I don’t suppose that when the British Fisheries Society commissioned Thomas Telford to create a purpose-built fishing village on the shores of Loch Broom in 1788, that they envisaged a design which would appeal to tourists as well – but that’s what they got.
Having said that, I don’t suppose there were many tourists around in those days either, but as the fishing stocks declined, then the number of tourists increased, and when I first came here back in the early 1980s there were both plenty of tourists – and fish.
I can remember seeing the ‘Klondykers’ anchored in Loch Broom. Up to seventy Soviet and East European factory ships were regularly seen in the loch processing the fish, even though the UK and the Eastern Bloc were at each other’s throats politically. The Cold War prevented many people from both sides of the Iron Curtain travelling across the borders, but here in Ullapool there were many instances of ‘fraternising with the enemy’ including a football match between Russian fishermen and locals.
If you’ve read my article about how the Victoria Embankment came about, you may like to know a bit more about some of the points of interest that can be seen along here.
The Embankment runs for about a mile and a half between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge on the north side of the river and I’m going to describe the route starting from the Westminster end.
If you start out underneath the statue of Boudicca and stay on the same side of the road, then the river and Westminster Pier will be on your right. Boats depart regularly from Westminster Pier to Greenwich, but unless you intend doing the boat trip, your eyes will be more focused on what’s on the other side of the river. It’s impossible to miss the London Eye or even the former County Hall, but don’t forget to look out for what’s on the Westminster side as well.
New Scotland Yard is across the road, as is Whitehall Gardens, the first of a series of gardens that stretch along the embankment and collectively known as the Victoria Embankment Gardens.
Back on the riverside, there’s a unique memorial to the Battle of Britain, with another memorial to the RAF a bit further along. It should be remembered that Whitehall, including the Ministry of Defence opposite, backs on to the embankment, which is why the area has so many statues of past military figures and memorials to different parts of the armed forces.
It’s strange isn’t it, that although London’s practice of discharging raw sewage into the Thames caused cholera epidemics which cost thousands of lives, it was only when MPs kicked up a stink about the smell that something was actually done about it.
The job of sorting the whole problem out was given to a Victorian engineer by the name of Joseph Bazalgette.
His scheme involved an extensive network of underground sewage pipes that took the effluent from Central London out into the Thames Estuary.
The project involved several locations including the mile and a half section of riverside between Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges, the most challenging of them all.
After buying up and demolishing many expensive riverside properties, work started on the Victoria Embankment project in 1865.
Not only did Joseph Bazalgette deal with the sewage problem, he also narrowed the river to make it more controllable, built a new road to ease congestion along the Strand (which linked Westminster to the City of London), and even allowed for the construction of a line for the Metropolitan and District Railway beneath the road.
Situated on a roughly triangular piece of land between Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Birdcage Walk, St. James’s Park is the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks.
With so much pomp and pageantry associated with this area you could be forgiven for thinking that it was named after King James I or II, but it was actually named after St. James the Less leper hospital that was founded here in the 13th century.
There is a connection with James I though, because after Henry VIII had acquired this marshy piece of land in 1532 for yet another Royal hunting ground, he set about improving the drainage and water supply. Charles II took it a stage further and changed it into a parkland with lawns and avenues of trees which the general public could also use.
With so many other things to keep you occupied in Covent Garden it would be easy to overlook the simple church of St. Paul’s, but it’s worth a look inside even if only to take a look at the actors’ memorials that are scattered around the church.
Situated opposite the market, St. Paul’s was the first building to grace the Fourth Earl of Bedford’s square that was to be the focal point of his plans to develop the area in a manner more in keeping with an Italian piazza.
He brought in Inigo Jones to design the square including the church which was completed in 1633.
The large portico that overlooks the piazza is somewhat misleading because the entrance is around the back and entered through the pleasant garden. As you walk into the church you’ll see why the entrance isn’t through the portico because if it was you would walk straight into the altar.
St. Paul’s is one of those sort of churches that is likeable for its simplicity, but it’s the association with the nearby theatres which makes it different to most other churches, even having a theatre company of its own.
The connection started with the opening of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1663 and then the Covent Garden Theatre, now the Royal Opera House.
Lying on the eastern side of the West End, Covent Garden is a popular destination for tourists and includes the former fruit and vegetable Market, the Opera House, and the area around Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard.
There are no official boundaries to Covent Garden but a map I picked up at the market shows it covering an area from Charing Cross Rd in the west to Kingsway in the east, and from The Strand/Aldwych in the south to Shaftesbury Avenue/High Holborn in the north.
Running straight through the middle from St. Martin’s Lane to Drury Lane is Long Acre which separates the Market and Opera House to the south from the Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard area to the north.
Shelton St which runs parallel with Long Acre south of the Seven Dials is the boundary line between Westminster and Camden.
Originally open fields and then at the centre of Anglo Saxon Lundenwic, the area became the garden of Westminster Abbey and co(n)vent by the beginning of the 13th century.
Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries led to the estate being handed to the Earls of Bedford and a change in the layout to include a fashionable square with a small fruit and vegetable market.
London’s Chinatown is located right in the heart of the West End, and as you might expect, it’s a bustling area of restaurants, food stores, and Chinese culture.
Centred on Gerrard St, the area is quite compact, hemmed in between Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue, Wardour St, and Leicester Square.
It wasn’t until after WWII that the area started to become a Chinese Quarter, and even then it didn’t really get established until the 1970s. Being a part of Soho, the area already had a colourful history, but London’s Chinese community, who had traditionally worked in the docks at Limehouse, found themselves bombed out by the Luftwaffe, and then locked out by the Dockers unions after the end of hostilities.
From Newquay Harbour the town has spread inland and along the coastline northwards, but the River Gannel has at least contained the expansion southwards.
On the opposite side of the river is the small and attractive village of Crantock, which because of its access to the nearby beach can become busy at peak times, but the good news for people who enjoy a more natural environment is that the National Trust (NT) has been able to purchase significant parts of the estuary and southern coastline, including the headland at West Pentire.
Whilst many are drawn to the beach at Crantock, some venture a bit further along the minor road to West Pentire where the Bowgie Inn offers some exceptional views from its pub garden and access to an easy wander around the peninsula.
The views take in the Gannel and the headland of Pentire Point East opposite, and it might not come as any great surprise to learn that the mouth of the estuary has another headland on the West Pentire side called Pentire Point West.