Wessex Attractions: North Street, Brighstone

When visiting the Isle of Wight, be sure to take a look at the pretty village of Brighstone. North Street is now owned by the National Trust, and its picturesque cottages have been preserved more or less as they were in the 18th century. There is a library and youth hostel on the street, and a traditional village shop just around the corner on Main Road.

Brighstone is situated within the Isle of Wight AONB, along the coastal route between Ventnor and Freshwater. The postcode for North Street is PO30 4AX, and Southern Vectis bus route 12 (Newport to Alum Bay) stops near the Three Bishops pub on Main Road.

Wessex Attractions: Royal Garrison Church, Portsmouth

The Royal Garrison Church in Penny Street, Portsmouth was built around 1212 by the Bishop of Winchester, as part of a hospital complex, which also provided accommodation for pilgrims. After the Reformation, it started to decay and was turned into an ammunition dump, hence the name. The church was extensively restored in 1871, but was bombed out during the Blitz.

It is now managed by English Heritage, who are currently undertaking a second restoration. The church is scheduled to reopen to visitors in June 2022. Entry, when the church is open, is free. The postcode is PO1 2NJ. The church is three-quarters of a mile from Portsmouth Harbour station, and is served by bus routes 1, 16, 19 and 700.

Wessex Attractions: Bristol Old Vic

The Bristol Old Vic is Britain's oldest working theatre. It was founded in 1766, making it older than the United States of America and the University of London.

The theatre in King Street, Bristol was designed by James Saunders, David Garrick's carpenter at the Drury Lane theatre. Garrick delivered the prologue and epilogue of the first performance, billed as "a concert with a specimen of rhetorick" to get around the restrictions on theatres caused by the lack of a Royal Licence. This situation persisted until 1778, when Letters Patent were granted by the crown, allowing the theatre to change its name to the Theatre Royal. a name that the main theatre bears to this day.

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company was founded in 1946, with Hugh Hunt as its forst artistic director. Early members of the company included Peter O'Toole, John Neville, Timothy West and Dorothy Tutin. The Theatre School was opened by Laurence Olivier shortly afterwards. Alumni of the school include Gene Wilder, Miranda Richardson, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Irons and Pete Postlethwaite.

The theatre was closed for refurbishment in August 2007, reopening in December 2008. The foyer was redeveloped further in 2018. Today, the Grade I listed building houses the Theatre Royal and the new Weston Studio. Its reputation is worldwide. When Hollywood star Christopher Walken was asked why he was appearing in the Bristol-set BBC comedy-drama Outlaws, he said that he wanted to come to Bristol because it was the home of the Old Vic!

Wessex Attractions: Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham (or Chiltenham, to use the West Saxon spelling) Racecourse, known as "the home of jump racing", was founded in 1815, and has been at its present site since 1831, after the previous racecourse was burned down by Christian jihadis protesting the evils of gambling.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is considered to be the second-biggest National Hunt racing event in the UK, after the Grand National. The event takes place during the 4-day Cheltenham Festival in March, a massive event which, sad to say, is currently sponsored by Magners. Are there no Gloucestershire cider makers who could take on this task?

Wessex Attractions: Shute Barton

Shute Barton is a late-medieval manor house near Axminster, owned by the National Trust and now converted into a 5-bedroom luxury holiday home, accommodating up to 10 guests. It features a 15-foot high window, allowing you to survey the grounds from within, and one of the largest fireplaces in England.

The oldest parts of the house date back to 1380, and it was then owned by Sir William Bonville, Sheriff of Somerset, Dorset and Devon. Most of the surviving building is of a much later date, however. The whole manor was sensitively renovated in 1955.

Bonville's great-granddaughter Cecily married Thomas Grey, later the 1st Marquess of Dorset, and as she was the sole living descendant of the Bonville line, the house passed to his family, later being inherited by Lady Jane Grey. Upon her execution, Queen Mary awarded it to her Secretary of State, Sir William Petrie, who later sold it to a lawyer named William Pole for £300 (£156,900.61 in today's money, according to the Bank of England inflation calculator). Her ghost is still said to haunt the grounds, although others say the ghost is that of a female member of the royalist Pole family, who was ambushed while out walking by a parliamentarian lynch mob during the civil war.

In 1959, the Pole family donated Shute Barton to the National Trust, though they retain the right to live there. The estate is opened to visitors four times a year, and is a popular venue for wedding receptions and other special events. If you are interested in booking it for a minimum of three nights, click here.