This was my first trip to England, and in 9 days we saw all of these highlights without too much rush, so I’d recommend these stops if you’re planning a similar trip!
Every morning at 10:45am is the changing of the guard. Can you imagine this on your front lawn every morning? The crowd was astounding with all the pushing and shoving, almost no room to move! I recommend getting there early to get a street spot, or trying to move yourself around so you can view the guardsmen marching by a couple of times. The head guardsmen are a marching band, which was enjoyable to listen to a few tunes, mostly modern pieces. If you’re not claustrophobic, it’s a great time!
If you love the horrors and the creeps, this tour of London horror history is a stop for you. It’s part haunted house, part London history, which I found a very entertaining and well-crafted mix. You’ll hear of the history of torture chambers, beheadings, the Plague, through to Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, complete with a secret boat ride and a hanging simulation (yep, you get to drop through the gallows — think Tower of Terror at Disney, but much shorter). Quite thrilling! There’s no photography allowed on tour, so enjoy a couple from the gift shop.
Tower of London
This was our most comprehensive “castle” experience, so much great history in one spot. Take a tour guided by the King’s current ceremonial guardsmen, the Beefeaters, who can tell you beheading stories which took place here like no one can. The Tower was, until the 1600s, the Royal residence and included all sorts of functions including the Royal Mint, prison, observatory, armory, menagerie and (current) jewel house for the Crown Jewels (not pictured as photography is not allowed, but was a fantastic tour of sparkling crowns, jewels and regalia). The White Tower in the center of the complex is now an armory museum of massive scale! Enjoyed every corner of it, even the medieval chamber pot.
Pay a nod to the local ravens who live on the grounds. Legend says if the ravens should flee, the Tower of London will crumble. I would have loved to take the raven tour to meet the person who cares for them, worth a special mention.
It’s a wonder Stonehenge still has so much mystery around its original purpose and design. These pre-historic megaliths were transported here from the cliffs of Whales, by boat and land. You can tour by foot quite an expanse of the plains surrounding the site. A 1.5 hour train ride from London, and back (with a quick stop to check out the quaint town of Salisbury) is worth a 1 day trip.
Sherlock Holmes Museum, Baker Street
This museum got me into reading more Brit Lit lately. Sherlock Holmes’ fictitious address-made-actual-space for museum goers really rounds out a London tour. It’s very tiny inside and doesn’t take but 30-45 minutes to see, but is chock full of Holmes goodness and all sorts of detail. If you’re into mystery, forensics and logic puzzles, the gift shop is one of note. Lots of Holmes spin-off wares and plenty of books!
So iconic! To visit in person and watch people try to accomplish what they think is the album cover is quite a comedy to sit upon a curb and enjoy. Everyone wants to strike the posed-but-candid walk of the Fab Four leaving Abbey Road Studios (which is at their backs in the album shot). This is quite a busy road if you go after 8am, so expect to be rushed by honks. The studio is not open to the public except special times of the year for tours (check Abbey Road Studios site), but the Abbey Road Shop is a gift shop and mini museum of sorts, well worth a visit. The fan graffiti lining the walls is also something to enjoy while you watch people hold up traffic.
Roman Baths, Bath, England
The Roman Bath spa is a fantastic, mostly indoor museum which highlights very well what attending this space in ancient times was like. The rest of this town, toured easily on foot, is gorgeous. Another about 2 hour train ride outside of London.
Shakespeare's Globe (London) and Shakespeare's Birthplace at Stratford-Upon-Avon
Shakespeare history, I felt, was a major highlight of my English experience. I’m not a hardcore Shakespeare fan, but the Renaissance, history of the Globe Theater, and walking this medieval town and seeing the house where Shakespeare’s family lived were really remarkable experiences. This year (2023) marks the 400th anniversary of the printing of Shakespeare’s first folio (pictured below), and that is something I doth write home about!
I’ll soon be blogging about the Harry Potter filming locations I was able to scope around in London, but this is a side project for a future film scene map website. If you’d like to catch some as I collect content please follow @filmscenemap
Manda is an Orlando based portrait and wedding photographer specializing in digital effects portraiture.
See more @imagemariastudio