Portsmouth, EnglandThe birthplace of Charles Dickens is England’s only island city with a long and significant naval history. Portsmouth is home to the Historic Dockyard, one of the top ten visitor attractions in the UK and home of the world’s oldest dry dock still in operation. It also houses such famous ships as the HMS Warrior (Britain’s first iron-hulled warship), the Mary Rose, (Henry VIII’s ship that sank in 1545 and was raised in 1982) and Lord Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. Most of Portsmouth’s attractions are related to its naval history. Fort Nelson is home to the Royal Armouries Museum, Portsdown Hill features several Victorian-era forts, Fort Purbrook and Fort Widley are activities centers and there are a large number of war memorials located around the city. A striking recent addition to Portmouth’s skyline is the Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays. Completed in 2005, the tower is 560 feet tall. Other points of interest include the Blue Reef Aquarium, the Cumberland House, Southsea Castle, Clarence Pier Amusement Park and Genesis Expo, England’s first and only creationist museum. Southsea Seafront boasts 4 miles of seaside promenade and the Renaissance Trail around the Millennium Promenade offers a chance to take a self-guided, scenic walk.
Dartmouth, EnglandThe many medieval and Elizabethan streetscapes of Dartmouth have long made it a tourist destination. Set on the banks of the River Dart and a deep water port, historically Dartmouth has been of strategic importance as far back as the Crusades of 1147 and 1190. The town is a mixture of narrow lanes and stone stairways. One of the most attractive old streets in Dartmouth is Smith Street. It is also the first street in Dartmouth to be recorded by name. Full of historic sites, must-see places include St. Saviour’s Church, constructed in 1335, the two fortified castles, Dartmouth Castle (1481) and Kingswear Castle, that protect the mouth of the River Dart, the remains of the Gallants Bower fort, built in 1643, and the Cherub Pub, dating back to the 14th century. The area around Dartmouth features some of the cleanest beaches in England, like the award-winning Blackpool Sands and Slapton Ley, now a natural reserve. National Trust properties include the art deco mansion, Coleton Fishacre, with beautiful gardens and scenic views, and Agatha Cristie’s home, Greenway. The South West Coast Path, which runs 630 miles, offers great opportunities for bird watching and access to several small coves. Also noteworthy are The Golden Hind Ship Museum and Bayard’s Cove Fort.
Falmouth, EnglandFamous for its port on the River Fal, Falmouth’s proximity to both sheltered and unsheltered waters and its sandy beaches have made it a popular tourist destination. It forms the third deepest natural harbor in the world and is the deepest in Western Europe. Falmouth’s chief attraction is its 17th-century harbor with many waterfront attractions, boat yards and the National Seal Sanctuary - a local rescue center for seals, sea lions and otters. Attractive golden beaches include Trefuis Beach, with excellent views of Falmouth, intimate Swanpool Beach, and Gyllyngvase Beach which overlooks Pendennis Castle, the largest castle in all of Cornwall, dating back to the middle of the 1500s. Florence Nightingale stayed at Falmouth’s Greenbank Hotel, where her name can be viewed in the register. Must-see sites include the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, home to 12 separate galleries displaying a host of information on Falmouth’s shipbuilding days, the award-winning Falmouth Art Gallery, Pendennis Castle, and All Saint’s Church, whose foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Cornwall in 1887. Attractions near Falmouth include small-town Helston with a Folk Museum and roller-coaster theme park and Truro, an elegant cathedral north of Falmouth.
Scilly Isles, EnglandInhabited since the Stone Age, the Scilly Isles form an archipelago of five inhabited islands and rocky islets whose chief agricultural product is daffodils. They are famous among birdwatchers for their ability to attract rare birds from all over the world, are well-populated by seals and porpoises and the only British home of the Lesser White-toothed Shrew. In 1975, the islands were designated as an Area of Outstanding Beauty. At certain low tides the sea becomes shallow enough for people to walk between some of the islands. In addition to the white quartz sand beaches and sheer rugged cliffs, sites to see include the Isles of Scilly Museum, with historical island exhibits and Bronze Age artifacts, Abbey Gardens, botanical gardens featuring sub-tropical plants growing outdoors, Cromwell’s Castle, a coastal gun tower built in 1651. The largest isle of St. Mary’s, only 2 miles across, offers walkers a coastal path that covers the majority of the island, and reveals lovely beaches. St Agnes features a lighthouse built in 1680 and the island’s only pub, the quaint Turk’s Head. Other sites are the ancient burial grounds, Tresco and Valhalla, with an impressive collection of figureheads from ship wrecks.
Milford Haven / Pembrokeshire, WalesSituated near the mouth of the River Cleddau, Milford Haven is the name of both the town and one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the United Kingdom. Formerly a bustling fishing port and naval dockyard, Milford Haven is now one of Europe’s largest oil ports. Used as a port since the Middle Ages, the town was founded in 1790. Attractions in Milford Haven include Fort Hubberstone, built in 1863 to defend the port, and named, in 2011, as the fifth most endangered archaeological site in the UK. It occupies an impressive position overlooking the town. The ruins of an observatory, whose construction was abandoned in 1809 can be found in Hakin. The observatory was originally intended to be part of "The College of King George the Third founded at Milford". The town’s oldest building, the Custom House, houses the town museum, which focuses on the maritime history of the town. Built in 1797, it was originally used for the storage of whale oil waiting to be shipped to London. Walkers will want to take in the panoramic views along The Rath, a landscaped street high above the harbor.
Waterford / Dunmore East, IrelandBoasting to be Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford City was founded by Viking traders in 914. The city consists of several cultural quarters, the oldest of which is the Viking Triangle. This part of the city is surrounded by the original 10th century fortifications, is triangular in shape with its apex at the most recognizable building in Waterford, Reginald's Tower, a civic museum, the oldest urban building in Ireland and believed to be the first building in Ireland to use mortar. Viking Triangle also houses Bishop’s Palace, with museum items from 1700-1970, and a second museum next door which will house medieval pieces, Christchurch Cathedral, the U-shaped Theatre Royal built in 1876 and The House Of Waterford Crystal, with the world’s largest selection of Waterford Crystal and a factory tour to see all aspects of crystal production. Waterford's oldest pub is just outside the Viking Triangle. T & H Doolans has been open for over 300 years. Waterford Municipal Art Gallery presents over 200 painting including pieces form Jack B. Yeats, Paul Henry and Charles Lamb. Other main focal points of Waterford are John Roberts Square and Arundel Square, pedestrian commercial centers. The River Suir, flowing through Waterford, has provided the city with a long maritime history as one of Ireland’s major ports, where the largest fleet of iron steamers in the world was built in the mid-1850s and 60s. Nature lovers will appreciate the dramatic coastline around Waterford with 49 beaches, luscious river valleys, lakes and two accessible mountain ranges. There is also the People’s Park, Waterford’s largest and best park.
Holyhead, WalesLocated on Holy Island, Holyhead is connected to Anglesey via a large causeway and is best known for being a busy ferry port with the longest breakwater in Europe at 2.5 miles (4 km). Archaeological evidence has shown that people have been sailing between Holyhead and Ireland for over 4,000 years. The town center is full of good places to eat and nearby is St.Cybi’s Church, on the site where a 3rd Century Roman fort stood. The Holyhead Maritime Museum is housed in Wale’s oldest lifeboat house, where information on the over 100 shipwrecks in the vicinity can be found. Holyhead is also home to one of the first churches of the Jedi Religion, founded in 2008 and the Ucheldre Centre, their arts center located in the chapel of an old convent. Around Holyhead are breathtaking scenery, delightful walks and beaches and Holyhead Mountain, the highest point at 710 ft. Views from the summit include the Isle of Man, the Mourne Mountains in Ireland, Snowdonia and Cumbria, and it is also the site of an ancient fort and ruins from the 2nd to the 4th century. At the southern end of the mountain is an automatic lighthouse definitely worth seeing. South Stack was built in 1808 and is noted for its antique walls and a state-of-the-art light beam that can be seen for 20 miles. The cliffs around South Stack are home to thousands of birds and gray seals. Other sites to see include the Castles of Conwy, Caernarvon, and Harlech.
Dublin, IrelandThere are so many things to see and do in Dublin that this incomplete list is intended to whet your appetite to see this charming city located at the mouth of River Liffey. Landmarks include Dublin Castle, first founded in 1204, the Spire of Dublin, their newest monument, a conical stainless steel spire standing 398 ft. tall, the old, iron footbridge, Ha’penny Bridge, and Trinity College Library which houses the Book of Kells, an illustrated manual dating back to 800 AD. Other sites to see are the Mansion House, the Anna Livia monument, Christ Church Cathedral, the Custom House and Poolbeg Towers. Explore medieval Dublin at Dublinia & the Viking World, a heritage center depicting life in Viking times, life onboard a Viking warship, and medieval burial grounds. Visit Number Twenty Nine, a Georgian House Museum of rooms furnished with original artifacts from 1790 to 1820. One of Ireland’s most popular attractions is the Guinness Storehouse, which has been home to Guinness beer since 1759, and was recently remodeled into the shape of a giant pint of Guinness, as well as the Old Jameson Distillery, where water, barley and yeast are magically transformed into Jameson Irish Whiskey. Dublin’s rich literary tradition has produced four Nobel Prize winners and many internationally renowned writers like Jonathan Swift, Richard Sheridan, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, William Yeats, and James Joyce, whose works and histories can be found at the Dublin Writers Museum, opened in 1991 in an 18th century mansion. Ireland’s No. 1 visitor attraction is the Dublin Zoo, a 70-acre park that is one of the world’s oldest zoos, home to over 600 animals. Get some exercise at the Croke Park Experience where interactive and touch screen technology let visitors test their own hurling and Gaelic football skills.