Great English Wint er Escapes; the Ribbons of Rivers That Weave through England Are Home to Some of the Most Spectacular Palaces, Museums, Theatres and Wildlife Beauty Spots in the World
The ribbons of rivers that weave through England are home to some of the most spectacular palaces, museums, theatres and wildlife beauty spots in the world The Thames is a particularly cultural hot spot, with Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle on its banks. Hampton Court, Henry VIII's rural roost, has some exciting family attractions this winter, with an outdoor ice-rink opening on 28 November. (hamptoncourticerink.com) Daily one-hour sessions cost from [pounds sterling]30 for a family ticket, including skate hire. There are also winter palace Ghost Tours on Fridays and Sundays (adults only, [pounds sterling]25) and kiddies' Spooks Tours on Sundays at 5.30pm (ages 8 to 12, [pounds sterling]12.50). (hrp.org.uk) As 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of Henry's accession to the throne, Hampton Court has become a treasure trove of great water worlds: the thames at richmond, main picture; river eden, appleby, left; skating at Hampton Court Palace, below exhibitions, including Dressed to Kill, featuring rare pieces of armour and weaponry.
The Tower of London has an ice rink this winter in the dry moat, where you can skate in the shadow of this floodlit fortress; one-hourly daily sessions, [pounds sterling]30 family ticket, 10am until 4pm. Closes 18 December. (hrp.org.uk) From 7 December visitors to Windsor Castle, the Queen's official residence, can view an exquisite silver Christmas dinner service exhibition laid out on a 50ft-long dining table in the Waterloo Chamber. It was made in 1862 and this is the first time it has been displayed complete in 50 years. During an afternoon visit also do not miss a tour of George IV's private apartments, open only during winter, the Queen Mary's Doll's House and St George's Chapel, final resting place of ten sovereigns.
England's cultural heritage extends to nature's wonderland too, with no fewer than nine wildlife and wetland conservation centres open to visitors. Rich varieties of birds, insects and plants can be found by the sea, rivers and lakes throughout the country. the centre at slimbridge near stroud in gloucestershire, for example, makes for a thrilling day out for all the family. It is home to the world's largest collection of swans, geese, flamingos and ducks, and children can take a canoe safari, visit the crane House to see how the young birds are reared, or drop in on a real toad Hall, while toddlers can play in welly Boot land. …