Last Updated: 20th February, 2019
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A beautiful island full of history, heritage and changing landscapes, England is known for its literature, arts, music, vibrant cities and stunning countryside. Although only a small island, there are a vast number of areas to visit, each with its own eclectic mix of things to see and do – with each area maintaining its own identity and traditions. The best way to see England is to hire a car and take a few road trips; there are excellent motorways but if you want to take more scenic routes, it often takes longer to travel from A to B than you’d think, so make sure you plan your route wisely. Take your pick from a few choice destinations and see what England has to offer.
As England’s capital city, London is an exciting destination boasting vibrant nightlife, wonderful leafy parks, world-class theatre productions and unbeatable museums. A trip to the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace is essential. Meander the Thames Walk or hire a Cruise Boat to see London from the waterways, and ride the London Eye or Emirates Air Line cable car to see the city from the air. Stop off in various parts of the city and marvel at how each area has its own distinctive flavour. Try the arty South Bank, lively theatre district, chic Covent Garden, relaxed and funky Camden, and historical Greenwich. Don’t miss the Greenwich to Isle of Dogs Thames tunnel – it’s like an underground, space-age tunnel under the city’s iconic river.
Jump in the car and head from Bristol to historical Gloucester to see the incredible examples of preserved Tudor buildings, some of which still function as pubs and restaurants. Visit the beautiful priory ruins or explore the historically important docklands to see excellent examples of Victorian factory buildings, now converted into fabulous shops and eateries. This is also Beatrix potter country; so check out the museum before taking a drive around the surrounding countryside to see where she got her inspiration
Somerset is well worth a visit when you stay in Bristol, due its natural beauty, laid back charm and incredible historical monuments. Home to Glastonbury Tor, with its iconic St Michael’s Tower monument, as well as the incredibly wild and rugged Cheddar Gorge, this area offers some of the most beautiful drives in England. For some truly ancient history, head to Kilve Beach for a peek at the extensive collection of prehistoric fossils - you can even try your hand at hunting out a fossil as a keepsake.
The often-overlooked East Midlands region is a vast and varied part of England, including the counties of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire. However, there is plenty to enjoy in this region with its colourful history dating back to Roman times, lush forestry, stunning nature parks and incredible walking routes. If you’re more shopaholic than outdoor adventurer, there are also artisan foods and excellent shopping opportunities available. If you love nature, this is a perfect spot to visit, with the Fenlands, Peak District and Lincolnshire Wolds all within easy reach.
In Leicester, make sure you take a break from driving and enjoy a return ride on a steam train, visit the National Space Centre for excellent astronomical exhibitions and displays, and take the family for a wander around Twycross zoo. Shoppers should head to Highcross, St Martin’s Square Stoneygate and Belgrave Road.
To tour the area, take a meandering drive along the Leicestershire coast – an impressive stretch of road that lasts for 50 miles. Known for its fishing industry and picturesque beauty, the coastline eventually terminates at the wetlands of The Wash, near Norfolk. Along the way you will encounter bustling towns and quaint villages. Make sure you stop in Cleethorpes for a walk on its golden sands. Mablethorpe is another pretty stop-off, while Sutton on Sea and Skegness are livelier options, with excellent sands, great views and plentiful visitor attractions.
Home to the grand country estates of Althorp House, Kirby Hall and Broughton Castle, to name but a few, Northamptonshire is an impressive county, known for its heritage of grandeur and beauty. For an outdoor adventure with a difference, drive to Irchester Country Park Adventurers to partake of their adventure course. Nature lovers should follow the leafy rural lanes to Barnwell Country Park, in search of kingfishers
The Lincolnshire Wolds is a nature lover’s paradise with its beautiful low hills and valleys, perfect for people who love the outdoors. Drive through gorgeous scenery to find the perfect spot for walking, camping, cycling and exploring nature at its most beautiful. Top spots include the Red Hill nature park at Goulceby, Castcliffe Hill, Louth – also known as the capital of the Wolds - and the market town of Horncastle.
A wonderful national park covering more than 550 square miles across several counties, the Peak District has to be seen and explored to be truly believed. The fifth largest national park of its kind in England and Wales, there are a vast number of walks available, varying in length and difficulty, and each promising different sights and experiences.
Exeter in the southwest of England combines ancient monuments, impressive architecture, stunning countryside and scenery as well as maintaining an important role in the modern arts. The gateway to Devon and perfect for exploring the surrounding West Country counties, Exeter promises history, adventure and plenty of surprises. In Exeter city, make sure you visit the pilgrimage Church of Saint Peter Cathedral to see the longest uninterrupted medieval vault in the world. Also walk the ancient Roman Walls and take time to explore beneath the city streets with a guided tour of the medieval Underground Passages. The five and a half mile walk or cycle ride along the River Exe Estuary, starting at Exeter Quay and finishing at Turf Lock, is worth a go, and for some culture, visit the Northcott Theatre with its annual open-air Shakespeare performances.
The backdrop and inspiration to many Thomas Hardy novels, including The Mayor of Casterbridge, Dorchester is a pretty, welcoming market town in Dorset full of historic interest and beauty. But one of the highlights of any visit has to be the incredible New Forest; over 150 square miles of unspoilt beauty spreading across three counties. Visitors to the New Forest can expect incredible walks where you can glimpse wild New Forest Ponies, as well as horse riding and biking – well worth the drive from Exeter.
Drive south from Exeter to Devon to marvel at the rugged headlands and famous sandstone cliffs. If you want to see a traditional fishing village in action, Padstow is a good choice with its postcard-pretty pastel-coloured medieval town. Sample the local crab, lobster and fish while you’re here and enjoy some of the country’s finest fishing produce. St Ives, an historic mining, fishing and farming town that also boasts blue flag beaches, coastal walks and a thriving arts scene, is also worth a drive.
A longer drive will take you to the unspoilt beauty of Cornwall. Visit St Michael’s Mount in Marazion, near Penzance – an enchanting stately home that is accessible on foot when the tide is out, but by ferry only when the tide comes in! Truro and The Lizard are quiet, unspoilt spots of natural beauty, while Bodmin Moor offers dramatic landscapes, hidden waterfalls and towering tors. For lush woodland and steep valleys, head to the Tamar Valley. Meanwhile, Torquay and Newquay offer water sports, lively nightlife, gorgeous scenery and a hip, cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most important Roman monuments in the whole of England and well worth driving to. Stretching right across the country, the structure is the gateway to important archaeological finds, incredible walks, wildlife sightings and an ever-changing landscape that includes vibrant cities, coastal views and wild moorland. Starting from Newcastle, drive east to South Shields, then follow the wall along to see what it has to offer.