Whether you live in the UK or are visiting for the first time, for such a small country, it is absolutely jam packed with things to see and do. This article aims to uncover some of the less well known destinations that offer a more traditional and authentic taste of England, where you’ll be able to discover traditional English houses and a more gentile way of life.
If you’re a tourist, then you’ll likely be heading to London, as one of the world’s most visited cities. Whilst you can follow the tourist trail that leads direct from London to Collegial Cambridge, Bohemian Brighton, or Shakespeare’s Stratford you can have a more rich and authentic experience discovering places that are less of the tourist map.
Admittedly, London is a must see, but there’s no need to limit your visit to the traditional tourist sights – when just a few hours further afield you can find hidden gems in much less tourist-trodden places just a few hours from London.
York is rich in ancient history renowned for its historic architecture, quaint cobbled streets, and the iconic York Minster. Just two hours by train from London, you’ll be transported to a vibrant yet chocolate box city that could be likened to Bruges in Belgium. What’s more, you’ll have easy access to a rugged coastline and unspoilt moorland just a short drive or train ride from York itself.
Cornwall, is located at the South-Western tip of England and is a mecca for family camping holidays, surfers, and artsy hippies. In a couple of days, you can explore the picture postcard location of St Ives (not to be confused with St Ives in Cambridgeshire) with a beautiful harbour and a number of art galleries including Tate St Ives. Then, you can sample some of the world’s leading fish and chips from celebrity chef, Rick Stein, based in Padstow and burn off the calories by taking a surf lesson on world famous Fistral Beach in Newquay.
Lancaster is one of England’s most delightful Heritage Cities. The word city is somewhat of a misnomer, as in, you can walk through the town centre within about ten minutes, but this quaint set-up only adds to its charm. Lancaster is steeped in history, boasting one of the oldest and most haunted castles in England, which until recently, was a functioning prison.
Bournemouth is a great location to explore when in search of a traditional English seaside town. Unlike many English seaside towns that have been left to decay, due to domestic tourists choosing to fly overseas, Bournemouth retains a certain well-to-do charm whilst still offering traditional seaside delights such as doughnuts, 99 ice creams, prawns in salt and vinegar, candy floss and amusement arcades. There are a number of Bournemouth holiday apartments available that are great for couples or families wanting a little more privacy than in a traditional B&B.
If you’re looking for a lively city that’s less busy than London, you might want to take a short train ride to Bristol. This university town offers a warm and tolerant welcome; the pace of life is somewhat slower than in London, yet many of its residents retain the affluence and ambition. Nearby, you have Bath, which is famous for its roman baths and beautiful architecture – and as it’s just a stones throw from Wales, you could visit a whole new country in just an afternoon day trip.
Newcastle is a modern vibrant city where everybody is warm, friendly and cheerful – at least, it would appear that way. The local accent, known colloquially as “geordie” makes it sound like people are speaking a foreign language. Newcastle is a great place to experience a vibrant nightlife scene that has a very down to earth and “say it as it is” feel to it. A night out in Newcastle is certainly an experience where much won’t be left to the imagination.
Harrogate is a charming Victorian spa town nestled in the heart of a medieval district known for its outstanding natural beauty. Whilst there are not too many “things to do” in Harrogate, other than meander around independent boutique shops, indulge in hearty traditional food, and visit the Victorian Tea Rooms you could easily spend half a day there. Just ten minutes on the train from Harrogate is Knaresborough which has a beautiful riverside walk.
Birmingham, is the second city to London – once a heavily industrialised city where even today, one areas is referred to as “the black country”, due to the soot, dirt and coal covered workers coming out of mines, pits and factories. Today, however, Birmingham is a vibrant and multicultural city that offers something for everyone. It’s home to Cadbury World (where they make the famous British chocolate), Edgbaston Cricket Ground, and the UK’s leading Indian restaurants. Indeed, the famous ‘balti’ dish was created in Birmingham.
Windermere is one of several towns housed in the area known as the Lake District. This has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful natural places in the whole of England. Unfortunately, it does get quite wet up there, but a few days spent nestled next to a log fire in a cosy pub after a hearty steak and ale pie, with fellow ramblers and their dogs – it’s definitely worth the visit.
In many ways, quite similar to the Lake District, Matlock is one of several towns within the Peak District – which is a mecca for ramblers and cyclists. A little closer to London, there’s a network of local trains and buses that can take you around charming towns (think cosy tea rooms with freshly made scones) whilst enjoying beautiful scenery that ranges from farmland through to the highest peaks and troughs in England. The great thing about the Peak District, is that the UK’s number one theme park, Alton Towers is there – which is a great treat for the kids after taking in the scenery.
In summary, England is bustling with things to see and do beyond the well trodden tourist path. Hopefully, these ten ideas will encourage you to step off this path in search of lesser known places that are equally worthwhile.
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