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Britain has an interesting history. From Grendel to One Direction, strange phenomena spring forth from the Isles. There’s a great song by the English band Queen titled “I’m going Slightly Mad.” That somewhat sums up life in Britain. There is a lot that you can find to be quite batty about if you know where to look. Here are five slightly off-center points of interest that alternately bring pride and embarrassment to Her Majesty’s subjects. You judge which does which.
Tower of London
Located in mid-London on the Thames, the Tower has seen its share of oddities. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote the History of the World while imprisoned there. Queen Elizabeth I was held there by her crazy sister, Bloody Mary. Anne Boleyn was beheaded there and still haunts the place, as does Lady Jane Grey and King Henry VI. There is also a yet-to-be identified spirit haunting the jewel room, either keeping watch over the crown jewels or plotting their disappearance!
Oliver Cromwell’s head had a life of its own. Tied to Westminster Hall’s roof for over 100 years, it was sold from person to person until the early 20th Century, when it fell subject to forensic testing to verify its authenticity. It has the distinction of being the last publicly-traded head in Europe before finally being laid to rest in 1960. You can visit the final resting place of Oliver’s prodigal melon at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge.
It’s a tub race. Yes, they’re mounted like kayaks and raced across a lake in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. It’s an annual event, and while it’s not certain how many spectators are drawn every year, those that do attend are treated to both a men’s and women’s open. A special prize is given each year for creative dress, won in 2011 by Jacquie Wilce who commanded her vessel as Capt. Jack Sparrow.
While in town for the Bathtubbing Championships, you may want to catch the World Bog Snorkeling Championships, which are held around the same time. Imagine a ditch filled with water, peat, and mud. All shapes of people wallow and crawl through the “bog” like seals bouncing across the beach to get back in the water. Held every year since 1985, participants from four continents converge on the event to race for charity and a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records, which has officially recognized it as a sport.
There’s Stonehenge, which you’ve heard of, and then there’s Avebury Henge, which may have missed your radar. They are very similar attractions; Stonehenge is more imposing while Avebury, about 25 miles north, is more spread out. It contains several sites in the vicinity, including West Kennet Long Barrow. Both Stonehenge and Avebury were erected around 2500 BC, yet it is unknown if they were constructed by the same people. Ascertaining the purpose of these structures is a quest that has been driving Britons nuts for millennia, but conventional wisdom holds that they are either tombs, calendar systems, or landing sites for our alien ancestors.
Chris Turberville-Tully works with ESA, which offers serviced apartments Southampton visitors can enjoy their stay in. They are a great alternative to hotels.