This is a guest post
Whatever the season, the English countryside never fails to impress and offers a deliciously slower pace of life, whether you’re after a short winter break or family summer holiday. It’s a place to get off-the-beaten track and escape the crowds. A place to relax, unwind and also have fun.
Wherever you go, expect spectacular scenery, the kind which makes you want to pull on your walking boots and get out and about. You’ll come across lots of charming villages with inviting tearooms and gift shops, bustling market towns showcasing delicious local produce, all kinds of historic treasures and family attractions and, of course, the quintessential English country pub.
Just remember don’t do too much – there’s nothing worse than cramming everything in and returning home ready for another holiday to get over the last!
Accommodation-wise, a classic country cottage works really well, where timetables and dress codes are entirely up to you, so if you fancy a lazy breakfast in PJs at noon, you can do just that.
In no particular order, let’s take a closer look at England’s top 5 countryside hotspots and what makes them so special.
-Photo via Flickr
Sip Champagne and float across the skies in a hot-air balloon. Wend your way along leafy lanes by classic car or tandem bicycle, stopping for refreshments in a wayside inn. Walk ancient, way-marked trails over gently rolling hillsides, stretching as far as the eye can see – if you’re feeling fit, the 100-mile Cotswold Way will take you into the heart of Georgian Bath. Just some of the ways to discover this sweeping Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty dotted with historic sites and natural attractions galore.
Stroll around the streets and hidden nooks and crannies of mellow, honey-coloured villages like Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Broadway. Follow the 300-year-old tradition of ‘taking tea’ in an olde-worlde tearoom. Find a special keepsake in one of the many art galleries and antique emporiums. Soak up the extraordinary atmosphere of watching live Shakespeare in the legendary playwright’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Trace the steps of William the Conqueror at Warwick Castle. Go sailing or fishing at the Cotswold Water Park. Dress to impress and have a flutter at Cheltenham Races. Or indulge in a luxury spa day at a country manor hotel.
Typically English and with so much to offer, the Cotswolds is a genuine visitor hotspot and it’s easy to see why.
The Peak District
-Photo via Flickr
Poets, adventurers and artists have all been here, each one inspired by the show-stopping natural landscape. Now it’s time to awaken your senses…
See panoramic views from the top of Kinder Scout, grand country estates like Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall, architectural delights in Buxton, amazing show caves at Castleton and blockbuster film locations like Stanage Edge.
Hear the distinctive call of the Red Grouse, open-air opera in Chatsworth’s sweeping grounds and comedy at Buxton Fringe Festival.
Smell wonderful wildflowers in the rolling meadows of Dovedale, a local beauty spot with iconic stepping stones.
Taste local culinary delights like Bakewell Pudding and award-winning sausages from the Chatsworth Farm Shop.
Feel the extraordinary texture of rocks created some 350 million years ago. Or fast forward to the 21st century and feel the adrenalin rush at Alton Towers.
Experience times gone byat Derwent Valley Mills, birthplace of the ‘modern’ factory and a World Heritage Site, or aboard vintage trams at Crich Tramway Village. And last, but not least, Mother Nature in all her glory!
Don’t Miss wonderful walks like Hayfield to Kinder Scout (8 miles), the Lower Manifold Valley (10 miles), Ilam Park to Dovedale (2.5 miles), the long-distance Pennine Way. Or you can walk, cycle and ride along the Tissington and Monsal Trails, two disused railway lines.
The Lake District
-Photo via Flickr
Welcome to England’s largest National Park, where cloud-topped mountain peaks mingle with inky blue lakes, where wooded hillsides, velvet valleys and wild moorland unfurl to sandstone cliffs along the coast.
Home to England’s five highest mountains and its biggest, deepest lakes, the Lake District is a playground for the great outdoors, so grab a pair of sturdy boots, suitable outdoor clothing and a map. Follow a classic Lakeland route or tackle one of the many fells like Scafell Pike. Test your stamina along the Coast to Coast and Cumberland Way, or take advantage of the 39 routes of ‘Miles without Stiles’ – ideal for families and people with limited mobility. Other family-friendly walks include Borrowdale, Eskdale, Tarn Hows and Grasmere.
Fresh air and exercise encourage a healthy appetite and it’s good to know that the Lake District is also something of a culinary centre. You’ll find micro breweries creating splendid real ales, local damson gin, farmers’ markets selling organic meats and other tasty delights, traditional tearooms, Michelin-starred restaurants and, if you’ve a sweet tooth, Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding.
The Lake District guarantees to bring out your romantic side. Rustle up breakfast for two with ‘Royal’ Cumberland sausages then look forward to hand-in-hand strolls around Buttermere, gondola cruises on Coniston Water and evenings curled up on the sofa together. You’re guaranteed to fall in love all over again.
The Yorkshire Dales
-Photo via Flickr
Recharge those batteries with a stay in the Yorkshire Dales, a heavenly region of unspoilt natural beauty, boasting no less than three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Yorkshire Dales National Park – a walker’s paradise, take an extraordinary journey across the dramatic limestone pavement of Malham Cove. Follow the Red Squirrel Trail in Snaizeholme. Learn about the local people at the Dales Countryside Museum.
Forest of Bowland – on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, the Forest of Bowland sweeps into Lancashire and is a wonderful spot for walking, cycling and riding amid remote, rugged scenery. Try the market town of Settle as a base, from where you can hop aboard the Settle-Carlisle Railway, probably England’s most scenic rail journey, with its extraordinary viaducts and tunnels built to navigate the line around natural features.
Nidderdale – discover ‘Little Switzerland’ at How Stean Gorge, sup fine, traditional ales in Masham’s two award-winning breweries, admire the exquisite buildings, medieval deer park and ornamental lakes of Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden, a World Heritage Site protected by the National Trust.
Just a taste of what’s on offer.
-Photo via Flickr
Escape to Shropshire and enjoy its unhurried charm. Centrally located, so easy to get to, this beautiful English county is sometimes overlooked – which is sometimes a benefit and reason why it has retained its unspoilt landscapes and tranquil atmosphere.
This was not the case in the past, however, when turbulent cross-border raids and battles with the Welsh were the everyday norm. Thankfully, Anglo-Welsh relations are much better now – plus you get to discover a trail of interesting historic relics including hill-forts and castles. You also get to see lots of delightful black-and-white towns such as Shrewsbury (birthplace of Darwin), plus all sorts of Industrial Heritage at Ironbridge.
Dust off those boots and ramble across the Shropshire Hills, promising spellbinding views in every direction. Top spots include Stiperstones, the plateau of the Long Mynd, the Wrekin and Wenlock Edge. Or stay on the flat and opt for a gentle stroll along the Shropshire Union or Llangollen Canals.
Food & Drink
Farmers’ and other open-air markets abound, laden with fresh fruits and vegetables, organic meats, home-baked cakes and so on. In the towns, you’ll find high street delis, butchers and bakers alongside supermarket chains. You’ll find a wealth of welcoming hostelries offering local ales and regional specialities. Stylish cafés, traditional tearooms – they’re all here. And if you head into Ludlow, you’ll find more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else outside London. So if you’re a bit of a foodie, Shropshire will be your idea of heaven.
Don’t Miss Ludlow Food Festival every September and one of England’s tastiest.
Just one thing…don’t tell everyone when you’ve booked your holiday – just sneak off quietly and experience this truly rural gem!