The Ultimate Rugby World Cup Tour: Part One
The Rugby World Cup is the global showcase for a sport that was invented in the heart of England way back in 1823. As rugby comes home this September, it presents fans with an opportunity to explore twelve very different towns and cities. Which host town will be your favourite for sightseeing, food, drink, shopping and all-round fun? Let Avis Inspires take you through part one of this rugby inspired road trip.
Newcastle upon Tyne
The opening of the Baltic contemporary art gallery in 2002 – housed in a former flour mill – gave Newcastle a publicity push. It added a kick to a city that, while proud of its industrial roots in coal and steel, had moved on to become a major university city. With a cultural and social life that was the envy of bigger cities, its vibrant city centre heaves with loud and lively Geordies, tourists and students. The city has a brace of excellent museums and a flourishing theatre scene, and Grainger Town in the city’s centre is packed with handsome listed buildings.
Shopping: The original Fenwick Department Store or High Bridge Quarter – Newcastle’s independent shopping heartland.
Eat & drink: Peace & Loaf on Jesmond Road for fine Modern British cuisine. Pleased To Meet You on High Bridge Street which houses an array of simply fantastic gins.
Don’t miss: The quriky art displays at the Baltic or a walk across the iconic Tyne bridge.
Close to: Hadrian’s Wall, Tynemouth beach and the Angel of the North statue.
Image Credit: Claudia Turley
With its eye firmly on the 21st-century, Leeds has boomed in recent years. Featuring gleaming residential and office towers (it’s the banking capital of northern England), contemporary and renovated Victorian shopping arcades and a major new entertainment venue, Leeds Arena, open since 2013. It’s a city that loves to shop, party & socialise at night, and the locals are fiercely loyal to their sporting teams – especially Rugby League and football. With its large Asian community, Leeds has world-class Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine as well as some very cool eateries serving Modern British.
Shopping: The Grade I listed Corn Exchange is great for fashion, jewellery, beauty and gifts.
Eat & drink: Try the red meats (and on Sunday’s the roasts with Yorkshire Pudding) at Rare on Lower Briggate; indulge in a curry at Chandelier by Mumtaz in Clarence Dock.
Don’t miss: Leeds Town Hall and the Victoria Quarter for architectural marvels, and Roundhay Park, the city’s loveliest green space and one of the biggest city parks in Europe.
Close to: 18th century Harewood House and gardens, The Pennines (and Pennine Way National Trail); Bradford (for the National Media Museum), Haworth (for the Brontë sisters’ home).
Famous for its musical and clubbing scenes in the Eighties and Nineties, Manchester is also fiercely proud of the pivotal role it played in the Industrial Revolution. Walk across the city and, amid the glass-and-steel towers and sleek shopping precincts, you’ll stumble on looming factory buildings and warehouses – often re-purposed as work or residential spaces – redbrick railway bridges and monuments to manufacturers and mill owners.
With six major galleries, a dozen museums, a so-called Media City dedicated to television, radio and web production in the adjacent city of Salford, and a good number of classical music, dance and theatre venues, Manchester is a cultural heavyweight. There is even a Museum of Football, paying homage to the two local megaclubs and to the sport in general.
Manchester is also the north west’s main shopping mecca – with the Arndale Centre, home to more than 200 stores, in the centre, the vast Trafford Centre, on the outskirts – which has the buzz of a theme park, and dozens of independent retailers. At night, Manchester throbs with dressed-up diners and drinkers, dance fiends and party people, and there’s a well-established Gay scene along Canal Street.
Shopping: The Northern Quarter is best for alternative shops and thriving studios such as the Manchester Craft & Design Centre.
Eat & drink: Enjoy the views and a refreshing beverage at Cloud 23 and then head to Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter for superlative Thai and Malaysian food at ultra-stylish Ning; if you want an old-school setting and indigenous food, Mr Thomas’s Chop House on Cross Street serves beef hash, cheese and onion pie and other British classics.
Don’t miss: The Lowry, with its permanent exhibition of L. S. Lowry’s urban landscapes.
Close to: The Pennines, Peak District and Liverpool.
This Midlands town suffered substantial damage in World War Two – but it began to undergo a revival in the 1960’s following an influx of textile workers from India and Pakistan and is now one of England’s Asian capitals. The 2012 discovery and subsequent confirmation of the remains of King Richard III have given Leicester lots of positive publicity and are a source of local pride. They were reinterred in the Gothic cathedral in March 2015.
Shopping: Lanes, St. Martins Square and Arcades are best for niche stores and boutiques.
Eat & drink: Easy – head for the Golden mile of curry restaurants on Belgrave Road.
Don’t miss: The Grade I listed timber-framed Guildhall, one of the finest in the UK; the award-winning National Space Centre, the UK’s largest attraction dedicated to space.
Close to: Loughborough – ride on the Great Central Railway, Britain’s only double track main line steam railway.
England’s second largest metropolis, surrounded by its former industrial sprawl – as you drive in you’ll still see a vast acreage of warehouses and factories – might not be a looker, but it’s big-hearted and very welcoming. Boasting major shopping centres like the redesigned Bullring – site of the dashingly contemporary £60m Selfridges department store – and upmarket Mailbox, and the more intimate Jewellery Quarter, the city is one of the UK’s best for retail. Thanks to the Custard Factory creative hub, cleaned-up Victorian buildings, a new city park and a £189 million state-of-the-art library, non-Brummies are beginning to take note of a city that has long been unfairly underrated.
Shopping: For big brands stick to the Bull Ring; head for The Custard Factory for vintage fashion, craft creations and jewellery.
Eat & drink: Do a curry – stylish Lasan on James Street was acclaimed by Gordon Ramsay; Jyoti on Stratford Street is a veggie favourite, with a good range of South Indian specialities.
Don’t miss: A Canal Tour – Birmingham claims to have more miles of canal than Venice.
Close to: Bournville model village, Ironridge, Stratford upon Avon and The Black Country.
This small unassuming town is known to the rest of the world for only one important reason. When William Webb Ellis, a boy at Rugby School picked up a ball in 1823 and ran with it, the game of football – later renamed rugby football – was born. Another former Rugby pupil, Tom Wills, is credited with taking the sport to Australia. A prototype for the jet engine was also built here, by Frank Whittle, a Coventry-born RAF engineer air officer who worked at the British Thomson-Houston works during the 1930s. Otherwise, Rugby is a welcoming Midlands town, with some handsome Victorian buildings in the centre.
Shopping: Clock Towers shopping centre has major brands; look out for ‘Discover Rugby’, a locally produced guide to indie retailers.
Eat & drink: Superlative fish and chips at Brownsover Fish Bar on Hollowell Way, and great bistro fare, a well-stocked bar and patisserie at Café Vin Cinq on High Street.
Don’t miss: Rugby School, not only for that game – but because it was the home of Thomas Arnold, of Tom Brown’s Schooldays fame – and father of poet Matthew Arnold. Or the opportunity to stroll along Oxford canal; linking Oxford to Coventry via Rugby.
Close to: Stratford upon Avon and ‘Shakespeare Country’.