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How to enjoy a very English escape

By: Virgin Atlantic

March 18, 2016

**Updated for 2017**

What does it mean to be quintessentially English? Does it mean drinking copious cups of tea? Or watching two longstanding rival university rowing teams race down the River Thames?

This year, celebrate some of our finest English offerings, including the world’s greatest flower show and the biggest and boldest hats at Royal Ascot. Come and find out just what makes England tick…

Row, row, row your boat

English escape Boat Race

Discover why the annual Boat Races are making a splash in London and beyond. Lining up along the riverside’s banks and pubs, more than 250,000 spectators come from far and wide to watch two distinguished English university Boat Clubs battle for glory down the River Thames. No wonder it’s an awesome spectacle.

The historic rowing races date back to 1829 for men and 1927 for women, and have been held annually ever since. As of 2016, the score stands at 82 wins for Cambridge and 79 for Oxford.

What’s making waves is that for only the third year running, the women’s boat race takes place on the same day and on the same course as the men’s. So grab a pint and join the crowds along the four-and-a-quarter mile course from Putney to Mortlake on Sunday 2 April to catch all the Boat Race action.

In full bloom

English escape secondary flower show

England’s most prestigious garden show, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, takes place every year on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. The 66-acre site is transformed into stunning landscapes, inspirational exhibitions and vibrant floral displays, where you can take in horticultural centerpieces and beautiful avant-garde show gardens designed by leading names. Alongside the gardens, explore a varied collection of over 500 exhibitors, offering garden goods, outdoor products and green-fingered advice.

The famous gardening show was first held in 1913 and now attracts more than 150,000 visitors each year. Plant yourself straight in the floral action for 2017’s show, which takes place from 23–27 May.

Riding high

English escape secondary Ascot

Your trip to England just won’t be complete without donning fancy hats and watching fast horses with Her Royal Majesty The Queen. Lap up the buzzing atmosphere of Royal Ascot and mark your calendars for the highlight of the English summer, which runs from 20–24 June 2017.

The world’s most glamorous sporting event takes place at the grand Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, which will host 30 different races throughout the five-day event.

With over 300 years of rich history spanning back to the 1700s, and now regularly attracting over 300,000 people, don’t miss your chance to place your bets at Europe’s best-attended race meeting.

Virgin Money London Marathon

With almost 40,000 finishers and more than 650,000 spectators, the Virgin Money London Marathon is one of the biggest annual events in the capital and has been held every spring since 1981. The route starts south of the River Thames and snakes through Greenwich and Blackheath before crossing Tower Bridge en route to Buckingham Palace, passing other major landmarks like the London Eye and the Tower of London along the way.

Find yourself a decent viewing spot – our picks include Canary Wharf, Mudchute and Embankment – and get ready to cheer on the runners until you’re hoarse. This year’s race takes place on Sunday 23 April.

Afternoon tea with a twist

Discover some of the quirkiest afternoon tea experiences London has to offer, from bus rides and burgers to sweet treats fashioned from homemade candy floss.

Sketch Gallery

Enjoy a colourful afternoon tea at the Michelin-star awarded sketch Gallery. The fabulous venue features plush pink decor and out-of-this-world space egg restrooms, and offers endless edible delights including bright macaroons, éclairs and fruit tarts, as well as finger caviar egg mayo sandwiches.

sketch Gallery, 9 Conduit Street, London W1

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych

Chocoholics rejoice! See your favourite bits of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory come to life in the form of afternoon tea at One Aldwych. From golden chocolate eggs to homemade candyfloss and blueberry brioches, you’ll soon be putting Augustus Gloop and Veruca Salt to shame.

One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2

Burgerlicious afternoon tea at Brgr.co

Forget the dainty cucumber sandwiches and pots of Earl Grey. Chow down on a meaty afternoon tea filled with burgers, coleslaw and southern fried chicken at Brgr.co.

Brgr.co, 187 Wardour Street, London W1 and 127 Kings Road, London SW3

BB Bakery Bus

All aboard the bakery bus, where you can enjoy afternoon tea and sightseeing in one. Hop on a vintage London bus and drive around all of the city’s best sights, while treating yourself to a fabulous BB afternoon tea.

BB Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, 8 Northumberland Avenue, off Trafalgar Square, London WC2

Ready to experience a slice of England? Book your flights now and start your next adventure.

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