In the last fortnight I spent a very full day visiting Downton Abbey, Hogwarts, the Roman Baths and even channelled my inner James Bond for a short drive in a vintage Aston Martin!
As the Tourism Minister one of my responsibilities is allocating Government money to various arm-lengths bodies such as Visit England who then go on to use that money to fund initiatives which promote our booming tourism sector.
One such initiative is Visit Wiltshire’s ‘Great West Way’ which is a new touring route – approximately 125 miles in length – which will join up many of England’s iconic destinations and attractions along the London to Bristol corridor.
On Thursday, 22nd November I launched the ‘Great West Way’ by hitting their proposed touring trail in which I visited several stops on the 125 mile stretch over a hectic 12 hours!
My first stop on the tour was the famous and historic Grade I listed Highclere Castle. The Castle is famed for being the set of the hugely popular Downton Abbey. The Castle is a good example of the overlap between my Tourism and Heritage responsibilities: in this country we have an abundance of magnificent historic buildings which have been used for famous TV shows and films, which as a result have been popular tourist destinations.
I then travelled to Avebury and Lacock Abbey. Avebury is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to an extraordinary Neolithic stone circle akin to that of the nearby Stonehenge. Built thousands of years ago, roughly between 2850BC and 2200BC, the monument includes three stone circles and is home to the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. The original purpose of this site is unknown and walking around the structures certainly pique one’s interest. 15 miles further down the line, in Lacock Abbey, I walked down the corridors which were home to Harry Potter and even the Basilisk! The Abbey is used for multiple sequences in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as well as the new film Fantastic beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
From Lacock Abbey I supported this new tourism route by driving a vintage Aston Martin DB7 to my next destination. Aston Martin is a fine example of this country’s tremendous engineering specialties and it has the added bonus of being a staple in the ever-popular James Bond series.
Later in the day I also stopped at Bristol Airport to unveil the ‘Great West Way’ advertising boards. I then drove to Bath to see the incredible Roman Baths there – though I did resist the urge after a long day to try them out!
Tourism in this country continues to grow and be an important sector of the economy. The ‘Great West Way’ project is such a great example of how much you can truly see in this country outside London.