The Sights, Sounds & Smells of Living History

By Paull Tickner


I’ve just enjoyed putting together a couple of customised tours for families visiting London in July. They both fly into London Heathrow on a Friday and instead of joining the mobile car park heading into our capital city, I’ve organised their first 3 nights in the English countryside so that they are bright eyed and bushy tailed when they reach London on the Monday when their rooms are ready. One family will be heading to Oxford for Alice’s Day and a Giffards Circus performance at Blenheim Palace while the other one will spend a couple of memorable days at the world’s largest jousting tournament at the 1000-year-old Arundel Castle. Let’s talk about something similar for your clients but in the meantime, here are some more suggestions that can be tailored into a personalised UK tour.

Alice’s Day

Alice’s Day (Saturday 7th July) is an annual celebration of Lewis Carroll’s celebrated book ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and its sequel ‘Through The Looking Glass’, which marked a turning point in children’s literature. This one-day event offers a day full of events inspired by the classic story, including tea-parties, croquet, storytelling and workshops. Visitors are encouraged to take part and dress like Alice. 

Tudor Sights, Sounds and Smells

Examples of Living History Experiences are plentiful in Shakespeare’s England aka Stratford upon England. 900-year-old Kenilworth Castle stages several different events during the year while nearby Warwick Castle offers jaw-dropping, daily displays of archery, the Knights School, and the Falconer’s Quest, the UK’s biggest Birds of Prey show. The Shakespeare Houses also give you a close encounter with Elizabethan England especially at Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. Today you can experience all the sights, sounds and smells just as it would have been when the Bard was a boy. Watch the residents go about their daily routine, see rare breed animals and explore nature trails. There are also daily falconry displays and archery at weekends and during the school holidays. 

Kynren, An Epic Tale of England

This is the UK’s ‘must see’ spectacular live action outdoor theatre show. Taking place every Saturday evening from 29th June-14th September near the cathedral city of Durham, it’s presented on a seven-and-a-half-acre stage as a 1,000-srong cast and crew immerse you in the telling of a 2,000-year tale of the history of England. Kynren brings to ground-shaking life the story of invasions, royal splendour, wars, heroic sacrifice, daily life and seismic change. Take your seat with 8,000 others; enjoy a perfect view and be swept along by a thrilling, family-friendly journey. Two thousand years in the making, the dazzling pyrotechnics, beautiful choreography, amazing stunts and hard-to-believe horsemanship combine with an inspired, original soundtrack to leave audiences and critics enraptured and awestruck.

Saddles & Steam

Set in a beautiful landscape in the South Downs National Park, just off the main route between London and Southampton, the Weald and Downland Museum is a remarkable collection of over 50 fully restored rural home and buildings that tell a 1000-year-old story of the people who lived here in southern England. Their summer show celebrates every mode of transport from our four-legged friends to the invention of the combustion engine. In addition to the houses, there are 7 fascinating gardens which show the transition of gardens from the 16th to the late 19th century complete with the herbs, vegetables and plants of the given period.

Medieval Jousting Tournaments in Two Historic Castles

At moated, 13th century Hever Castle, the Knights of Royal England begin this year’s Summer Jousting Tournaments on 13th-14th July and then on most weekends until the end of August. Watch them battling it out in the saddle and on foot in one-to-one combat in exhilarating displays of action, stunts, falls and fights in front of King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn in their Royal Box.  The world’s longest jousting tournament makes a triumphant return to Arundel Castle in West Sussex on 23-28 July. As the season’s highlight, it promises nothing less than a true clash of the titans with plenty of fierce rivalries along the way. Archery, falconry displays, hand to hand combat, it’s got the lot. 

The Battle of Hastings

In the year 1066, a history-changing battle took place at Hastings on England’s south coast between the Anglo-Saxon King Harold and the future King of England, William the Conqueror and every October, you can hear the clash of sword on shield and feel the thunder of galloping hooves as over 600 warriors clash in an epic re-enactment. You can speak to Norman and Saxon soldiers in their encampments by the famous battlefield and learn about life in an 11th century army. Meet falconers and admire majestic birds of prey, try your hand at archery and watch superb displays of cavalry horsemanship. You can even get into the spirit of your Norman and Saxon ancestors by trying a horn of mead!