Great British Escapes: Summer 2012

The Olympics and Diamond Jubilee will take centre stage, but there's much more on offer, says Kate Simon.

Britain is banking on a bumper year for tourism in 2012. The Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee provide two compelling reasons for people at home and from abroad to harvest a premium crop of special events, and also discover what else the UK has to offer holidaymakers.

VisitBritain is expecting more than 30 million people to travel to these shores this year and that they will make the tills ring to the tune of £17bn while they're here. Although the number of inbound visitors is likely around the same as in 2011, the national tourism agency reckons that would be a good outcome considering the unpredictability of the global economic climate.

Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, believes 2012 will provide "an unprecedented opportunity" to showcase the UK as never before. She's confident it will "revitalise mature markets and help us get Britain on the destination wishlist of first-time visitors from growth markets such as Brazil, China, India and Russia". That's if they can get through passport control at Heathrow, of course.

Yet, for tourism chiefs, the emphasis isn't just on inbound visitors. Sarah Long, head of corporate communications at VisitEngland, believes that as Britain goes under the spotlight people living here will take a closer look at what's on their own doorsteps. "Some fantastic events are taking place up and down the country, many of them free," she says. "There'll be celebrations where the Olympic torch overnights, and there's the Cultural Olympiad, with events like the art installation along the length of Hadrian's Wall [part of the London 2012 Festival]. Hopefully, this will inspire us to take breaks in this country."

But will we be expected to reach deeper in our pockets just because of the Olympics are being held here? Ms Long maintains that although prices will be driven by demand, there will still be plenty of choice. "We market England as very good value, we don't say it's cheap. In research 78 per cent of those surveyed said it was good or excellent value for money," she says. To encourage holidaymaking whatever your budget, Visit England has launched, a website detailing thousands of special deals, from accommodation to attractions to performances, with discounts of 20.12 per cent or more, which will run until the end of the Paralympic Games on 9 September.

There is also plenty to do in England, Scotland and Wales that isn't directly related to the Diamond Jubilee or the Olympics. In fact, if you head to Llantwyrd Wells in Wales from 17 August to 2 September you can thumb your nose at the Olympics by attending the first World Alternative Games (01591 610270;; free). The quirky programme offers spectators the thrill of witnessing unlikely sports such as bog snorkelling, wife carrying and Pooh sticks.

Meanwhile, at Sudeley Castle (01242 602308; in Gloucestershire, Katherine Parr, rather than Elizabeth II, will be the centre of attention. This stately pile was where the sixth wife of Henry VIII lived and died. The 500th anniversary of her birth will be marked with historical, literary and musical events until 28 October.

Other festivities taking place in Britain this year include celebrations of Charles Dickens' bicentenary, which will continue throughout 2012 in the south of England. The Great Expectations Festival runs from 22 June to 1 July at various locations in Portsmouth ( It features literature, music, film, theatre and exhibitions.

Coleridge Cottage (01278 732662; national, the home of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is now open at Nether Stowey in Somerset after a £175,000 restoration project by the National Trust that has breathed 18th-century life back into the building.

The work of Lincolnshire local boy Sir Isaac Newton will be celebrated at The Gravity Fields Festival (01476 406158; in Grantham from 21-28 September.

The spectacularly rejuvenated National Museum of Scotland (0300 123 6789; in Edinburgh attracted 1.5 million visitors last year, making it the nation's most popular draw. This summer's big exhibition celebrates Catherine the Great, and includes loans from the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Major new attractions in England include two maritime greats. The tea clipper Cutty Sark (020-8858 4422; reopened last month, following a £50m restoration, five years after the devastating fire. And Southampton's SeaCity Museum (023 8083 3007; opened its doors in April, including an exhibition about RMS Titanic to mark the 100th year since the liner sank.

In London, the 19th-century landmark Café Royal (020-8253 6513;; doubles from £400 per night) is being transformed into a five-star hotel, due to open this summer. The Grill Room, a favourite hangout of celebrities since the days of Oscar Wilde, will be preserved along with other Grade I-listed areas of the building. The transformation will form part of a remodelling of the southern end of Regent Street.

Finally, Britain has put together a world-beating new attraction as the final stretch of the Wales Coast Path ( is officially opened, offering 870 miles of scenic possibilities.

All these new attractions and events can provide the centrepiece for a memorable holiday at home – and there's more where they came from. So, whether you're headed into the towns, countryside or coast, read on for inspiring ideas on how to create your own Great British Escape...

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor