Across a manicured lawn in a regal court, bursts of scarlet pop out of nowhere.
They are the coats of nearly 300 ex-army veterans, known as the Chelsea Pensioners, who live at the Royal Hospital Chelsea – and these gentlemen are every bit as vibrant as their uniforms.
The on-site museum holds a life-size replica of one of the ‘berths,’ the tiny rooms the men occupy.
The mysterious meaning of the ‘scarlets’ is also uncovered, with artefacts from the hospital’s history scattered throughout the hall. Even more impressive are the more than 2000 medals lining the Medal Room – a collection from deceased in-pensioners.
Make your visit even more memorable by taking a guided tour with one of the current in-pensioners.
» Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Hospital Rd, SW3 4SR Sloane Square (020 7881 5200). Free, but guided tours with an in-pensioner must be booked in advance, cost £50.
Verdict: living treasures