This week, the cycling Tour of Britain is taking place. It started out at the weekend from the South West and heads across the country to finish in Scotland. So, rather than a simple Curiosity of the Week, we thought it was a good time to take a quirky tour of Britain, highlighting some of the more unusual points of interest that pop up on the stages of this year’s cycling event.
Stage One: Penzance to Bodmin
The Tour of Britain started on Sunday in Penzance, Cornwall. And if you’re searching for a quirky landmark, you don’t need to look further than The Egyptian House on Chapel Lane. The decorative front of this building is rather unique. It was originally built in the 1800s, at a time when Egyptian architecture styles were very fashionable. It’s now looked after by the Landmark Trust who rent it out as holiday apartments. So, you can actually sleep here!
Stage Two: Sherford to Exeter
Stage two of the tour is taking place today, with riders crossing the finish line at Exeter. Exeter and the surrounding area is home to a wealth of quirky attractions and curiosities. One we rather like, is perhaps one that’s easy to miss. That’s because of it’s size. Parliament Street, as a handy sign points out, is believed to be the narrowest street in the world. It’s just 25 to 45 inches wide.
That’s not all Exeter has to offer on the quirky front though. The city has some unique underground passages which although an equally tight space to explore, are altogether different. These passages are currently closed due to the pandemic, but hopefully they’ll be open again in the near future.
And not far out of Exeter, there’s another quirky building you can visit. The 16-sided La Ronde has already appeared as one of our Curiosity of the Week highlights.
Stage Three: Llandeilo to National Botanic Garden of Wales
Tomorrow, the tour hits the wonderful scenery of Wales’ Carmarthenshire. It will fly past the National Trust folly, Paxton’s Tower. This hilltop tower is not simply a great viewpoint but could have been built to annoy the residents of the Towy Valley. Although this folly is often said to be a tribute to Nelson, it may also have been built after Paxton failed to get enough votes to become an MP. He had pledged to build a much-needed bridge over the river Towy, but after losing his campaign is said to have wasted the money on the tower instead.
And of course, the stage finishes at the lovely botanic gardens. But it does pass by another interesting garden. Aberglasney not only features some attractive paths through pretty borders and trees but is also home to the Cloister Garden. This unusual stone walkway is certainly worth a visit.
Stage Four: Aberaeron to Llandudno’s Great Orme
Stage four of the Tour of Britain will pass through some of Wales’ best landscapes and quirky hotspots. The tour heads through Aberystwyth, home to the smallest book in the world at the National Library of Wales. Then it passes by Barmouth where the local round house was once used to lock up drunks. The race continues up the coast near the quirky village of Portmeirion and over the bridge at Conwy. Conwy is, of course, home to the smallest house in Britain. Or Quay House as it’s also known. And finally the stage ends on the Great Orme. The Orme claims to have the only cable-hauled tramway on a public road, just so you know. And it does have some goats that found a bit of fame during lockdown!
Stage Five: Alderley Park to Warrington
This stage will be taking in some of the towns and countryside locations in Cheshire. On the route, the cyclists again will be near to some of the UK’s more interesting landmarks and quirky features. On the hillside near Bollington is the unusual structure known as White Nancy. It’s another folly that no one knows for sure the origins of. And the route skirts some of the National Trust’s much-loved heritage sites, including Little Moreton Hall where you may be able to spot a curious Witch Mark.
Stage Six: Carlisle to Gateshead
Heading out from Carlisle through part of the lake district, stage six of the tour also heads by some of Cumbria’s lesser-known landmarks. It journeys near to Lacy’s Caves and a curious stone circle, as well as passing through the highest market settlement in England. And just before the finish, cyclists will ride by Tanfield Railway, which is apparently the world’s oldest railway.
Stage Seven: Hawick to Edinburgh
Now, the penultimate stage of this year’s Tour of Britain makes its way through the Scottish Borders which is home to plenty of quirky places. This includes Galashiels, known for a sweet called the sour plum or soor ploom, which is said to commemorate a skirmish between the Scots and English, after the raiding party where found to be eating unripe plums. Of course sour sweets aren’t the only quirky thing of note in this area, as the town is now home to the Great Tapestry of Scotland. And right on the course of stage seven is Traquair, Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited house. Traquair is also home to quirky obstacle race The Mighty Deerstalker! Stage seven ends in Edinburgh, where you can see the Time Ball at the top of one of the city’s landmarks.
Stage Eight: Stonehaven to Aberdeen
This year’s final stage on the tour goes from Stonehaven, which is home to a few interesting and unusual quirks. It’s home to the wonderful fireball event, but exploring the rugged coastline you’ll also find a lion’s den (although, thankfully no lions) at Dunnottar Castle. And there’s a whole load of quirky sculptures along the town’s boardwalk, created by Stonehaven’s own version of Banksy. The stage route also passes through Fettercairn, a small village with a magnificent archway.
We’ll leave you with a few photos highlighting the quirky landmarks from stage eight of this quirky tour of Britain!