Here’s a Beefy List of Reasons Wales Needs to Be Next on Your UK Gay Travel Itinerary

©VisitBritain/BenSelway

When planning a trip to one of this year’s hottest travel destinations, the United Kingdom, it’s easy to get swept away in London’s culture, Manchester’s vibrant LGBTQ community or the rustic, romantic stretches of Scotland.

However, there’s one can’t-miss destination that offers rugged adventure, romantic castles, nightlife, dining and even a growing LGBTQ community: Wales.

The small country in southwest Great Britain may be best known for its picturesque coastline, tongue-twisting language and, let’s be honest, beefy rugby hunks, but there’s so many more reasons for gay travelers to clear their calendars for a trip to Wales.

Like most of the United Kingdom, Wales is a welcoming destination for LGBTQ travelers. Pride celebrations can be found in the capital, Cardiff, of course, but they have also been held in Swansea (scheduled for May 4 this year), Aberystwyth, Bangor and more. Even the small community Llantwit Major (with less than 10,000 residents) hosted its first Pride last year.

Pride in Cardiff, known as Pride Cymru, is the country’s largest. Thousands flock to the city for a parade, market and performances. Last year’s event included an appearance from RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Courtney Act. This year’s celebration is scheduled for Aug. 23-25.

When it comes to Cardiff’s LGBTQ bar scene, a trip to the Golden Cross alone is worth the price of airfare. The historic pub (a Grade II landmark) was built in 1903 and sports a traditional glazed tile exterior. Locals walk up from Cardiff Bay (call it Tiger Bay to impress the natives) to grab a pint and enjoy karaoke and cabaret. Now’s the perfect time to plan a trip for the summertime when the boys soak up the sun in the beer garden.

The Golden Cross by Jesús Alenda (CC BY 2.0)

Miss Tina Sparkle, DJ Opal Fruits, Dr. Bev Ballcrusher and other queens are waiting to greet you at Minsky’s Showbar, Cardiff’s original showbar. The bar is open Friday and Saturday nights, and their Stage Door Café is open Thursday through Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. Expect a rowdy night, perfect if you’re celebrating a bachelor, bachelorette or just looking to cut loose.

If you’re thirsty for some luxury, swing by the stylish cocktail and cabaret lounge, Mary’s. Fans of gin in particular should take a gander at their extensive premium gin selection, but even if that’s not your taste, there are plenty of other libations to keep you good and loose.

Start your night somewhere far more friendly than fussy at the Kings. There’s karaoke three nights a week, but it’s the daily happy hour from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. that makes this a great place to get the party going. For just a couple pounds, you can grab select beer, cider, wine and all house spirits (plus mixer).

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

After you’ve wet your whistle at the Kings, dance those liquid calories off at Pulse. In addition to the EDM, house and pop hits spinning, there’s also the weekly performance from the Dreamboys, which is like Magic Mike with Welsh accents. You can also dance the night away with a young, hip crowd at WOW Bar where dancing, drag and drinks are on the menu.

For the more adventurous, the rough and tumble brand of bars, Eagle, has a Cardiff outpost. Be advised the club is “private” on weekends, which means you’ll need a membership. It’s only 3 pounds for the year, and it’s free entry at the door.

There’s more to the gay scene than just the bars and clubs, though. The award-winning South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus is music to the ears. Lesbian, bi and trans women join with non-binary performers in the Songbirds, another queer choir. You can see both, along with the Cardiff Trans Singers this summer at the Hand In Hand Festival this summer.

Getting active isn’t difficult either. The Gay Outdoor Club welcomes folks from all ability levels to turn off the telly, get off the couch and put down the iPhone. (Grindr will still be there when you get back.) The group organizes regular walks around Wales’ stunning countryside, taking in the castles, hillsides and coasts with excellent company. Of course, no trip to the UK is complete without a little rugby. There are even gay rugby teams, including the Swansea Vikings and Cardiff Lions. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet the next Gareth Thomas.

1985, winner of the 2018 ‘Best Feature’ Iris Prize

See the world through Welsh LGBTQ eyes at the Iris Prize, a popular queer film festival, in October. One of the top 50 film festivals in the world according to MovieMaker Magazine, the LGBTQ filmmaking festival has seen its winning filmmakers produce 9 short films with a 10th currently in post-production. This year’s festival takes place Oct. 8-13 in Cardiff.

Cardiff Castle, Wales. ©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

Besides all of the LGBTQ-specific ways to spend your time, there is tons to see in Wales. The castles and architecture are breathtaking. Whether you’re spotting the high-camp interiors of Cardiff Castle or feeling the power of the medieval Conwy Castle, you’ll enjoy views fit for a king. St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire is a sight to behold all on its own; it sits in a bowl, giving viewers the opportunity to take it all in from above.

Photo courtesy Swansea Council.

Hit the beach and catch some waves at the Gower, Wale’s greatest surfing spot. Or let it all hang out at the popular nude beach, Morfa Dyffryn. About 1 mile of the beach is used by “naturists,” with the gay area concentrated in the northern part by the dunes.

You will have to put on clothes at some point, though. Luckily, Wales has plenty of world-class shopping. In Cardiff, you can peruse the racks of familiar names and labels at St. David’s Shopping Center. It’s boutiques aplenty at the Victorian arcades, but the real antiques and unique finds are at Jacobs Market, where they promise “treasures, trinkets and a collective of eccentric sellers to tickle your funny bones.” Outside Cardiff, Swansea’s traditional market is the largest covered market in Wales, but it’s Conwy that has some impressive numbers. Nearly ninety-three percent of shops are run by local traders.

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

All that shopping is sure to work up an appetite, and Wales doesn’t disappoint in the culinary department. There are tons of traditional pubs and exciting modern spots serving up uniquely Welsh dining experiences. Wales’ Caerphilly cheese is such an institution, it is protected by European Protected Geographical Indication. The cheese is so beloved, in fact, it has its own festival, The Big Cheese, July 26-28.

But man can’t live on cheese alone. The grass-fed lamb at Hare & Hounds is locally sourced from the nearby Torgelly farm and served with a mint sauce. If you get homesick, stop in for some good ol’, American St. Louis-style ribs at the Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, where barbecue, southern flavors and steaks fired over a custom-built Argentinian Parilla grill.

Don’t just sit there with your mouth watering: Book your next trip for Wales today.

The post Here’s a Beefy List of Reasons Wales Needs to Be Next on Your UK Gay Travel Itinerary appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

25+ Places Gay People Should Go in London Right Now

©VisitBritain/Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

When it comes to picking a destination for your next big international trip, there are lots of factors for an LGBTQ traveler to consider. Given its centuries of history, celebration of its vibrant LGBTQ community, world-class culture and ease of travel, London is an unforgettable spot that must be added to every gay traveler’s list.

Even if you’ve already made the trek across the pond, there’s so much to see and do in London, it’d be impossible to do it all in one go. Plus, with so many special events and attractions filling the calendar, each visit promises unique opportunities to experience one of Europe’s most gay-friendly cities.

©VisitBritain/Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

We’ve already covered the ins and outs of London’s world-class theatre scene, including all the star-studded productions coming to the West End this year. The gay appeal of London, however, extends far beyond theater queens with plenty for every party monster, culture vulture, dancing diva and more.

London is a progressive, cosmopolitan city, so gay travelers need not be overly cautious displaying affection when visiting. There are a few neighborhoods with a higher concentration of LGBTQ businesses and culture, however. Soho has long been considered the heart of London’s queer community with iconic bars, clubs and LGBTQ-focused businesses. For late-night ragers and hedonistic dance parties, Vauxhall is the place to be. Then, there’s London’s East End, where the alt, indie and hipster gays come out to play in pubs and gallery spaces.

Each neighborhood offers a staggering array of bars and clubs catering to every stripe in the LGBTQ rainbow.

No visit to London is complete without a trip to Heaven, the iconic venue that has drawn megastar performances from icons like Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Adele and more. The G-A-Y parties are legendary Friday and Saturday nights. Young crowds flock to G-A-Y Bar in Soho for cheap drinks until midnight, then it’s off to the nearby G-A-Y Late to keep the party going until 3 a.m.

Rupert Street Bar draws out the smartly-dressed after-work crowd for drinks and burgers in the early evening, but turns up for a party scene at night. Hot DJs and hotter bartenders bring the heat to the popular spot. Nearby, the Duke of Wellington Bar is a great place to start your night with two floors for pints and socializing. There’s drag bingo Tuesdays, pub quizzes on Wednesdays and Friday nights attract a lively bear crowd.

If you’re looking for a regular bear spot, furry friends come out of hibernation to drink and dance at London’s premier bear bar, Kings Arms Soho. This cozy, casual pub has less fuss than a lot of gay bars, and hirsute gents sporting scruff are particularly popular. Resident DJs keep the party pumping Saturday night, and there’s sing-along karaoke on Sundays.

©VisitBritain/Richard Allen

One of Soho’s original gay venues, Village Soho, has been entertaining gay visitors since 1991. Enjoy the smoking hot go-go boys on the bar and the DJ spinning bangers all night. The sleek spot can guarantee eye-candy at all times thanks to the mixed media art adorning the walls.

The Yard Bar in Soho is a gorgeous space with an outdoor space indoors. Beautiful multi-leveled patio and garden space. There’s also the Loft Bar upstairs where you can enjoy the upstairs bar and outdoor patio. The Friendly Society is a a great place where all letters and colors of the LGBTQ rainbow mix and mingle together.

In Vauxhall, you’ve got to stop at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, South London’s oldest surviving gay venue. In 2016, RVT was made a Grade II listed building, honoring its importance to LGBTQ history. Today, RVT is known for its party nights like Bar Wotever, Beef Mince, Drag Idol and Duckie.

The Eagle in Vauxhall draws thirsty men (literally and figuratively) to its horseshoe-shaped bar. Not to be missed is “Horse Meat Disco” night at The Eagle Sundays.

For all-night dancing, Union Club in Vauxhall boasts the longest operating hours in all of London. Bump and grind the night away to house and techno until the late morning. Beats are bumping at Fire in Vauxhall as well, where the three rooms of high-energy DJs and parties take place nestled in the Vauxhall railway arches. The club has become increasing less exclusively gay over the years, but it’s still a welcoming space for LGBTQ people looking to sweat it all out on the dance floor.

London’s East End has a reputation for its cutting-edge and alternative scene. Alt-pub the Glory is a local favorite for its wild parties, packed dance floor, performance art, go-gos, cabaret, drag and more. Creativity is the name of the game, so show up ready to see and be seen.

©VisitBritain/ Nicolas Chinardet

Of course, one of the most beloved East London locations is Dalston Superstore, an almost mythically perfect queer space where it’s possible to dance all night, sit down for “Disco Brunch” in the morning and admire art from all LGBTQ artists in the gallery. Upstairs is slightly more laid-back, but downstairs is where the party really gets going.

Another East End fave is BJ’s White Swan. The venue has been a staple of the East End scene for more than 30 years thanks to an eclectic mix of wild parties, drag performances and DJs. Similarly, the Two Brewers has been serving the East End’s gay community for more than three decades. The cabaret and dance venue offers an eclectic mix of programming, from quiz nights to live concerts, to cater to all kinds of crowds.

In addition to the bars and clubs, there are some legendary London parties that are not to be missed. There are good times to be had on the dance floor and a chance to get a little naughty in the dark room at XXL where everyone is welcome, but the the crowd over-indexes in bears and similarly big, burly men. Their mantra “one club fits all” fits, as it is considered the United Kingdom’s biggest bear night, XXL sometimes attracts more than 2,000 attendees. Queer kitsch goes internacional with Lady Olé, a party that celebrates queer British and Spanish cultures at various clubs. And that’s just a small sampling of the regular parties popping up nightly.

There’s a lot more to London’s queer community than just partying, though. Gay travelers should make a stop at Gay’s the Word, the pioneering lesbian and gay bookstore and community resource center. Like most LGBTQ bookshops, Gay’s the Word is so much more than a brick and mortar place to pick up a new coffee table book or paperback beach read. Discussion groups, signings and readings showcase work from queer literary greats and up-and-comers.

©VisitBritain/ Nicolas Chinardet

Pride celebrations take the city by storm in July. There’s Pride London, a 30,000-person strong parade that winds its way through London and culminates in a Soho street party. Pop acts and cabaret performers compete in Pride’s Got Talent to give undiscovered artists a shot to be part of the festivities.

Also in July, UK Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration of African, Caribbean, Latin American, Asian and Middle Eastern LGBTQ people. The diverse, inclusive event honors the political history of Pride, but the vibe is still overwhelmingly joyous and welcoming.

Cinephiles should plan their visit for November to coincide with the Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival. Although they host screenings throughout the year, the fall fest has been providing opportunities to see avant-garde film, workshops, installations, discussions and parties annually since 2011. The British Film Institute also hosts a LGBTQ+ film festival, BFI Flare, in March.

©VisitBritain/Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

If the amount of specifically LGBTQ things to explore in London seems staggering, you may want to take a seat before diving deeper into the breadth of cultural offerings in the city. We’re sure you’re already familiar with the likes of Tower of London, Windsor Castle, the Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Kew Gardens, Buckingham Palace and Wembley Stadium. However, you might not realize you could save money (and in some cases save time by skipping the lines) with the London Pass. It gives you access to lots of London’s most popular attractions for a fraction of the cost. Passes are available for one to ten consecutive days. You can also buy your Oyster Card (Metro/Subway Card) in advance from the VisitBritain Shop the only vendor that sells them to U.S. visitors.

One must-see spot is the incredible Victoria and Albert Museum (known colloquially as the V&A). It’s the world’s top art and design museum, home to a permanent collection of more than 2.3 million objects representing 5,000 years of artistic achievement. The current exhibition everyone’s talking about, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, examines the history and impact of Dior. It runs through July, but don’t let the “Sold Out” notice on the website deter you. Extra tickets are released monthly around the 15th, and limited day-of tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. The museum also has an incredible LGBTQ working group. Check out the regularly available free LGBTQ tour or this guide to objects on display with LGBTQ themes, connections and narratives.

There’s so much new and once in a lifetime happening in London today you don’t want to miss out. The only thing hard to find is enough time to see it all. 

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8 Reasons to Spend Your Next Getaway in Mad, Gay, Manchester UK

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©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

Twenty years ago, one of the most influential gay television series of all time, Queer As Folk, unfolded in Manchester. It’s no surprise the once-industrial city served as inspiration for Russell T Davies iconic series as it has transformed over the centuries into a bastion of progressive ideals with a thriving LGBTQ community.

From the city’s storied music scene to its massive student population, Manchester is a city crackling with energy.

Just a quick train ride from London, the “Gateway to the North” is a must-visit for any gay traveler. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to plan your next getaway to Manchester.

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

1 – It’s got a vibrant gay scene
Like San Francisco’s Castro, Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Chicago’s Boystown and Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, Manchester boasts a proudly queer district. Manchester’s Gay Village is centered around the pedestrianized Canal Street, running alongside the Rochdale Canal and easily accessed via Piccadilly rail station. Nearby Sackville Gardens has a touching Transgender Memorial sculpture, the Beacon of Hope light sculpture and an Alan Turing memorial statue.

There are bars and clubs aplenty, no matter your taste. Saturday nights tend to be the liveliest, but gay sports groups hit the bars on Thursdays. Due to Manchester’s large student population (one of the largest in all of Europe) lots of bars have special nights and discounts for students.

If you’re having deja vu at one of the most popular clubs, Cruz 101, there’s good reason. The exterior served as the backdrop for the fictional “Babylon” nightclub in the original Queer As Folk. In addition to its small-screen fame, it’s a favorite spot for dancing, DJs and performance.

There is dancing seven nights a week at Bloom (formerly AXM) on Bloom Street, or, for all you night owls, there’s Void. The underground house club boasts a weekend after-hours party that runs until 10 a.m. There’s a Manchester outpost of the Eagle leather and fetish club (which boasts a fantastic drag cabaret on Sundays), and London’s famous G-A-Y even has a low-key Northern outpost. Stop by the massive bar Via for a bite and a drink and you may be blown away by one of Manchester’s drag superstars. Away from the Village, regular alternative queer parties include Homoelectric, Bollox, and Kiss Me Again.

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

2 – The social calendar is jam-packed
While there’s always a party to be found in the Gay Village, there are some events worth planning your travel around. First and foremost, Manchester Pride is one of the premier LGBTQ community celebrations in the world. Thousands of visitors flock to Canal Street and the surrounding areas for the Candlelight Vigil, Superbia Weekend sober events, the Gay Village Party, Manchester Pride Parade and the big Manchester Pride Live performances. The event coincides with the August bank holiday, this year from August 23-26. Some of the events require paid wristbands, including the Manchester Pride Live concert featuring this year’s headliners Ariana Grande, Years & Years, Bananarama, Kim Petras and more.

Bears, cubs, otters, wolves and all the other woodland creatures you can think of come together to party a bit earlier in the year when the Great British Bear Bash comes out of hibernation in May. The largest annual bear event in England features a massive 100-plus person pool party, Superbeareoke and a special bear-sized installment of the popular party night Big Scrum, where lovers of all manner of sportswear from jerseys to jocks come out to play.

Entering its fourteenth year, the world’s largest free-to-attend event celebrating gender diversity, Sparkle Weekend, returns in July. Last year’s event drew more than 18,000 visitors to the Sparkle in the Park festival for performances from trans and non-binary performers, supporting trans and trans-friendly businesses and information on local organizations and partners. This year’s event takes place July 12-14.

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

3 – There’s an array of lodging options
There are loads of places to stay in Manchester that fit any budget, from cost-effective efficiencies to beautiful boutique lodgings, the options are extensive.

If you’re looking to stay near the Gay Village, you’ll find plenty of place to lay your head whenever you decide to kick your dancing shoes off for the night (or early morning). The award-winning Velvet is smack in the heart of the Gay Village. Each room is individually designed and decorated, ensuring a unique experience each time you return. Treat yourself to a luxurious stay at ABode Manchester. This sophisticated space was once a 19th-century textile factory and offers rooms in categories like “Comfortable, Desirable, Enviable and Fabulous.” Other nearby, posh hotels include the Principal Manchester and the Midland, a classic Manchester hotel where the Rolls-Royce company got its start. Manchester’s largest four-star hotel, Macdonald Manchester, has a sauna and spa that is not to be missed. You can also find a lot of value at Motel One Manchester-Piccadilly, Le Villé and Pendulum.

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

4 – No one goes home empty-handed
If you’re in need of retail therapy, you can shop till you drop all over the city. Label queens can hit the designer shops at Exchange Square. You can pop in high-end fashion boutiques on King Street, or peruse vintage goods at Afflecks, a self-styled ‘Emporium of Eclectic’ in Manchester’s Norther Quarter.

Given Manchester’s rich musical history, including claiming the start of acts like the Verve, Oasis and The Smiths, make it a point to stop by Piccadilly Records. One of the world’s most renowned independent record stores, the shop has been a go-to spot to stock up on every genre since 1978.

Interior view of Matt & Phreds Jazz Club, ©VisitBritain

5 – It’s Music to the Ears
There’s live music galore to be found all over Manchester. Once you get your fill of the pop and house music in the clubs, venture out of the Village and explore the sounds of the city.

Jazz aficionados should carve out time to take in a show at Matt & Phred’s, where you can catch local and touring artists, and Band On the Wall, a legendary venue since the 1930s.

Dare to be different with cutting-edge artists. You’ll find Gorilla under the Whitworth Street West railway tracks serving up food, drink and live entertainment. Another great option is the Deaf Institute, which, for a former — you guessed it — institute for the deaf — now is a gorgeous venue for music.

Bridgewater Hall is the place to be for orchestral music. The BBC Philharmonic has an annual season, or you can check out the Manchester Camerata, a Bridgewater chamber orchestra in residence with a reputation for their adventurous arrangements.

The Whitworth. ©VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

6 – There’s art and architecture galore
Even before considering the fact it houses the oldest known piece of the New Testament and a 1476 edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the John Rylands Library is a feast for the eyes. The Victorian Gothic architecture is simply breathtaking. It’s a worthy spot on any traveler’s itinerary, even if you’re not a bibliophile.

Fine art fans can find Victorian, pre-Raphaelite and contemporary works at the Manchester Art Gallery. Take time to recharge with the special exhibit And Breathe … exploring the relationship between art and mindfulness. It’s part of the larger Mindful Museum campaign that explores how art and culture can help promote health and well-being.

A massive, £15 million development in 2015 transformed The Whitworth, doubling the size of the gallery and integrating the park. Check out the art garden, sculpture terrace, café in the trees, orchard garden and more.

Film, theater and visual art meet at HOME, a thrilling space dedicated to contemporary art. HOME is the product of a merger between arts organizations Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company, and its opening weekend was led by acclaimed filmmaker Danny Boyle.

VisitBritain/Bray Leino

7 – You can root, root, root for the home team
OK, so it’s not America’s pastime, but Mancunians are just as passionate about football (that’s soccer to us), if not more.

Feed your fandom at the National Football Museum, one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to the sport. Explore the history and culture of football through a variety of artifacts, exhibitions and interactive activities. Even if sports aren’t your “thing,” you can enjoy the upcoming Football Is Art exhibit running from April through October.

It’s dangerous to run afoul of football fanatics in Manchester, so your safest bet is to visit both the Manchester United Museum and Tour Centre as well as the Manchester City Football Club Stadium and Club Tour. Both spaces allow behind-the-scenes looks at the football clubs.

©VisitBritain/Ben Selway

8 – You’ll never go hungry
All this activity is bound to work up an appetite, and Manchester’s culinary scene offers plenty to please palates.

If you really want to maximize your opportunity to taste the best Manchester has to offer, consider timing your trip with the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, Sept. 26 through Oct. 7. For 21 years, the festival has showcased the diversity of Manchester’s food scene across multiple venues in the city.

Don’t fret if that doesn’t jive with your travel plans. You’ll find excellent food all year round. Hawksmoor serves up sizzling steaks in a stunning Edwardian interior, while Tattu puts a clever, Ink Master spin on cocktails (with names like Smokin’ Aces, Skull Candy and a Cherry Blossom Negroni) served alongside contemporary Chinese cuisine.

Some like it hot, and for them there’s lots of spicy food on Curry Mile, Manchester’s area of Wilmslow Road concentrated with South Asian and Middle Eastern flavors.

The Vegetarian Society held its first annual meeting in Manchester, and that legacy has kept vegetarian and vegan cuisine at the forefront of the food scene. There’s 1847, so named for the very beginning of the Vegetarian Society; Manchester’s first vegan fine-dining restaurant, The Allotment Vegan Restaurant; V-Rev Vegan Diner and tons more.

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