York and Bristol score highly in Travellers’ Choice Awards 2014

National Railway Museum, York

Full steam ahead: the National Railway Museum is one of York’s attractions.
Photo: Ingy the Wingy

The cathedral cities of York and Bristol are two of the top 10 destinations in the UK, according to Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2014.

The awards, based on millions of reviews and opinions from travellers around the world, placed York sixth and Bristol seventh in a list of the best UK destinations.

This is a particularly impressive achievement for York as it did not feature in last year’s top 10 list at all. The highest-rated attractions in the historic city include the National Railway Museum (pictured) and the city walls, which are the longest medieval city walls in England.
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Our favourite April Fools’ Day stories: from an underwater bar to Vin Diesel as Morse

Vin Diesel

Could Vin Diesel follow in John Thaw’s footsteps and play Inspector Morse?
Photo: Andre Luis

Yesterday was, of course, April Fools’ Day, and there were some great prank stories in the press relating to cathedral cities. Here are our three favourites.

According to Wales Online, Welsh brewer Brains is set to open the UK’s first underwater bar in Cardiff Bay. The biggest giveaway that this is a spoof? The quote from the head of UK naval technologies, Captain Burt Sye.

The Oxford Mail ran a story about a Hollywood remake of Morse, a drama famously set in the city of dreaming spires. The controversy? The remake would have action hero Vin Diesel (pictured) in the starring role. Quoted is Morse Appreciation Society treasurer Arnold Forbes – an anagram of ‘fool rebrands’…
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It’s a smell-out! New guide to York is nothing to be sniffed at

Smell York afternoon tea

Tea-lightful:’afternoon tea’ is one of the aromas in the Smell York guidebook

The cathedral city of York has set plenty of records and firsts in its time. York railway station, for example, was the largest in the world at the time of its opening in 1877.

Now it has set one more: it is the subject of the UK’s first olfactory guidebook.

Smell York, commissioned by Visit York, is a scented travel guide infused with the smells of the city and its surrounding countryside.
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£20 million grant scheme for cathedral repairs announced in Budget

Norwich Cathedral under repair

Norwich Cathedral under repair,
by Gerry Balding

Today’s Budget contained an announcement of considerable funding for urgent cathedral repairs. This is from the Budget Report:

“The government will provide £20 million for a grant scheme for repairs to cathedrals in recognition of their heritage significance and role in forthcoming remembrance activities to commemorate the First World War.”

This money is certainly needed – the Church of England predicts an £87m repair funding shortfall for cathedrals over the next five years.

The grant will be available over a two-year period for Church of England and Roman Catholic Cathedrals in England. It may be especially welcomed by Lincoln Cathedral, the only cathedral on English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ register – “a list of those sites most at risk of being lost through neglect, decay or inappropriate development.”
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Advance to Go: still time to vote for Rochester or Canterbury Monopoly board

Lincoln Monopoly board

Monopoly boards already exist for some other cathedral cities including Lincoln.
Photo: Visit Lincoln

Kent’s two cathedral cities of Rochester and Canterbury are both in the running to be the next official Monopoly board, set for release in time for Christmas.

However they must see off stiff competition from other towns and cities in the county, namely Dover, Ramsgate, Maidstone, and Royal Tunbridge Wells.

The winner is being decided by the public, but with voting set to close at midnight on Monday (17 March) you will need to be quick to have your say. Email your nomination to kent@winningmoves.co.uk along with any suggestions as to which local landmarks or streets should feature as squares on the board.
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Britons Arms Coffee House & Restaurant, Norwich: olde worlde, high standards

Britons Arms, NorwichBeing a fan of the medieval period, I often find myself drawn to restaurants and cafes that exude ‘olde worlde’ charm. Experience has taught me, however, that the quality of the setting does not guarantee the quality of the food, drink or service.

Fortunately, Norwich’s Britons Arms did not disappoint on any front when Sarah and I visited for lunch yesterday, despite it being housed in a delightful 15th century, Grade II* listed building with a reed thatched roof. Oh, and it backs on to a cobbled courtyard dotted with gift shops. A more perfectly medieval setting is hard to imagine.
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The Archaeology of Churches, by Warwick Rodwell – book review

Archaeology of ChurchesWarwick Rodwell’s volume “has stood unchallenged as the only general textbook on church archaeology” since it was first published in 1981 as The Archaeology of the English Church. This 2012 edition is the result of a complete restructure and rewrite, taking into account recent excavations as well as advances in architectural techniques.

Church archaeology concerns itself with all available material evidence, from the foundations to the fittings and furnishings, in order to build up a history of the building – the various stages in its evolution. So why might a book about this subject appeal to the layman?

As Rodwell says, “some visitors to churches, cathedrals and monastic ruins seem content to wander around with little or no understanding of what they are looking at.” The Archaeology of Churches is a handbook for “the novice who wishes to learn archaeologically about churches” and avoid being that kind of visitor.
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Northern Lights illuminate the skies above our cathedral cities with spectacular display

On Thursday night, the Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora Borealis) gave an incredible display in the skies above Britain.

Here are favourite images of the Northern Lights as seen from or near cathedral cities in both Scotland and England, from Elgin to as far south as Norwich.
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Modern-day censing angel at Norwich Cathedral – the revival of a medieval tradition

My colleague Colin Barnett kindly sent me some photos he had taken on a visit to Norwich Cathedral, and one in particular struck me as intriguing:
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BBC Food and Farming Awards 2014: still time to get your nominations in

Riverside Market, Cardiff

Riverside Market, Cardiff, by Howard Dickins

Our cathedral cities are renowned for making and selling amazing food.

If you have a favourite farmers’ market, takeaway, cheesemonger, brewery or baker in a cathedral city, there is still time to nominate them for the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2014.

The Awards aim “to honour those who have done most to promote the cause of good food” and this year there are 10 categories including ‘Best Food Retailer’, Best Food Market’, ‘Best Food Producer’ and ‘Best Drinks Producer’.

The last time the awards were held, back in 2012, a number of cathedral city-based businesses won acclaim.
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