This atmospheric graveyard in north London is full of architectural gems, and it paints a fascinating portrait of Victorian times. If you take the tour of the West Cemetery (book in advance), your guide will reveal intriguing stories behind the lives and deaths of the eminent and ordinary Victorians who are buried here.
Enchanting paths wind through woodland, amid ivy-clad angels and jumbled headstones, leading to the Lebanon Circle Vaults, where you'll find a 300-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree. Other highlights are the Egyptian Avenue, the Terrace Catacombs, and the enormous Julius Beer Mausoleum. At 1000ft above sea level, this stately home of a mausoleum has a commanding position gazing down over London, and cost the equivalent of £3 million today.
In the East Cemetery you can wander at will, and it is here where you will find the tomb of the most famous Highgate inhabitant, Karl Marx.
Swain's Lane, London N6 6PJ
+44(0)20 8340 1834
Nearest tube: Archway
Google map: bit.ly/e24iLF
Chester is a great place for any family to spend a day, or even a few days. It is easy to reach and there are many family activities in and around the city.
Chester Zoo is just five minutes drive from the city centre and makes for a great day out. It is one of the best zoo's I’ve visited in Europe with many large enclosures and a sky train that allows you to view many of the animals from a unique perspective. Tip: Arrive early - the zoo is pretty big and can easily fill the whole day to see everything.
Staying on the animal theme, the Blue Planet Aquarium is about 10 minutes drive from the city centre. This is one of the largest aquariums in the UK and has two amazing underwater tunnel experiences. This is a great idea for any ‘wet’ days as it is all inside!
The Aquarium is located along side the Cheshire Oaks retail park, with lots of restaurants and a huge cinema to keep you entertained well into the night. Tip: this is also a great place to get some credit-crunch retail therapy underway, with many designer brands and hugely discounted prices – stock up your summer wardrobe.
For a more historical day out, you can explore the roman side of Chester. You can take a walk around the original city walls, taking in many of the sights of the city and views across north Wales. Stop off at some of the small shops and restaurants on the two-mile round trip. There is also the cathedral, Roman amphitheatre and many historical buildings in the city centre, including the original two-level medieval high streets. If you looking for a more relaxing day, try a ‘Roman High-Tea’ cruise along the canals (pick up the boat from next to the Mill Hotel). Tip: you can get a great (free) map from the city tourist office in the centre of town which highlights many of the historical buildings in the city and walking routes to take.
For a more relaxed day you should head down the small hill to the banks of the river Dee (also on the wall walk), where you can sit in riverside pubs and cafes enjoying the views, or take a relaxing river cruise on one of the river boats.
Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1LH
Google map: bit.ly/dQCALy
Blue Planet Aquarium
Longlooms Road, Ellesmere Port CH65 9LF
+44(0)151 357 8804
Google map: bit.ly/h1Rheh
In the heart of North Shields, down steeply from the town, is the Fish Quay. The number of boats is minuscule compared to its heyday, but the smell of fish and chips from the many outlets and the buzz from restaurants cannot disguise the working nature of this area still. This is further evident from a glance up the Tyne at the huge oil platform in the yard over the river. Stroll down towards the sadly no more Chain Locker pub to the ferry, nip across the water and head down to the beaches of South Shields or the gracefully curving pier, perhaps calling in at the Alum Rock for a pint of real ale or to the Custom House for some culture.
North Shields metro station and head downhill.
Google map: bit.ly/fxTX9U
The Phoenix is a great pub for a quiet drink, a hangover breakfast at weekends or a full-blown meal. The pub is so named because it rose from the ashes of the fire which gutted Denmark Hill railway station. I particularly like the gigantic Potters & Sons clock which dangles from the high beamed ceiling and the chunky leather sofas you can sink into and snooze. The pub quiz on Tuesday evenings is a good laugh, even better if you win the pot.
The Cambria is one of the best pubs in south London. Located on a quiet back street, it would be easy to miss on a bus ride from Brixton to Camberwell, but it's well worth making a short detour for the fabulous food, live music and magnificent chandeliers.
40 Kemerton Road, Camberwell, London SE5 9AR
+44(0)207 737 3676
Google map: bit.ly/e4L1s8
Getting there: overground rail to Loughborough Junction or Denmark Hill, buses 35, 45, 345
In my humble opinion, Franco Manca serves the best pizza in London. Situated in a modest venue, on two sides of a corridor through Brixton's covered market - and next to the fragrant fish stall - Franco's (as it used to be called when I first became a regular in the late 1980s) offers six pizzas, for extremely reasonable prices - even the most expensive costs less than £6. The newer name Franco's Missing, is a reference to the previous owner.
The sourdough base is prepared 20 hours ahead of baking and then fired in the 260°C oven for 40 seconds so everything is fresh, crisp and piping hot.
The only drawback is it's open when the market is, so not in the evening. A huge queue forms on Saturday lunchtime, snaking right out of the building and into the market, however the staff are pretty efficient so you shouldn't have to wait too long.
Nunhead Cemetery is one of the best places for a stroll in southeast London.
It's one of the least known, but most attractive, of the great Victorian cemeteries of London. Consecrated in 1840, it is one of the seven Victorian cemeteries established in a ring around the outskirts of London.
Some parts of the cemetery have been renovated in recent years, and the paths are well-maintained and the ruined yet elegant Anglican chapel sensitively preserved. However, there are also wild parts, with overgrown secret trails, romantic areas, spooky tombstones, beautiful trees, abundant wildlife and crumbling Gothic architecture to discover. It's a lovely place for a Sunday stroll and photo opportunities abound.
The Brockley Footpath, leading between the walled border of the cemetery and the covered reservoirs, is a strenuous workout, leading steeply uphill, but I wouldn't undertake it at night.
Nunhead Cemetery North Gate
Linden Grove, SE15 3LP
Google map: bit.ly/gfDp1e
Nearest overground railway station: Nunhead
Petitou is a little French cafe/bistro with a huge green terrace on Choumert Road.
Choumert Road seems almost totally French: at the corner with arty Bellenden Road there's a French bistro and towards Peckham's Rye Lane there's the great Montpelier pub, recently refurbished and serving scrumptious organic Sunday lunch roasts. Even the name suggests a Gallic cabbage, and the street market at the Peckham end is a good place to pick up fruit and veg. The menu at Petitou is wholesome: salads, quiches and fresh juices as well as cheesy Marmite crumpets. The terrace is shaded by trees and a lovely place to while away a morning. It's out of the way for public transport, but that's part of its charm.
63 Choumert Road,London SE15 4AR
+44(0)20 7639 2613
Google map: bit.ly/geAZA7
Open: Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-5.30pm
Getting there: overground train to Peckham Rye
No.67 is a really great cafe, serving snacks, full meals, home made cakes, fresh lemonade, unusual beers, wines, you name it, in an arty setting. It's very, very hip but also very relaxed and friendly (these two are not exclusive, I suppose!) and a great place to chill out on the Peckham Road. The cafe takes up most of the ground floor of the uber cool South London Gallery and in warmer months, the terrace is a great place to sit and soak up the sun under the ancient 'tree of heaven'.
The lunch menu changes daily - today's offers included venison bresaola with rocket and parmesan, fish stew, celeriac soup or fennel marinated pork chop. I had a home made apple crumble tart (£3.75) - yum. The Spanglish breakfasts are legendary, but get there early at weekends as it's very popular.
South London Gallery, 67 Peckham Road
London SE5 8UH
+44(0)20 7252 7649
Google map: bit.ly/gC2LxH
Open Tue 10am-6.30pm, Wed 10am-9pm, Thurs-Sun 10am-6.30pm, closed on Mondays
Buses: 12, 36, 436, 345, 171 to Southampton Way
The best bed and breakfast in Scotland, I'd say. Rosebank House is a wonderful Victorian House in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park area. Mal and Paul made us most welcome.
A project space that showcases the creative work of artists from Peckham and beyond.
Currently curated and managed by Sisters Burn, the gallery's programme includes exhibitions, live art, performance, events, lectures and workshops.
A recently opened gallery and cafe located almost opposite Camberwell Art College and a great place to chill out of a morning.
From the outside, along the vaguely grim Peckham Road, it looks a bit bleak and industrial inside but the welcome is really warm and there's free WiFi all day, cocktails, snacks and a licensed cafe and bar.
On Thursdays there are introductory food and drink offers, such as a buy one get one free 12" pizza, which can't be bad.
Conveniently close to the super cool South London Gallery and also supportive of The Sassoon Gallery (www.thesassoongallery.co.uk) NewGallery London is THE place to be seen on the Peckham Road.
Every October the East End of London becomes the biggest photography gallery in the country with over 200 exhibitions and events taking place in more than 100 venues showing the work of emerging and internationally renowned photographers. It’s a great opportunity to explore this end of the city and enjoy not only the extraordinary diversity of contemporary photography but also a highly distinctive district with a remarkable history and a fantastic variety of cafes, bars and restaurants.
While it feels a little odd to be recommending a visit to a cemetery, it’d be a shame to pass through Stoke Newington without experiencing the historic and very lovely Abney Park.
I enjoy wandering through and getting a bit lost in there once in a while, perhaps stopping for a quiet sit-down and a ponder on one of its old benches. It’s very peaceful considering it’s in an inner-city borough. When I’m deep inside, the whoosh of the Hackney traffic is almost completely masked by the tweeting of cheerful birds.
It’s overgrown and higgledy piggledy, with curious little pathways leading in between the ancient graves, some of which house beautiful stone statues. The park is a local nature reserve, and the eerily empty gothic-style chapel slap bang in the middle is now a Grade II listed building.
There are two entrances – the main one on Stoke Newington High Street and smaller gates on Stoke Newington Church Street. It's a lovely location to spend a quiet half an hour in London, and priceless on a sunny day.
Fantastic small gallery with some of the most innovative exhibitions in the city. Best to plan ahead and set aside some time if you are interested in the video pieces. Very helpful and friendly staff as well.
A tiny basement gallery showcasing local and some farther reaching photography, but mostly unheardofs, embracing new and often unconventional approaches in cosy surrounds. Rapid turnover of shows so always something new to see.
Not a gallery in the accepted sense, nevertheless a Georgian square in Edinburgh's New Town has been transformed into an outdoor gallery displaying amazing, giant sized natural history photographs. The exhibition is part of the city’s Science Festival and runs until May 1st. Many more people were admiring the work displayed in this setting than I’ve seen visiting more conventional galleries.
Quirky but familiar, intimate yet communal; for a photography gallery with a difference visit the "Tardis" of Settle, North Yorkshire - 'The Gallery On The Green'. Step inside the classic red phone booth and you are transported to wherever the images take you. The charm of the smallest gallery in the world has inspired not only the local community but even guitarist and astronomer Brian May supported a 3D exhibition of stereoscopic photographs. Here small really is beautiful.
Upper Settle, BD24 9HG
Very good Scottish restaurant. Pleasant interior, attentive service and very good value pre theatre menu and tasty food. Has other branches.
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