweet Factory Water Ride plus 'pirate adventures' for children.
Rievaulx and Fountains Abbeys: These two Cistercian abbeys in North Yorkshire are among the most beautiful and atmospheric ruins in England; they are not to be missed.
Seaside resorts: Scarborough is the pick of the resorts along the north-east coast. It has two beaches: the south bay, with its funfair, amusement arcades and fast-food stalls, can get rather frantic - the north bay is more peaceful. Robin Hood's Bay is the most picturesque of Yorkshire's fishing villages, but Staithes is less prone to the tourist crowds. Whitby has a lively (if tacky) seafront, but the most attractive part is the old quarter below the abbey.
Settle-to-Carlisle Railway: The future of England's most scenic railway now seems assured, having been saved from closure by a spirited public campaign after structural problems threatened key parts of the line, including the 24-arch Ribblehead viaduct. The 71-mile British Rail service snakes through the glorious countryside of the Dales and along the Eden valley - with the Pennines to the east and the Lakeland fells to the west.
Theakston Brewery Visitor Centre: Masham, North Yorkshire is home to Old Peculier and the other Theakston beers. Book a room within staggering distance if you intend to indulge in the more potent brews.
York Minster: The largest Gothic church in north Europe also has the most stunning examples of English stained glass: from the magnificent expanses of the East and West Windows to appealing grotesques, such as the monkey's funeral of the Pilgrimage Window.
Yorkshire Dales National Park: Wharfedale and Wensleydale are the busiest and most central dales to explore. But the more remote Swaledale and Dentdale are just as beautiful and less prone to overcrowding.
Gardens: Harlow Car Botanical Gardens (Harrogate, North Yorkshire); York Museum Gardens; Cragside House (Rothbury, Northumberland).
16-17 July. Durham County Show.
16-17 July. Masham Steam Engine and Fair Organ Rally, Lower Burton Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire.
17 July. Cricket: Yorkshire v Leicestershire, Scarborough Cricket Ground, 2pm.
22-30 July. Cleethorpes Carnival Week and Parade.
22 July-7 August. Ryedale Festival, North Yorkshire.
23 July-5 August. Mablethorpe Beach Mission: Family fun and games in Lincolnshire.
27-31 July. Sutton-on-Sea Carnival, Lincolnshire.
29 July-12 August: Harrogate International Festival. This year the Halle Orchestra is in residence playing Gershwin, Strauss and Holst; other highlights include Michael Nyman and band; the City of London Symphonia with Kathryn Stott; the Stuttgart Ballet, the Mecklenburgh Opera plus night jazz events (0423 565757).
30 July-6 August. Hartlepool Carnival Ball: Attractions include a giant funfair.
31 July. Family Fun Day: Souter Point Lighthouse, South Shields.
2-7 August. Hull Jazz Festival: This year's performers include John Etheridge, King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, Emperor's New Clothes, Martin Taylor, The Real McCaws and Andy Sheppard in Commotion (0482 226655).
4-7 August. Stockton Riverside International Festival, Cleveland: Street theatre, circus and music.
4-8 August. Cricket: England v South Africa, Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds.
6-7 August. Sunderland International Air Show.
6-8 August. Whitby Regatta and Carnival.
6-13 August. Sunderland International Football Festival.
7-14 August. Saltburn Victorian Festival, Cleveland: Victorian entertainments from street theatre to musical.
12-15 August. Flower Festival, All Saints Church, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire.
13 August. Ripley Show, North Yorkshire.
13-20 August. Billingham International Folklore Festival, Cleveland: Dance, song, crafts.
13-20 August. Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club Annual Regatta, Bridlington.
14 August. Cricket: Yorkshire v Lancashire, Headingley, Leeds, 2pm.
20-21 August. Hartlepool Show.
20-26 August. Whitby Folk Week.
21 August. Cricket: Yorkshire v Warwickshire, Scarborough, 2pm.
22 August. Dry-stone Walling Demonstration, The Moors Centre, Danby, near Whitby, 2-4pm.
26-29 August. Ilkley Antiques Fair, King's Hall and Wintergardens, Ilkley.
27 Wensleydale Show.
29 August - 3 September. Newcastle Free Festival: Open-air concerts, circus, magicians, dance and comedy.
29 August - 12 September. Scarborough Cricket Festival.
GOOD PLACES TO STAY
Elford, 10 Prospect Hill, Whitby, North Yorkshire (0947 602135). No children under the age of two.
The Pigsty: Robin Hood's Bay. Grand, porticoed, 19th-century extravaganza converted for human habitation by the Landmark Trust (sleeps two).
Souter Lighthouse, near Whitburn: National Trust Cottage, sleeps four, plus cot - see Further Information, page 63.
Wellesley Court, 40 Bradford Avenue, Cleethorpes, South Humberside (0472 693014).
Blackpool: It's hard to believe, given the miles of tacky amusement arcades and the infamous pollution on the beach, but Blackpool still gets more visitors than any other British tourist attraction. It seems the piers, the comic shows, the Tower and the spectacular funfair still prove irresistible. Mind you, there's not much of a choice on this coastline: the pavements of Southport and Lytham St Annes are cluttered with zimmer frames, and once-bustling Morecambe is fading fast.
Frontierland Theme Park: An attempt to add excitement to Morecambe, the theme for the 30 or so rides is the Wild West, but compared to Blackpool it's more like the Mild West.
Museum of Childhood: There's a plentiful supply of children's memorabilia. The best example is the Museum of Childhood in Ribchester, Lancashire, with its games, toys, models and a working fairground. There's also a Toy and Teddy Bear Museum in Lytham St Annes.
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust: 360 acres of wetlands and marsh at Martin Mere, Lancashire, for serious twitchers.
28-31 July. Royal Air Force Town Show, Blackpool.
31 July and 7 August. Blackpool Carnival Parades. Family fun.
13-14 August. Hovercraft Racing: Leisure Lakes, Mere Brow, Tarleton, Lancashire.
2 September-6 November. Blackpool Illuminations.
GOOD PLACES TO STAY
Grosvenor View, 7-9 King Edward Avenue, North Shore, Blackpool (0253 352851).
Midland Hotel, Marine Road, Morecambe, Lancashire (0524 417180).
The Music Room, Lancaster. Landmark Trust (sleeps four).
Pembroke Hotel, North Promenade, Blackpool, Lancashire (0253 23434).
Tourist Boards: Yorkshire and Humberside 0904 707070. Northumbria 091-384 6905. North West 0942 821222.
National Parks: Peak District 0629 814321; Lake District 0539 724555; Northumberland 0434 605555; North York Moors 0439 770657; Yorkshire Dales 0756 752748.
Landmark Trust 0628 825925.
The National Trust self-catering cottages: 0225 791199 (membership enquiries 081-464 1111).
Reading: 'Ordnance Survey Leisure Guide to Northumbria' (pounds 9.99); 'Pictorial Guides to the Lakes and Fells' by AW Wainwright (pounds 8.99); 'Which? Guide to Yorkshire and the Peak District' (pounds 10.99).
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