Cultural Holidays on the East Coast
Published: Thursday 10th Jul 2014
Written by: Betheny Ellis
If you are looking for a cultural holiday then the east coast of England offers a whole host of attractions and events to plan into your time away. From the Northumberland town of Berwick-upon-Tweed where the artist LS Lowry painted some of his most famous works, to the southern tip of Kent where film director Derek Jarman built an enchanting beach hut at Dungeness, here’s a guide to the cultural delights of the east.
You are spoilt for choice if you want to make your visit to the North East a cultural holiday. In picturesque Berwick-upon-Tweed, England’s most northerly town, visitors can enjoy the Lowry trail – a self-guided tour of sites that appear in the famed artist’s paintings. Known for his pictures featuring matchstick men, LS Lowry visited the walled town on a number of occasions and it inspired some of his finest works.
Not far inland is Kielder Water and Forest Park, a wild space dotted with large outdoor sculptures and unusual works of architecture, including a giant head, a concrete maze and a state-of-the-art observatory. There are acres for children to run around and lots for adults to ponder.
If you find yourself near the resort of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, another sculpture can be found. Called The Couple, it features two people looking out to sea from the golden sands of this attractive town.
The seaside Yorkshire town of Scarborough is home to many attractions that will keep culture lovers busy. The impressive looking Spa venue holds a whole range of events from classical music, jazz and comedy while the elegant Rotunda houses a wealth of interesting exhibits including a gallery and geology museum which tells the story of the coast’s fascinating landscape. Upstairs you’ll find the Rotunda’s best known resident – Gristhorpe Man, a grisly preserved Bronze Age skeleton. Further north at Whitby, fans of literature should take time to visit Whitby Abbey. Overlooking the town, the atmospheric ruins are said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s classic gothic horror Dracula.
If you enjoy a festival then you will feel right at home on the Norfolk coast, which has an excellent calendar of family fun events throughout the summer. Don’t miss Great Yarmouth’s Maritime Festival in September, which celebrates the town’s seafaring connections and features flotillas of tall ships and sea shanties aplenty. The town also hosts the Out There Festival of Street Arts and Circus later in the month – expect light shows, acrobatics and much more besides. There are carnivals in Cromer and Sheringham while the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival is the biggest of its kind in the country and includes themed weekends at Holkham Hall on the north Norfolk coast. And inland is Britain’s first arts festival, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, which dates back to 1772. Its two weeks in May every year offer something to please all artistic tastes.
If you are searching for a cultural holiday then you will find plenty to keep you engaged on the Suffolk coast. A key event here is the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts which takes place every June and is marked by an eclectic mix of classical music performances, most held at nearby Snape Maltings. The festival was founded by famous composer Benjamin Britten whose connection to the area is celebrated by the landmark giant scallop sculpture on Aldeburgh beach, created by artist Maggi Hambling.
Aldeburgh also holds annual literary and poetry festivals, while nearby Southwold – where George Orwell spent many years – has also established a literary festival.
The east Kent coast has become a destination for culture vultures in recent years. Leading the way is Margate where the stunning beachside Turner Contemporary Gallery opened in 2011. Named after the famous painter of seascapes JMW Turner, who regularly visited the town, the gallery is free to enter and houses a year round programme of exhibitions. Also, a must-visit in the seaside town is the Shell Grotto – an underground network of tunnels encrusted with millions of shells that was discovered in the 1830s.
Art-house films are shown at the Astor Theatre in Deal, Ramsgate holds a week-long arts festival in August, while Broadstairs hosts a folk week in the summer. Also check out the Quarterhouse arts centre in the Creative Quarter in Folkstone, which holds a lively programme of talks, comedy and workshops. In the far south-east corner of Kent, the shingle beach at Dungeness is home to an odd assortment of houses including the famous beach hut of the late film director Derek Jarman where his garden of driftwood, sculptures and beach plants is an enchanting find.