England will be awash with visitors this year: early June sets off Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, an event certain to throw the British Commonwealth into fits of royal fever. And immediately after the tiaras, gowns, outrageous hats, morning coats and top hats have been put away, the country will change into its Union Jack sweatsuit to warm up for the 2012 London Olympic Games, beginning in late-July and lasting until mid-August.
The noteworthy events will bring an unprecedented invasion of visitors that will boost England to among the top of the world’s most visited destinations. Sadly, most will leave without setting foot outside the London city limits to experience the marvels that lie within Shakespeare’s “Sceptered Isle.” It’s well known that England is a repository of wonders, but Devon and Cornwall—its two southernmost counties—are where the England of literature and imagination distinctly comes alive.
In this picturesque, lively and colorful setting, the charms of a bygone era happily enmesh with the comforts and conveniences of the modern age. One cannot come to Devon and Cornwall without experiencing a sense of deja vu because this is where one finds the familiar images gleaned from reading the classics or from watching films portraying the unqualified winsomeness of Old England. Devon and Cornwall mean castles, rolling green hills sprinkled with sheep, quaint towns, large cities, wraithlike moors shrouded in mist, friendly people, beaches and an overwhelming sense of serenity—in short, faultless destinations containing the ingredients to cook up a perfect vacation. These assets are what travel agents and tour operators agree make England a destination that “sells itself.” Of course, accommodations and transportation will be at a premium during the Jubilee and the Olympics. But after the parties are over and the confetti has been swept off the floor, England will shift into normal mode, pretty and alluring, still drawing its considerable share of North Americans.
“For the most part,” says Karen Gindroz, owner and president of Gindroz & Company (917-522-9593; gindrozandco.com), a Temecula, CA-based tour operator specializing in custom tours to Great Britain, Morocco, Turkey and Israel, “England has always been an easy sell. First-time travelers feel comfortable with the language and it seems as if everyone has at least a distant relative from somewhere in the UK. Because Great Britain is so small, many who haven’t been there think they can see most of it with only day-trips from London. Of course, that isn’t possible, nor is it possible anywhere else in Europe.” The UK—with easy access from the United States on all major carriers—is one of Gindroz’s most popular destinations. “Our tailor-made tours provide ground services including hotels, transfers, guides (private and scheduled tours), rental cars and trains,” she adds. “We issue all European rail tickets from our office. We also provide museum, theater and special events tickets. Our tours are sold to travel agents at a net package price, so we don’t actually market directly to clients traveling to England or to any of our other destinations. We deal only with travel agents.”
Ellen McNulty, president of Lynott Tours (800-221-2274; lynotttours.com) in Mineola, NY, agrees that England has a specific allure. “It’s a particularly easy sale this year, with all of the promotional opportunities provided by the Olympics, and the new, much-needed VisitBritain (212-850-0338; visitbritain.com) advertising campaign. Clients are generally avoiding the period around the Olympics, but are traveling to the UK during the other 48 weeks in even greater numbers.”
According to McNulty, Lynott Tours—founded in 1970—is a company specializing “in travel to Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. We create one-of-a-kind packages for groups and individuals, believing that a vacation can only be a success if it’s custom-tailored to fit the requirements and preferences of each individual.” Both Lynott and Gindroz consider Devon and Cornwall standout destinations that enthrall visitors who want to experience the beauty of an area considered to be England unplugged.
Reaching Devon and Cornwall from London is made easier through the efficiency of First Great Western (firstgreatwestern.co.uk), the high-speed railway company that links London’s Paddington Station to Exeter St. Davids, the Devon depot that is the gateway to the counties (prices range anywhere from approximately $55 to $110, depending on departure time and coach class).