One of the things people love about England is the diversity that it has. From the little coves on the Dorset Coast, gorgeous little hamlets and enough history to throw a stick at! All across the country, it’s filled to the brim with some of the best places to visit in England. From vibrant, culture-laden cities to peaceful areas of outstanding natural beauty, the UK is an incredibly diverse destination for travelers.
Visitors flock to Yorkshire because there is no place on earth like it. It considers its food and drink reputation as now the best in Britain. Yorkshire boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the country. The sheer beauty of the county, sometimes as unexpected as a dilapidated mill chimney stabbing up through a leaden sky, has inspired generations of painters: from John Atkinson Grimshaw’s moonscapes to the Victorian artists of the Staithes Group to David Hockney’s Yorkshire Wolds. The only downside for visitors is the secret is out. More than 40 million visitors now travel here every year for heritage-related tourism alone. Good job its grand old cities and sweeping moors and Dales are large enough to soak them all up.
Home to a 13th century replica of the legendary round table of King Arthur, Winchester is a place where history is inescapable. As well as the aforementioned table, its Great Hall is home to artifacts from Winchester Castle (which no longer exists), while nearby Winchester Cathedral is the longest of its kind in Europe. Wander through cobbled streets and past the famous Winchester College and along the rippling River Itchen for a rustic English experience like no other. The city is also filled with well-preserved Georgian buildings such as the one that houses the original Hotel du Vin, which dates back to 1715.
The only place designated as a desert in the UK, Dungeness is utterly unique. Located on the Kent coast, its windswept beaches and inland nature reserve, coupled with big skies and sea air, make it the perfect place to spend an afternoon getting the freshest air imaginable. The coastal hamlet with the same name is something of a time warp, with a miniature railway ferrying passengers along the coast to the town of Hythe.
The glorious, honey-coloured towns and villages of the Cotswolds look as if they have strayed into the 21st century from another era. The area is characterised by gentle dynamism, with lively galleries, vibrant festivals and a liberal endowment of intriguing museums. Covering nearly 800 square miles across five counties (Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire), this region of ‘wolds’, or rolling hills, is the biggest of the 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England and Wales. Every season here has intrinsic appeal. Crowd-free winters are ideal for bracing walks, fire-side pub sessions and lower hotel prices. Come in spring to see lambs and wild daffodils. Visit in summer (inevitably with many others) for magical light, particularly in the long evenings. Or make an autumn excursion for a quieter atmosphere and wonderful leaf colour, especially at the two great arboreta, Westonbirt and Batsford.
Northern England’s cities often get unfairly lumped together, but there’s distinctiveness between Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool and Manchester that makes them all worth a visit. It’s the latter, though, that’s the big hitter. The vibrant Northern Quarter is great for shopping, whether it’s for vintage clothes or picking up the latest albums at Piccadilly Records, while venues such as Bridgewater Hall, Home and the Albert Hall make it the place to be for culture fiends.
There can be few more cosmopolitan cities on earth. People pour in from across the world to visit, work or live. Londoners are used to hoardings marking the progress of colossal infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and the revitalisation of King’s Cross-St Pancras, and new skyscrapers, even entire new areas, such as the Embassy Quarter and Battersea Power Station south of the river, are transforming the skyline. Restaurants, bars and theatres are buzzing and the range of events on offer from sport to food pop-ups, from music festivals to theatre is unbeatable.
The Roman Baths and Georgian City of Bath
If you only have time to visit one smaller city in England, you couldn’t do much better than Bath. This remarkably beautiful city boasts more fantastic tourist attractions than you could hope to visit in a day. While most famous for the magnificent 2,000-year-old Roman Baths built around the city’s rejuvenating hot springs, it’s equally well known for its honey-colored Georgian Townhouses such as those located on Royal Crescent. Some 500 of the city’s buildings are considered of historical or architectural importance, a fact that has resulted in the entire city being granted World Heritage status. Bath makes an ideal location from which to explore some of England’s most stunning countryside, including the Avon Valley, the Mendip Hills, and countless other fantastic Somerset landmarks.
Located in the heart of the historic city that bears its name, Canterbury Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is home to the Archbishop of Canterbury and is the cradle of English Christianity. It all started when St. Augustine converted the pagan Anglo Saxons here in 597 when he became the first bishop. But there’s much more to this beautiful medieval city than its cathedral. Canterbury is also a popular cultural and entertainment destination with great shopping, galleries, and cafés, as well as attractions such as those focused on Chaucer’s medieval England and the city’s Roman past.
The prime visitor destination in Oxfordshire is Oxford itself, which as well being home to the hallowed university and several top-notch museums, holds restaurants and accommodation to suit all budgets. In addition, though, the villages and towns in the surrounding countryside abound in rustic charm, and make excellent day-trip options, as well as stop-off destinations for travellers heading west into the Cotswolds. To the northwest, Witney has a pretty town centre, but the major highlight is magnificent Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, adjoining attractive Woodstock. Southwest of Oxford, the Vale of the White Horse offers some intriguing prehistoric attractions.
Home to rolling countryside, medieval villages and gorgeous coastline, this inspiring corner of England is besieged by weekending Londoners whenever the sun pops out. And it’s not hard to see why as you explore the cobbled medieval streets of Rye; wander around historic Battle, where William the Conqueror first engaged the Saxons in 1066; and peer over the edge of the breathtaking Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and Beachy Head near the genteel seaside town of Eastbourne. Brighton, a highlight of any visit, offers some kicking nightlife, offbeat shopping and British seaside fun. Off the beaten track, you can stretch your legs on the South Downs Way, which traverses England’s newest national park, the South Downs National Park.
Published in Melange Intl. Magazine in November 2018.