Big Ben

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Big Ben
Big Ben, London

The world’s most celebrated clock is also a pedant’s dream. Big Ben is just the main bell, not the tower – we all know that. But then the über-pedants insist that the edifice isn’t even called St Stephen’s Tower, as the regular pedants hold, but is officially The Clock Tower. Designed by architect Charles Barry as part of the Palace of Westminster, The Clock Tower was completed in 1859. The Great Clock started on 31 May that year, with the Great Bell's strikes heard for the first time on 11 July and the quarter bells first chimed on 7 September. The clock still keeps surprising accuracy, thanks to a counterweight that relies on the stacking of old pennies. UK residents can arrange a tour of the Clock Tower through their local MP or member of the House of Lords.


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When you’re one of the world’s most famous timekeepers and a key player of the London skyline, it’s safe to say you’re kind of a big deal. Sure, you can admire it from near and afar. But let me take a moment to blow your mind: you can go to the very top. And stand behind each of the four clock faces.

I’ll explain. Any UK resident can write to their MP and request to go on a tour of The Elizabeth Tower. And it’s free. That’s right, you read correctly. IT’S FREE. And if that wasn’t enough to get you tapping an email to your local politician, the fact that it’s for UK residents only means that once you’re inside, there’s no battle with oversized maps, multiple cameras and ridiculous hats. Unless you happen to have a spot of bad luck with an unfashionable national.

Once you’ve been sponsored, skip 6 months ahead in your calendar – because that’s just how high in demand it is. Excuse the pun, but time does fly. And you do get an official letter from the House of Lords. Fancy.

Things to be prepared for when you get there:

1. An airport style security check. (Just don’t expect any duty free bargains once you’re through.)

2. Putting your personal belongings in a safe – handbags and phones included. Lizzie doesn’t permit selfies up in her tower. Which sadly means this review comes sans visual aid of the tour itself.

3. Stairs. A whopping 334 of them to be precise. Now to anyone that’s ever challenged Covent Garden’s 193 steps, you’ll know that it’s no walk in the park. Don’t be alarmed, every so often you enter into rooms off the staircase where you can take a pew, learn the history behind this beautiful landmark and stare out onto London as it cogs around in its own unique way.

In groups of about 8, a tour guide escorts you on your ascend. You’re even taken into the home of the mechanical operations. That in itself is a work of ticking art. When you consider that it’s clocked up 156 years of the capital’s history, it’s hard not to be bowled over by it. Standing behind the famous glass is pretty surreal. And t’s the closest you’ll ever be to having the power of turning back the hands of time in this lifetime.

We started our journey upwards at 9am, and the tour itself is just over sixty minutes long. With moments to go before the sounds of 10am strike and armed with earplugs, you’re stood in front of the Big Ben bell to witness the hammer proudly announce to London that we’ve successfully reached the next hour. Bravo Benjamin. Perfect timing.