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England: The Rough Guide

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Since the 1997 general election, and the rejection of the Conservative party after eighteen years in power, there's been a decidedly upbeat air about England. The election of the "New Labour" government has brought about some genuine changes of atmosphere. There's a lot of talk about the importance of "society", a concept much abused during the laissez-faire years of Thatcherism, and England is now being presented as a component part of Europe, whereas previously ...
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Overview

Introduction
Since the 1997 general election, and the rejection of the Conservative party after eighteen years in power, there's been a decidedly upbeat air about England. The election of the "New Labour" government has brought about some genuine changes of atmosphere. There's a lot of talk about the importance of "society", a concept much abused during the laissez-faire years of Thatcherism, and England is now being presented as a component part of Europe, whereas previously the attitude to the continent suggested that the Channel Tunnel was a bridgehead into enemy territory. But in several respects the new world isn't really that new. Many of the less appealing aspects of Conservatism - the under-investment in public services, the assumption that big business knows best - are still with us. And, conversely, many of the features that give England its buzz have not sprung into existence overnight - the celebration of "Cool Britannia" began some time before the arrival of Tony Blair. Indeed, the country has maintained its creative momentum consistently from the "Swinging Sixties" to the present day: the music scene is as vibrant as any in the world; the current crop of young artists has as high a profile as David Hockney ever had; all over Europe there are hi-tech and offbeat postmodern buildings that were born on the drawing boards of London; and when Jean-Paul Gaultier runs short of new ideas he comes to London's markets, outlets for Europe's riskiest street fashion.
However, you only have to scratch the surface and you'll find that England's notorious taste for nostalgia still persists. It's not altogether surprising that the English tend to dwell on former glories - as recently as 1950 London was the capital of the sixth wealthiest nation on the planet, but just three decades later it had slipped from the top twenty. History is constantly repackaged and recycled in England, whether in the form of TV costume dramas or industrial theme parks in which people enact the tasks that once supported their communities. The royal family, though dogged by bad press, continues to occupy a prominent place in the English self-image, a fact demonstrated by the extraordinary manner in which the death of Princess Diana was reported and mourned. The mythical tales of King Arthur and Camelot, the island race that spawned Shakespeare, Drake and Churchill, a golden rural past - these are the notions that lie at the heart of "Englishness", and monuments of the country's past are a major part of its attraction. There's a panoply of medieval and monumental towns; and the countryside yields all manner of delights, from walkers' trails around the hills and lakes, through prehistoric stone circles, to traditional rural villages and their pubs. Virtually every town bears a mark of former wealth and power, whether it be a magnificent Gothic cathedral financed from a monarch's treasury, a parish church funded by the tycoons of the medieval wool trade, or a triumphalist Victorian civic building, raised on the income of the British Empire. In the south of England you'll find old dockyards from which the navy patrolled the oceans, while up north there are mills that employed whole town populations. England's museums and galleries - several of them ranking among the world's finest - are full of treasures trawled from Europe and farther afield. And in their grandiose stuccoed terraces and wide esplanades the old resorts bear testimony to the heyday of the English holiday towns, when Brighton, Bath and diverseother towns were as fashionable and elegant as any European spa.
Contemporary England is at the same time a deeply conservative place and a richly multi-ethnic culture through which runs a strain of individualism that often verges on the anarchic. In essence, England's fascination lies in the tension between its inertia and its adventurousness. Which is the truer image of England at the end of the twentieth century: the record-breaking Sensation art show at the Royal Academy, with its dissected livestock and sexual mutants, or the ranks of Diana memorabilia in souvenir shops across the land?
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Rough Guides feature some of the best writing of all the travel series, with extensive essays on history, arts, and culture included in each guidebook. These hip, lively guides also offer great coverage of nightlife and recreation but never neglect the all-important basics -- hotels, transportation, shopping, and more. The Rough Guides series covers the major destinations, as well as the less traveled spots, and are favorites among backpackers who appreciate the inclusion of budget options among the hotel and restaurant listings. The Rough Guides are reliable and accurate, and so well-written that they can provide hours of enjoyable reading -- even if you aren't planning a trip.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781843532491
  • Publisher: Rough Guides, Limited
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Series: Rough Guides Travel Series
  • Edition number: 6
  • Pages: 1216
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Where to go
To get to grips with England, London is the place to start. Nowhere else in the country can match the scope and innovation of the metropolis, a colossal, frenetic city, perhaps not as immediately attractive as its European counterparts, but with so much variety that lack of cash is the only obstacle to a great time. It's here that you'll find England's best spread of nightlife, cultural events, museums, galleries, pubs and restaurants. Each of the other large cities, such as Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, has its strengths, though to be honest these regional centres don't rank among the most alluring of destinations. For many people they come a long way behind ancient cities such as Lincoln, York, Salisbury, Durham and Winchester, to name just those with the most celebrated of England's cathedrals. Left adrift by the industrialization of the last century and spared the worst of postwar urban development, these cities remain small-scale and manageable, more hospitable than the big commercial and industrial centres. Most beguiling of all are the long-established villages of England, hundreds of which amount to nothing more than a pub, a shop, a gaggle of cottages and a farmhouse offering bed and breakfast - Devon, Cornwall, the Cotswolds and the Yorkshire Dales harbour some especially picturesque specimens, but every county can boast a decent showing of photogenic hamlets.
Evidence of England's pedigree is scattered between its settlements as well. Wherever you're based, you're never more than a few miles from a ruined castle, a majestic country house, a secluded chapel or a monastery, and in some parts of the country you'll come across the sites of civilizations that thrived here before England existed as a nation. In the southwest there are remnants of a Celtic culture that elsewhere was all but eradicated by the Romans, and from the south coast to the northern border you can find traces of prehistoric settlers - the most famous being the megalithic circles of Stonehenge and Avebury.
Then of course there's the English countryside, an extraordinarily diverse terrain from which Constable, Turner, Wordsworth, Emily Bront and a host of other native luminaries took inspiration. Most dramatic and best known are the moors and uplands - Exmoor, Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor, the North York Moors and the Lake District - each of which, especially the Lakes, has its over-visited spots, though a brisk walk will usually take you out of the throng. Quieter areas are tucked away in every corner of England, from the lush vales of Shropshire near the border with Wales, to the flat waterlands of the eastern Fens and the chalk downland of Sussex. It's a similar story on the coast, where the finest sands and most rugged cliffs have long been discovered, and sizeable resorts have grown to exploit many of the choicest locations. But again, if it's peace you're after, you can find it by heading for the exposed strands of Northumbria, the pebbly flat horizons of East Anglia or the crumbling headlands of Dorset.
When to go
Considering the temperateness of the English climate, it's amazing how much mileage the locals get out of the subject - a two-day cold snap is discussed as if it were the onset of a new Ice Age, and a week in the upper 70s Fahrenheit starts rumours of drought. The fact is that English summers rarely get hot and the winters don't get very cold, and there's not a great deal of regional variation, as the chart shows. The average summer temperature in the landlocked Midlands is much the same as down on the southwest beaches, and within a degree or two of the average in the north. Summer rainfall is fairly even over all of England as well, though in general the south gets more hours of sunshine than the north. Differences between the regions are slightly more marked in winter, when the south tends to be appreciably milder and wetter than the north.
The bottom line is that it's impossible to say with any degree of certainty that the weather will be pleasant in any given month. May might be wet and grey one year and gloriously sunny the next, and the same goes for the autumnal months - November stands an equal chance of being crisp and clear or foggy and grim. Obviously, if you're planning to lie on a beach, or camp in the dry, you'll want to go between June and September - a period when you shouldn't go anywhere without booking your accommodation well in advance. Elsewhere, if you're balancing the likely fairness of the weather against the density of the crowds, the best time to get into the countryside or the towns would be between April and early June or in September or October.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
PART ONE BASICS
Travelling from North America
Travelling from Australia and New Zealand
Travelling from Ireland
Visas, work permits, customs and tax
Money, banks and costs
Insurance, health and emergencies
Information and maps
Getting around
Accommodation
Food and drink
Post and phones
Opening hours and holidays
Admission to museums and monuments
The media
Annual events
Outdoor pursuits
Gay and lesbian England
Disabled travellers
Directory
PART TWO THE GUIDE
CHAPTER 1 LONDON
Arrival and information
City transport
Accommodation
Westminster and Whitehall
St James's, Mayfair and Marylebone
Soho
Covent Garden
Bloomsbury
Holborn and the Inns of Court
The City
The East End and Docklands
Lambeth and Southwark
Hyde Park, Kensington and Chelsea
Regent's Park and Camden
Hampstead
Highgate
Southeast London: Dulwich to Greenwich
Out west: Chiswick to Windsor
Eating
Drinking
Nightlife
Listings
CHAPTER 2 SURREY, KENT & SUSSEX
Guildford
Farnham
Dorking
North Kent Coast
Canterbury
Dover
Folkestone
Hythe to Dungeness
Royal Tunbridge Wells
Hastings
Eastbourne
Lewes
Brighton
Arundel
Chichester
CHAPTER 3 HAMPSHIRE, DORSET AND WILTSHIRE
Portsmouth
Southampton
The Isle of Wight
Winchester
Central and north Hampshire
New Forest
Bournemouth
Isle of Purbeck
Dorchester
Weymouth
Lyme Regis
Inland Dorset and southern Wiltshire
Salisbury
Stonehenge
CHAPTER 4 FROM LONDON TO THE SEVERN
St Albans
Buckingham
The Chilterns
Oxford
Vale of White Horse
The Cotswolds
Cheltenham
Cirencester
Stroud
Gloucester
Tewkesbury
CHAPTER 5 THE WEST COUNTRY
Bristol
Bath
Wells
The Mendips
Glastonbury
Bridgwater
Taunton
Quantock Hills
Exmoor
Exeter
Torquay
Plymouth
Dartmoor
North Devon
Lundy Island
Looe to Veryan Bay
St Mawes to Falmouth
The Lizard peninsula
Penzance
Land's End St Ives
Isles of Scilly
Padstow
Tintagel
Bodmin
CHAPTER 6 EAST ANGLIA
Southend-on-Sea
Colchester
Tendring peninsula
Harwich
Stour Valley
Bury St Edmunds
Ipswich
Suffolk coast
Norwich
North Norfolk coast
King's Lynn
Breckland
Ely
Peterborough
Cambridge
Saffron Waldon
Newmarket
CHAPTER 7 CENTRAL ENGLAND
Stratford-upon-Avon
Warwick
Worcester
The Malverns
Hereford
Hay-on-Wye
Shrewsbury
Birmingham
Coventry
Lichfield
Stoke-on-Trent
Derby and the Peak District
Nottingham
Leicester
Northampton
Lincoln
Stamford
CHAPTER 8 THE NORTHWEST
Manchester
Chester
Liverpool
Blackpool
Ribble Valley
Lancaster
Isle of Man
CHAPTER 9 CUMBRIA AND THE LAKES
Kendal
Windermere
Grasmere
Coniston
Keswick
Buttermere
Eskdale
Penrith
Carlisle
CHAPTER 10 YORKSHIRE
Sheffield
Leeds
Bradford
The Dales
Richmond
Harrogate
Ripon
York
Hull
Beverley
North York Moors
Scarborough
Whitby
CHAPTER 11 THE NORTHEAST
Durham
County Durham
Middlesbrough
Newcastle upon Tyne
Hadrian's Wall
Northumberland National Park
Northumberland coast
Farne Islands
Holy Island
Berwick-upon-Tweed
PART THREE CONTEXTS
A brief history of England
The monuments and buildings of England
The wildlife of England
Books
Glossaries
Index
LIST OF MAPS
England
Chapter Divisions
Greater London
Central London
London's West End Surrey, Kent and Sussex
Canterbury
Dover
Brighton
Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire
Portsmouth
Isle of Wight
Winchester
Salisbury
London to the Severn
Oxford
The Cotswolds
Gloucester
The West Country
Bristol
Bath
Exeter
Dartmoor National Park
The Lizard and Penwith peninsulas
East Anglia
Norwich
Cambridge
Central England
Stratford-upon-Avon
Warwick
Shropshire
Birmingham
Central Birmingham
Nottinghamshire
Nottingham
Leicestershire and Rutland
Northamptonshire
Lincolnshire
The Northwest
Manchester
Chester
Liverpool
Lancaster
Cumbria and the Lakes
Central Lakes
North Lakes
Yorkshire
The Yorkshire Dales
York
North York Moor
The Northeast
Durham
Newcastle upon Tyne
Hadrian's Wall
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