This post is part of Viator’s coverage of the London Olympics. Leading up to the Games and every day during the Games, we’ll be posting tips from our London-based blogger, Philippa. Be sure to check back often for the latest updates on happenings around London, news on special events and tips for what to see and do in London and the surrounding area while you’re visiting!
As we all know, Olympic Football is largely being played outside London and in fact the London 2012 Olympics kicked off not in London or even England but in Cardiff, Wales making this a truly British Olympics despite its name.
Football is continuing with matches being played in Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, and in England at City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry, Old Trafford in Manchester, St James’ Park in Newcastle Upon Tyne and at Wembley Stadium in London where the finals will be played.
There are still tickets available for all football matches apart from the Men’s Final at Wembley, so there’s a good reason to hop on a train out of town and explore a bit more of Britain.
Glasgow is a wonderfully historic and yet vibrantly contemporary city. It is within an easy day trip distance of Loch Lomond and the mountain Ben Lomond, one of the most popular of Scotland’s Munros to climb. It’s also less than an hour by train to Edinburgh where the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival begins on August 3rd running until August 27th. If you decide to head up there you’ll probably want to stay at least one night.
Cardiff is the gateway to Wales, which has beautiful beachside towns such as Tenby, and the famous Snowdonia National Park with its excellent climbing and hiking. Wales is also home to Prince William and Kate who live on the island of Anglesey on the north-west coast. Holyhead, the largest town on Anglesey is a busy ferry port for boats heading to Dublin – the fast boat journey is only 99 minutes!
Coventry, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne are all historically interesting English cities to visit with Manchester in particular having excellent galleries, including the Lowry and Manchester Art Gallery.
Any true sports fan will want to take a tour of some of the country’s best known sports venues and you can take a tour of Manchester United and Manchester City’s facilities as well as Liverpool’s and Newcastle’s football clubs. Manchester also has the National Football Museum.
Olympic Sailing is being contested outside of London, at Weymouth and Portland on the southcoast of England. The tickets are sold out but there are plenty of places along the beach where you’ll be able to see the boats sail by while enjoying that fresh seabreeze and the erratic English summer sunshine.
Not far out of London, the Mountain Biking event is will be held at Hadleigh Farm in Essex and the Canoe Slalom at Lee Valley White Water Centre. The Rowing and Canoe Sprint are at Eton Dorney in Buckinghamshire. The Canoe Sprint is the only one of these to still have tickets available and Eton Dorney is located close to Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s favorite royal residences.
If you’re a little bit sick of sports, there are almost too many choices of things to do outside of London for a bit of respite from the crowds and the competition.
If it’s ancient history you feel like head to Stonehenge and Glastonbury, or to Bath for a good mix of Roman Baths, Georgian architecture and modern spas. For something a bit more modern (still hundreds of years old) head to Winchester Cathedral, Oxford or Cambridge, or north to York and it’s grand cathedral, York Minster.
If you’re looking for the England of Downton Abbey, you can visit any number of huge historic houses including the location of the tv series Highclere Castle itself which is open Sunday through Thursday until September 13th. Highclere is near Newbury in Buckinghamshire, about 65 miles from central London via the M4 motorway. There is no public transportation to the castle itself, but take a train to Newbury and a taxi for the remaining six miles to the castle.
Other popular stately homes to visit include Chatsworth in the Derbyshire Peak District, Castle Howard in Yorkshire (where Brideshead Revisited was filmed) and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire which is the only palace in England not owned by the monarchy but by generations of Dukes of Marlborough.