1. Hull’s Submarium
Hull ain’t a bad place to be: it’s the UK City of Culture for 2017 and it boasts the world’s only submarium. Quite how that differs from an aquarium we’re not sure, but The Deep is home to sharks and 3,500 fish including Europe’s only pair of green sawfish. Plus The Museum of Club Culture - another ‘world’s only’ - is nearby in the city’s Fruit Market area.
2. The Jorvik Viking Centre in York
Ragnarok, an epic battle between 300 viking warriors and a host of Norse gods, takes place on 22nd February as part of the 30th annual Jorvik Viking Festival in York. Expect beards, over-acting, and – why not - fireworks. You can see, hear, and smell what it was like to be a rampaging viking at any time of the year though.
3. The Pencil Museum in Keswick
Cumbrian cartoonist Gavin Pollock will be revealing his secrets at the fabled institution this Feb. “Be amazed at the World’s Longest Pencil” declares the website of the home of “pencil perfection”. With an offer like that, &tc…
Ok so it’s always full of rampant Anglophiles from across the US, but this year it’s worth braving the hordes. 2014 marks the 450th anniversary of the bard’s birth, and they’re going all out with the celebrations, including the unveiling of a brand new Jacobean theatre operating by candelight and the world premiere of a new version of Hamlet which kicks off on 23rd April, Willie’s birthday.
5. Northumberland International Dark Sky Park
Northumberland National Park has just been awarded Gold Tier Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association which basically means you can see the stars clearly at night. 25th February to 2nd March marks the next Star Camp when a bunch of astronomers will descend en masse, but you can visit and work out your Andromeda from your Ophiuchus at any time.
6. The Cat Emporium in London
Tea and cake, with cats. We’ve already been through this. Opens February.
7. Manchester City Library
The city institution is set to re-open in the spring as Manchester’s “living room”, featuring new exhibition and creative spaces and a BFI mediatheque.
If there was ever a time to make a beeline to Swansea, this would be it. Dylan Thomas was born here 100 years ago and the city is celebrating his life and work all year. The seaside village of Laugharne nearby, where he lived, is hosting three Dylan Weekends full of poetry, comedy and music, the first of which features John Cooper Clarke and takes place in May.
9. Blenheim Palace
The whole country will be going a bit Siegfried Sassoon during 2014, as it’s 100 years since World War 1 broke out. Get your history in early at Blenheim Palace’s interactive exhibition on the lives of the people affected from Feb 15th.
10. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Have your own pathetic pop at Olympic glory as more and more of the 2012 venues open to the public this year. Budgie smugglers are welcome at The Aquatics Centre from 1st March, that weird red Anish Kapoor structure is open for business from 5th April, and the hockey and tennis centre will be accessible from May.
11. Lee Valley VeloPark
The nearby cycling park will also open in March 2014, allowing cyclists to tackle the road circuit, mountain bike trails and a re-modelled Olympic BMX track.
12. Hotel Football in Manchester
Hotel Football is a new hotel based around football, for football fans, with a football pitch on the roof. If you’re not already split one way or another how about this: it’s on Old Trafford’s doorstep and founded by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. Their previous venture, Café Football, has actually had quite good reviews…
13. Burghley House
The Rat Race Dirty Weekend takes place on 10th May this year, which means in the words of the organisers that “the largest assault course on Earth will be assembled within the grounds of England’s finest Elizabethan Country Estate”. There’s always Tough Mudder if that’s too easy for you.
14. The National Forest Way
It’s hard to believe but there’s a world of trees outside Twitter, and the National Forest Way is set to wend its way through 75 miles of them, from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire.
Drive barefoot with a bellyful of Toblerone if you must. Boutique chain Malmaison, who have been thrusting ‘naughty weekends’ down travellers’ throats in Reading, Manchester and beyond for some time, open up shop this month. A new flight route has just opened up from Stansted and there’s a V&A opening there in 2016 too.
It’s 140 years since the publication of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd and Casey Mulligan and Michael Sheen have seized upon that somewhat arbitrary landmark by making a film adaptation, set in - and showcasing the finest views of - the county. You can explore two of the writer’s houses too: his birthplace and the property he designed himself and took his wife Emma to live in.
17. Devil’s Bridge, Wales
Alongside spots in Aberystwyth and the coastal village of Borth, Devil’s Bridge in deep, dark Wales is the setting for a thriller, Hinterland, that has already been sold to the Danish team behind The Killing. Whether or not the show will live up to its predecessors, a soujourn to somewhere this beautifully bleak is a great way to spend the endless winter.
You don’t need crystal clear water, powdery sand, and coral the colour of heaven to dive: Britain offers numerous murky and cold spots to do the same. English Heritage are working on a series of underwater trails that take in some of the best subaqeuous treasures and wrecks the British Isles has to offer. Meet you at the HMS Colossus.
Tim Chester is Editor of Rough Guides.