• 5 of the UK's Most Amazing, Lesser-Known Museums

    21st March, 2017

    With hundreds of marvellous museums and galleries dotted all over the United Kingdom, it can be an overwhelming task knowing where to start. A quick google will provide you with the big names, but some of the smaller, lesser-known gems, are just as good – if not better – in our opinion. So, to narrow down the long list and share some of our insider knowledge, we’ve picked five of the very best, spanning art, architecture, literature and natural history, all of which can be factored in around one of our unique cycling or walking tours for the perfect combination of culture and exploring.

    1 Sir John Soane’s Museum

    Tucked behind Holborn underground station, in a leafy square edged with terraced houses, you will find the former house and museum of pioneering English architect Sir John Soane. This unique, awe-inspiring space, built and lived in by Soane, remains exactly as it was left at the time of the architect’s death almost 180 years ago. Soane was an avid collector and his home is brimming with antiquities, furniture, sculptures, paintings by Hogarth, Turner, Canaletto and more, as well as architectural models and drawings. We recommend seeing the museum by candlelight, an experience offered on the first Tuesday of each month. Why not combine a three-night stay in London with a trip to the Cotswolds with our ‘Quintessential England' cycling tour for a wonderfully diverse adventure?

    2 The Turner Contemporary

    The seaside town of Margate is one of England’s most exciting locations, boasting a dreamy combination of old world nostalgia and blossoming contemporary culture. There are shops, attractions (like Dreamland, the renovated, old-fashioned amusement park) and fish and chips galore, as well as plenty of great galleries, but the absolute must-visit is the Turner Contemporary, situated on the seafront in the same spot that Turner himself once lived. The wonderfully curated space, designed by Sir David Chipperfield, is geared towards making “intriguing links between historic and contemporary art” – and it certainly succeeds. Whether you’re looking for a fabulous foodie holiday, a seaside jolly or the chance to soak up Kent’s delightful scenery, we have an array of holidays in the area offering something for everyone.

    3 Jane Austen’s House Museum

    The village of Chawton in Hampshire is well worth a trip to visit the idyllic cottage where English author Jane Austen spent the final eight years of her life, creating some of her most important work. The red brick abode contains a collection of enlightening Austen artefacts, as well as retaining its modest, 19th-century charm. You can bring a picnic to enjoy in the lush garden where Austen would spend her time pottering and picking potatoes! The museum is just one stop on our ‘In the footsteps of famous writers’ walking tour, a remarkable excursion from London to Edinburgh, shedding light on the worlds of Thomas Hardy, Dylan Thomas, William Shakespeare, The Bronte sisters, James Herriot, William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and Austen along the way.

    4 The Oxford University Museum of Natural History

    This museum in Oxford is a natural history lover’s dream come true. It comprises the prestigious university's extraordinary collection of geological and zoological specimens, from dinosaurs to dodos to moths and minerals, housed in a majestic Neo-Gothic structure built in 1860. The museum is free and is attached to the Pitt Rivers museum of anthropology and archeology, if you’re looking for a double dose of fascinating historical discovery. You can visit the university town and its myriad sites on our ‘Ramble and ride on downs and meadows’ walking and cycling holiday. Beginning in Oxford, this magical tour takes you along the Thames Path and out to the dramatic White Horse on the downs and the ancient Ridgeway path, before returning you to your starting place by Thames boat.

    5 The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art

    A hub of brilliant modern and contemporary art, this gallery in Edinburgh is one of the city’s finest. The museum is set in beautiful leafy grounds, which house a sublime sculpture park featuring the award-winning 'Landform' by Charles Jencks, a geometric land artwork constructed from grass and ponds. Inside, the collection spans such 20th-century greats as Andy Warhol, Bridget Riley, Rene Magritte and Picasso, as well as contemporary artists like Duane Hanson and Tracey Emin, and a reconstruction of the studio of Scottish-Italian pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi. Wend your way to the Scottish capital on our ‘Lochs and glens to Edinburgh’ cycling tour, taking in the dramatic landscape of the Trossachs National Park and Pitlochry in the Highlands as you go.

  • The best time of year to visit the UK – and enjoy the weather!

    6th March, 2017

    Here at The Carter Company, we’re often asked for our insider advice on the optimum time of year to visit the UK. So much so that we thought we’d put together a handy guide to help you decide when and where is best to plan your walking or cycling holiday in order to get the very most from your Great British adventure.

    Shoulder Season (March through May and mid-September through October)

    It might be a little more of a gamble to book your vacation in the so-called shoulder period rather than the height of summer, but it can prove well worth it. There are fewer tourists, prices are lower and, on the whole, you’re likely to experience pleasant weather. In between March and May, sunny days are regular occurrences, but come prepared for bursts of sudden rain – April showers in the UK are not just the stuff of Disney soundtracks! While most imagine September and October to signal a distinct drop in temperatures, fairly often they give way to 'Indian summers', replete with glorious mid-summer temperatures and picnics galore.

    High Season (June through August)

    From June until August, British weather tends to be at its finest. Of course, school summer breaks mean that you will be contending with British tourists, as well as international travellers, so accommodation rates are at their peak. Be sure to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. On top of that, certain areas, such as seaside towns, national parks and historic cities (York, Oxford, Bath et al), become a hub of activity meaning that surrounding roads are usually busy. August is particularly crowded in areas popular with British holidaymakers, like Cornwall, Devon, Kent, Dorset, Scotland and the Lake District, so we recommend heading to the gorgeous Cotswolds or pootling down the Thames, where crowds are smaller and accommodation much easier to secure in August than in May, June and September.

    Low Season (December through February)

    Unsurprisingly, the low season tends to summon up wind and rain, and, up north, often snow. So for cycling and rambling outside of the cities, it’s best to book your trip to coincide with warmer climes!

    So, in conclusion, we recommend you plan your UK vacation for late May, June, July, August or the first half of September to make the most of the good weather, but book early to ensure you secure a hotel as availability is limited, especially this year. If you’re looking to book a British-based exploration in August, our top tip is adventuring in the Cotswolds and by the Thames. Of course, like everywhere in the world, the weather is becoming increasingly hard to predict so take a look at the Met Office's Climate Map for more in-depth info on the annual forecast in specific areas of the UK.

  • 5 Surprising Benefits of Walking

    16th February, 2017

    Here at The Carter Company, we consider walking one of life’s greatest wonders, especially when wandering in a beautiful setting. Adventuring on foot is the ultimate means of slow travel, a chance to fully engage with your surroundings, both natural and historic, and allow your brain as well as your body to roam free. But don’t just take our word for it: scientists are frequently investigating the positive impact of perambulating on our physical and mental health. Below, we’ve chosen a few of our favourite facts about the benefits of a brisk walk – and if you’re looking to book a holiday to enjoy them, we highly recommend our Ceredigion coast walking tour, following the spectacular and varied coastline of Cardigan Bay on the west coast of Wales.

    1. Walking aids concentration

    Our brains get just as tired as the rest of our bodies, if not more so. The ever-increasing pace of modern life can be over-stimulating – indeed, average concentration spans are lower than they’ve ever been – but the good news is: walking can help fix this. A study in Edinburgh used lightweight brain-scanning devices to monitor the brain function of 12 participants as they walked around the city. Those instructed to wander through busy, built-up sections quickly grew frustrated and antsy, while those pottering in parks and green spaces witnessed a calming, meditative effect. This in turn led to an unconscious surge in the power of concentration, Jenny Roe, the professor behind the study told The New York Times. "It’s called involuntary attention in psychology,” she explained. “[Natural settings] hold our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection."

    2. Walking enhances creativity

    Writers and philosophers have long extolled the virtues of walking as a means of sparking ideas. “The moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow,” wrote Henry Thoreau. While Michel de Certeau noted that “writing is one way of making the world our own, and walking is another.” Dr Sowden of the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey agrees, explaining in a National Trust blog post that not only does walking improve our attention span, memory and recovery from mental fatigue but it also allows us to shift between modes of thought and offers fuel for creativity. “Walking exposes us to the constant flux of a changing environment providing us with an endless array of new and unique experiences,” he writes, “which combined with our past memories may, through serendipity alone, provoke new associations and give birth to new ideas.”

    3. Walking is just as good for you as running

    Given that running really gets your heart racing, while the effects of walking feel less noticeable, people often (wrongly) assume that running is the more beneficial form of exercise. However researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at long-term studies of runners and walkers, and rather remarkably discovered that, when covering the same distance, the heart health benefits for both sets of participants were almost exactly the same. Both running and walking led to the reduction of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, as well as the risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease, the only difference being that walking takes a little longer. (All the better to enjoy the journey, we say!)

    4. Walking can help alleviate stress and depression

    The endorphins produced during a walk are known to improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. If you can surround yourself by nature while walking, all the better! Interaction with the natural world – from national parks to coastal paths – is scientifically proven to have a positive effect on mental health and stress management, for many of the reasons detailed above. The University of Stirling conducted a study using 341 patients which found that a brisk walk was “an effective intervention for depression”. It is also a form of exercise that can be done socially, unlike other more rigorous sports, and is a great way to let off steam with your friends.

    5. Walking makes you live longer

    Everything points to the fact that the more you walk, particularly in natural settings, the better your mind and body feel. It reduces the impact of all kinds of bodily ailments, from alzheimer's to arthritis, it helps weight management, boosts our immune systems and more. But what about the long term effects on your health? Well scientists say that making sure you take time to walk for a distance of 20 to 25 miles each week can extend your life by up to two years. If that doesn’t get you out of the house and off on a walking holiday, nothing will!

  • 3 Fabulous Flower Shows to Plan a Cycling Holiday Around

    29th January, 2017

    In the midst of the winter frost it’s hard to believe that spring, replete with new life and vibrant colours, is just around the corner. For flower lovers, the warmer weather brings with it the excitement of new blooms, celebrated every British summertime with a diverse array of flower shows scattered across the country. This year marks the opening of a new flower show from the Royal Horticultural Society, taking place in the verdant grounds of Chatsworth House in June. In celebration of this new addition to the botanical calendar, and to spread a little warmth during a very chilly January, we've picked three brilliant UK flower shows, set in the grounds of beautiful historical homes – all of which you can incorporate into one of our cycling tours.

    1. RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

    Chatsworth House is the lavish stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, located in the Derbyshire dales, and its 1000 acre parklands are the ideal spot for floral festivities. The newest flower show from the RHS, which will make its debut between June 7-11, promises to surprise and delight visitors with an immersive horticultural experience centred around the theme of ‘Design Revolutionaries’, with the aim of imbuing traditional design with an innovative twist. We recommend kickstarting your summer holiday with a visit to the show, followed by a weeklong ramble and ride around the Cotswolds, starting in Oxford and taking in glorious scenery by bike and on foot.

    2. Ayr Flower Show

    Head up to Scotland to enjoy one of the country’s finest flower shows, set in the sumptuous woodlands surrounding Rozelle House, an imposing 18th-century mansion. Expect specially-created miniature and themed gardens, as well as a variety of delicious food and drink stands and cookery demonstrations. The three-day event takes place in early August, but you'll need to keep an eye on the website as this year’s dates are yet to be released. Ayr is located just south of Glasgow, and is the perfect pit stop for travellers to the dramatic shores of Loch Lomond – incidentally the starting point of our lochs and glens to Edinburgh tour. Scenic cycling heaven.

    3. RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

    Less home, more vast medieval royal household, Hampton Court Palace is one of Greater London’s most extraordinary buildings, boasting a unique combination of Tudor and Baroque architecture. Best known as the residence of King Henry VIII, Hampton Court is now equally recognised for its annual hosting of the world’s biggest flower show in the palace’s breathtaking park. Featuring show gardens, floral marquees and pavilions, as well as complementary talks and demonstrations, it is the second major national show after Chelsea and differs in its particular focus on environmental issues and self-grown produce. This year’s show takes place from July 4-9, so why not make a trip of it and plan your visit around our Thames-side cycling holiday Windsor and Hampton Court – a freewheeling celebration of royal history.

  • The inspirations behind The Carter Company

    17th November, 2016

    As it's Thanksgiving just around the corner, we thought it was a good time for us here at The Carter Company HQ to reflect on who and what we're thankful for. There are lots of people, products and brands who have inspired The Carter Company. When we re-branded a few years ago, we played a game where we had to think what we would be if we were a book, a person, a place, a fruit etc. It sounds a bit eccentric but it really helped us to think about the kind of company we want to be, and the service we want to provide to our customers. It also proved to be rather illuminating in revealing who we take inspiration from. So we thought for this thanksgiving-themed post, we would share some of our biggest inspirations who we (try to!) emulate in everything we do. They're a lot to live up to. But then we are aiming to make our cycling and walking holidays feel like a genuine cut above the rest!

    • Michael Palin
      One of our favourite travel writers and presenters, we love what Michael Palin represents: a sense of adventure, a curiosity and openness to new places and cultures, and a very British sense of humour.

    • Daunt Books
      Daunt Books is an original Edwardian bookshop with long oak galleries and graceful skylights in London, with a special focus on travel. They are also rather famous for packing up purchases in branded canvas bags which have become rather fashionable in certain circles! Their flagship on Marylebone High Street (which is lovely if you haven't been before) is a real treasure trove - head to the back and check out the antique travel books.

    • Aston Martin
      A favourite brand of John's, one of the original founding members of The Carter Company, the Aston Martin embodies a very British kind of elegance. Aston Martins are high-end and uniquely individual, which is exactly what we aim for when designing our walking and cycling holidays. The brand also has an affinity to the area where we are based, Aston Clinton: Aston Hill in the Chilterns is so named because they used to test the Aston Martin cars there!

    • Famous Five
      The Famous Five represent the spirit of adventure we cherish here at The Carter Company. It's one of the key reasons we focus on self-guided cycling holidays and walking tours here. Discoveries are best when you feel like they're your own. Self-guided holidays mean you can explore off route if you so please, and follow your nose - much like Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy did.

    • Brooks
      Brooks has to be the ultimate English cycling brand. Founded on values of quality and integrity, their iconic saddles (and all the other beautiful products they make) are beloved by cyclists all over the country. We love their backpacks and accessories too. If we could choose any cycling brand to do a collaboration with, we would choose Brooks.