Caroline MillsSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Caroline Mills
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 90th birthday in 2016, the first British reigning monarch to do so.
Blow up the balloons and bring out the bunting. There are celebrations afoot to mark Her Majesty’s birthday. And there are three sets of festivities – the first happened in April and there are more in May and June.
Her actual 90th birthday was on 21 April 2016, and was generally a private affair.
The Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration, a pageant held in the grounds of Windsor Castle, takes place daily from 12 to 15 May 2016. 900 horses, actors, dancers, musicians, theatrical lighting and video projections will tell the story of her life. From her birth to World War II, her marriage, coronation and more than 60-year reign, key events will be shown as a rich kaleidoscope of memories, complete with international tours and achievements. 4000 people will be in the audience each night, and the events will be broadcast on ITV and worldwide.
Stars due to perform include Dame Shirley Bassey and Gary Barlow OBE, James Blunt, Kylie Minogue OBE, soul singer Beverley Knight MBE, mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins OBE, British tenor Alfie Boe and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
As if that weren't enough actors Martin Clunes OBE, Damian Lewis OBE, Dame Helen Mirren, Jennifer Saunders, Imelda Staunton CBE and horticultural TV guru Alan Titchmarsh MBE will take the stage at various times. And the TV presenters hosting this auspicious event? Ant and Dec, of course!
More formal birthday occasions will take place on 10 and 11 June 2016, with a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral in London followed by the annual Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace on 11 June. On Sunday 12 June there’s a huge picnic lunch in The Mall, not to mention numerous street parties countrywide.
Visit the Queen's namesakes
To provide our own little slice of birthday festivities, we thought it might be fun to open up a Road Atlas of Great Britain and see where caravanners can go that have ‘Queen’ within the place name. There are 12 in total, according to the AA Concise Road Atlas Britain. We’ve highlighted six of them here. Why not make this historic occasion a good reason to take royalty-themed caravan holidays? Break out the bubbly, it's time to cut the cake!
Situated on the west coast of the Isle of Sheppey, Queenborough is a tiny harbour town that, over the years, has made use of its location to land boats on any tide. The open estuary of the River Medway and The Swale (the water that effectively makes Sheppey an island) meet at Queenborough.
It’s believed that Admiral Lord Nelson learned how to sail in the waters around the town – and he and his mistress, Lady Hamilton, shared a house near Queenborough's small harbour.
Queenborough obtained its grand name from the 14th-century King Edward III who named it after his queen, Philippa of Hainault. The king granted the town a royal charter and made it one of Kent's main ports for exporting wool, a prosperous trade that brought wealth to both the Crown and the town. Later the Dutch invaded, causing mayhem, but occupying Queenborough for only a few days. Later the town became famous for oyster fishing.
Today this area is popular for seaside holidays and is a good destination for caravan holidays in Kent, since there are several campsites on the Isle of Sheppey. If you like boating holidays, you'll love Queenborough’s historic maritime atmosphere. You can also see the ancient abbey at Minster, with its Minster Gatehouse Museum housed in a 1000-year-old building next door.
Visit Sittingbourne's Steam Railway, plus the associated gardens, play area, museum and café, with three steam locomotives running on narrow gauge tracks from March until late September. As if that weren't enough, the Isle of Sheppey is the birthplace of British aviation. It was here that the Wright Brothers came to fly their first aeroplanes in 1909 and the Short Brothers set up an aircraft factory.
You can stay at Plough Leisure Caravan Park in Plough Road, on the outskirts of Minster. It's a Camping & Caravanning Club listed site with a heated outdoor swimming pool and 30 pitches, 22 of them with electric hook-ups.
Queen Charlton, North East Somerset
Originally just ‘Charlton’, the village was bestowed upon Queen Catherine Parr by King Henry VIII during the Dissolution, so it became known as Queen Charlton. Previously the village had belonged to Keynsham Abbey, the ruins of which can be seen in the neighbouring town. However, a second queen became involved in the village. Queen Elizabeth I granted Queen Charlton a fair when she passed through in 1573; it’s an event that continues to this day, held annually on the second Saturday of June.
Queen Charlton, once the home of children’s author Dick King-Smith, is particularly attractive, as is its location for visitors, being close to the River Avon and mid-way between Bath and Bristol.
Visit Queen Charlton if you're planning caravan holidays near Bath and Bristol. You can stay at a small Certificated Site, Knights Folly Farm, at nearby Bitton. This is particularly useful for rides upon the heritage Avon Valley Railway, which has numerous steam train events. It's also handy for those who enjoy cycling on holiday, since it's near the traffic-free Kennet and Avon Cycle Route between Bristol and Bath. But the best campsite near Bath is Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park, some eight miles or so south of Queen Charlton. The immaculately maintained site makes a regular appearance in Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites Guide.
Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Stirling
A significant part of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park in Scotland, this is the pick of the ‘queen’ bunch and, most notably, is the only location actually named after our reigning Queen. It’s a magical place with rugged mountains and wooded hills that dive down to shimmering lochs. The forest park, broken up into sections throughout the national park, covers thousands of acres and is fabulous to explore by car, on foot or even on horseback. Indeed, you can also search for deer and red squirrels from the comfort of your car on the Three Lochs Forest Drive.
A great place to begin your exploration is The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre near Aberfoyle where there are easy walking trails and a wildlife hide. You can also pitch up right in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park at the Cashel Camping in the Forest Site, on the shores of Loch Lomond. What a perfect way to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s birthday!
Queen Oak, Bourton, Dorset
It’s not certain to which queen this tiny hamlet refers, for it was once (we’re talking medieval here) in the midst of the massive Royal Gillingham Forest. Several kings of the Middle Ages frequented the royal hunting lodge here until it was destroyed by King Edward III in 1369.
Most of the deciduous forest is now gone though some significant oaks remain, most notably Wyndham’s Oak in the neighbouring village of Silton. With an incredible girth, it remains the largest tree in Dorset. Just as passers by have done for centuries, you can still walk the footpath past Wyndham’s Oak, and indeed stay at Wyndham Farm Caravan Club CL (01747 840338) where the tree resides. If you’re not a member of The Caravan Club, another campsite near Gillingham Forest is Coking Farm Touring Caravan Park in Gillingham with fishing, a butcher’s and farm shop on site. It has 30 hardstanding pitches with electric hook-ups.
Less than a mile north of Queen Oak you can visit Stourhead, the wonderful National Trust-owned Palladian mansion and famous landscape gardens, which make an excellent day out just over the border in Wiltshire.
Queensbury, West Yorkshire
One of the highest parishes in England, perched up on The Pennines overlooking Bradford, Queensbury is renowned as a textiles town. Close to Halifax, it is home to the famous Black Dyke Mills and the internationally celebrated Black Dyke Band. The brass band has occasional concerts in its hometown, and tours all over the world, though its calendar of events indicates opportunities to see them in nearby Leeds, Halifax and Huddersfield.
Near Queensbury you can visit Brontë Country, with the family home of the authors, Brontë Parsonage, being just a few miles away in Haworth.
While you're in the area, you can enjoy diesel railcar and steam train rides at The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, used when filming the 1970s film of the classic novel, The Railway Children.
If you love cycling during your caravan holidays in West Yorkshire, don't miss the Great Northern Railway Trail between Cullingworth and Hewenden. The cycling charity, Sustrans, has plans to extend the railway cycle path to Queensbury, utilising the magnificent but defunct Victorian Queensbury Tunnel.
If you're looking for campsites in West Yorkshire, try Upwood Holiday Park in Oxenhope, near Haworth, right in the heart of Brontë country.
Once a close-knit community on the east side of Glasgow, Queenslie is now dominated by the Glasgow Fort Shopping Centre and entertainment complex. Filled with UK brands, restaurants and a cinema, it is one of the largest retail outlets in Scotland.
Within the immediate vicinity, at neighbouring Easterhouse, is Auchinlea Park with extensive and varied gardens that surround the listed Provan Hall House, considered one of the finest examples of a pre-Reformation baronial mansion. The 500-year old property is open to the public.
If you're looking for good campsites near Glasgow, stay at Red Deer Village Holiday Park (formerly called Craigendmuir Caravan & Camping Site). Located just north of Glasgow Fort, it is a particularly useful campsite for Glasgow city breaks, since it is near bus and train routes into the city centre.
We hope you'll enjoy your alternative royal tour – and raise a glass to toast Her Majesty's birthday.