870 Best Sights in England

Aldeburgh Beach Lookout

Fodor's choice

This tiny, disused lookout tower is in the middle of the main beachfront in Aldeburgh and has been converted into a bijou space for contemporary art and performances. Artists take up weekly residences here, welcoming the public each Saturday to observe what they've created during the week. This isn't just a space for local talent, however; some big names in the British arts world have taken part in recent years, including the poet Michael Horovitz and painter Eileen Cooper, the first female head of the Royal Academy. They also sometimes show art films projected on the side of the building—an arresting sight against a backdrop of dark seas lapping on the nighttime shore.

Allan Bank

Fodor's choice

Rope swings on the grounds, picnics in atmospheric old rooms, free tea and coffee, and huge blackboards you can write on: Allan Bank is unlike most other historic houses cared for by the National Trust. On a hill above the lake near Grasmere village, this grand house was once home to poet William Wordsworth as well as to Canon Rawnsley, the founder of the National Trust. Seriously damaged by fire in 2011, it has been partially restored but also left deliberately undecorated. It offers a much less formal experience than other stops on the Wordsworth trail. There are frequent activities for both children and adults: arts and crafts but also music and astronomy. Red squirrels can be seen on the 30-minute woodland walk through the beautiful grounds.

Alnwick Garden

Fodor's choice

A marvelous flight of fancy, Alnwick Garden celebrated its 20-year anniversary at the turn of this decade and remains one of the area's most beautiful, unusual, and kid-friendly attractions. Alongside traditional features like perfectly manicured lawns, shaded woodland walks, and a charming rose garden are more unusual elements like the enormous Grand Cascade water feature, a Poison Garden with everything from hemlock to cannabis, and a labyrinth of towering bamboo. The grounds are also home to the largest "Tai-haku" cherry orchard in the world, as well as a recently spruced-up shop and a number of excellent dining and drinking options, including one of the area's most unique restaurants, the Treehouse. If you want to take a little of the garden home with you, you can buy clippings of the unique varieties of roses in the shop.

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Angel of the North

Fodor's choice

South of Newcastle, near the junction of the A1 and A1(M) at Gateshead, you'll find this enormous rust-colored steel sculptureone of England's largest and most popular works of public art. Created by Antony Gormley in 1998, it's a sturdy, abstract human figure with airplane-like wings rather than arms. It stands 65 feet tall and has a horizontal wingspan of 175 feet. It's tricky to experience it fully from a car, so park in the free lot just behind the sculpture (on the A167) and take a stroll around its feet.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Fodor's choice

The most picturesque of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, this thatched cottage on the western outskirts of Stratford is the family home of the woman Shakespeare married in 1582. The "cottage," actually a substantial Tudor farmhouse with latticed windows, is astonishingly beautiful. Inside, it is surprisingly cozy with lots of period furniture, including the love seat on which Shakespeare reputedly conducted his courtship and a rare carved Elizabethan bed. The cottage garden is planted in lush Edwardian style with herbs and flowers. Wildflowers are grown in the adjacent orchard (a nod to what was grown in the garden in the Hathaways’ time), and the neighboring arboretum has trees, shrubs, and roses mentioned in Shakespeare's works.

The best way to get here is on foot, especially in late spring when the apple trees are in blossom. The signed path runs from Evesham Place (an extension of Grove Road) opposite Chestnut Walk. Pick up a leaflet with a map from the tourist office; the walk takes 25–30 minutes.

Cottage La., Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 9HH, England
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Rate Includes: £14.50; Shakespeare\'s Story ticket (includes entry to Shakespeare\'s New Place and Shakespeare\'s Birthplace) £25, Closed Nov.–Apr.

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Crosby Beach Fodor's choice

A hundred naked, life-size, cast-iron figures by sculptor Antony Gormley stand proudly on the 2 miles of foreshore at Crosby Beach, weathered by sand and sea. Unlike most other statues, you are permitted to interact with these and even clothe them if you wish. Check tide times before you go, and be aware that it's not safe to walk out to the farthest figures. The site is 6 miles north of downtown Liverpool; to get here, take the Merseyrail train to Blundellsands or Crosby from Liverpool Central or Moorfields Stations. A taxi will cost around £35–£40.

Apsley House

Mayfair Fodor's choice
Apsley House
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Apsley House was built by Robert Adam in the 1770s and was bought by the Duke of Wellington two years after his famous victory over Napoléon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Long known simply as No. 1, London, on account of its being the first mansion at the old tollgate from Knightsbridge village, the Duke's old regency abode continues to look quite grand. Victory over the French made Wellington the greatest soldier and statesman in the land. The so-called Iron Duke lived here from 1817 until his death in 1852, and, although the 7th Duke of Wellington gave the house to the nation, the family retained some residential rights.

As you'd expect, the mansion has many uniforms and weapons on display, but it also houses a celebrated art collection, the bulk of which was once owned by Joseph Bonaparte, onetime King of Spain and older brother of Napoléon. With works by Brueghel, van Dyck, and Rubens, as well as the Spanish masters Velázquez and Murillo (note the former's famous portrait of Pope Innocent X), the collection also includes a Goya portrait of the duke himself on horseback. An 11-foot-tall statue of a nude (fig-leafed) Napoléon looms over you as you approach the grand central staircase. The statue was taken from the Louvre and given as a gift to Wellington from the grateful British government in 1816.

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Arundel Castle

Fodor's choice

You've probably already seen Arundel Castle without knowing it, at least on screen; the castle's striking resemblance to Windsor means that it's frequently used as a stand-in for its more famous cousin in movies and television.

Begun in the 11th century, this vast castle remains rich with the history of the Fitzalan and Howard families and holds paintings by van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Reynolds. During the 18th century and in the Victorian era it was reconstructed in the fashionable Gothic style—although the keep, rising from its conical mound, is as old as the original castle (climb its 130 steps for great views of the River Arun), and the barbican and the Barons' Hall date from the 13th century. Among the treasures here are the rosary beads and prayer book used by Mary, Queen of Scots, in preparing for her execution.

The formal garden, a triumph of order and beauty, is also worth a visit. Special events happen year-round, including a week of jousting, usually in late July. (Ticket prices rise slightly during event weeks.) Although the castle's ceremonial entrance is at the top of High Street, you enter at the bottom, close to the parking lot.

Ashmolean Museum

Fodor's choice

What might be Britain's greatest museum outside London is also the oldest public museum in the United Kingdom. "The Ash," as locals call it, displays its rich and varied collections from the Neolithic to the present day over five stunning floors. Innovative and spacious galleries explore connections between priceless Greek, Roman, and Indian artifacts, as well as Egyptian and Chinese objects, all of which are among the best in the country. In the superb art collection, don't miss drawings by Raphael, the shell-encrusted mantle of Powhatan (father of Pocahontas), the lantern belonging to Guy Fawkes, and the Alfred Jewel, set in gold, which dates from the reign of King Alfred the Great (ruled 871–899).

Attingham Park

Fodor's choice

Built in 1785 by George Steuart (architect of the church of St. Chad in Shrewsbury) for the first Lord Berwick, this elegant stone mansion has a three-story portico, with a pediment carried on four tall columns. The building overlooks a sweep of parkland, part of which is home to around 300 deer. Inside the house are painted ceilings and delicate plasterwork, a fine picture gallery designed by John Nash (1752–1835), and 19th-century Neapolitan furniture. Attingham Park is four miles southeast of Shrewsbury.

Avebury Stone Circles

Fodor's choice

Surrounding part of Avebury village, the Avebury Stone Circles, the largest in the world, are one of England's most evocative prehistoric monuments—not as famous as Stonehenge, but all the more powerful for their lack of commercial exploitation. The stones were erected between 2850 and 2200 BC, about the same time as the better-known monument. As with Stonehenge, the purpose of this stone circle has never been ascertained, although it most likely was used for similar ritual purposes. Unlike Stonehenge, however, there are no certain astronomical alignments at Avebury, at least none that have survived. The main site consists of a wide, circular ditch and bank, about 1,400 feet across and more than half a mile around. Entrances break the perimeter at roughly the four points of the compass, and inside stand the remains of three stone circles. The largest one originally had 98 stones, although only 27 remain. Many stones on the site were destroyed centuries ago, especially in the 14th century when they were buried for unclear reasons, possibly religious fanaticism. Others were later pillaged in the 18th century to build the thatched cottages you see flanking the fields. You can walk around the circles, a World Heritage Site, at any time; early morning and early evening are recommended. As with Stonehenge, the summer solstice tends to draw the crowds.

Baddesley Clinton

Fodor's choice

The eminent architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described this as “the perfect late medieval manor house,” and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. The Tudor mansion, with its elegant Queen Anne brick bridge reaching over the moat, is like something out of a period drama. Set off a winding back-road, this grand manor dating from the 15th century retains its great fireplaces, 17th-century paneling, and three priest holes (secret chambers for Roman Catholic priests, who were hidden by sympathizers when Catholicism was banned in the 16th and 17th centuries). Admission to the house is by timed ticket. Baddesley Clinton is two miles east of Packwood House and 15 miles north of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Bamburgh Castle

Fodor's choice

You'll see Bamburgh Castle long before you reach it: a solid, weather-beaten, clifftop fortress that dominates the coastal view for miles around. A fortification of some kind has stood here since the 6th century, but the Norman castle was damaged during the 15th century, and the central tower is all that remains intact. Much of the structure—the home of the Armstrong family since 1894—was restored during the 18th and 19th centuries. The interior is mostly late Victorian (most impressively, the Great Hall), although a few rooms, such as the small but alarmingly well-stocked armory, have a more authentically medieval feel; look out for the devil-horned helmet. The breathtaking view across the sweeping sands of Bamburgh beach and the North Sea beyond is worth the steep climb up from the main road; bring a picnic if the weather's good (or order to-go sandwiches at the café).

Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Edgbaston Fodor's choice

Part of the University of Birmingham, this museum has a small but astounding collection of European paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture, including works by Botticelli, van Dyck, Gainsborough, Turner, Manet, Monet, Degas, van Gogh, and Magritte. The museum also has a lively program of temporary exhibitions and a weekly lunchtime concert at 1 pm on Friday, as well as occasional evening concerts. The museum is three miles from the city center; to get here, take a train from New Street Station to University Station, which is a 10-minute walk from the gallery, or jump on a No. 61 or 63 bus, operated by National Express West Midlands.

Battle Abbey

Fodor's choice

Situated six miles northwest of Hastings, this great Benedictine abbey was erected by William the Conqueror on the site of the Battle of Hastings—one of the most decisive turning points in English history and the last time the country was successfully invaded. All of this meant little to Henry VIII, of course, who didn't spare the building from his violent dissolution of the monasteries. Today the abbey is just a ruin, but a very pretty one.

Start at the visitor center to get the full story through a series of films and interactive exhibits before taking a walk around the abbey site, including up to the first floor. A memorial stone marks the high altar, which in turn was supposedly laid on the spot where Harold II, the last Saxon king, was killed.

You can also follow a trail around the 1066 battlefield, lined with a series of intricately carved wooden sculptures of Norman and Saxon soldiers, or climb the gatehouse for an exhibiton on the site's post-invasion history as well as spectacular rooftop views of the town. For a potted history of Battle, head to nearby St. Mary's Church, where the three-meter-long Battle Tapestry artfully illustrates how the town developed around the abbey.

Beamish, the Living Museum of the North

Fodor's choice

Situated nine miles northwest of Durham, this impressive "living museum"a sprawling complex made up of heritage buildings found on-site or moved from elsewhere in the regionoffers real insight into the way people in the Northeast lived and worked from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. A vintage bus and a streetcar take you around the site to various points of interest, including a farm estate; a pit village and colliery; and an entire 1920s town complete with a bank, convenience store, and Masonic hall. Everything is staffed by workers in period costumes, and you can buy era-appropriate food and drinks in the pub, bakery, and "sweet shop" (candy store). As well as the permanent exhibits, there are special events year-round, from weekend-long festivals, where you're encouraged to come in old-style fancy dress, to traditional English celebrations such as May Day and Harvest Festival. You can spend at least half a day here, and tickets are valid for a whole year in case you want to return.

Beatles Story

Fodor's choice

Entertaining scenes at this popular attraction in the Albert Dock complex re-create stages in the Beatles' story (and their later careers as solo artists). You'll find everything from the enthusiastic early days in Germany and the Cavern Club to the White Room, where "Imagine" seems to emanate from softly billowing curtains. A shop sells every conceivable kind of souvenir a Fab Four fan could wish for.

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Beatrix Potter Gallery

Fodor's choice

In the 17th-century solicitor's offices formerly used by Potter's husband, the Beatrix Potter Gallery displays a selection of the artist-writer's original illustrations, watercolors, and drawings. There's also information about her interest in conservation and her early support of the National Trust. The house looks almost as it would have in her day, though with touch screens in wooden frames and a children's play area upstairs. Admission is by timed ticket when the place gets busy.

Benjamin Franklin House

Covent Garden Fodor's choice

This architecturally significant 1730 Georgian town house is the only surviving residence of American statesman, scientist, writer, and inventor Benjamin Franklin, who lived and worked here for 16 years preceding the American Revolution. The restored Georgian home has been left unfurnished, the better to show off the original features, like the 18th-century paneling, stoves, beams, bricks, and windows. Visitors are led around the house by the costumed character of Polly Hewson, the daughter of Franklin's landlady, who interacts with engaging video projections and recorded voices (weekends only). On Friday you can take a guided tour focusing on the architectural details of the building, and a walking tour of the surrounding area lasting up to 90 minutes sets off from the house at noon.

Birmingham Back to Backs

City Centre Fodor's choice

Of the 20,000 courtyards of back-to-back houses (houses that quite literally back onto each other) built in the 19th century for the city’s expanding working-class population, this is the only survivor. Three houses tell the stories of families (a clock-maker, locksmith, and glass-eye maker were among the residents) who lived in these charming properties, which were rescued from decay by the National Trust and opened as a heritage site. Each of the properties is decorated for a different period in the courtyard’s history, from the outdoor privies to the long johns hanging over the bedstead. Admission is by guided tour only, which must be booked in advance. Allow at least one hour for the tour and be prepared for steep stairs; ground-floor tours are available for those with limited mobility.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

City Centre Fodor's choice

Vast and impressive, this museum holds a magnificent collection of Victorian art and is known internationally for its works by the Pre-Raphaelites. All the big names are here—among them Rubens, Renoir, Constable, and Francis Bacon—reflecting the enormous wealth of 19th-century Birmingham and the aesthetic taste of its industrialists. Galleries of metalwork, silver, and ceramics reveal some of the city’s history, and works from the Renaissance, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the present day are also well represented. One gallery displays part of the incredible Staffordshire Hoard, the greatest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered. The 3,500-strong haul was unearthed in a field 16 miles north of Birmingham; among the hundreds of items on permanent display here include helmets, gold, jewelry, and metalwork. The Edwardian Tearooms are good for lunch, and there is a great play area for kids just outside.

Black Country Living Museum

Fodor's choice

This 26-acre museum on social history gives insight into what life was like centuries ago for the men and women who worked in the coal-producing region known as the Black Country (a term that arose from the resulting air pollution from the region's coal mines), and it’s a little like walking onto a film set. The town of Dudley, 10 miles northwest of Birmingham, was where coal was first used for smelting iron way back in the 17th century. The replicated village is made up of buildings from around the region, including a chain maker’s workshop; a trap-works (where animal snares were fashioned); his-and-hers hardware stores (pots and pans for women, tools and sacks for men); a druggist; and a general store where costumed women describe life in a poor industrial community in the 19th century. You can also sit on a hard bench and watch Charlie Chaplin films in the 1920s cinema, peer into the depths of a mine, or ride on a barge to experience canal travel of yesteryear. For sustenance, there is a café, a 1930s-era fried-fish shop, and the Bottle & Glass Inn for ales and drinks. Peaky Blinders fans will also be pleased to know they now offer special themed nights where you can dress up and step back to the 1920s.

To avoid the numerous school parties, visit on the weekend or during school vacations. The museum, three miles from the M5, is best reached by car. Leave M5 at Junction 2 by the A4123, and then take A4037 at Tipton. Trains from Birmingham New Street to Tipton Station take 17 minutes; buses from the train station run past the museum, which is one mile away.


Fodor's choice

From 1898 to 1900, architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865–1945) designed Blackwell, a quintessential Arts and Crafts house with carved paneling, delicate plasterwork, and a startling sense of light and space. Originally a retreat for a Manchester brewery owner, the house is a refined mix of modern style and the local vernacular. Lime-washed walls and sloping slate roofs make it fit elegantly into the landscape above Windermere, and the artful integration of decorative features into stained glass, stonework, friezes, and wrought iron gives the house a sleekly contemporary feel. Accessibility is wonderful here: nothing is roped off, and you can even play the piano. There's some Baillie Scott furniture, too, and an exhibition space upstairs. Peruse the shop, and try the honey-roast ham in the excellent tearoom. The grounds are also worth a visit; they often host contemporary sculpture installations.

Blenheim Palace

Fodor's choice

This magnificent palace has been called England's Versailles, and with good reason—it's still the only historic house in Britain to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh in the early 1700s in collaboration with Nicholas Hawksmoor, Blenheim was given by Queen Anne and the nation to General John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough, in gratitude for his military victories (including the Battle of Blenheim) against the French in 1704. The exterior is opulent and sumptuous, with huge columns, enormous pediments, and obelisks, all exemplars of English baroque. Inside, lavishness continues in extremes; you can join a free guided tour or simply walk through on your own. In most of the opulent rooms, family portraits look down at sumptuous furniture, elaborate carpets, fine Chinese porcelain, and immense pieces of silver. Exquisite tapestries in the three state rooms illustrate the first duke's victories. Book a tour of the current duke's private apartments for a more intimate view of ducal life. For some visitors, the most memorable room is the small, low-ceiling chamber where Winston Churchill (his father was the younger brother of the then-duke) was born in 1874; you can also see his paintings, his toy soldier collection, and a room devoted to his private letters (those he sent home from school in Marlborough as a young boy are both touching and tragic). He's buried in nearby Bladon.

Sir Winston wrote that the unique beauty of Blenheim lay in its perfect adaptation of English parkland to an Italian palace. Its 2,000 acres of grounds, the work of Capability Brown, 18th-century England's best-known landscape gardener, are arguably the best example of the "cunningly natural" park in the country. Looking across the park to Vanbrugh's semi-submerged Grand Bridge makes for an unforgettable vista. Blenheim's formal gardens include notable water terraces and an Italian garden with a mermaid fountain, all built in the 1920s.

The Pleasure Gardens, reached by a miniature train that stops outside the palace's main entrance, contain a butterfly house, a hedge maze, and a giant chess set. The herb-and-lavender garden is also delightful. Blenheim Palace stages a concert of Beethoven's Battle Symphony in mid-July, combined with a marvelous fireworks display. There are many other outdoor events throughout the summer, including jousting tournaments. Allow at least three hours for a full visit.

After taking in Blenheim Palace, stop by Bladon, 2 miles southeast of Woodstock on A4095 and 6 miles northwest of Oxford, to see the small, tree-lined churchyard that’s the burial place of Sir Winston Churchill. His grave is all the more impressive for its simplicity.

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Blickling Estate

Fodor's choice

Behind the wrought-iron entrance gate to Blickling Estate, two mighty yew hedges form a magnificent frame for this perfectly symmetrical Jacobean masterpiece. The redbrick mansion, 15 miles north of Norwich, has towers and chimneys, baroque Dutch gables, and, in the center, a three-story timber clock tower. The grounds include a formal flower garden and parkland with woods that conceal a temple, an orangery, and a pyramid. Blickling belonged to a succession of historic figures, including Sir John Fastolf, the model for Shakespeare's Falstaff; Anne Boleyn's family; and finally, Lord Lothian, ambassador to United States at the outbreak of the World War II. The Long Gallery (127 feet) has an intricate plasterwork ceiling with Jacobean emblems.

Bodiam Castle

Fodor's choice

Immortalized in paintings, photographs, and films, Bodiam Castle (pronounced Boe-dee-um) rises out of the distance like a piece of medieval legend. From the outside, it's one of Britain's most impressive castles, with turrets, battlements, a glassy moat (one of the very few still in use), and two-foot-thick walls. However, once you cross the drawbridge to the interior there's little to see but ruins, albeit on an impressive scale. Built in 1385 to withstand a threatened French invasion, it was partly demolished during the English Civil War of 1642–46 and has been uninhabited ever since. Still, you can climb the intact towers to take in sweeping views of the surrounding vineyards and countryside, and kids love running around the keep. The castle, 12 miles northwest of Rye, schedules organized activities for kids during school holidays.

For a unique way to approach Bodiam Castle, take a 45-minute river cruise through the pretty Sussex countryside. Boats leave from the riverbank in Newenden; find more information and sailing times at  www.bodiamboatingstation.co.uk.

Borough Market

Borough Fodor's choice

There's been a market in Borough since 1014, and this latest incarnation, spread under the arches and railroad tracks leading to London Bridge Station, is where some of the city's best food producers sell their wares, with more than 100 stalls selling food from around the world. Fresh coffees, gorgeous cheeses, chocolates, and baked goods complement the organically farmed meats, fresh fish, condiments, fruits, and vegetables. The market is divided into three areas: one for larger producers and merchants, one for small specialist produce traders, and one for street food traders, all surrounded by above-average restaurants, bars, and shops.

Don't make any other lunch plans for the day; this is where celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's scallop man cooks them fresh at Shellseekers, and Ginger Pig's free-range rare-breed sausages sizzle on grills, while for the sweets lover, there are chocolates, preserves, and Whirld's handmade fudge. The Market Hall hosts workshops, tastings, and a demonstration kitchen, and even houses an orchard. The market is open Monday through Friday 10–5, Saturday 8–5, and Sunday 10--3, though not all traders operate on all days; check the website for more details.

On weekends, a separate, highly regarded market specializing in produce and street food operates on nearby Maltby Street. It was originally established by eight breakaway Borough Market traders. There you'll find some eight stalls specializing in gyoza, sausage and mash, Ethiopian dishes, duck frites, and Venezuelan street food, plus purveyors of brownies, craft beer, local gin, and more in the surrounding railway arches.

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Borrowdale Fells

Fodor's choice

These steep fells rise up dramatically behind Seatoller. Get out and walk whenever inspiration strikes. Trails are well signposted, or you can pick up maps and any gear in Keswick.

Bowes Museum

Fodor's choice

This vast manor house, inspired by a French château, was built between 1862 and 1875. Today, it's home to one of the region's most unique museum exhibits: an 18th-century mechanical swan that catches and swallows an articulated silver fish. The swan is currently undergoing restoration so its usual 2 pm show is on hold, although there's a film showing the swan in action and explaining the ingenious mechanics behind it. Other highlights in the Bowes Museum include paintings by Canaletto, El Greco, and Francisco Goya, as well as beautiful collections of ceramics and glass, 18th-century French furniture, and 19th- and 20th-century fashion. There's a guided tour available every day at 11:15 am; book online in advance.  Planning to visit the rest of town? Park for free here and walk in. Just note that the entrance gates are locked at closing time (usually 5 pm).


Fodor's choice

On the eastern shore of Coniston Water, Brantwood was the cherished home of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the noted Victorian artist, writer, critic, and social reformer, after 1872. The rambling 18th-century house (with Victorian alterations) is on a 250-acre estate that stretches high above the lake. Here, alongside mementos such as his mahogany desk, are Ruskin's own paintings, drawings, and books. On display is art that this great connoisseur collected, and in cerebral corners such as the Ideas Room visitors are encouraged to think about meaning and change. Ruskin's Rocks explores his fascinations with stones and music with a brilliant bit of modern technology. A video on Ruskin's life shows the lasting influence of his thoughts, and the Severn Studio has rotating art exhibitions. Ruskin himself laid out the extensive grounds. Take time to explore the gardens and woodland walks, which include some multilayered features: Ziggy Zaggy, for example, originally a garden built by Ruskin to reflect Dante's Purgatorial Mount, is now an allegory of the seven deadly sins. Brantwood hosts a series of classical concerts on some Saturdays, as well as talks, guided walks, and study days.