Summer’s here – peak time for visitor attractions – and the team at Blue Sail has come up with a personal selection of attractions we found intriguing (and why). This is the latest in our series of Top Tens to mark the company’s 10th birthday. Hope you’re inspired to add one or more of these to your own list!
Newgrange – part of the Brú na Bóinne complex of passage tombs in Ireland’s Ancient East – because there’s something profoundly moving about the moment when the lights go out, and you realise you’re standing in the same dark space that ancient people stood in 5,000 years ago.
King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester – because of the way the past collides with the present: the gripping story spans six centuries and is multifaceted – a story of power and reputation, mystery and intrigue, science and happenstance. And at its heart, a shallow grave … momento mori indeed.
Jane Austen’s House Museum – because there’s such a strong sense of Jane herself in this small quiet space in a small quiet place (the village of Chawton, in Hampshire): it’s where she felt settled at last and wrote most of her finest works at the surprisingly small writing desk that still stands by the front door. Authentic.
Imperial War Museum North – because of the amazing building (by Daniel Libeskind) at the water’s edge at Salford Quays, and how it portrays a difficult subject in a way which is moving, not glorifying of war.
Magna Science Centre in Rotherham – because it’s like walking into a sci-fi movie or through a computer game.
World of Wedgwood in Stoke-on-Trent – because it has transformed a historic brand into a 21st-century experience without losing its heritage.
Erdigg House in North Wales – because of the large collection of servants’ portraits that the 19th century owner took which bring ‘downstairs’ alive.
Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex, home to artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and country retreat for the Bloomsbury Set – because of its domestic scale, original (handpainted) interiors and brilliant guides.
The Bagno Ebraico, Jewish purification ritual baths (or Mikveh), in Ortigia in Sicily dating from 15th century, discovered when a hotel was being built from an old building in the Jewish Quarter – because of the atmosphere, sense of being on-the-spot, and the glimpse into a very different culture. (Book a visit at reception and descend 18 metres. No interpretation – but none necessary to see the baths still fed by an aquifer.)
Little Sparta – Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden of sculpture and poetry in the Scottish Borders because that’s where our name (Blue Sail) comes from!