Hull Hits the Headlines

hull-startHull offers groups a big welcome and in preparation for its year as UK City of Culture 2017, the city is being revitalised and transformed. Brenda Watkinson discovers the choices for groups in the months ahead.

Located on the  coast in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull was founded on the banks of the River Humber in the 12th century. It soon established itself as a thriving port through which wool was exported to Northern Europe, and raw materials were imported from the Baltic countries. Trade declined during the 16th and 17th centuries and since then Hull has been a market town, military supply port, trading hub, fishing and whaling centre and industrial metropolis. Its rich past and many contemporary achievements led to its designation as UK City of Culture 2017, and as a result the city has been transformed thanks to the City Council’s huge investment programme aimed at improving the public realm. During 2017 there will be new public art installations – many will use the city’s impressive maritime architecture as a backdrop to add to the experience – and an innovative artistic and cultural programme of events will run throughout the year.


Exploring Hull

Hull is a great city to discover on foot with its historic Old Town, Fruit Market and shopping zones all within easy reach of each other. A guided tour is an excellent way to learn about the city’s fascinating heritage and for groups of 10 or more, there are several to choose from. In fact, Visit Hull and East Yorkshire offer six Shop Ahoy! packages, each following a standard itinerary but with options available for each element of the visit allowing GTOs to tailor the trip to their groups’ requirements. Packages include coach parking, welcome on arrival, morning coffee, a walking or coach tour with an English Heritage accredited guide, and lunch. For first time visitors, the original Shop Ahoy! package is a good choice taking in the Old Town – home to the Museums Quarter – Hull Marina, Victoria Pier, Trinity Square and many hidden alleyways and courtyards. After lunch, your members will be able to spend the afternoon at leisure exploring either Hull’s free museums in the Museums Quarter, which connects via a pedestrian bridge to the Marina and Hull’s premiere attraction, The Deep, or in the Fruit Market where galleries, restaurants and attractions can be found. For a little retail therapy, head to one of the modern shopping centres or wander through the Hepworth Arcade, a Grade II Listed covered arcade, where Messrs Marks and Spencer opened one of their first penny stores. It’s still home to local traders including the famous, 80-year old, Dinsdale’s Joke and Trick Shop.

As you tour the city, you will undoubtedly hear about William Wilberforce, an MP for Hull and Yorkshire, who was responsible for leading the fight that led to the abolition of slavery. His birthplace is now the Wilberforce House Museum and his former school, Hull Grammar School, is the Hands on History Museum. To find out more about Hull’s important son, the tour Walking with Wilberforce is also offered as a Shop Ahoy! package.
Full-day itineraries are available such as the Craft Odyssey package, which starts with a tour of the Yorkshire Brewing Company and a chance to taste some of their specialist beers. After lunch at the Mission Public House, the two-hour guided Hull Ale Trail takes in the city’s most historic and architecturally important public houses including Ye Olde White Harte, Ye Olde Black Boy and The George. It’s also worth noting that the CAMRA Real Ale Festival Hull will take place from 27th to 29th April 2017. Other full-day itineraries include Discover Larkin, Fishy Foray and Ecclesiastical Architecture.


Maritime Hull

At the heart of Hull Marina is the spectacular aquarium The Deep, which tells the amazing story of the world’s oceans through stunning marine life, interactive and audio-visual presentations, and is home to 3,500 fish including magnificent sharks and rays. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more.

Continuing on a maritime theme, the whaler’s craft of Scrimshaw is told at Hull’s Maritime Museum. The Museum is housed in the beautiful Victorian Dock Offices in Queen Victoria Square, designed by Christopher G Wray, and originally opened in 1871. The collections are divided into three main categories – whaling, fishing and the merchant trade – and concentrate on Hull’s maritime activities from the late 18th century to the present.

hull-truck-thaetreHull 2017 – UK City of Culture

Hull 2017 is a wide-ranging, multi-art form programme, which will bring 365 days of transformative arts and culture to neighbourhoods citywide. National and local artists, performers and cultural organisations will create an extraordinary variety of work aimed at all audiences whether from Yorkshire, Britain or overseas. There’s something for groups and independent visitors alike and it will re-enforce Hull’s status as a first rate destination for culture lovers and for those wanting to experience something a little bit different.

Amongst highlights is the reopening of the Ferens Gallery, one of Britain’s finest regional art galleries, and it will feature the newly renovated panel painting by Pietro Lorenzetti – Christ between Saints Paul and Peter. Located in the heart of the city centre, the gallery’s forthcoming shows will include five of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes series as well as the Turner Prize.

The 2017 line-up of classical and popular music at Hull City Hall and at the refurbished Middleton Hall, part of Hull University, will suit a range of tastes. The Hallé, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras will all perform in the city and Opera North will premiere a new commission – and musical installation – that turns the iconic Humber Bridge into a piece of music.

Theatre lovers will be able to enjoy new work at Hull Truck Theatre, including the world premiere of The Hypocrite by award-winning Hull born playwright, Richard Bean (of One Man, Two Guvnors fame), which is a co-commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a new production of Richard III.

The 2017 artistic programme is entitled ‘A City for all Seasons’ and has four phases, each with something distinctive and intriguing to say about Hull and its place in the world. The year-long celebration of history, connections, culture and diversity will conclude with a view of Hull’s future as a ‘city reborn’ in the Northern Powerhouse. The first season, ‘Made in Hull’, runs from January to March, and will welcome the world to the city with the aim of shaking up people’s preconceptions.Curated by award-winning documentary film maker Sean McAllister, it will see artists using large scale projection on buildings, illuminated skylines, soundscapes, shop windows and live performance to mark the last 70 years of the city.

hull-cocThis will be followed by ‘Roots & Routes’ (April to June), which will explore Hull’s unique place in a constantly changing world. The summer season ‘Freedom’ (July to September) is an excuse to rip up the rule book, allowing people to create, debate, reflect and re-imagine on their own terms, while ‘Tell the World’ (October to December) looks to the future.

The Maltese Connection


Malta’s traditional Luzzu fishing boats.

The Mediterranean island of Malta, sitting between Italy and North Africa, is a melting pot of different cultures and influences. Abbe Bates visits to discover what to include on a group trip.

alta is the largest of the Maltese islands, which also include Gozo and Comino. Its strategic position in the Mediterranean means it has had numerous invaders over the centuries, giving it a rich and vibrant history that could fill a visit on its own. When looking at accommodation, it is advisable to use four or five-star hotels for your group, as the standard below that can be patchy. You can get some good value deals and there are a choice of locations, from the resort towns of St Julien’s, Sliema and St Paul’s Bay to the historic capital Valletta. The climate is pleasant all year round, with temperatures dipping to not much below the teens Celsius, even in winter.

The two main languages on the island are English and Maltese, and the Maltese language reflects the different influences on the island, largely Semitic in origin but using the Latin alphabet, with a smattering of French words picked up during Napoleon’s reign and English from its time under British rule.


An aerial view of the Grand Harbour in Valletta.

Valletta and the Knights of St John

Malta’s capital Valletta is a ‘must-see’ whilst on the island and it is certainly worth booking a guide for a walking tour or to join your coach. With its grid-like layout and limestone buildings, it was built in 1566 by the Knights of St John, who play an important part in Malta’s story and still exist today, with modern connections to organisations such as St John’s Ambulance in the UK.    

This Catholic order of hospitallers arrived on the island in 1530 and fought off an invasion by the Ottomans known as the ‘Great Siege’ in 1565 before founding Valletta to help fortify the island, naming it after their leader, Grand Master La Valette.

There are numerous places to visit on Malta connected to the Knights of St John. St John’s Co-Cathedral, in particular, includes two famous paintings by Caravaggio in its Oratory, as well as a beautiful interior and many of the tombs of the Knights. You can also visit the Grand Master’s Palace, with its Armoury of around 6,000 pieces and impressive State Rooms featuring Gobelin tapestries. Those looking for a religious theme to a tour are, in fact, very well catered for, with over 350 churches across the islands.

For a very good overview of Malta and its history, Malta 5D is a multi-media audio visual show in Valletta that takes about 15 minutes and provides a good starting point to a visit to the islands.

An insight into the nobility of Malta is given at the well-presented Casa Rocca Piccola, a 16th-century palace still lived in by the family

, who will personally escort groups around the site, and also provide Champagne evening tours. Be sure to meet the resident macaw and terrapin in the courtyard!

Picturesque and wide-ranging views can be taken in from the Baracca Gardens over the Grand Harbour and you will find the Saluting Battery here, where daily gun firings are made at 12pm and 4pm.


The Grand Master’s Palace.

Valletta is European Capital of Culture in 2018, and for more details of events taking place, see the panel on page 44.

Across the harbour, easily accessible on a boat cruise, is the town of Vittoriosa, where the Knights of St John made their home before they built Valletta. You can still see some of the auberges or inns where they stayed. A walking tour will reveal peaceful streets with houses that are slowly being refurbished – look out for the intricate doorknockers in the shape of fish
and dolphins!

Mdina and Rabat

A visit to Mdina is also a highlight of any trip to Malta. On the way, it is worth stopping at one of the oldest villages on the island, Naxxar, and visiting the 18th-century Palazzo Parisio. It was added to during the 19th century and houses some beautifully decorative rooms and deceptively big gardens as well as an adjoining restaurant, Luna.     

Mdina itself has a history dating back more than 4,000 years and was the old capital of Malta before Valletta was built. It is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and is often known as the ‘silent city’, mainly because of its lack of cars and subsequent tranquil atmosphere. Winding your way around its narrow streets, you will find numerous restaurants and cafes, as well as shops selling local crafts including Mdina Glass; from the top of its walls, you get a great view of the island.


The gardens at Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar.

It is said that apostle St Paul lived in Mdina after he was shipwrecked on the islands, and you will find a number of attractions dedicated to him in neighbouring Rabat, including St Paul’s Grotto, where he is believed to have founded the first Christian community on Malta, and St Paul’s Catacombs, a maze of underground Roman cemeteries that represent the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity on Malta. Rabat was an important site during the Roman period and you can also visit the Roman villa here, Domus Romana, with its fine mosaics.


Intricate mosaic patterns at Domus Romana.

When on a trip to Mdina and Rabat, the nearby Meridiana Wine Estate is perfect for groups. The attraction provides a tour, which includes a visit to the fermentation room and underground cellar as well as a wine tasting and lunch, which can be enjoyed either inside or on the outdoor terraces. Here you can sample the red, white and rose wines produced at the vineyard, as well as buying the produce in the on-site shop.

Wartime in Malta

Due to its significant geographic position, Malta played key roles in both World War One and Two, especially as at that time it was under British rule. During World War One, the island effectively became a hospital and cared for hundreds of thousands of injured Allied soldiers including those from the Gallipoli campaign, earning the nickname the ‘nurse of the Mediterranean’. During World War Two, the island suffered another siege by enemy forces, with bombers based in Sicily subjecting it to some of the heaviest bombardments of the war during 1942. This almost crippled the island but it held out and in 1943 became the Allied base for the invasion of Sicily. The whole population was awarded the George Cross by King George V for their bravery during this period.    

salute to the battery

The Saluting Battery in Valletta.

The Malta at War Museum in Vittoriosa gives an insight into daily life on Malta during World War Two through original artefacts from the time, multi-sensory displays and original wartime footage. There is also a viewing of an underground air shelter included with a visit.

Across the harbour in Valletta, the Lascaris War Rooms give an excellent idea of how Allied operations were conducted from Malta during World War Two. The original rooms are housed within a network of tunnels, displayed as they would have looked at the time, and an informative film helps you to understand Malta’s role in the conflict. From the Saluting Battery in Valletta, which includes a restored Artillery Store and Gunpowder Magazine, you can take a War HQ Tunnel Tour too to explore the World War Two underground tunnels further.   

For more World War Two connections, in Mosta, the town’s 19th-century Dome houses a replica of the bomb that crashed through the roof in 1942 during the aerial bombardment of Malta, when the church was crowded with people sheltering from the action. Miraculously, it did not explode and no-one was killed.

At Ta’ Qali, a former Royal Air Force station, meanwhile, the Malta Aviation Museum houses a collection of aircraft that includes wartime planes such as the Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX and the Hawker Hurricane IIa.

With all this history on Malta, it is easy to see how you can design an itinerary ideally suited to those with a particular interest in wartime heritage.

Prehistoric temples

Further back into history and the islands of both Malta and Gozo are the sites of imposing prehistoric temples now on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with Valletta and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.     

Reached by a short ferry journey from Malta, the Ggantija Temples are considered the oldest surviving free-standing monuments in the world and are believed to have been built between 3600-3000BC, pre-dating both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. A tour of this site will allow you to marvel at the sheer size and scale of the blocks.


The prehistoric Hagar Qim.

Whilst on Gozo, make sure to visit the picturesque coastal swimming sites and viewpoints such as the Azure Window at Dwejra Point and the Bay of Xlendi. You can also make the trip over to the smaller island of Comino from Gozo, which is car-free so ideal for walkers, and swim in the Blue Lagoon.

Hagar Qim is the main prehistoric site on Malta, dating from a similar period to the Ggantija Temples. A tour will reveal how the stones are aligned for the summer solstice and intriguing features such as table altars. There is an onsite visitor centre showing a short film that gives further insight into the temples. The site overlooks the islet of Fifla and adjacent to it is another temple, Mnajdra. Not far away is another beauty spot, the Blue Grotto, an ideal stop for taking pictures as well as boat trips.

wine estate

Traditional Maltese food and drink at the Meridiana Wine Estate.

Maltese food and drink

Traditional Maltese food is making something of a comeback on the island, and is often described as typical peasant food, with favourites such as ‘pastizzi’ – flaky pastry parcels filled with ricotta or peas – sold in abundance on the streets and in cafes. Dishes such as Lampuki Pie (fish pie), Bragioli (beef olives) and Bigilla (a thick pate of broad beans in garlic) are delicacies to try as is the freshly caught fish on Gozo and in the wonderful restaurants and markets in Marsaxlokk, the largest fishing village in Malta and a great place to spot the traditional Maltese fishing boats, the Luzzus.

As well as the Maltese wine, be sure to sample the local beer on Malta, Cisk (pronounced chisk) too.

Malta events

A host of international events take place on the Maltese Islands every year, including the Malta International Fireworks Festival in April, the Malta Jazz Festival in July and the Malta International Arts Festival in July and August, as well as popular sporting events such as the Malta Marathon in February and the Gozo Half Marathon in April. For more details on events in Malta, visit

You will also find lots of cultural events including exhibitions, theatre and music planned for 2018 during Valletta’s tenure as European Capital of Culture. Visit for more information.


The Malta Jazz Festival.

Planning your visit

I travelled to Malta with Brightwater Holidays, the Fife-based tour operator, who in conjunction with the Malta Tourism Authority provided an excellent introduction to the island, its culture and cuisine.    

We flew with Air Malta, currently planning 30 weekly scheduled flights from seven UK airports to the island during the coming summer season. The airline offers flexible pricing, including one free piece of luggage and 10kgs of hand-luggage per person, as well as a complimentary snack and small bottle of water onboard.

Our guide during the trip was the excellent Josianne Lenicker who provided a varied and interesting commentary throughout our visit.

Brightwater is a major provider of tailor-made travel for groups and arranges holidays for all types, ranging from social groups to National Trust members centres, NADFAS and U3A, to name just a few. The company also works with many incoming overseas groups. It creates programmes to any specification and is happy to provide quotations and suggested itineraries for groups of any size on request – there is no minimum number of participants. Email or telephone 01334 657155 to request further details or ask for a group tour quotation.

Full page fax printFACT FILE



DISTANCE FROM THE UK 2,553 kilometres


SIZE 316km2 (total area of the Maltese archipelago

Some pictures courtesy of ©

The Royal Heritage Route

Marienburg Castle

Marienburg Castle Pattensen-Schulenberg.

The 300th anniversary of the accession of Georg Ludwig of Hanover, Germany to the British throne as King George I is the perfect occasion for groups to discover the cultural connections between the two countries, and to visit Germany to explore the magnificent castles and towns where the royal families ruled, lived and socialised.

The Hanoverian accession to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland is being celebrated throughout 2014 with special events in London, including an exhibition at Buckingham Palace, and in castles and museums in the state of Lower Saxony, Germany. To help groups experience the celebrations in Germany, the Royal Heritage Route has been developed as a way to explore the region taking in the sumptuous royal palaces, castles and gardens at the same time. On the following pages you will find an overview of what’s taking place and why. Plus we include a fascinating ‘Who’s Who‘ introducing the Hanoverian Dynasty – George I George II, George III, George IV and William IV and their families, – with some quirky anecdotes bringing these historic monarchs to life, which is based on extensive research by Mark Goodwin, Managing Director of specialist tour operator Golden Compass.



The historic city of Hanover, where George I was born in 1660, is leading the celebrations and at the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, groups will discover one of Europe’s most beautiful baroque gardens. These are a good starting point for the Royal Heritage Route since King George I’s mother, Sophia, loved the gardens, which surrounded the summer home of first the Guelph and then the Hanover family, famously saying, ‘The garden is my life’. She supervised their design, which was inspired by the gardens of the Sun King, Louis XIV, with magnificent fountains and baroque ornamentation in the Great Garden, and many special areas including the English styled garden, the Georgengarten, and the Berggarten – with its displays of stunning orchids and tropical plants. During the summer of 2014 numerous artistic, cultural, theatrical and other events will take place within the gardens, where you can still easily imagine George I strolling around the paths.

As part of the 300th anniversary Herrenhausen Palace, which was destroyed in 1943, has been recreated and it now includes the Palace Museum. During 2014 the museum will be one of five venues – four in Hanover and one in the nearby town of Celle, taking part in a major historical-cultural state-wide exhibition organised by Lower Saxony entitled, ‘The Hanoverians on Britain’s Throne, 1714-1837’. The exhibitions in each venue take place from 17th May to 5th October, and each will showcase different details and elements of the Hanoverian-British union.

Spectacular works of art have been brought together for the exhibition at the Palace Museum, which focuses on the extravagant culture at the court in the early 18th century. The exhibition also explores the power politics of George I’s father – the Elector Ernst August – and tales of his marriage to Sophia of the Palatinate. Additionally, it will look at the early history of George I and reveal the secrets of his marriage to Sophie von der Pfalz.

Another part of the exhibition will trace the life of Count Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn who was the illegitimate son of George II. The Count was raised in England but moved to Hanover, where he established a collection of art and paintings. Many treasures from his original collection have been brought back together for the first time since 1818.

The main venue for the state exhibition, however, is the magnificent Lower Saxony State Museum in the centre of Hanover. Here the exhibition follows the life stories of the five monarchs within a cultural and historical context. Significant events such as the Seven Year’s War and the French Revolution, and influential personalities including Jonathan Swift and George Handel will be included. The intensive exchange of culture that took place between London and Hanover in many different areas from politics to music will be covered, such as the burgeoning splendour of the court in London, the founding of the University of Gottingen and the influence of English fashion in Hanover.

Paintings, medals, furniture, documents and letters, borrowed from 19 international museums, will be on display and these will help to build up a picture of life in Georgian times. Amongst these are the State Crown – made for George I, an oil painting of Queen Charlotte from the collection of Queen Elizabeth II and a valuable silver service, from the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, which is returning to Hanover for the first time in over a hundred years.

Another aspect of life in Georgian times is explored at the third exhibition venue – The Historical Museum of Hanover. The centrepiece of the display here will be a magnificent State Coach in the exhibit, ‘A Coach and two Kingdoms: Hanover and Great Britain 1814-1837’. King George IV used the imposing carriage, originally built in 1782, for the opening of Parliament in London, during a visit to Hanover in 1821.

The exhibition will reflect on the role of the Kingdom of Hanover, established in 1812, against the background of British world power and will cover political debate about the constitution and land reforms. Exhibits also are planned to reveal how the architecture of Hanover changed in the early 19th century to match its new status as a royal seat.

Elsewhere in Hanover, the Wilhelm Busch German Museum for Caricature and Drawing, will host an exhibition entitled ‘The House of Hanover at the Time of the Personal Union as reflected in British Caricature’. At the exhibition groups will learn how cynical caricaturists of the era satirized prominent figures and goings-on in British politics and society. The royals are ­­­depicted with all their human weaknesses, moreover the caricatures relate salacious British celebrity gossip, poke fun at political decisions and development and leave no scandal or intrigue untouched! These caricatures are important as they reached a wide public when they were first drawn and so had a role in shaping political opinion. The museum is housed in the Wallmoden Palace, the former home of the Count of Wallmoden.



The picturesque town of Celle, with its many half-timbered buildings, is about an hour’s drive north of Hanover, and it has an important place on the Royal Heritage Route.

The history of Celle, and its connections with the Hanoverian royal family is put in context at the Residenzmuseum in Celle Castle, in the exhibition, ‘Ready for the Island The House of Brunswick-Lüneburg on the Path to London’. This is the fifth venue participating in the Lower Saxony State Exhibition 2014 programme, and the exhibition traces the family’s rise to political power, through marriage and the creation of strongholds within Germany. The display presents a fascinating trip through time in a beautiful baroque castle with amazing architecture including ornate stucco ceilings by Italian masters, a Renaissance chapel and a tiny court theatre.

Whilst in Celle groups might also like to visit the local church, St Mary’s, where two royal women, who were banished to Celle for pursuing the course of love, are buried. Sophie Dorothea von Brunswick and Celle, the wife of George I, was exiled – first to Lauenau Castle and then to Ahlden Castle – after her love affair with the Count of Königsmarck was discovered. In all Sophie lived at Ahlden Castle for 32 years, and was permanently separated from her children. Her great-granddaughter – Caroline Mathilde of Hanover, who was Queen of Denmark and Norway for six years – is buried next to her. She was exiled to Celle following a love affair with the court physician. Groups visiting Celle as part of the Royal Heritage Route can discover more about these intriguing love stories.



Aside from the Lower Saxony State Exhibition there are many more castles and palaces with connections to the Hanoverian and British royal families to explore. Around an hour and half driving time to the west of Hanover is Iburg Castle near Osnabrück, where George I and his sister, Sophie Charlotte, who became the Queen of Prussia, spent a lot of their childhood. At the castle there’s much for groups to see including the Benedictine Abbey founded in the 11th century, and the richly furnished Knights Hall, which dates from the 17th century.



An hour away to the east of Hanover is Brunswick. This was one of the most important German medieval cities and in the 12th century was the home of the Guelph Duke, Henry the Lion, hence its popular name as the Lion City. Just outside the city and overlooking the Oker River lies Richmond Palace. This was built by Princess Augusta of Great Britain, who had married the Duke of Brunswick in 1764, because she did not like the family palace in the centre of the city. The building blends south German and French architectural styles with an English landscape garden created by ‘Capability’ Brown.

In Brunswick city centre, groups can also visit the Palace Museum, which is on the site of the original Royal Palace, which was built between 1833 and 1841, but damaged during the Second World War and subsequently demolished. Rebuilt in 2004 the façade uses elements preserved fr­­­­­­om the earlier building, but behind this there is a modern shopping mall as well as the museum. The 15 museum galleries reveal the grandeur of the former palace and are displayed with original furniture from the 19th century.

Although much of Brunswick was destroyed in the 1940s, there are several buildings surviving from earlier times, which convey the charm of the town when the Hanoverians were in residence. The two Courtyard HousesVon Veltheimsches Haus and the Huneborstelsches Haus – were former courtiers’ houses.



The fairy-tale like Marienburg Castle is about half an hour south of Hanover in Pattensen. Built in a gothic revival style with many battlements, towers and turrets, the castle is now a museum with magnificent rooms and an impressive library. Here groups can trace the life of Georg V, King of Hanover – who built the castle for his wife Queen Marie – and many examples of furniture, paintings and rarities of art history from the historic collection of the Royal House of Hanover are on display. In 2014, the Hanoverian crown, sceptre and bridal crown will be exhibited for the first time since the end of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1866 at the special exhibition ‘The Path to the Crown’. The stunning gardens around the castle can also be visited.

From Marienburg Castle, groups can go on to visit six more magnificent castles in the beautiful Weser region of Lower Saxony, all with royal connections and tales of courtly splendour. Fürstenberg Castle, Hämelschenburg Castle, Pyrmont Castle, Corvey Castle, Bückeburg Castle, Bevern Castle are architectural gems of the Weser Renaissance and neo-Gothic period and have important porcelain collections, works of art and lovely parks for groups to enjoy.



Elizabeth Gate

Heidelberg/Neckar: West side of the castle, illuminated Elizabeth Gate.

In other parts of Germany the royal story continues. In Heidelberg, in the south west state of Baden-Württemberg, Heidelberg Palace was the first German home of Elizabeth Stuart – grandmother of George I. The ruins of this most romantic of German castles attracts many groups and amongst the highlights of a visit are the castle courtyard and the English Garden, which is soon to be restored. The impressive arch, the so called Elizabeth Gate, in the garden is said to have been built quietly and secretly overnight on the orders of her husband, the Elector Frederick V, as a surprise birthday present for her. Three times a year in June, July and September, illuminations bathe the castle in a magical red light. The spectacular evenings finish with a firework display – which were first staged in 1613 by Friedrich as a welcome to his bride, Elizabeth Stuart.

Meanwhile in Bavaria in Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the connections between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert can be explored. The highlight is Rosenau Palace, the summer seat of the Dukes of Coburg and where Prince Albert was born. As well as the impressive marble hall, the main rooms at the palace feature brightly coloured wall paintings in the neo-Gothic style and the original black-stained, polished Viennese Biedermeier furniture. Surrounding the palace is a delightful garden in a romantic English landscape style. When Queen Victoria visited the palace for the first time in 1845 she wrote in her diary, “If I were not who I am, my real home would be here”. She returned to visit several more times – even after Albert’s death.

Of the once numerous park buildings, the neo-Gothic farm building, a grotto with a waterfall and a tournament column have been preserved. The neoclassical tea house is today used as the park restaurant, and the orangery houses a museum of modern glass. The viewing terrace is particularly attractive with its flower parterre, fountain and balustrade.

To find out more about the Royal Heritage Route visit or