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Never mind the closing ceremony - here's British music

August 14, 2012
by Laura Canning | destinations | guides

'Not Stairway to Heaven again, dear...' ‘A symphony of British music,’ they said.


‘The best of British music over the past half century,’ they said.

Hmph. Watching the Olympics closing ceremony, we mused on just what ‘British music’ was meant to be. This was in between wondering if the Rolling Stones had come on while we weren’t looking or if the Spice Girls would fall off the tops of those black cabs (note to The Sun: the Spice Girls did *not* ‘steal the show’).

It was also in between getting sad all over again about Freddie Mercury, wishing David Bowie had been there to sing not just Heroes but Chubby Little Loser, and lamenting about the lack of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden...

OK, we weren’t really expecting Iron Maiden, or Ozzy to shuffle blinkingly onto the stage in his trackie bottoms, calling for Sharon. And musical tastes are always subjective.

But honestly. While we’ve always had a sneaking fondness for George Michael since he drove his car into the window of Snappy Snaps, two songs of his were a tad much, and think of all the Sex Pistols clips that could have been played instead of One Direction.

So, to cheer ourselves up, we think it’s time for a musical Britain tour, zigzagging around the country to some of the UK’s musical landmarks. There’s obviously London, with Abbey Road and the Roundhouse, Liverpool for the Cavern Club and Penny Lane, and Manchester for anything to do with the Stone Roses, but we’re going off the beaten track a bit with a look at some of the lesser-known UK music landmarks (and Glastonbury):

The Drummer sculpture, Truro

Roger Taylor of Queen fame unveiled this 15ft two and a half tonne sculpture at Lemon Quay in Truro last year, showing an, um, anatomically correct naked male drummer cast in bronze made from Cornwall tin and copper. ‘Cornwall’s drum beats differently and it is beaten a lot in this part of the world. It is something I thought could be used as a symbol of the land and the people,’ said sculptor Tim Shaw. ‘No anatomical part of it was modelled on me,’ said Roger.

Stay: We’ve several sites to pick from in the area, such as hanging out with the resident otter, buzzards and deer at Cosawes Park which is open all year round and has pitches from £13 a night. Or hide between the trees at Summer Valley Touring Park, a family run park half a mile away in the village of Shortlanesend and two miles into Truro. Pitches start from £12 a night.

Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim

Not only where a choir sang Danny Boy at the Olympics closing ceremony (the last time we tried to arrange a singsong on the stones we got looked at askance), but also the inspiration for the Led Zeppelin album cover Houses of the Holy. Which was itself inspired by Arthur C Clarke’s decidedly odd novel Childhood’s End. Literary and musical history in one ancient sweep.

Stay: Glenmore Caravan and Camping Park eight miles from Giant’s Causeway is a spacious site with pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes, a fishing lake on site and views to Isla and the Mull of Kintyre. There’s a bar and restaurant at the park for some Irish food and Irish music: bag a pitch (on site, not at bar) from £16 a night.

Drumshademuir Caravan Park, Angus Bon Scott memorial plaque, Kirriemuir

‘Let there be rock’ says the memorial to AC/DC singer and songwriter Bon Scott, which we think should be added to all memorials in future as a matter of course.

Bon was born in Kirriemuir, where his dad was in the local pipe band, and lived there only until he was six when the family emigrated to Australia. This doesn’t stop AC/DC fans turning up at the town though – there’s been an annual Bon Fest here to commemorate the singer since 2006.

Stay: If you’re plotting to go to Bon Fest next year (we certainly are), or want to sing Thunderstruck in the town at any time, Drumshademuir Caravan Park is open all year round with electric and non-electric pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes from £16 a night. Dogs are allowed too if you want to include them in the rocking: we hear they love having their front paws gently held as you help them learn how to headbang.

University of Leeds, Leeds

Along with Manchester and Liverpool, Leeds is known as one of the major milestone cities out of London for British music. There are too many musical milestones to list here, but as they were at the closing ceremony we’re going as a local landmark for the recording of The Who’s Live at Leeds. Recorded at the University of Leeds, it’s often regarded as the best live rock album ever, and was the only one released while the band were still recording regularly. All together now for My Generation…

Stay: We have dozens of sites within 20 miles of Leeds: make it a West Yorkshire break with a stay at Rudding Holiday Park in nearby Harrogate, two miles away from the town and a former winner of the AA Best Campsite in Britain award. This is one to stay for a while at after you get back from kneeling reverently outside the university: there’s a pub, outdoor pool, golf course and restaurant among lashings of other facilities. Pitches start from £16 a night.


It’s more mainstream now than off the beaten track, but a look at British music in recent years has to include the mud baths and tunes of the Glastonbury Festival, going strong since the 1970s and with headline acts over the years including David Bowie, The Cure, Neil Young, Radiohead and U2. There was no Glasto in 2012, following tradition of letting the site lie fallow once every five years, but it starts again in 2013, with tickets on sale from 17 October.

Stay: Avoid the muddy thousands and stay at a Glastonbury site a few miles from the festival, with no wandering around in a daze wondering which of the identical £9.99 tents is yours. Try an E-den camping cabin at Middlewick Farm just four miles away with a double bed, private shower room and barbecue from £60 a night.

Finally, if you’re going to a site where campfires are allowed, remember to get the guitar out and croon that non-British but very campfire-and-camping song, Johnny Cash’s Burning Ring of Fire. Sorry. I’ll get me coat…