Something British steps from the shadows when we speak of secrets and spies…
All of a sudden, we see images of espionage exploits in exotic locales with debonair men and glamorous women.
We see martinis and fast cars.
We see Bond. James Bond.
This summer, we’ve teamed up with Turnbull & Asser, dresser of the world’s most eminent gentlemen (from Connery to Craig), to celebrate all things 007. Here’s our top six, top secret spy sites across Great Britain, all with hidden gem hotels nearby to help you stay under the radar.
1. Bletchley Park
Once the top-secret home of a crack team of codebreakers, Bletchley Park was vital to the Allied victory in World War II. Learn about Hitler’s ‘unbreakable’ cipher machine, and uncover the largest and most comprehensive public display of Enigma machines in the world. The National Radio Centre and the National Museum of Computing are also housed here.
Where to stay nearby: The Woburn Hotel, Bedfordshire
Cambridge. World-famous for its University. Perhaps lesser known is the real-life story of the ‘Cambridge Five’ spy ring, who passed top secret documents to the Soviet Union during World War II. Their recruitment while studying at Cambridge University in the 1930s led to the name the ‘Cambridge Five.’ To the KGB, however, they were reputedly known as the ‘Magnificent Five.’
Where to stay nearby: The Gonville Hotel, Cambridge
3. South Devon
A number of directors of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) started out at Britannia Royal Naval College in South Devon. Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming trained here for one. He was the SIS’s first director and the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s fictional chief ‘M’ in the Bond novels, and David Cornwell’s (better known under the pseudonym John le Carré) head of MI6, named ‘Control.’
Where to stay nearby: Dartington Hall Hotel, South Devon
Past heads of MI6 consist almost entirely of Oxbridge alumni. Interestingly, David Cornwell worked for both MI5 and MI6 at the height of the Cold War. Whilst studying at Lincoln College, Oxford, he worked covertly for the British Security Service. His work as a full-time novelist only began after his cover was leaked to the KGB by ‘Kim’ Philby of the ‘Cambridge Five.’
Where to stay nearby: Cotswold Lodge Hotel, Oxford
London is awash with infamous spy locations. Take a Bond-style boat ride past the real-life HQ of MI6 with London Rib Voyages, or visit the iconic London locations featured in the 2015 Bond film Spectre. That said, one spy site hides in plain sight… Brompton Oratory, Knightsbridge (pictured above). During the Cold War, this magnificent building was one of the most famous locations for spies exchanging secret information. From its spectacle of pillars, it’s easy to see why.
Where to stay nearby: The Lensbury, Richmond upon Thames
We’ve saved ‘Bond Country’ for last. Ian Fleming took bold inspiration from the dramatic south coast of Kent. Indeed, his weekend and holiday home White Cliffs, in St Margaret’s Bay, played a crucial role in the development of the James Bond story. Asked how he created his heroines, Fleming once remarked: “I go out into Romney Marsh and hope to find one there.” He may even have come up with the codename ‘007’ because that was the number of the London-to-Dover National Express coach. If you’re in London, visit Turnbull & Asser’s Jermyn Street store in St James’s to be more Bond.