Stuck in the Toon for the next month? Bored of going to the pub over and over again? Look no further! We present you a selection of more and less known natural wonders and places of scientific interest in the UK. How many have you been to?
1. Giants Causeway - 254 miles away (from the SU)
One of the greatest natural wonders the UK has to offer, the Giants Causeway is located in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and is known as Clochán an Aifir to the locals. This breath-taking feature was formed around 60 million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity (I know what you are thinking, but no; you don’t have to worry about a volcanic explosion during a visit in this geological age). The molten lava seeped through the chalk beds to form an expansive plateau. As the lava cooled, it contracted and formed fractures, like you would see in arid clay environments, which spread vertically to form the interlocking hexagonal columns. These huge pillars fit perfectly together all along the coastline creating a massive playground of stepping stones. Alternatively, legend states that the causeway was built by the giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (hence the name) so that they could be used as stepping stones to enable him to cross the sea and meet the Scottish giant Benandonner. Whichever creation story you chose to believe, this is one natural marvel that is begging to be explored and wondered at.
2. Mendip Hills - 321 miles away
These are located just south of Bristol and Bath, which overlooks the Somerset Levels and Chew Valley. Spanning over 76 square miles and with the wide range of activities from hiking to cave diving, you’d be hard pushed to see it in a day. Among the sites you really can’t miss are Wookey Hole Caves, Chew Valley Lake, which boasts international importance for birds, and the more renowned Cheddar Gorge, with the highest inland limestone cliffs in the country. The dramatic ‘karst’ landscape comprises vast underground drainage systems and caves in addition to the surface formations of gorges, sinkholes and springs. These landforms were created by water reacting with the Carboniferous Limestone which dominates the local geology, with the exception of a small area of Silurian volcanic rocks. These sedimentary deposits date back to around 380 million years when buried debris, such as sand and shells, undergoes diagenesis to form limestone which is subsequently folded, uplifted and eroded to produce the scenic landscape you see today. The ideal place to escape to and forget the confines of the Robbo over the break.
3. Eden Project - 441 miles away
If you happen to be down south in the West Country over the Easter holidays, the well-known Eden Project in Cornwall is a great science-orientated day out for all the family. This educational charity and social enterprise is a unique attraction build upon an ethos of environmental sustainability. Its vast greenhouses showcase ecologically important plants from around the world – check out the tropical rainforest biome with its canopy walkway and exotic fruit, cocoa and nut trees or feel like you’re on holiday in the more temperate Mediterranean biome and colourful outdoor gardens. As well as its on-going garden and wildlife exhibits, over the Easter holidays the Eden Project will be holding events such as the Easter Eggstravaganza which involves talks about chocolate growing and production in the biomes and its 60mph Sky Wire, Giant Gravity Swing and Freefall Jump rides are all open for adrenaline junkies from March 25th onwards. The Eden project tends to be open 9.30am until 6.00pm during the Easter holidays, plus you save 10% if you pre-book online.
4. MOSI145 miles away
Giving the Centre for Life a run for it’s money, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (or MOSI, as it’s affectionately referred to), is a brilliant destination for a science-filled day out. The museum has five buildings to explore: the Great Western Warehouse, which is home to the Experiment Zone and the world’s oldest computer amongst other scientific treasures; the Station Building, with engines from the dawn of the railways; the Power Hall, which houses industrial engines and machines throughout the ages, and is located next to the steam train ride; the Air and Space hall, which contains an astonishing array of aircraft and the planetarium; and the 1830 Warehouse, which allows visitors to explore Manchester’s industrial past in the cotton industry. There’s always plenty on at the Museum - there’s the simulator ride, the daily shows at the planetarium, and more at the 4D cinema. There are also plenty of workshops and events to keep even the most sceptical entertained, such as ‘Wear It’ - a week of workshops revolving around wearable and hands-free technology. Don’t be put off by the ‘science’ either - the museum hosts art installations that revolve around technology and machines too. And what’s more, it’s absolutely free!
5. Centre for Life - 1.5 miles away
A little bit closer to home, the Centre for Life in Newcastle (down by Digi) has many on-going science events on over the Easter holidays that are suitable for all ages. For example, science fiction geeks can enjoy the new exhibition Robot featuring over 40 full-size robot models, cyborgs, heads and toys inspired by TV shows and films from the past 60 years, while those pyromaniacs can explore the story of colours, flames and flashes at the centre’s Bright Sparks talk in its very own science lecture theatre. Other events included in the general Science Centre admission price involve The Brain Zone (starting on March 25th) where you have the opportunity to come face to face with a real brain and take part in some psychological tests to explore the vast complexity of the human mind, how it works, and how it controls so many of your body’s functions. The centre also offers many adult workshops, live planetarium shows and extra events throughout the year in its modern facilities and is open every day each week and tickets cost £7.95 for students. It may be less busy during the school holidays due to fewer school groups, making Easter a great time to visit!
6. Kielder Observatory - 51.7 miles away
Not many people know that the third largest protected Dark Sky in the world lies just a stones throw away from Newcastle - albeit for someone with a pretty damn good arm. Just a short drive away from the fluorescent lights of the Toon’s nightlife and you can be meandering your way through 250 square miles of forest, also home to the biggest population of red squirrels, as you make your way towards Kielder Observatory. The welcoming warmth of a log fire and a steaming cup of hot chocolate will be awaiting you, as well as a plethora of stars, planets, nebulae and galaxies.
Secreted away in the nation’s last great wilderness, the observatory offers the chance to embark on a laser-guided Night Safari through the constellations, hunting for Orion and Pegasus the Winged Horse. You can gaze through their immense telescope in to the depths of space or recline in their Moon chairs on one of their Aurora Nights, in eager anticipation of those magical Northern Lights flickering across the Northumberland horizon. And if that pesky British weather clouds it all, well you can always just nibble on some of their astronomically themed confectionary - Mars Bar or Milky Way anyone?
7. Edinburgh International Science Festival - 121 miles away
Adventures lie in wait for all those who are brave enough to venture north of The Wall this Easter, where Edinburgh is hosting it’s annual International Science Festival between 26 March & 10 April. Offering a cornucopia of thought provoking and often psychedelic activities, this is a festival where mind altering experiences are actively encouraged.
The city affectionately referred to as ‘Auld Reekie’ by locals has come a long way since its industrial smoky past (which gave the city it’s moniker), with visitors now more likely to encounter Cosmic Ray Doorways than chimney stacks. In its 27th year, the festival has over 270 events scattered throughout the city - with Edinburgh Zoo’s nocturnal offerings, which include a silent disco and the opportunity to wander the zoo at night, particularly enticing. Other choice picks range from a drive in a particle accelerator, to sampling experimental culinary delights at the renowned GastroFest. And although winter may be receding, it would be unwise to miss one of the talks given by the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies, where you can learn how to protect yourself from the icy grip of the undead…just in case you do encounter any whilst north of The Wall.
8. Loch Lomond - 198 miles away
The Trossachs National Park, Loch Lomond is within easy reach, way easier than Loch Ness (unless you have a car or a lot of money). Loch Lomond is the biggest lake in Great Britain by surface area and just that should put it on the bucket list of all geography geeks and lake lovers in general. It is a home to a lot of animal species, including otters (who doesn’t love otters?), as well as endangered in Britain red squirrels and water voles. There are over thirty islands on the loch. The biggest one is Inchmurrin, the biggest fresh water island in the British isles in general, a home to the proud population of 8 people, and, until 2011, an even prouder place of the world record in haggis hurling (a 1 lb 8 oz haggis thrown by Alan Pettegrow 180 feet, 10 inches far). The Loch Lomond area is perfect for hiking, cycling, climbing and horse riding. You can also take advantage of water cruises, canoeing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, or swimming (if you are brave enough). Since it’s a popular Scottish destination, there are also whiskey-tasting sessions. If you are still not convinced, look at the photo on the right. It’s not something you can find in Newcastle, is it?