Contemporary UK prides itself on having one of the most sophisticated and vibrant gay communities in the world. In fact one of the largest gay and lesbian populations in Europe is to be found in England. Several factors like equal age of consent laws set at 16, partnership laws and even legal commitment ceremonies in some major cities have all worked in favor of making the following cities the most gay-friendly in UK.
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The national capital city offers both political freedom as well as legal safeguards for couples wishing to enter into same-sex unions. Home to some of England’s best known intellectual and gay personalities like King Edward II, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde and Sir Ian McKellan, London welcomes its gay couples with a plethora of living options and recreational opportunities. The art district of Soho is famous for its eclectic offerings just as the Old Compton Street acts as the gathering point for the gay community in this part of the city. Hoxton Square at East End is yet another delightful conglomeration of bars, pubs and art galleries showcasing the counter culture and extreme artistic side of the city. Finally there is Earl’s Court, formerly home to the largest concentration of gays in London. And even today this area has several establishments which cater to the requirements of the local queer community – there is a branch of the Balans restaurant, the DVD and magazine outlet Clone Zone as well as the popular watering hole Brompton’s. Above all at Earl’s Court is The Philbeach Hotel which is still London’s largest lodging destination exclusively for gays.
Cradle of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-nineteenth century as well as home to the first computer in the world, Manchester is where it all started. Likewise the city offers one of the friendliest environments to live and love for the gay community in UK. The hub of Manchester’s gay district is located in Canal Street. The gay village here is dotted with pubs, bars, shops, restaurants and art galleries all offering a delightful time to same-sex couples or those looking for same-sex love. One can bar hop in the footsteps of Vince, Nathan and Stuart, laze around with a drink on the waterfront or take in some live music at the numerous venues among which one of the most popular with the gay community is the Halle Orchestra at the spanking new Bridgewater Hall. Finally Manchester is a haven for those who like to jive to music offering everything from gay R&B clubs to disco specials like Cruz 101 or hip gay hangouts like Homisexual.
Brighton’s nickname ‘Soho by the Sea’ says it all. Ever since 1823 when Prince Regent decided to make this coastal town his pleasure suburbia, Brighton has been known as a flamboyant and extravagant destination. Today the town is home to the second-largest gay population and the places to visit are Old Lanes, North Laine and Kemptown among others. While Old Lanes has a quaint old world charm steeped in tales of pirates and smugglers, North Laine is the bohemian capital of Brighton. The latter is choc a bloc with stalls and stores selling everything from sixties kitsch to Goth fashion. However instead of merely browsing the lanes, one should spend some time at any of the charming cafes in North Laine to understand and appreciate the air of fantastic and colorful liberality that sets this place apart. Finally Kemptown is where Brighton’s gay community can be found rocking to some really loud music or relishing a fine full course dinner. Hosting most of Brighton’s B&Bs, restaurants and dance clubs, Kemptown is as funky and fun as it gets.
A town which goes by the motto of Progress, Blackpool has naturally a lot to offer to gays from across the country and even the world. The Flamingo at Blackpool is reputed as one of England’s oldest and biggest gay clubs and continues to enjoy a devoted clientele. Then there is the legendary Funny Girls Showbar, a lavish and spectacular show which has been running to packed houses for around sixteen years now. The annual Blackpool Pride is a highlight of the local gay calendar and showcases an array of top singers as well as performances besides an extraordinarily colorful parade in support of gay rights. Yet another event not to be missed is the Showzam, an extravaganza of magic, circus and high camp which takes place every February. What makes Blackpool an even friendlier place for gays is the consideration that local businesses extend to those of the queer community and the fact that many of them are owned by the members of the community; the Blackpool Accommodation for Gays or BAGS is a case in the point which is made up of a local group of gay and lesbian accommodation providers and a number of whose establishments have received a quality grading from the local as well as outstation gay community. Lawrence House, Pride Lodge and Mardi Gras are only a few of the places supported by the group which are havens for the gay community.
- Newcastle Gateshead
One of the newest entrants on the gay scene, Newcastle Gateshead is fast coming up as the place to be in if you are hip, stylish and gay. The hub of the same-sex community here is locally known as the Pink Triangle located in the west of Newcastle city centre and a five minute walk from Newcastle Central Station. This neighborhood includes a diverse range of gay pubs, cafes, bars and dance clubs all of which come alive at night with patrons from various walks of life. Some of the best known nightspots here are the Dog, a small classy looking pub while The Eagle with its ranch-like feel attracts those with a fondness for leather and denim. Then again there is the Baron and Baroness remarkable for its new gothic décor while the Zinc is a traditional party zone set over two levels and with its own resident DJ. For those interested in going clubbing, choices range from The Yard to the Powerhouse which is one of the only exclusive gay clubs in the North East. Finally Newcastle Gateshead hosts its own gay parade known as Pride on Tyne every July which attracts visitors from all over the country.