Why holiday abroad when we have unrivalled scenic beauty, art and architecture?

From the sparsely populated, rocky and hauntingly beautiful Shetland Islands in the far north (closer to Norway than London), to the ancient, abandoned tin mines of Cornwall in the far south; from the stunning beaches and mild temperatures of Devon and the English Riviera to the snow-capped peaks, dotted with wild cats and capercaillies, of the Highlands; from the tiny, picturesque villages of the Cotswolds, with their thatched-roof cottages, to the mighty metropolis of London, the EU's largest city; and from the flatlands and pleasant waterways of Norfolk and Suffolk, to the misty Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland, Great Britain has probably a far larger range of countryside and landscapes than any other country for its size (the mainland is 840 miles long, and if you include the Shetland Isles and Orkney Isles in the far north and Scilly Isles in the far south then the whole country is slightly longer).

Despite being the size of Oregon, there are 1,200 towns and cities (the smallest city is St Davids and the largest is London) in Great Britain, snugly inhabited by 61 million people - though the British have, on average, only visited 2% of those places.

Not only do we have spectacular landscapes, but Great Britain has a wealth of history, from ancient, spooky castles to majestic stately homes, and most tiny villages have more ancient buildings in them than the whole of North America.

When you consider the hugely varying countryside throughout Great Britain, and its wealth of history, GB has got to be the most beautiful country on Earth.

We Britons also wrongly feel that our treasures are somehow inferior to those on the Continent. But from year to year the equally spectacular Norman church in our next-door village is ignored.

OK, it might not have an exceptional Renaissance fresco in it. But the chances are that it will be vastly richer than most Italian churches in its sculpture, inscriptions and architectural variety.

And, what's more, being a fairly small country it isn't too difficult for Britons to travel anywhere in their country in a matter of just hours.

So why do many Brits travel abroad on holiday, especially to places with plenty of sunshine but not much history or culture (such as Florida or Australia)?

Why endure the torture of queues at the airport when Britain has unrivalled scenic beauty, art and architecture?

By Harry Mount (external - login to view)
10th April 2009
Daily Mail

Sceptred Isles: For its size, Britain has the most diverse landscape of any country on Earth, and is awash with history

After a hot cross bun this morning, I'm off to the cathedral in St Davids, Britain's smallest city, in Pembrokeshire, South-West Wales.

The cathedral is a ravishing 12th-century building of purplish-red Caerbwdy sandstone, with its own enchanting cathedral close and a crumbling medieval bishop's palace alongside it on the valley floor.

Next, I'm visiting Picton Castle, a Palladian country house set inside a neo-Norman fortress.

Stunning: King's College Chapel in Cambridge

And then, as evening comes, I'll take a cliff walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, a national park teeming with puffins and seals off its coast, and fringed with magnificent limestone cliffs.

And the extraordinary thing is that, on this long holiday weekend, I'll pretty much have the place to myself - a few hardy Germans and fellow old house obsessives apart.

This pattern of unvisited beauty is replicated across the country. While lonely cormorants are plunging into the breakers around an enchanting coastline - deserted, except for a few Cornish hotspots - countless Britons are heading for foreign beaches.

While the sun sets over cathedral closes in Salisbury, Lincoln, Wells and Durham - some of the greatest buildings on Earth - they will be stuck in mile-long check-in queues in some of the ugliest ones.

Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are hardly names to make the heart race. A new survey of our holiday habits backs up this depressing pattern.

In the age of cheap flights, the British are becoming better-travelled than ever before, but are also neglecting the delights of home.

On average, the British have visited only two per cent of the 1,200 towns and cities in Britain.

History: Children play in the ruins at Aberystwyth's windswept coast

Since 1981, British tourists have spent more money on foreign holidays than on domestic ones - the gap between the two in 2008 was 19 billion, up by 500m on 2007.

Those that do holiday at home tend to stick to the well-travelled places, like London, the Lake District and the Cornish coast.

Half a century ago, when flying was the preserve of the rich, it wasn't unusual for most of us never to leave our borders in a lifetime.

Now, few people think twice about a stag weekend in Prague or a family holiday in Florida. Even Iraq and Afghanistan have just opened up for package travel.

I'm not saying that it isn't wonderful to hop on a plane and be in Timbuktu by the evening. I'm as keen on seeing the rest of the world as anyone.

In fact, it's only because I have been to so many of the world's great beauty spots that I can confidently say that Britain easily matches up to - and often surpasses - any of them.

What's more, these splendours are in easy reach.

Art: Titian's Diana and Actaeon, recently saved for the British public

Just in the past week, I have made day trips to see two of the highlights of world architecture, both just an hour's journey from my London home.

At the weekend, I visited Cardinal Wolsey's enormous 16th century hall at Christ Church, Oxford, lined with oil paintings and busts of Prime Ministers and monarchs, including Gladstone, the Queen and Henry VIII.

And then, on an evening trip to the Cambridge Arts Theatre on Wednesday, I caught a heart-stopping glimpse of Henry VI's 15th-century chapel at King's College, Cambridge.

Looking at its prickly pinnacles and crockets silhouetted against a clear moonlit sky, I thought to myself I'd be prepared to go much farther than a 45-minute journey from King's Cross to see such things.

Because Britain has been so rich for so long, because its tentacles have reached around the world and drawn back home the world's most beautiful objects, there's a denser concentration of paintings, sculpture and buildings inspired by foreign influences here than anywhere else.

Scenic beauty and history: A Celtic cross on the Isle of Skye

And all within the tightly-drawn boundaries of our relatively small country, and in every corner of it.

In Edinburgh's National Galleries, some of the best Renaissance paintings can be found, including Titian's Diana and Actaeon, recently saved for the nation. At Chatsworth, Derbyshire, there's as rare a gathering of Old Master paintings as practically any palace in Rome.

And in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, there is one of the world's leading Impressionist collections.

When I visit it on the way to Pembrokeshire, I often have the Renoirs, Cezannes and Van Goghs entirely to myself. Presumably all the Impressionist fans in Cardiff are taking in the Impressionists in the Louvre.

These are just the obvious places to find beauty. A new charity, the Public Catalogue Foundation, is publishing guides to every single painting in public ownership in the country - not just in museums and galleries, but in police stations, council offices and town halls.

There are thousands of gems in the oddest of places - a Veronese in the chapel of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, an enormous William Hogarth fresco covering the walls of St Bartholomew's Hospital in the City of London.

What's more, you can see all these wonders without having to put your deodorant in a little, see-through plastic bag, be ordered to remove your belt by a thuggish X-ray machine operator, or frantically pat your pockets for your passport and e-ticket.

Why, then, do we persist in gathering like lemmings at our horrible airports, in fleeing these beauties and thinking that something more lovely awaits us at the other end?

Castles: Picton Castle on the Pembrokeshire coast

The answer is, that we take our treasures for granted because we've grown up with them in our blood-stream. We are so used to having the finest collection of country houses and village churches in the world, along with an exceptional selection of cathedrals and an utterly enchanting countryside, that we can't look at them with the wonder of an outsider like, say, those hardy Germans.

I was struck by this taking-for-granted-itis on a trip round the Pembrokeshire coast last summer. In my guide book, I came across the following passage: 'On leaving the church, in the direction of Skomer, take a walk to Martin's Haven, and see a Celtic cross situated in the Deer Park wall just below the toilets.'

Only in Britain could you be directed to ancient Celtic crosses by way of the nearest public convenience. Because this country has so many of these old treasures, no one bothers to treat them with any reverence.

We Britons also wrongly feel that our treasures are somehow inferior to those on the Continent. But from year to year the equally spectacular Norman church in our next-door village is ignored.

OK, it might not have an exceptional Renaissance fresco in it. But the chances are that it will be vastly richer than most Italian churches in its sculpture, inscriptions and architectural variety.

The same goes for our country houses, cathedrals, town halls, castles, palaces, terraced houses - the greatest collection of buildings in the world, alongside an exceptional landscape. If you're not currently standing by a check-in desk, being interrogated as to whether you packed your own bags, why not take in one of these beauties this weekend.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Apr 12th, 2009 at 11:53 AM..
How about because in other parts of the world it is hot and sunny. Also there are no poodles(royalty)

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