Twelve highlights of 2012!

London 2012 olympics
London 2012 olympics

A fresh new year is here so what better time to look back at what a wonderful 2012 we had. Here are our top 12 highlights of the year…

London 2012 olympics
The Red Arrows paint a dramatic sky with red, white and blue to celebrate the Opening Ceremony © London 2012

1. London 2012 Olympics

At the top of the list it has to be the London Olympics. We all expected it to be a great event, but we didn’t expect it to be quite so magnificent. Olympic fever infected the entire country and everyone who visited. Here at BRITAIN magazine, we created a special issue to celebrate London 2012. Download the Olympic Supplement for free, here.

The Queen Diamond Jubilee
Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown, taken in Buckingham Palace after her Coronation © Press Association

2. The Diamond Jubilee

It was a close call for the top spot between the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the London Olympics. The Diamond Jubilee was pipped to the post because we could have happily continued celebrating long after the official party ended. HM Queen Elizabeth II and all the country celebrated in style and we paused to enjoy the Bank Holiday (albeit in the rain). Here at BRITAIN magazine we published our special souvenir: Elizabeth The Queen – Diamond Jubilee Souvenir. And you will be pleased to read that it is on sale again now – click here to view a sample of the souvenir.

3. Super, supreme spas!

We were lucky enough to visit some of the country’s finest hotels and spas in 2012. But two of our firm favourites were Lucknam Park – in the heart of the English countryside and a short drive from Bath – and its indoor and outdoor heated pools, which have to be experienced to be believed. Truly blissful! We also adored our trip to Chewton Glen in Hampshire. We were there as the finishing touches were being added to their latest addition – the very special Treehouse suites. Click here for Lucknam Park and here for Chewton Glen.

4. Suffolk, sail and stay

During the summer months we were invited on a sail and stay experience. This has made our top 12 for many reasons. For one, it provided us with the opportunity to revisit an area of the UK that is vastly under rated – Ipswich in Suffolk. We stayed in the stunning Salthouse Harbor Hotel overlooking Neptune Quay, from where we joined Viking Mariner for an afternoon of sailing on the beautiful River Orwell. Read more about it in the next issue of BRITAIN magazine. In the meantime click here for Visit Suffolk, here for Salthouse Harbor Hotel and here for Viking Mariner.

5. Afternoon tea to remember

The afternoon tea at The Lanesborough Hotel was winner of the UK Tea Council Award of Excellence in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Do we need to say more? Just thinking about the freshly baked scones, thick clotted cream and home made fruit preserves has our mouths watering. For the perfect day out, begin with a stroll around Apsley House – the English Heritage property opposite the hotel and after which The Lanesborough’s restaurant is named. Then enjoy the award-winning afternoon tea in Apsleys restaurant. Confusing…? It won’t be once you have tried it. (Gluten and dairy free afternoon tea is also available upon request.) Click here for Apsleys at The Lanesborough and here for English Heritage’s Apsley House.

6. Discovering wonderful Wiltshire

We don’t know about you, but here in the BRITAIN office we often holiday in the same place year after year, the Lake District and Devon being our ‘comfort zones’. So it was a real delight to visit and learn much more about Wiltshire. We all make the effort to see Stonehenge, but linger longer in Wiltshire to explore Avebury, Salisbury and the myriad villages and towns bordered by rolling downs and high plains – it is a true delight and one that will now be on our annual holiday wish-list. Read more about Wiltshire here.

12 best in 2012
We've thoroughly enjoyed strolling through Britain's wonderful gardens in 2012 © RHS C Sheppard

7. Garden highlights

We spent a lot of time in Britain’s beautiful gardens this year, from Kew to Kensington. One of our all-time favourites was wonderful Wisley. Home to around 40 Royal Horticultural Society scientists, the garden is an educational centre and home to 200 acres of beautiful gardens which are visited by more than 900,000 people each year. We met and chatted with the aptly named Jim Gardiner who is Director of Horticulture and lives at Wisley. Read the feature here.

8. Moment of calm in the City

It is always nice to discover somewhere new in London and The Montcalm hotel, set deep in the heart of London’s financial district, did not disappoint with its wonderful mix of distinction and flamboyance. But it is the ‘old’ that makes Montcalm even more interesting. The building dates back to 1750 and was the first, purpose-built mass-production brewery in Britain. Today the Grade II listed heritage edifice houses this luxury hotel with a difference and is well worth a visit. Read more about The Montcalm in the next issue of BRITAIN magazine. In the meantime click here for more information.

9. Fish, chips and sea views

Food festivals were big news in Britain in 2012 and one of our favourites was Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival weekend. A combination of the wonderful location of Snape Maltings, the quality of the producers, the range of food available and the variety of things to do at the event (plus easy parking) made it a real pleasure all round. The experience was topped off with a stay at the beautiful Brudenell hotel in Aldeburgh. The hotel has fabulous sea views and a restaurant serving the very best local food cooked by the hotel’s talented chef James Barber.

10. Stay in a sports car…

It was far from cramped in our sports car suite – it was in fact the Jaguar Suite at 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences. Located just minutes from Buckingham Palace, the hotel is a collection of 86 elegant suites each with their own private kitchen and living areas. We stayed in the two-bedroom Jaguar suite adorned with subtle Jaguar motifs and artwork, marble floored walk-in showers and oversized baths, a dining area to seat 10 people, a fully equipped gloss black kitchen and a range of high-tech gadgets – as you would imagine. Overseen by Jaguar’s in-house Design Director Ian Callum, the suite features specially commissioned artwork and sleek design, which alludes to classic and contemporary Jaguar models, from the legendary 1960s E-type to the state-of-the-art C-X75. Automotive fan or not, this suite is one you will never forget. Read more about 51 Buckingham Gate and the Taj Suites and Residences here.

11. Scrumptious Sunday lunches

There are few things more comforting than a wonderful Sunday lunch enjoyed in a relaxing setting, and that is exactly what we found at The White Oak at Cookham. When they opened back in 2008 they wanted to “to open the best Country Pub Restaurant we could” and we certainly enjoyed it! The menu has been lovingly crafted by Clive Dixon, The White Oaks Chef Patron. Clive concentrates on creating mouth-watering dishes that use the very best seasonal produce. Read more about The White Oak here.

Harrods Christmas window
Fashion meets fairytales in the 2012 Harrods Christmas window display © Harrods

12. Wonderful wintery windows

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, one thing you will enjoy is the efforts made by our department stores around the UK as they go that extra mile to ensure their Christmas window is a sight to remember. Take a stroll along Brompton Road in Knightsbridge and you will see two of the best – Harrods and Harvey Nichols. A short bus ride and you are at the lights of Oxford and Regent Street and Liberty and Selfridge’s wonderful windows. But still a firm favourite of the BRITAIN team is the window of Fenwick’s in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Shoppers in the northern town queue patiently so that they can get the best view of this delightful display. Click here for more information about Fenwick in Newcastle.