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Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Posted by Mike Kasmauskis
21 Feb 2018 10:02 AM
Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Preparing for a trip to the British Isles and wishing you could leave tomorrow?

Well, even though you might have to wait a few weeks or months before you embark on your journey, you don’t have to wait to start enjoying some of the best books, music, movies, and television shows that are from or take place in the United Kingdom and beyond. After all, some of the fun of taking an overseas journey is in the anticipation and preparation.

Here are 9 pop culture experiences you should read, watch, or listen to before your trip to the British Isles:


Read some plays by William Shakespeare, who resided in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Did you know many popular phrases were written by William Shakespeare? “Green-eyed monster,” “wild goose chase,” and “forever and a day” are just a few of the many phrases used today, originating from the playwright’s famous works.

Shakespeare hails from Stratford-Upon-Avon, a tiny town in the middle of England. You can still visit the home in which he was born as well as Anne Hathaway’s cottage—no, not the actress from Les Miserables, but Shakespeare’s wife.

Of course, reading one or more of his plays would be a phenomenal way to prepare for your trip to Jolly Ole England. But if movies are more your thing, specifically romances, try watching the Best Picture winner of 1999, Shakespeare in Love.


Masterpiece’s Victoria follows the early life of Queen Victoria and is filmed in Yorkshire.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

© Elliott Brown

For those missing Downton Abbey on PBS’s “Masterpiece” series, be sure to watch Victoria, which follows the early reign of Queen Victoria. Season One introduces us to a young Victoria, who becomes queen and meets her future husband, Albert.

Victoria is filmed in Yorkshire, one of the cities in which is York. Visiting York will transport you back to medieval times as you walk through The Shambles. Timber-framed buildings, some of which date back to the 14th Century, line the streets.

But the must-see of York is easily York Minster, England’s largest Gothic church. The stunning structure took 250 years to build. Stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes are just a small part of the many ornate details decorating the magnificent cathedral.


Witness the tragic tale of Mary Queen of Scots while watching Reign.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

If you look back at history, so many lives and events really do look like a modern soap opera. The CW took the story of Mary Queen of Scots and created Reign, a popular historical drama, which ran for four seasons.

Mary marries the king of France, who dies shortly after their marriage. She then enters into a competition with her cousin, Elizabeth I, for the English throne. Spoiler alert — Elizabeth eventually has Mary killed.

Although Mary never became the queen of England, many still enjoy visiting her house in Jedburgh, Scotland. There, you can learn more about her tragic life and see artifacts from the time. If Mary’s story is intriguing, be sure to watch Reign before traveling to the Gaelic country.


Travel through time at Edinburgh Castle, just like Claire in Outlander.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Have you heard of the time-traveling sensation, Outlander? Diana Gabaldon’s popular book series became a hit Starz series in 2014, which only increased its fandom.

Outlander follows the life of Claire, who after being a nurse during World War II, reunites with her husband, but then accidentally travels back in time to Scotland in the 1700s. She learns how to adapt to her new century, and meets an interesting cast of characters along the way.

Season three most recently aired and many episodes took place in Scotland’s capital—Edinburgh. Although the show didn’t depict the modern-day city, you’ll be glad you get to see it in the 21st Century.

Edinburgh is full of world-class restaurants, superb shopping, and historical sites, the city’s castle. Get brushed up on your Scottish history and watch Outlander before enjoying this lively capital.


Jam to The Beatles before visiting their hometown of Liverpool.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Asking “What’s your favorite Beatles song?” is like asking “What’s your favorite movie?” It’s a tough question to answer. There are so many hits and deep cuts that you can’t imagine life without.

The Beatles came together in Liverpool, a coastal town in England, known for its very distinct dialect. Enjoy exploring the town and seeing many of the sights made famous by the rock n’ roll band, such as Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane.

If you’re looking for a different way to appreciate the band’s most popular songs, watch the rock musical movie Across the Universe. The movie tells an original story about Jude, who travels to America during a difficult decade in the country’s history. Using the songs by The Beatles, the audience follows Jude through love, sadness, and many friendships.


Romance abounds in movies set in Dublin.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

© Giuseppe Milo

You might think Paris is the most romantic city in Europe, but Dublin may just take the cake as the most romantic city in the British Isles. For instance, many romantic movies take place at or near the Irish capital.

The movie turned Broadway musical, Once, was filmed in Dublin and follows two individuals who make music and fall in love. The film’s song “Falling Slowly” won Best Song at the 80th Academy Awards.

P.S. I Love You follows a young woman whose Irish husband passes but leaves behind many tasks for his wife to complete, including a trip to his homeland. While overseas, she finds romance for the first time since becoming a widow. The movie was filmed just south of Dublin and features Oscar-winner, Hilary Swank.

If movies aren’t enough to prove that Dublin is a romantic city, maybe knowing St. Valentine is buried there will. Bring your Valentine with you to Ireland’s capital and visit some of the one thousand pubs within the city.


Travel through space and time with The Doctor in Wales.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Any sci-fans looking to travel to the British Isles? Then watch the classic television show, Doctor Who, which began in the 1960s and was revamped in 2005, creating a pop culture phenomenon.

The current series of Doctor Who films in Cardiff, Wales. Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and sits on the southern coast. Take time to tour the city’s castle, which was commissioned by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. Over the many centuries, the castle managed to survive many wars and battles. In fact, bomb shelters were built into the castle’s walls during World War II.

So even though you won’t actually go time-traveling with The Doctor, visiting historical Cardiff might just do the trick.


Two of Jane Austen’s heroine-inspired novels take place in Bath.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

How could you visit England and not think of Jane Austen? While she only wrote six novels in full, her stories have made a lasting impression for centuries.

Two of Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, take place in Bath, where Jane, herself, resided for a few years’ time. During your visit, be sure to swing by the Jane Austen Centre to indulge in your favorite author’s life and stories. And don’t forget to read (or watch) at least one of her famous novels.

Bath also is home to hot springs, which the Romans found 2,000 years ago. Stop by the Roman Baths Museum to learn how the ancient people used the power of the springs in their advanced engineering.

Not too far away is the mysterious Stonehenge, a large group of stones strategically placed in a circle. How did they get there? Who put them there? Will we ever know for sure?


Visit the London locations featured in Netflix’s award-winning show, The Crown.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

“Have you watched The Crown?” seems to be the question on everyone’s lips these days. The award-winning Netflix show has stirred up a lot of popularity as it delves deep into the life of Queen Elizabeth when she first becomes queen as well as those surrounding her.

Many of London’s famous sights are featured in the show, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament. Watch the first two seasons before your trip to get a sneak peak at all of the wondrous sights around the capital and get some insight into what it’s like to be a modern monarch.


Time to get watching…

Are you ready to start watching, reading, and listening to the best pop culture the British Isles have to offer? What about seeing these amazing places in person? Click here to request our brochure and start planning your vacation to the UK and Ireland today.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Posted by Mike Kasmauskis
21 Mar 2017 08:00 AM

It would be hard to miss America’s fascination with the British Isles after we fell in love with the Crawley’s on Downton Abbey or watched the rise of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s critically acclaimed hit, The Crown.

While those shows painted beautiful portraits of the English countryside and all the glamour of London, there are so many picturesque spots and fascinating experiences to be found across the pond in the British Isles. Take a look at 15 of our favorites.


1. Tour Oxford, the renowned and ancient University.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Oxford University is the oldest university in Great Britain. While the exact date of foundation is not conclusive, the school was truly established by Henry II in 1167. Famous graduates include former President Bill Clinton, author C.S. Lewis, Dr. Stephen Hawking, and many more.


2. Explore Warwickshire, the birthplace and home of William Shakespeare.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

William Shakespeare was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, nestled within Warwickshire and northwest of London. He spent most of his life there, meeting his love and muse, Anne Hathaway and writing many of his acclaimed plays.

Many Shakespearian landmarks still exist, including Anne Hathaway’s enchanting cottage and New Place, where William Shakespeare spent the remaining years of his life.


3. Walk through “The Shambles” and be transported through time to 14th century England.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

One of the best preserved streets of the United Kingdom, and indeed, perhaps in all of Europe, can be found in York.

Known as “The Shambles,” this street is lined with antiquated timber-framed buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Most of the buildings were meat houses and butcher shops, which is where the term “Shambles” comes from - the medieval word “shamel” means slaughterhouse.

Time travel may only be possible in the movies or on television, but one comes pretty close to it when visiting “The Shambles.”


4. Enjoy a traditional English tea - with cakes and finger sandwiches to boot!

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

You can’t visit the British Isles without partaking in the longstanding tradition of Afternoon Tea.

Since the 1840s, Brits have relaxed and socialized with tea between the lunch and dinner hours. Often served with cakes, scones, and small finger-sized sandwiches, afternoon tea is a must when visiting the British Isles.


5. See all that the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, has to offer.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

London may be the capital city on the southern end of the British Isles, but Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bruh) is the capital city of the north.

While there, walk the Royal Mile and see many famous Scottish landmarks, including the mighty Edinburgh Castle, Parliament, and Holyrood, home of Mary, Queen of Scots. After seeing the many famous structures of the capital city, take time to stroll through Edinburgh’s idyllic gardens, Princes Street Gardens and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.


6. Enchant yourself with the beauty of Grasmere, or as poet William Wordsworth described it, “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”


After visiting the rolling hills, tranquil meadows, and glassy ponds of Grasmere, William Wordsworth composed his poem, “A Farewell,” noting that the land was “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found,” (read his poem here).

With that recognition, how could you not at least take a peek?


7. Walk the same halls that the Royals have walked over many centuries.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Castles dot the British Isles from Great Britain to Ireland, dating back many centuries.

Dublin Castle was built in the 13th century and is still a major governmental center and open for viewing.

Edinburgh Castle suffered many battles—rebuilt so many times that it contains many different architectural styles. Here are 10 facts that might surprise you about Edinburgh Castle.


8. Visit and learn to pronounce Europe’s longest-named city: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

This Welsh town’s name contains 58 letters and is shortened to Llanfairpwll, or Llanfair PG. The name means “Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”.

Want to get some practice saying it before you go? Watch a weatherman flawlessly pronounce the city’s name it its entirety.


9. Sip Ireland’s famous dark beer at the Guinness Brewery.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Based in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse is located in the same place as the original brewery that opened in 1876.

Learn about the company’s history as well as the process used to brew the black ale. And, of course, enjoy sampling the product right where it is made - much better than from a can or bottle!


10. Admire the artistry and reverence of the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells consists of the four Gospels written in Latin and accompanied by elaborate illustrations. The book dates back to around 800 AD and is famous for its beautiful and ornate design.

You can find it by visiting Trinity College in Dublin, which followed in the footsteps of Oxford and Cambridge and has been an educational institution since 1592.


11. Gaze the gorgeous great coast of Ireland at the Ring of Kerry.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Ireland’s famous green coast can best be seen at the Ring of Kerry, located at the Iveragh Peninsula. The “Ring” is a scenic, circular drive around the peninsula.

Be sure to bring your camera (or at least a smartphone!) as you’ll want to capture the incredible landscape.


12. Kiss the Blarney Stone and get the gift of eloquence.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle you will receive the gift of elegant speech. Although the origin of the stone had been debated until recently, the power of the stone has never been questioned.

Wives, you may want to make sure your husband gets a good long kiss!


13. Survey the mysterious Stonehenge in person.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Stonehenge, located on the southern end of Great Britain, is one of man’s greatest mysteries. Who built it? What purpose did it serve? And most mysterious of all - just how was it constructed? One thing’s for certain, Stonehenge is an unmissable landmark of the British Isles.


14. Behold the splendor of Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II resides.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history (she celebrated a Sapphire Jubilee this year), has been living at Buckingham Palace since 1952.

When you visit, you might even witness the Changing the Guard ceremony when one regiment takes over for another.


15. Journey through London, one of the world’s most fascinating cities.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

London is a fantastic mix of age-old sites and modern innovations. Take, for instance, the London Eye, a monstrous state-of-the-art ferris wheel providing roughly 40 minutes of city views - juxtaposed to view historical Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament.

See the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London or go shopping for your own jewels at Harrods, the luxurious department store. Whatever your fancy, London is sure to please.


Final thoughts...

The British Isles aren’t just a group of islands that make up the United Kingdom. They are culture, history, one-of-a-kind views - a land that transcends time. For such a geographically small part of the world, the British Isles make their mark as a place you really must visit at least once in your lifetime.

See something that speaks to your inner Anglophile? An experience you don’t want to miss? Get in touch today and see how easy it is to picture yourself in the British Isles this year.

Walking Tours of London, England

Posted by Editor3
12 Jul 2016 02:41 PM
Heading to London but don't know what to do? Read over this list of different sights to see in this great U.K. city

View from the top of the Victoria Tower, the lesser known of the two towers of the Houses of Parliament, towards Big Ben, the River Thames and the London Eye, Westminster, London, London, England.

A Small Slice of London

Posted by Wendy Brunner
30 Oct 2013 11:00 AM

London is a notorious English city that provides a visitor many opportunities to experience unique arts, history, and culture.

The most famous attractions include Picadilly Circus, the Tower of London, and London Bridge.

However, if one finds themselves short on time, the area of St. James Park holds many of London’s fascinating sites. This area includes Buckingham Palace and several museums that showcase much of London’s history.

Buckingham Palace

Begin the day by watching the ceremonious Changing of the Guards. This does not happen every day so be sure to check the schedule. From there you can then set about on foot and spend an afternoon exploring the Queen’s neighborhood.

Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of the monarch since 1837.  Most of the year visitors can only view the outside of the palatial home, but during the Queen’s annual retreat to her summer castle in Balmoral, Scotland, the lavish state rooms of Buckingham are opened for tours. You can tell if the Queen is home by the color of the Royal Standard flying above the building.

The Guards Museum

A stroll through St. James Park brings you to the Guards Museum. The museum is small but rich with the history of ‘Her Majesty’s Household Division’ which has the responsibility of guarding The Sovereign and The Royal Palaces. As regal as the guard traditions are, it is interesting to learn that these regiments are more than just ceremonial guards. They are first and foremost combat soldiers who support the UN, NATO, and protect the British people.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is the largest Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales; this 700-year-old building also serves as the official Coronation Church of England. The church is a living landmark as thousands of people attend daily worship services inside its hallowed walls. The coronation church has also been the burial ground and memorial site for many historical British figures for the past thousand years.

Churchill War Rooms

Located across St. James Park and Buckingham Palace is a unique museum, the Cabinet War Rooms. This interesting display appeals to war historians and Anglophiles alike. The museum is the site of underground rooms used by Winston Churchill to direct the British troops during World War II.

The rooms have been left in place as they were during the war and the Blitz of the city of London. The furniture, the maps, and the Transatlantic Telephone Room that connected directly to American President Franklin Roosevelt present visitors with the realistic feelings of the time.

Trafalgar Square

One cannot go to London without visiting Trafalgar Square. Located in central London, Trafalgar Square was named for the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory over France. At the center is the impressive statue called Nelson’s Column, guarded by four tremendous lions at its base. Trafalgar Square is used as a meeting place for many locals; it also holds many celebrations for London, such as New Year’s and Christmas ceremonies.   When in Trafalgar Square, you will be able to get a taste of what the modern city contains, along with getting the feel of popular London history.

Visit these attractions and more on either the HEART OF EUROPE with London Tour or the Heart of the British Isles Tour by Image Tours, Inc.!

English Gardens of the Cotswolds: Outstanding Natural Beauty

04 Sep 2013 11:09 AM
A trip to England typically involves a stop in London to see famous sites like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, or the British Museum for all of its art treasures.

But, travelers rarely think to include a visit to some of England's most famous and spectacular gardens which boast some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere.

Plan to spend at least a few days in the Cotswolds for a rare botanical experience.


About the Cotswolds Area

The Cotswolds holds some of the most picturesque gardens in all of England. The landscape was originally established for sheep grazing. Now, the area prospers as a mixture of arable farmland and livestock pastures.

As a designated "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty," there is no urban territory in the Cotswolds. Chipping Campden, other small market towns, and lovely little villages, such as Broadway, are the only “condensed” zones that you will find.

During April and May, the Vale of Evesham, and area around Cotswolds that is famous for its orchards, is filled with flower blossoms from apple, pear, and plum trees. Throughout June and July, hollyhocks bloom everywhere, even in the cracks of sidewalks and footpaths. All summer and continuing through late fall, expect to see cottage walls and fences covered with brightly-colored roses in full bloom.

The temperate climate and traditionally prosperous domain, allowed for majestic manor homes and other fine houses to be built out of the land’s beautiful honey-colored limestone. The magnificent gardens of these homes were designed by England's most famous arboretum designers, including Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, and William Kent.

Spetchley Parks Gardens consists of 30 acres of property that belong to the John Berkeley family.

This haven is filled with blooming treasures from all over the world. The estate's history dates back to the Tudor period. At the beginning of the 19th century, noted London architect John Tasker designed the Berkeley family Georgian mansion, a Palladian-style structure made from Bath stone.

The first dwelling on the property was located on the north end of the garden pool. The Tudor home and its protective moat had been passed through many wealthy families, each one adding some unique characteristics before Rowland Berkeley, a wealth banker and wool merchant purchased it in 1605. He then passed the home on to his son, Sir Robert Berkeley.

The younger Berkeley was a Royalist judge under King Charles I. In 1651, just before the Battle of Worcester, a band of unhappy Scottish Presbyterians and Royalists burned the house to the ground to prevent Cromwell from seizing it for his headquarters. The stables were converted into what became the estate until 1811 when the Georgian mansion was completed.

Despite the fact that an outbreak of Dutch elm disease in the 1970's killed the famous avenues of trees, the rest of the sprawling parkland of the 17th century is essentially the same. Generations of Berkeley family members have developed the gardens; Berkeley and his son expanded the sizeable collection.

A visit to the Cotswolds area will provide visitors with a glimpse into the lives of the villagers surrounded by rolling hills and breathtaking landscape in the spectacular English countryside. Take the opportunity to learn the history of these magnificent estates and their horticulture and love of gardening.




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