Great Britain: what's new?

Lonely Planet's brand new Great Britain travel guide has just been released. Besides bringing you up-to-date information on all your British favourites, our authors have hunted down everything that's fresh, plus what's been transformed. Here is a sneak peek at some of the latest things to do and places to stay.

London's Natural History Museum has attracted visitors for over a hundred years with the constant addition of features. The latest feature is the striking new home for the Darwin Centre which houses a team of biologists and a staggering 20-million-plus species of animal and plant specimens. Catch a lift to the top of the ‘Cocoon’ – a seven storey egg-shaped structure encased within a glass pavilion – and snoop through the windows at boffins studying 20 million animal and plant specimens.

Britain’s oldest public museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford has reopened after a massive £61 million redevelopment and is now being lauded as the finest university museum in the world. The makeover has made the place a real joy to browse with a giant atrium, glass walls revealing galleries on different levels, and a beautiful rooftop restaurant. The museum was established in 1683 when Elias Ashmole presented the University with the collection of artefacts amassed by John Tradescant, gardener to Charles I. It contains everything from Egyptian, Islamic and Chinese art to rare porcelain, tapestries and silverware, priceless musical instruments and extensive displays of European art.

For 600 years the Nelstrop family have been growing and processing grain, but it was a brave decision to branch out into the ancient art of whisky-making. It’s apparently such a daunting task that there has not been a whisky distillery in England for 120 years. You can visit the English Whisky Company and take a guided tour around the distillery, which bottled its first whisky in November 2009. The tour explains the whole process, takes you through the distilling and casking room and ends with a tasting of company whiskies, liqueurs and creams.

Agatha Christie's riverside holiday home has opened to visitors and sits beside the River Dart near Dartmouth. Part-guided tours allow you to wander between rooms where the furnishings and knick-knacks are much as she left them. So you can check out the piles of hats in the lobby, the books in her library and the clothes in her wardrobe, and listen to her speak (via a replica radio) in the drawing room. Woods speckled with splashes of magnolias, daffodils and hydrangeas, frame the water, while the planting creates intimate, secret spaces – the boathouse and views over the river are delightful.

Just below the cairn that marks Snowdon’s summit, Harod Eryri has been open for two summers to replace the dilapidated 1930s visitor centre, which Prince Charles famously labelled ‘the highest slum in Europe’. Clad in granite and curved to blend into the mountain, it’s a wonderful building, housing a cafe, toilets and ambient interpretative elements built into the structure itself. A wall of picture windows gazes down towards the west, while a small row faces the cairn. The centre closes in the winter or if the weather’s terrible; it’s open whenever the train is running.

Margate’s brand new state-of-the-art gallery, the Turner Contemporary, stands right on the seafront, bathed in the sea-refracted light that the artist JMW Turner loved so much. The gallery is set to become East Kent’s top attraction and the first exhibition is expected to focus on Turner and his relationship with Margate.

The Italian fashion house, Hotel Missoni, has established a style icon in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town with this bold statement of a hotel – modernistic architecture, black and white decor with well-judged splashes of colour, impeccably mannered staff and – most importantly – very comfortable bedrooms and bathrooms with lots of nice little touches, from fresh milk in the minibar to plush bathrobes.

Possibly the northeast’s most bizarre digs, the ten rooms at Durham's Fallen Angel Hotel leave few indifferent. Each room has a theme with the ‘Le Jardin’ featuring a shed and garden furniture, the ‘Sci-fi ’ room containing a Doctor Who Tardis and the ‘Premiere’ boasting a huge projection screen and popcorn machine, while the ‘Edwardian Express’ recreates a night in a yesteryear sleeper compartment. The most ‘normal’ room is the Library though even here military uniforms hang from the bookcases as if their owners could return any moment. The restaurant is superb and some rooms have cathedral views. Pricey, but worth every penny.