Celebrate Maritime England

Date Posted: 02/04/2012

With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the restoration of the Cutty Sark and a new Mary Rose museum set to open, 2012 is shaping up to be the year that group travel organisers can can put a trip together that celebrates England’s maritime history. 

In the wake of Julian Fellowes’ new ITV television drama Titanic, and in anticipation of James Cameron's Academy Award-winning blockbuster of the same name relaunching in 3D, VisitEngland takes a look at other nautical stories that are set to make a big splash.

Titanic Centenary, Nationwide - Various dates 

Groups can revisit the haunting tale of the world’s most famous shipwreck in a series of exhibitions held throughout the country. London’s National Maritime Museum will lead visitors through the accounts of some of the survivors, while Liverpool’s Merseyside Museum will explore the city’s extensive links with the ship, its crew and passengers. The Titanic sailed from Southampton of course and, as you might expect, Southampton has plenty to say on the matter. Its brand new SeaCity museum will open this year, and will look at the world’s fascination with the Titanic story. Stoke-On-Trent’s Potteries Museum and Art Gallery will host a number of events, from guided tours through its Titanic exhibitions and atmospheric audio visual presentations, to commemorative concerts. Liverpool too will mark the centenary of Titanic’s sinking with a programme of events and exhibitions, including the epic Sea Odyssey – a three-day event that will see the giant spectacular, a 30ft ‘giant little girl’ tour the city over three days in April.

Cutty Sark, London - Relaunches 20th April

Organise a group visit and climb aboard the Cutty Sark and into the 142 year story of the last tea clipper in the world. The ship’s wooden hull and broad sails have carried her through the world’s oceans, and you can step into the history of those voyages, the ship’s construction, and its careful conservation since it finally came to rest in Greenwich. You’ll learn about the story behind her name and all kinds of other maritime secrets. The Cutty Sark re-opens to the public in April following an extensive restoration project, so if you’ve been before, get ready for a whole new museum.

Diamond Jubilee River Pageant & Gun Salute, The Thames, London - 3rd June 

At high water on the afternoon of Sunday 3rd June, up to a thousand boats will muster on the River Thames in preparation for Her Majesty The Queen to take part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. It will be one of the largest flotillas ever assembled with vessels of all shapes and sizes, beautifully dressed with streamers and Union Jack flags, their crews and passengers turned out in their finest rigs. The flotilla will be bolstered with passenger boats carrying up to 30,000 flag-waving members of the public placed centre stage (or rather mid-river) in this floating celebration of Her Majesty's 60-year reign, bringing the Thames to life with clanging bells, tooting horns and sounding whistles, recalling both its royal heritage and heyday as a working, bustling river.

Art on Sea, Nationwide - Various dates

Many of us would gladly spend all day frolicking on the beach. But if you fancy organising a group trip that mixes sandcastles and chip butties with a bit of art and culture, England has a hip and happening collection of seaside towns that offer more than the occasional sand sculpture or flower bed display. The Jerwood Gallery, gleaming on Rock-A-Nore Road amongst Hastings Old Town’s wooden fishing huts, is the newest edition to the seaside art scene. Jerwood Gallery opened on 17th March and is now the permanent home for the Jerwood Collection. Alternatively, just a little further along the east Sussex coast is the De La Warr Pavilion, another contemporary art gallery within 1066 Country. Oozing modernist elegance with its curved balconies and swish spiral staircases, De La Warr makes the most of its assets - both inside and out. Crossing the border into Kent, group travel organisers will find creativity galore along the coast, from the bohemian haven of Whitstable to Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. But the gallery that’s kicking up a storm most romantics would be proud of is the Turner Contemporary, slap-bang on Margate’s seafront. What’s more, as part of the London 2012 Festival, group travel organisers can take people to see a major free exhibition by Tracy Emin, one of England’s most famous female artists and a Margate local.

Spirit of the Sea, Weymouth & Portland Maritime Festival - 30th June to 15th July

This year sees the fifth ‘Spirit of the Sea’, Weymouth & Portland Maritime Festival, celebrating the area’s close relationship with the sea. The festival brings together a range of sporting activities, cultural events and entertainment that can combine to make a really enjoyable group trip. One of the highlights of this year’s celebrations is the Moving Tides Carnival procession, which promises to be the biggest and best yet. Full of colour, movement and sound, the performance will be bursting with energy as it makes its way to Weymouth Beach. If that doesn’t float your group's boat, Dorset Seafood Festival is also part of the celebrations. The festival is a free, charitable event based around Weymouth's historic old harbour and is dedicated to promoting the health benefits of eating seafood, demonstrating the range and variety of local species available, and emphasising the importance of sustainability. Expect celebrity chefs, seafood professionals, local fisherman, and restaurants getting involved in the name of all things fishy. 

Cowes Week, Isle of Wight - 11th to 18th August 

As the year of the London 2012 Olympic Games, 60,000 people are expected to flood into Weymouth and Portland every day for two weeks in a few months’ time, to watch the sailing events. If you’re arranging a group holiday, Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight is described as an international sailing hot spot. The annual event is renowned for bringing people together from all walks of life and from across the globe. The racing action sees Olympic and world champions competing against weekend sailors.

The Mary Rose, Portsmouth - Opens end of 2012

The Mary Rose is based in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Built between 1509 and 1511, she was one of the first ships able to fire a broadside, and was a firm favourite of King Henry VIII. After a long and successful career, she sank during an engagement with the French fleet in 1545. Her rediscovery and rising were seminal events in the history of nautical archaeology. Currently, the museum remains open but the ship’s hull is now closed and work has started on a brand new museum to open in late 2012. The hull will be at the centre of the new development with galleries running the entire length of the ship. Artefacts will be set out, designed by the architect and maritime archaeologist Chris Brandon, so that groups can see what the decks would have looked like moments before the ship sank. 

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