Leicester (pronounced Lester) is the county town of Leicestershire and like Oakham has a famous and unusual resident. Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man, was born in the town in 1862 and lived and worked in the town for several years before moving to London.
Although the county town I have never found Leicester to be the most attractive of places. I’ve “had” to go there a few times on business and we did “do” a sightseeing visit once but it really does not beckon me to return! I always feel it’s a bit strange that as the birthplace of tourism it’s not more attractive. By way of explanation Thomas Cook, who lived in Leicester for over 50 years, introduced the idea of a tourism business when he organised a trip from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841. If you fancy retracing his trail then you can get a free Thomas Cook leaflet, from Leicester Tourist Information Centre. This takes you on a walking trail around Leicester, visiting places connected with his life including where he lived, worked and finally his grave at Welford Cemetery. Other recommended leaflets are the one relating to King Richard III who spent the night in Leicester before his final battle at Bosworth.
Of course all major towns have the infamous blue plaques, which mark places that have historical importance or were occupied by famous people. Leicester is no exception and a leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre will help you get around the City by way of these historical sites. Leicester can boast the lives of people like Richard Attenborough (actor and film maker),Joseph Hansom (Architect and Designer), Dr Benjamin Burrows (musician and composer) C P Snow (author and Lord Snow of the City of Leicester) and the notable playwright Joe Orton.
Once you’ve had your fill of Leicester’s shopping centre (people tell me the shops here aren’t bad although they, alongside most shops don’t entice me) try one of the Riverside walks (again the tourist board has some real helpful leaflets with maps) and if you really feel energetic take the 40 minute walk along the river pathways to the National Space Centre.
In 1997 Leicester successfully placed a Millennium Project bid for becoming the country’s National Space Centre and this has been open since June 2001. If you’re “in to Space” then this must be a must visit exhibition centre. It’s closed most Mondays (check out the web site, www.spacecentre.co.uk to be sure) and it’ll cost £11 for your admission, but with six different themed galleries and a range of interactive activities it is well worth the money. Children love it of course and their admission is a little bit cheaper.