Discover Britain focuses quite literally on the best of Britain. Stunning pictures from the UK's best photographers and in-depth articles on culture and traditions written by the top travel and history writers around. We speak with editor Matthew Havercroft who takes us through the magazine's changes over the last six years he's been at the post, and also tells us what it's like to be a contender for the prestigious British Travel Awards. Good luck, Discover Britain!
Stately homes, gardens, cottages… How do you discover the hidden gems that sit in the background?
We find the majority of places or visitor attractions we cover through research; speaking to local tourist boards; guides or PRs; being alerted to little-known attractions by readers, or freelance contributors with a particular interest or specialism; or via on our own independent travels. We’ve got an editorial team with a passion for all things British, who like nothing better than spending their weekends walking, cycling, exploring new places, taking a stroll around a garden or visiting a stately home, so that definitely helps. Ultimately, there is no replacement for getting out there and practicing what we preach!
What has Great Britain got that other countries haven’t when it comes to holidays?
We’re a relatively small island nation, so we’ve got a lot of accessible coast in all directions and we’ve got the inclement weather that keeps our land green and pleasant (although we might complain incessantly about it). Thankfully, previous generations had the foresight to protect those wild spaces as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or nature reserves (thanks Wildlife Trust, WWT and RSPB!), while organisations such as the National Trust, English Heritage, CADW and Historic Scotland continue to do a stellar job of looking after, maintaining, and breathing life back into our incredible built heritage.
We’ve also got a vibrant arts, music and cultural scene (too many great festivals, theatres, museums and galleries to list here); we’re rather good at putting on a sporting show – even if we’re not so good at succeeding in them (think Wimbledon, Lords, Cheltenham Festival, the Premier League and last year’s Olympics to name but a few); plus, we’ve got the Queen and the Royal Family, and we’ve got so much amazing history. If I had to pin Britain’s unique selling point down to just one thing, it would have to be our history. Then there’s Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, the Cotswolds, the Lake District, the Peak District, the Scottish Highlands and islands, London (too much to recommend in one succinct answer), Edinburgh, Bath, Oxford, our chocolate box villages, Victorian seaside towns, cream teas, fish and chips – the list just goes on!
You're a contender for the prestigious British Travel Awards – how does that feel? And what would winning mean to you?
It feels fantastic to be on the shortlist for this year’s awards. I only implore people reading this to help us win the Best Consumer Holiday Magazine award by voting for us at britishtravelawards.com/vote_form.php, or pick up a copy of the magazine to see what we’re all about if you haven’t done so already.
How has the magazine changed over the six years you’ve been editor?
Well, for starters it has a different name as it was called Heritage in the UK and Realm in North America when I took it on, but we decided to rebrand it as Discover Britain in 2011. This has allowed us to amalgamate the two audiences and create one website for everyone. When I took the magazine on it was also focused primarily on inbound travellers from overseas, but we have also worked really hard on building our domestic travel audience through the extended UK version of the magazine. In terms of look and feel, the magazine has been completely transformed through two redesigns, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our focus on celebrating the best of Britain.
What future plans are there for Discover Britain magazine?
We completely relaunched our website earlier this year and so a much greater emphasis is being placed on building our online audience. We’ve also got some exciting plans for some Discover Britain branded apps and a one-off bookazine (sorry, dreadful industry term) launch towards the end of the year.
How does the magazine like to hear from freelancers and PRs?
I always prefer to be contacted by email (even though it’s the bane of my life) as it means I can work my way through them at my leisure. We only have six issues of the magazine a year to play with (we’re bimonthly) so opportunities to commission content for the magazine are fairly limited. Any relevant news and events that we can’t run in the magazine tend to go on our website and social media sites.
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
Yes, but sparingly as we produce a lot of content in-house and have limited opportunities to commission content due to our frequency (six issues a year). At present we’re almost covered for content until 2015 as we work on long lead times.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
All we need in the first instance is a brief synopsis of the piece you are proposing and a selection of low res images (if the pitch included images). What I look for are pitches for pieces with a strong, timely hook so we can justify running them in a specific issue of the mag. I also tend to commission articles from freelancers who can offer specialist knowledge that we don’t have within our team. I would also ask potential contributors to browse our back issues (easily achievable with a low-cost digital subscription, which gives access to our back catalogue) so they are not pitching pieces on places or events that we have already covered.
Are PR contributions useful for the magazine? If so, how do you like them to get in touch?
Absolutely. I would ask anyone interested in working with us to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org initially.
How do YOU plan a holiday? How do you make the most out of each day?
With great care! I have a young daughter so annual leave is precious and my focus these days tends to be on finding good quality, family-friendly destinations close to a nice beach, a decent pub or restaurant and a good walk (preferably all of the above). A zoo, National Trust property, garden or decent farm shop nearby always helps, too! I think a sprinkle of planning combined with a dash of spontaneity always helps when trying to get the most out of every day. We tend to have a few short breaks in the UK every year and our next stop is the Isle of Wight. Other places on the current hit list include the Scilly Isles, the Isle of Skye and the Farne Islands (we like islands!).
Top five travel essentials?
1. Keys, wallet, phone
2. My beloved Nikon DSLR camera
3. National Trust media pass
4. My walking boots
5. Mask and snorkel (you never know when you might regret not having them!)
Get in touch with the Discover Britain team @We_love_Britain.