2024 travel planner: 12 of the best things to do and see in the UK this year

Yorkshire coast on two wheels

Exploring Yorkshire’s coastline on two wheels is about to get a whole lot easier. Route YC, the organisation which promotes the Yorkshire coast, has teamed up with leading adventure cyclists to launch a series of new cycle routes in January. Ranging from nine to 260 miles, the routes are designed to help visitors of all abilities get off the beaten track on gravel, touring and road bikes.

Adventure cyclists Mark Beaumont, Markus Stitz and Jenny Graham on gravel path near sea
Adventure cyclists Mark Beaumont, Markus Stitz and Jenny Graham on the Yorkshire coast

There’s a circular route from Scarborough, as well as several shorter day rides from the coastal towns of Whitby, Filey, Bridlington, Hornsea and Withernsea, and the North York Moors village of Grosmont. There’s also a bikepacking weekender route which starts in Whitby and a touring route which hugs the coast from the ferry terminal in Hull all the way to Staithes, north of Whitby.
Route maps and accommodation details will be live on the Route YC website by 31 January

Blenheim Palace presents Icons of British Fashion, Oxfordshire

A blockbuster fashion exhibition will open at Blenheim Palace in March. Icons of British Fashion is the largest event in the palace’s 300-year history and will showcase some of Britain’s most renowned designers. Clothing, accessories, archival materials, drawings, photographs and patterns from leading lights such as Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Lulu Guinness, Bruce Oldfield and Temperley London will be on display in the state rooms alongside Blenheim’s priceless art collection.
23 March-30 June. Entry tickets to Blenheim are valid for a year and cost £38 for adults, £22 for under-16s.

Tweed Valley canoe trail

Paddlers under Yair Bridge on the Tweed Valley canoe trail
Paddlers under Yair Bridge on the Tweed Valley canoe trail

Launching in spring, the first official canoe trail in the south of Scotland will cover a tranquil 30-mile stretch of the River Tweed. Starting close to Dawyck Botanic Garden in the picturesque village of Stobo and finishing on the riverbank overlooking Sir Walter Scott’s former home Abbotsford, the route promises beautiful views of the Southern Uplands and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife such as otters, kingfishers and herons. It is designed to be paddled over two or three days and is suitable for all abilities.
Trail maps, suggested itineraries and camping/accommodation information will be available online by the end of January

Distillery to open at Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol

A whiskey distillery will open in the 19th-century Crumlin Road Gaol in early March, following a £22 million investment. Whiskey tours, cocktail masterclasses and a tasting bar and shop will open in the former A wing of the high-security prison. Known locally as the Crum, it first opened in 1846 and took a leading role in the detainment of republican and loyalist prisoners during the Troubles. Visitors can learn about the prison’s chequered history and some of the inmates who were held here, from suffragettes to hunger strikers, on a self-guided tour.
Entry from £14 adults, £7.50 children; distillery tour prices TBA

Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

A 1950s baby clinic at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley.
A 1950s baby clinic at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

The latest addition to the Black Country Living Museum’s collection of historic buildings is a high street which recreates life in a Midlands town in the postwar era. Listen to vinyl records in a listening booth at Stanton’s Music Shop, see paper passbooks in the West Bromwich Building Society, check out the 1950s fashions on display at E. Minett’s Ladieswear and learn about the creation of the NHS. From spring, visitors will be able to explore a new industrial quarter and find out more about the working lives of Black Country people at a recreated aluminium foundry, tool makers and brickworks. And in summer, a post office, an Army & Navy Store and a replica of the Halesowen and Hasbury Co-op will open on the new high street.
Adults £22.95, under-16s £11.45

The King Charles III coastal route

birds and mudflats at sunset
The Norfolk coast near Snettisham RSPB reserve, now on the King Charles III Coast Path. Photograph: Chris Gomersall/Alamy

The long-awaited King Charles III England Coast Path is on schedule to be fully walkable by the end of 2024. It will be the world’s longest managed coastal walking route, covering 2,700 miles and connecting communities as far apart as Bamburgh and Boscastle. More than 1,000 miles of coastal terrain have been made accessible so far, including new sections in Cumbria, Kent and Sussex, which were completed towards the end of last year. The next section to open will be from Hunstanton to Sutton Bridge in Norfolk, skirting the tidal marshes, beaches and nature reserves of the Wash estuary. It’s expected to be ready in March. New sections on the Isle of Sheppey and improvements to the existing path on the Exmoor coast will also follow in spring.
The UK government website will have updates on new sections as they open

Toulouse-Lautrec in Bath

La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine poster
La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine poster at Bath’s Victoria gallery. Photograph: Alamy

A major new exhibition, Toulouse-Lautrec and the Masters of Montmartre, opens at Victoria Art Gallery in Bath in April. More than 30 pieces from the artist’s colourful career, including his first poster of the Moulin Rouge and the can-can dancers of La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine, will be shown alongside works by other artists of the day. Steinlein’s iconic Tournée du Chat Noir, an advert for Ruinart champagne by Alphonse Mucha, and theatre posters by Jules Chéret will feature alongside work by other masters of belle époque Paris. This is the only chance to see Lautrec’s complete collection of posters in the UK before it moves to a permanent home at the Musée d’Ixelles in Belgium.
26 April-29 September, adults £10, children £3.50

Aerial adventure in home of Welsh rugby, Cardiff

Cardiff’s Principality Stadium
Cardiff’s Principality Stadium: setting for a new aerial adventure. Photograph: Phillip Roberts /Alamy

A new aerial adventure will open at the home of Welsh Rugby this spring. Thrill-seekers will be able to climb to the top of the Principality Stadium in Cardiff for a bird’s eye view of the pitch and Cardiff skyline before descending via a zipwire and white-knuckle “drop”. The attraction, called Scale, is being created by urban aerial adventure expert Wire & Sky, which has worked on similar projects at Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur, the Cutty Sark and Liverpool’s Anfield.
At the time of writing, tickets had not gone on sale, but fans can register interest on the website

The National Gallery’s Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio.
The National Gallery’s Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio. Photograph: Ian Dagnall /Alamy

The National Gallery celebrates its 200th anniversary on 10 May. To mark the occasion, the gallery is lending 12 of its most iconic paintings to 12 venues across the UK. Paintings including Constable’s The Hay Wain and Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond will travel to centres from Brighton to Edinburgh, bringing a National Gallery painting to within an hour’s journey for more than half the UK population. At the Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland, visitors will be able to admire Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus, while The Rokeby Venus by Velázquez will be heading north-west to the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. It will be the first time that some of the works, such as The Wilton Diptych and Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, have left the gallery since they were acquired. The paintings will all go on display on 10 May and each of the 12 venues will run complementary events, exhibitions and digital interventions to showcase its particular painting.

Back in time at Beamish, County Durham

A 1900s street scene at Beamish Museum.
A 1900s street scene at Beamish Museum. Photograph: Paul Heinrich/Alamy

An authentically recreated 1950s picture house at Beamish will offer visitors the chance to relive the golden age of movie-going. The cinema will be the latest addition to a “1950s Town” opened last summer at the living history museum as part of the biggest development in its history. The 50s town brings a new era to Beamish, with its meticulously recreated hairdressers, fish and chip shop and cafe, where visitors can listen to jukebox music in a vintage booth. Beamish will also be expanding its Georgian exhibits this year with an 1820s tavern serving Georgian-inspired food and drink, and a working pottery. For the first time, guests will also be able to stay overnight in original farm buildings and cottages which are being converted into self-catering accommodation.
Beamish Unlimited Passes £24.95 adults, £15.45 children, £63.50 for a family of four, valid for a year

Barbie: The Exhibition, London

A 1985 Day to Night Barbie, part of the Design Museum exhibition.
A 1985 Day to Night Barbie, part of the Design Museum exhibition. Photograph: PA

If you thought Barbie had her moment in the spotlight in 2023, think again. The Design Museum in London will celebrate the doll’s 65th birthday in a new exhibition telling the story of the brand’s evolution. The museum has been granted special access to Mattel Inc’s extensive Barbie archives in California and will display dozens of rare items examining the doll’s influence on everything from fashion and furniture to architecture and vehicle design.
5 July to 23 February 2025, ticket prices TBA

Surf’s up in Edinburgh

The Lost Shore surfing lake near Edinburgh.
The Lost Shore surfing lake near Edinburgh

Europe’s largest inland surfing destination will open near Edinburgh this autumn. The Lost Shore Surf Resort is scheduled for a September launch and will be capable of generating up to 1,000 waves an hour, suitable for beginners to pro surfers. The 160-metre surfing lake will be in a 60-acre country park, with 22 pods and lodges sleeping from two to eight, a seasonal food market showcasing chefs and street food vendors, a surf shop and a spa. The emphasis will be on accessibility, with lessons for beginners, heated changing facilities, and wetsuits and surfboards included in the cost. Visitors will also be able to try surfskating, an increasingly popular variation on skateboarding. Lost Shore is in Ratho, nine miles west of Edinburgh.

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