/ 11 August 2008

Tourists at a loss in Britain

”When do you turn off the mist?”; ”Is this where Ozzy and Sharon actually live?”; ”Where are all the hobbits?” The bizarre questions asked by visitors to British tourist spots were revealed on Monday.

An unidentified visitor to Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s retreat on the Isle of Wight, was presumably disappointed when told that former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne and his celebrity wife were not at home.

Similarly, a visitor to Whitby Abbey in northern England clearly had not read the guidebook too closely when he looked at the ruined Benedictine edifice and asked: ”Is this Dracula’s castle?”

In that case, there may have been some excuse, since the abbey is thought by some to have inspired Bram Stoker’s 19th-century novel.

But others — cited in a list of odd questions asked by visitors to sites run by conservation body English Heritage over the last year — are more off the wall.

”Does my ferret need to be on a lead in this area?” asked a visitor to Kenwood House in Hampstead, north London, while staff at Witley Court and Gardens in western England were flummoxed by the question: ”Did Lady Rachel ever debone her fish before eating it?”

Children provided some crackers. ”Where are the monkeys?” asked a young visitor to Cleeve Abbey in south-west England when told that it had once been home to monks.

”Is this Clifford the Big Red Dog’s tower?” asked a girl at Clifford’s Tower in the northern city of York. When told that it was actually a castle, she questioned: ”Is it a bouncy castle?”

Back at Osborne House, ”How long does life membership last?” answered itself, while Kenwood House also seemed to attract more than its fair share of odd questions, including: ”Can you tell me where I can see the hobbits?”

A misty day at Dover Castle in south-eastern England prompted the hopeful: ”What time do you switch the mist off?”, while one visitor to Whitby Abbey wondered: ”Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?” — Sapa-AFP