An hour in the air, a couple more by ferry and you're there. So near, yet so often overlooked for a holiday, England is full of surprises. Ed Leahy has a few reasons why he thinks you should visit. And it's not just London calling...
An hour in the air, a couple more by ferry and you're there. So near, yet so often overlooked for a holiday, England is full of surprises. Here are a few reasons why we think you should visit. And it's not just London calling...
Famous for its hot springs and sitting pretty in the heart of the Somerset countryside, the city of Bath is one of England's oldest tourist destinations. The city is Roman, Medieval and Georgian by design and is a listed World Heritage Site. Walking around the city centre will take you back in time to the days when Jane Austen was residing in Bath at the turn of the 19th century and the Georgian architecture apparently remains unchanged from the streets depicted in 'Northanger Abbey' and 'Persuasion'. Some of the city's landmarks include the must-see Roman Baths, Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey, The Royal Crescent, Sion Hill and Walcott Street. The city of Bristol is only 25 kilometres from Bath and is another place that could easily fill a few days of your stay in the West Country.
The Lake District
One of England's most natural beauties, the Lake District covers 885 square miles and is the country's largest National Park. Still water lakes, mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, forests and woodlands, this Cumbrian countryside will provide the perfect backdrop for a summer getaway with family or friends. Esthwaite Water, Elterwater, Buttermere, Ennerdale, the list and the lakes go on an on. Boat trips, walking trails, mountain hikes, historical towns, friendly village B&Bs, country house hotels, top of the range restaurants and local inns serving pints of bitter and Cumberland sausage. What more could you ask for? Well if you do want to explore the north-west region further, you're spoilt for choice with Hadrian's Wall, Keswick, Chester, Liverpool, Manchester and Blackpool all a mere stone's throw away.
A vibrant city, with lots of charm and ancient history, Exeter is the capital of Devon and dates back to before the arrival of the Romans. The city boasts a magnificent gothic cathedral, and a stroll along the quayside reveals the history behind this once fifth richest city in England. The quayside is now home to a thriving riverside area with interesting shops, cafes and pubs. There are a plethora of sights to take in including the 14th century underground passageways and the Roman city walls, of which almost 70% still remain. A walking tour around the walls gives a great insight into the 2000 years of Exeter's history. Twenty minutes away by train sits the pretty seaside town of Exmouth, which will give you that perfect English seaside holiday and with it being situated on the southern coast, the weather is likely to be a lot better throughout the summer months than the rest of the country.
Dramatic views, sandy beaches and iconic castles, a trip along the north-east coast of England will not disappoint. The Northumberland Coast was designated an area of outstanding natural beauty in 1958 and covers 39 miles of coast from Berwick to the Coquet estuary. With Celtic connections and being the cradle of English Christianity, the area is rich in history with visuals to match. Enjoy the stunning views of Bamburgh Castle and visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which is the home of St Cuthbert and the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels - a unique illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Mark, Luke and John. And then there is always the option of adding a city break to the itinerary with the never disappointing Newcastle- Gateshead on your doorstep and the cathedral city of Durham also in close proximity. And while you're in the area, don't forget to pay a visit to the spectacular Angel of the North.
Running through several English counties but primarily in Gloucestershire across the border from south Wales, the Cotswolds are another designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Translated as 'gentle hills', the Cotswolds are the finest example of rural England with historic sites, stone-built villages and beautiful market towns located throughout. The Forest of Dean is one of the main attractions in the area and is England's largest oak forest, which boasts a variety of guided walks, dedicated cycle routes, canoeing, abseiling, raft building and high wire assault courses. The historic spa town of Cheltenham - a place well known and loved by Irish racing fans - is one of the largest towns in the area and is well worth a visit.
Located in the east midlands in Derbyshire and steeped in history and culture, the Peak District is another of England's outdoor picturesque playgrounds. The sprawling area of dales, moors, hills and rivers will cater for every level of outdoor adventurer, whether visiting the World Heritage site of the Derwent Valley or the magnificent stately homes such as Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall or the medieval Haddon Hall. Peak District guides and suggested itineraries are readily available and will help you to get the most out of your visit. And if you need a break from all that ramblings, then pay a visit to the Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, it might just be the icing on the cake of your holiday.
Canterbury takes you away from the hustle and bustle of London and into England's garden county, Kent. Renowned as a pilgrimage town since the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170, the town inspired Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' poem about the pilgrims swapping stories to pass the time. Cathedrals, museums, galleries, riverboat trips, the entire city of Canterbury is the perfect tourist attraction, and being the culinary capital of Kent, an excellent gastronomic experience is guaranteed. Beyond the city limits, the gardens and coastal castles of Kent must be explored and a first sight of the extraordinary White Cliffs of Dover will last long in the memory.
This most famous of university towns is a short hop from London by rail and with so much to see in such a compact city, the ideal way to explore Cambridge is by foot. Wander the medieval streets and explore its historic churches, bridges and museums. And the best way to see the famous Cambridge colleges is to hire a punt and cruise along the Backs. The Cambridge Backs is a stretch of reclaimed land containing some beautiful gardens - especially in spring when they are covered with a blanket of daffodils and crocuses. The Fitzwilliam, Kettle's Yard, the Zoology Museum containing some of Charles Darwin's specimens, the Scott Polar Institute, the Botanic Garden, the Imperial War Museum Duxford and the fan-vaulted ceiling of the iconic King's College Chapel are just some of the many attractions on offer.
With over 300 beaches to choose from, Cornwall is the ideal location for a summer break. An amazing coastline to explore, a wide range of water sports on offer and a thriving art scene, this south-west stretch of England on the road to Land's End really does have something for everyone. Fistral Beach in Newquay lays claim to be the surf capital of Europe, while scuba divers will find some great sea life within the wrecks off the coast of Falmouth. Grab a sailing boat and explore the smugglers' coves and sheltered waterways of Carrick Road and cross the causeway to the spectacular castle-topped isle of St Michael's Mount. Art lovers will be at home in the cobblestoned cove of St Ives, while not forgetting the gastronomic wonders of the Cornish pasty and clotted cream that will help keep the energy levels up as you explore.
Overshadowed by the enchanting courses of the 'Home of Golf' up north in Scotland and competing with world class tracks in nearby Wales and, of course, Ireland, England is often forgotten as a golf destination. In fact, almost every region of England contains a host of Championship courses, but where better to acquaint yourself than a short hop across the Irish Sea to the north-west coast. This stretch of coast from the Wirral to Blackpool is the highest concentration of championship links golf in the world and includes the three Open venues of Birkdale, Liverpool and Lytham & St Annes. So throw the clubs in the boot of the car and take that ferry across to Merseyside for the ultimate golfing experience.
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