The Best of Non-Golf: England and Wales

Mark Rowlinson

October 2014


The visiting golfer could never tire of the British Isles, with enjoyable golf to be found in every corner. Some of the golf is great, a lot of it good, and the variety is immense. Enthusiasts will try to fill every minute playing, charging around from course to course to get the most out of their visit. Others, however, will be ‘sure to smell the flowers along the way.’ It is for these visitors, and for those who visit but do not golf, that I have assembled this personal collection of things to do, places to see, experiences to be cherished. It covers only England and Wales because I have limited knowledge of Scotland and Ireland. Hopefully others will contribute similar essays bringing to our attention the non-golfing delights on offer in their countries.

Part I of VIII Part Series: London

London is one of the great capital cities of Europe. It may not be as romantic as Vienna, as elegant as Paris or as ancient as Rome, but it packs a fair punch when it comes to sharing its treasures with visitors. As Her Majesty The Queen is our head of state – and of the Church of England, too – let us begin with London’s Royal Buildings.

Access to Buckingham Palace is limited to a few months when the Queen is not in residence:

Royal news is published on a website:

The Queen’s gallery is open rather longer each year:

The Tower of London is the oldest of the royal buildings in London, begun by William the Conqueror following his invasion from Normandy:

Sung services at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula take place on most Sunday mornings at 11 and are open to the public:

It is from Kensington Palace that many Royal announcements are made, not least the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge expecting a second child:

Kew Palace is slightly out on a limb, but it has charm and a visit might be combined with one to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew:

The last surviving of King Henry VIII’s vast palaces is Hampton Court. Leave plenty of time also to visit the gardens and maze:

The Banqueting House is hardly a palace, but it is royal, so we’ll include it here:

We’ve not quite finished with royalty for there are several chapels royal:

That at St James’s Palace is the best known, and is open to the public for sung services. There are also sung services at the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy:

In no way religious, but certainly royal, there is the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard:

and also Changing of the Horse Guards:

The great state services are held either in Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, often televised the world over. My particular affection is for Westminster Abbey as I sang there as a member of the choir from 1974 to 1979.

You pay for tours of the buildings, but access to services is free, and, whatever your faith or lack of it, it is a very satisfying experience to hear great music performed by world class musicians. Check on the websites to ensure that it is the resident choir singing and not a visiting choir.

I also used to sing frequently at Westminster Cathedral, London’s premier Roman Catholic church. It has a fine choir and a fascinating building, if somewhat bizarre architecturally.

Importantly the liturgy is adhered to rigorously and sung services are in latin, as they are also at the London Oratory:

One of the oldest and most handsome of London’s churches is St Bartholomew’s in Smithfield:

Many churches in London were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. A huge rebuilding programme followed, which explains the distinctiveness of many City churches, under the direction of Christopher Wren:

One of the historic churches not rebuilt by Wren is Christ Church, Spitalfields, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It has a thriving concert diary, the more adventurous of the repertoire harmonising spicily with the Indian cuisine so prevalent in the area:

For those curious to see government in action it is possible to watch proceedings in Parliament and to tour parts of the building:

Non-conformism has been a staple of English and Welsh religious life for several centuries:

Central London is remarkably compact and it is quite feasible in decent weather to walk from one attraction to another (which may actually be quicker than taking a taxi or bus ride and certainly more pleasant than using the underground.) One walk that I would certainly commend is that along the south side of the river from Tower Bridge to the South Bank. Fascinating! Here are links to a number. I can’t vouch for them personally as I’ve not done them:

London’s art galleries and museums could keep most of us happy for the rest of our lives.

The National Gallery is exactly what it says:

What’s more, it’s free! Next door is the National Portrait Gallery:

British art from the 1500s onwards is housed in the four Tate Galleries:

Note that only two of them are in London, the others being at St Ives and Liverpool.

There are lots more (some free):


Museums are plentiful, too:

And a personal favourite:

Music and dance are well served in London with two opera companies and four symphony orchestras:

plus the BBC Symphony Orchestra:

A wealth of visiting orchestras from around the world breeze through London at all times of year, not least in the summer when the BBC Proms are held at the Royal Albert Hall:

Check out also the listings at:


For dance start here:

It would be invidious of me to start listing events in London theatres, there are so many, but here are a few sources:

A recreation of the drama of Shakespeare’s day is to be had at the Globe Theatre:

For a contrast, a visit might also be made to HMS Belfast, moored close to Tower Bridge and opposite the Tower of London:

Tower Bridge is arguably the best known of London’s many bridges:

Other bridges are listed at:

The Millennium Bridge links St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern, the first footbridge across the Thames for many years:

The Thames is a working river and commercial traffic is plentiful. But it is also a leisure time river and rowers, sailors, canoeists and the like use it enthusiastically. One of the best ways to see the Thames for a visitor is to take a trip, say, from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and back. Some of the boats used for these services are veterans of the Dunkerque evacuation in May/June 1940:

Greenwich itself is a handsome place with the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, Cutty Sark, Royal Naval College and the Royal Observatory among the many attractions:

City institutions tend to operate behind closed doors, but there are visitor and educational opportunities such as:

Bank of England:

Mansion House:

Garden of the Inner Temple:

Lincoln’s Inn:

Old Bailey:


RIBA Library:

London Metropolitan Archives:

One of the loveliest tours a visitor to London might take is that round the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. You will see the pensioners out and about in their resplendent uniforms and they are people who lead visitors’ tours around the beautiful buildings and gardens:

Annually, the RHS Flowershow held at the Chelsea Hospital is one of the highlights of the horticultural world with many exhibitors from around the world and a stellar list of celebrities eyeing up what’s new for their next garden makeover:

‘Would I were in an alehouse in London’ (Shakespeare Henry V). It is not long since the British Isles had a dreadful (and justified) reputation for their food and wine. Things have changed dramatically. There are now Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the islands. Perhaps the more pertinent test of gastronomic civilisation is in the peasant fare of well-informed landlords. Again, I don’t presume to tell you where to eat or drink, but a skirt through one of these should help:!display=list
However, there are two gastronomic institutions that I must mention because I commend them to anyone who has an interest in food or wine:

Everyone should at some point in their life visit Harrods food halls if only to marvel at the extraordinary displays of fish and cheeses:

While the wine lover must call in at Berry Brothers and Rudd, the historic wine and spirits, tea and coffee merchants opposite St James’s Palace. You won’t see any bottles on the shelves but a smartly dressed salesman will guide you in your purchases wisely as you take in your remarkable, quaint surroundings. He will then disappear underground before emerging with your bottle. You could spend thousands of pounds on a bottle of Romanée-Conti or Ch Pétrus, but, happily, they will sell you a bottle of something sound but inexpensive from their own-label range:


Open spaces abound in London and one of the newest is also one of the most ambitious, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park constructed for the 2012 Olympic Games. This is no one-off enterprise, but it is intended to provide a real legacy for years and years to come:

The Royal parks are many and wondrously varied:

Hampstead Heath is very popular:

Situated close to the heath is Kenwood:

And there are many other open spaces within the City of London’s protection:

Highgate Cemetery is also a quiet place of rare beauty, perhaps more famous, however, for being the resting place of Karl Marx:

Nature conservation is taken seriously in a city as densely populated as London:

Several of the old country estates of London survive:

Chiswick House:

Syon Park:

Osterley Park:


Professional sports have high profiles in and around London:

Tennis, Wimbledon and Queen’s Club:


Rugby Union, Twickenham:




Association Football, Wembley:


Tottenham Hotspur:


West Ham:

Queen’s Park Rangers:

Crystal Palace:


Horse race courses will be covered within individual counties.

Monthly tours of the historic Mansion at Moor Park Golf Club are of considerable interest even to the non-golfer:

Before leaving London, those of us with a head for heights might wish to explore:

 The End