The Ultimate Rugby World Cup Tour: Part Two
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? Part two of this rugby inspired trip starts by giving you the opportunity to explore some of the south’s best locations.
The Welsh capital is booming, as evidenced by stylish redevelopments such as the Welsh National Assembly – seat of the government – the Cardiff Bay retail and commercial site and the Millennium Stadium, right in the city centre. There is also a fascinating castle – a mix of Roman remains, Norman keep and Victorian add-ons – and an inspiringly informative National Museum. One ignored strength of Cardiff is its excellent contemporary art scene, with around a dozen stylish galleries for browsing or buying. In the evenings, the international flavour gives way to a distinctly Welsh gusto for socialising, dining and dancing.
Shopping: The Castle Quarter and Morgan Quarter boast smaller, quirkier shops than the big shopping centres.
Eat & drink: Head down to the Cardiff Bay Area to check out the Welsh fusion food at Ffresh.
Don’t miss: Chapter Arts Centre – an important cultural hub, café and bar.
Close to: Llandaff Cathedral, Barry Island Pleasure Park.
Roman soldiers came to Gloucester to retire, but the small town rose to prominence in medieval times, when pilgrims thronged to see the grave of Edward II and paid their dues to help with the construction of one of England’ finest Gothic cathedrals. Hands-on museums celebrate local history, the old docks and the canals.
Shopping: Gloucester Quays is a stylish waterside retail development
Eat & drink: The Blue Elephant at Dr Foster’s pub serves good traditional dishes using local and seasonal produce.
Don’t miss: Gloucester Waterways Museum, which recounts the history of England’s canals.
Close to: The Cotswolds.
Located just outside London, from 1967 Milton Keynes was set up as an official “New Town”. Drawing people out of London and additionally providing London commuters with a new suburb – Milton Keynes has plenty to offer. The centre consists of an eclectic mix of modernist commercial properties set on broad flagged esplanades. With particular structures by Sir Richard MacCormac, Lord Norman Foster, Henning Larsen and Ralph Erskine forming part of the original development, Milton Keynes is certainly a town needing to be explored.
Shopping: The massive combined space of thecentre:mk and Intu Milton Keynes shopping centres contain most of the high street brands.
Eat & drink: Fine French fare at Brasserie Blanc on Avebury Boulevard
Don’t miss: The XScape complex, for indoor skiing, snowboarding, indoor sky-diving, rock-climbing and cinema.
Close to: The Grand Union Canal, Bletchley Park (famous for its codebreakers) and its National Museum of Computing.
Powered by royalty, government, finance and, above all, tourism, London is part virtual theme park of old England and part swaggering symbol of modern metropolitan Britain. London has the capacity to thrill visitors and inhabitants alike, with its unrivalled free museums and art galleries, world-class gastronomy, and ethnic diversity. As the recipient of most of the country’s arts and culture funding it is a showcase for the best in British theatre and dance.
Heritage London is squeezed in to an ever-shrinking corner, but some of the most atmospheric buildings and cosiest pubs are still to be found around Soho, Fitzrovia, Covent Garden and Fleet Street. No one does London in one go – it’s just too big – so you should explore the centre and then use the rugby fixture as a way to get to know one of the outlying areas. Hosting matches at Twickenham, Wembley Stadium and the Olympic stadium, London is spreading its love of the game around the city – each of the areas around the venues are like small towns themselves; Twickenham and Richmond are leafy suburbs close to the Thames; the Olympic Park is in the heart of the massive regeneration of Stratford and East London; Wembley is a stop between upmarket Hampstead and the serene suburbs of the northwest corner of the metropolitan area.
Shopping: Londoners are spoilt for choice – explore the sidestreets off Bond Street and Marylebone Road for quality fashion, gifts and bookshops.
Eat & drink: Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia covers all menus and budgets – Fino does superlative Spanish tapas.
Don’t miss: A walk along the South Bank via Tate Modern. It is the best way to see the city skyline and stretch your legs – and avoid the busy London Underground; also, Twickenham’s World Rugby Museum – the must-see for this event.
Close to: Surrey Hills, Richmond Park and Hackney Marshes, if you need to find a green lung outside the city.
Brighton & Hove
Londoners’ favourite seaside resort, Brighton is familiar even to those who’ve never been there. Its Indian Raj–influenced Royal Pavilion, built as a holiday home for the Prince Regent, is one of the UK’s most eye-catching buildings, while Brighton Pier and the long, thin pebble beach have featured in countless films and novels. In recent decades, the city has been adopted as a home by many musicians, writers, artists and designers – the indie retail and diverse gastronomy reflect the sophisticated clientele – and a vibrant clubbing culture and a lively gay scene have rejuvenated Brighton’s nightlife. A history of classic car runs from the capital also makes the city a driver’s favourite.
Shopping: The Lanes is a characterful area known for its antique shops and small, independent boutiques.
Eat & drink: Fish and chips is the classic seaside dish – try award-winning Bardsley’s on Baker Street north of the centre.
Don’t miss: Royal Pavilion – an extraordinary oriental landmark built by the brilliant Regency architect John Nash.
Close to: South Downs Way – a beautiful footpath and cycle path with great views over the Channel.
Devon’s cathedral city claims to have more historical sights than any other town in the far southwest. Roman, Norman, Tudor and modern buildings vie for space and additionally, the university injects a youthful energy into the social and cultural scene.
Shopping: The Cathedral Quarter has a good mix of high street brands and independents.
Eat & drink: Michael Caines at the Abode Hotel has a great champagne bar and a menu and kitchen curated by a Michelin-starred chef. The Beer Cellar on South St, also close to the cathedral, has a fabulous menu of craft beers.
Don’t miss: The eclectic displays at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery.
Close to: Dartmoor, southern England’s highest wilderness – full of winding lanes and lonely inns.