15 Places Across Britain to Capture Glorious Photographs

Most travelers to Britain visit London at least once.

Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey … what’s not to love?

But Britain is so full of beauty and history that it’s just as exciting outside of London as in it.

There are hundreds of places to take amazing photos but we’ll take a look at fifteen of the best that are sure to keep you snap happy!

1. Cambridgeshire

Founded in 1209, the world-renowned university dominates the skyline of Cambridge.

Running through the very heart of the city, the River Cam provides amazing views of the “Backs”—a picturesque area where several of the colleges back onto the river.

Punting past Trinity College Wren Library, Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr
Punting past Trinity College Wren Library, Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr

Snap away as you glide along on one of the many punts for hire, past the great monuments to education including the Old Court of Clare College (below left), and King’s College Chapel.

Founded in 1441 by King Henry VI, the college’s buildings are a magnificent symbol of the power of royal patronage.

Get up at dawn and you’ll be rewarded with views like this.

View from the Backs to Clare College and King's Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr
View from the Backs to Clare College and King’s Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr

Cambridge — the ancient city of colleges and scholars.

Founded in the 7th century with the building of an Anglo-Saxon abbey that was later destroyed by the Danes, Ely is a beautiful cathedral city about 14 miles northeast of Cambridge.

Dating from the 12th century, the current Cathedral was constructed from stone delivered by boat to Ely and paid for with eels from the surrounding fens before they were drained.

Meaning “Isle of Eels”, the slippery critter is thought to be the source of Ely’s name.

Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner called the Octagon, built over Ely Cathedral’s nave, the greatest individual achievement of medieval architectural genius.

The Octagon at Ely Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
The Octagon at Ely Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

Grantchester is said to have the world’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners, most of whom are current or retired academics from the nearby University of Cambridge.

Students and tourists often travel from Cambridge by punt to picnic in the meadows or take tea at The Orchard tea room.

The banks of the River Cam at Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
The banks of the River Cam at Grantchester, Cambridgeshire

2. Cumbria

Serving as inspiration for artists, writers, and musicians, the Lake District lies at the heart of Cumbria’s predominantly rural landscape.

Considered one of England’s most beautiful scenic areas, the Lake District National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Living in Grasmere for 14 years, the poet William Wordsworth described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”

Grasmere, The Lake District. Credit Jorge Franganillo, flickr
Grasmere, The Lake District. Credit Jorge Franganillo, flickr

Meaning “river with oak trees” in the ancient Celtic language, Derwent Water is fed by the River Derwent and is surrounded by hills and densely wooded slopes.

Conveying the fertile nature of the land at both ends of the lake, Buttermere takes its name from the Old English “butere mere”, meaning “the lake by the dairy pastures”.

Derwent Water, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson
Derwent Water, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson

10 Fascinating Facts About the English Lake District.

Local folklore tells of a Norse leader named Jarl Buthar who ran a resistance campaign in the 11th century against the Norman invaders from a stronghold at Buttermere.

Buttermere, The Lake District. Credit James Whitesmith, flickr
Buttermere, The Lake District. Credit James Whitesmith, flickr

Formed by glaciers 13000 years ago during the last major ice age, Windermere is England’s largest natural lake.

Popular for holidays and summer homes since 1847, Windermere has several steam-powered boats operating along the whole 10-mile length, with one dating back to 1891.

Windermere, the Lake District. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Windermere, the Lake District. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

3. Dorset

With its rolling green hills, grazing cows, pretty stone walls, and Norman village church, Abbotsbury could be heaven on earth.

Viewed from St Catherine’s Chapel, a 14th-century pilgrimage chapel that stands on a hill overlooking Abbotsbury, you can expect to capture beautiful views like the one below.

According to local tradition, up until the late 19th century, the young women of Abbotsbury would pray to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters and virgins, to help them find a good husband.

Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Described as “one of the most romantic sights in England”, Gold Hill in the town of Shaftsbury has provided the setting for film and television, as well as appearing on countless chocolate boxes and calendars.

Appearing in Britain’s favourite TV advertisement, the 1973 “Boy on a Bike” advert for Hovis bread was directed by Ridley Scott and featured Dvořák’s nostalgic Symphony No. 9.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset

18 Gorgeous English Thatched Cottages.

Like a giant petrified dinosaur turned to rock, Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch on a dramatic stretch of coastline called the “Jurassic Coast”.

Spanning 185 million years of geological history, coastal erosion and contrasting rock hardness shaped this World Heritage Site and photographer’s dream.

Durdle Door, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Durdle Door, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

One of the world’s finest examples of an oval coastal inlet, Lulworth Cove—close to Durdle Door— is a popular tourist attraction with over half a million visitors a year.

Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Credit Lies Thru a Lens
Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Credit Lies Thru a Lens

4. East Sussex

Gradually being eroded by the English Channel, the massive white chalk cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters, are remnants of dry valleys in the South Downs.

Each of the cliff peaks has its own name: Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Point, Flat Hill, and Baily’s Hill.

Seven Sisters, East Sussex. Credit Miquitos, flickr
Seven Sisters, East Sussex. Credit Miquitos, flickr

Reportedly haunted by smugglers, the Mermaid Inn (covered in Ivy on the right) has a long and turbulent history dating from the 12th century.

One of the best-known inns in southern England, the black and white timber-framed buildings and the sloping cobbled Mermaid street provide a beautiful setting for a timeless photograph.

Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex. Credit BazViv
Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex. Credit BazViv

Built in 1385 by a former knight of King Edward III, its purpose was to protect the region from a French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453).

Surrounded by a moat, and of a quadrangular plan with crenelated towers, it provides a perfect photographic subject at any time of day, but especially in the warm late afternoon sunlight.

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex. Credit Adrian Farwell
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex. Credit Adrian Farwell

Opening in 1899, the Palace Pier is the only one of three piers still in operation at Brighton.

Featured in many works of British culture including the gangster thriller Brighton Rock and the Mods and Rockers film Quadrophenia, against a sunset sky, it takes on a sublime quality.

Brighton Pier, East Sussex. Credit Chris McGeehan, flickr
Brighton Pier, East Sussex. Credit Chris McGeehan, flickr

5. Gloucestershire

Depicted on the inside cover of UK passports, Arlington Row is a series of cottages converted from a 14th-century monastic wool store, becoming weaver’s homes in the 17th century.

Used as a film and television location, it has been featured in the movies Stardust and Bridget Jones’s Diary and attracts thousands of tourists hoping to capture a shot like this.

Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Swan Hotel, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Swan Hotel, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Inhabited since the 11th century, Lower Slaughter is a beautiful village in the Cotswolds with a river running through it spanned by several small stone footbridges.

Glorious Gloucestershire.

At the west end of Lower Slaughter sits a 19th-century water mill with a chimney that, together with nearby honey-colored stone cottages, provides a lovely photograph with near perfect reflections.

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr

Straddling the River Wye on the county border between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, Symonds Yat is an English village within the Forest of Dean and a popular tourist destination.

The name is said to come from Robert Symonds, a 17th-century sheriff of Herefordshire, and “yat” meaning a gate or pass.

Symonds Yat on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Credit Nilfanion
Symonds Yat on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Credit Nilfanion

6. Cornwall

Popular with tourists and painters alike, the dramatic stretch of rocky coastline known as Bedruthan Steps is one of the most popular destinations in Cornwall, providing spectacular clifftop views.

According to legend, the massive granite rocks rising from the beach are stepping stones for the Giant Bedruthan.

Notice the scale of the huge rock stacks compared to the people on the beach.

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Fans of British TV may recognize Port Isaac as the backdrop for the comedy-drama Doc Martin about a belligerent London surgeon who develops a fear of blood and moves to a backwater Cornish village to begin a new life as the community doctor.

With a history dating back to the time of Henry VIII, this picturesque fishing village is one of the delights on the South West Coast long-distance footpath which provides perfect views of the harbour like this one.

Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Centered around the steep-sided valley of the River Looe, the small coastal town of Looe dates to the 12th century.

During the Middle Ages, it was a major port, exporting local tin and granite, as well as a thriving fishing and boatbuilding center.

40 Stunning Images of Cornwall in 1895.

But by the 19th century, the Victorians recognized its charm as a seaside holiday town for which it remains popular today, with dozens of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, pubs, and vendors of traditional regional specialties like Cornish ice-cream and pasties.

Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Situated on the Lizard peninsula—the most southerly tip of the British mainland—the ruggedly beautiful Keynance Cove became popular with Victorians including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Stunning views over Keynance Cove like this one can be enjoyed from the South West Coast long-distance footpath.

Rugged Cornish coast near Kynance Cove. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Rugged Cornish coast near Kynance Cove. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

7. Isle of Wight

Winding its way through Shanklin Old Village, the High Street is lined with charming thatched cottages, traditional tea rooms, and restaurants with names like Pencil Cottage, the Village Inn, and Strawberry Thatch.

Shanklin Old Village ranks as one of the best chocolate box photographic opportunities in Britain.

Shanklin, Isle of Wight. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Shanklin, Isle of Wight. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Overlooking the village of Godshill stands the medieval All Saints Church which is fronted by a row of pristine thatched cottages as seen from Church Hill road.

Noted for its medieval wall painting of a Lily crucifix—one of only two in Europe—it was whitewashed during the Reformation to save it from destruction, remaining hidden until the 19th century.

Church Hill, Godshill, Isle of Wight. Credit Phil Sangwell
Church Hill, Godshill, Isle of Wight. Credit Phil Sangwell

Built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer house for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Osborne House is a must-see on the Isle of Wight.

Designed by Prince Albert himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, it became the place of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901.

Osborne House, Isle of Wight. Credit Antony McCallum
Osborne House, Isle of Wight. Credit Antony McCallum

Queen Victoria’s Beloved Pomeranians.

Rising nearly 100 feet out of the sea off the Isle of Wight’s western coast, three giant stacks of chalk called “the Needles”, with a Victorian-era lighthouse at the outer edge, make a dramatic photograph from the clifftop viewing spots.

Taking their name from a fourth needle-shaped chalk stack that collapsed in 1764, the name stuck even though the remaining stacks are not needle-like.

The Needles, Isle of Wight. Credit Mypix
The Needles, Isle of Wight. Credit Mypix

8. Norfolk

Built in 1816 for miller Edmund Savory, Burnham Overy Staithe Mill is one of almost 200 surviving mills across Norfolk county.

Converted to holiday accommodation, the mill is a protected building of historical importance and provides beautiful photographic opportunities, especially at sunrise.

Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating from 1912 and built on the foundations of an 18th-century mill, Horsey Windpump is a drainage windmill in the beautiful Norfolk Broads near the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth.

Horsey Mill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Horsey Mill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating back to the Tudor period, the historic cobbled lane of Elm Hill is a famous landmark in the city of Norwich.

Named after the old elm trees that once stood in the town square, Elm Hill was home to wealthy 15th-century merchants in the city’s weaving industry.

Like Gold Hill in Dorset and Mermaid Street in East Sussex, Elm Hill makes a beautiful photographic subject.

Elm Hill, Norwich. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Elm Hill, Norwich. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Constructed out of flint and mortar and faced with cream-coloured limestone from northwestern France near Caen, work began on Norwich Cathedral in 1096 and took another fifty years to complete.

Exceeded only by Salisbury Cathedral, the cloisters are the second-largest in the UK, through which a beautifully framed image of the second-tallest spire can be photographed.

Norwich Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
Norwich Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

9. Northern Ireland

About three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills in County Antrim lies an area of ancient lava flow comprising some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns known as the Giant’s Causeway.

Legend has it that the columns were built by the Irish giant Finn MacCool from Gaelic mythology, who was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner.

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Tony Webster
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Tony Webster

Upon seeing Benandonner was much larger than himself, Finn hides and his wife disguises him as a baby, thus fooling Benandonner into thinking Finn’s father must be a true giant of giants.

Benandonner flees back to Scotland and destroys the causeway behind him.

Identical basalt columns from the same lava flow can be found on the Scottish side of the causeway at Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa.

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Voytazz86
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Voytazz86

Linking the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede, a famous rope bridge spans the 66-ft gap, with a drop of nearly 100 feet to the rocks below.

Designated an area of outstanding beauty, it makes for stunning photographs, but be wary of crossing the bridge if you’re afraid of heights—some people cannot stomach the return journey and have to be taken off the island by boat.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland. Credit RafalZabron
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland. Credit RafalZabron

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you may recognize this remarkable avenue of beech trees used as a location in the fantasy drama television series.

40 Beautiful Images of Ireland in 1895.

Celebrating the completion of Gracehill House in 1775, James Stuart planted over 150 beech trees along the approach road to create an imposing corridor.

According to legend, the ghost of the Grey Lady haunts the road, flitting from tree to tree.

Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Colin Park
Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Colin Park

10. Oxfordshire

Founded around 1096, the University of Oxford—the oldest university in the English-speaking world—dominates the “city of dreaming spires”.

If you’re lucky enough to take a hot air balloon ride over Oxford, incredible views like the one below are yours to savour.

38 constituent colleges are scattered throughout the city centre, forming a beautifully preserved architectural wonder.

Aerial view of Oxford. Credit Chensiyuan
Aerial view of Oxford. Credit Chensiyuan

Viewed from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, the neo-classical Radcliffe Camera looks resplendent in the golden evening sunlight.

Built between 1737 and 1749 to house a science library funded by wealthy local doctor John Radcliffe, it is considered the most magnificent structure in Oxford.

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 Reasons to Love Oxford—the City of Dreaming Spires.

Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a monumental English Baroque country house originally granted as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough for his military triumphs in the Battle of Blenheim of 1704.

Larger than Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, or even Versailles, the sheer scale of Blenheim has to be seen to be appreciated and is difficult to squeeze in the frame.

With its richly colored stone columns against a dramatic sky, Blenheim is a photo gem.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Known as the “gateway” to the Cotswolds, Burford is a delightful medieval town on the River Windrush in West Oxfordshire.

It was the scene of a great battle in AD 752 between Cuthred, king of the West Saxons and Æthelbald, king of the Mercians, in which the Saxons vanquished the Mercians.

Local legend tells of a ghostly apparition of an unpopular 16th-century Lord and his wife riding a fiery coach through the town and bringing a curse upon all who see it.

Fortunately, the ghosts were corked in a glass bottle during an exorcism and cast into the river!

Burford, Oxfordshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Burford, Oxfordshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

11. Scotland

“Bonnie” meaning “pretty, attractive” is the perfect word to describe Scotland’s dramatic landscape.

Covered by ice sheets during the ice age, Scotland has been shaped by glaciation, forming towering mountains, deep glens, glittering lochs, thick woodland, and rolling pastureland.

Steeped in history and the struggle for freedom, Scotland is dotted with romantic historic castles and ruins that take your breath away.

One of the most iconic landmarks is Eilean Donan Castle in the western Highlands.

Eilean Donan, Scotland. Credit Nessy-Pic
Eilean Donan, Scotland. Credit Nessy-Pic

Eilean Donan—a place to live forever?

Fictional setting of Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake and the opera La donna del lago by Rossini, Loch Katrine is a popular scenic attraction within reach from Glasgow on a day trip.

Loch Katrine in the Trossachs of Scotland. Credit John McSporran, flickr
Loch Katrine in the Trossachs of Scotland. Credit John McSporran, flickr

Forming the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands, Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water in Britain by surface area.

Surrounded by hills, Loch Lomond is popular as a leisure destination and is featured in the song “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, a well-known traditional Scottish song first published in 1841.

Loch Lomond, Scotland. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Loch Lomond, Scotland. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dominating the skyline of Edinburgh from its position atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress and one of Scotland’s most-visited attractions, with over 2 million visitors a year.

A Tour of Magical Victorian Scotland.

Princess Street Gardens makes a superb location from which to capture the castle, featuring the Victorian Ross Fountain, once exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1862 in Kensington, London.

Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street Gardens. Credit Gustavo Naharro, flickr
Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street Gardens. Credit Gustavo Naharro, flickr

12. Somerset

Crafted from honey-coloured stone, Bath became a popular spa town in the Georgian era as word spread of its curative natural spring water.

Designed by Robert Adam, one of the most successful and fashionable architects of the 18th century, his Palladian-style Pulteney Bridge is exceptional for having shops built across its entire span on both sides.

On a still day, the much-photographed bridge reflects almost perfectly in the River Avon.

Pulteney Bridge, Bath. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pulteney Bridge, Bath. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built around a Roman site for public bathing, the Roman Baths complex is a major tourist spot, attracting over a million visitors a year.

The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 of the Best Things To Do in the City of Bath.

Attracting about half a million visitors a year is a deep limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills of Somerset known as Cheddar Gorge.

Rising almost 450 feet with near-vertical cliff-face sides, a dramatic photo opportunity is from the top looking down on the road snaking its way along the bottom of the gorge.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Credit Pablo Fernández
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Credit Pablo Fernández

Built between 1175 and 1490, Wells Cathedral is a dominant feature of the city of Wells and the surrounding Somerset countryside.

Called “the most poetic” of English cathedrals, the style is pure Gothic and thought to be the first truly Gothic structure in Europe.

The Pillars of the Earth – Inside England’s Medieval Cathedrals.

Displaying more than 300 sculpted figures, the façade has been described as “the supreme triumph of the combined plastic arts in England”.

It is a superb opportunity to capture in detail the fruits of medieval English craftsmanship.

Wells Cathedral, Wells, Somerset. Credit seier+seier
Wells Cathedral, Wells, Somerset. Credit seier+seier

13. Wales

Known as the “land of song” thanks to a centuries-old Welsh festival of literature, music, and performance, this Celtic nation of valleys is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain.

Pen-y-Gwryd is a mountain pass close to the foot of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.

The famous mountaineering hostelry, Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, is located in the pass and is where the first successful Everest expedition team of 1953 stayed to train in the mountains of Snowdonia.

Pen-y-Gwryd pass, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Pen-y-Gwryd pass, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Formed by a post-glacial massive landslide that dammed the lake within the glaciated valley, Tal-y-llyn Lake is the most-photographed lake in Wales.

Tal-y-llyn Lake, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Kevin Richardson
Tal-y-llyn Lake, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Kevin Richardson

For a long time from the 13th century on, Llanrwst’s wool trade was so important that it set the price of wool for the whole of Britain.

Across from Pont Fawr—a narrow three-arch stone bridge built by famed 16th-century English architect Inigo Jones—sits the beautiful ivy-covered Tu Hwnt I’r Bont Tearoom.

40 Beautiful Images of Wales from the 1890s.

Originally a farmhouse, the building predates the bridge by about 100 years and creates a perfect chocolate box photograph.

Tu Hwnt I'r Bont Tearoom, Llanrwst, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Tu Hwnt I’r Bont Tearoom, Llanrwst, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Formed from Carboniferous Limestone, the Green Bridge of Wales is a natural arch on the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline

Described as the most spectacular arch in Britain, at around 80ft high, the Green Bridge is a popular tourist attraction and makes for a superb photo opportunity from the coastal footpath above.

The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembrokeshire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr
The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembrokeshire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr

14. Wiltshire

Best known for the prehistoric monument of standing stones called Stonehenge, Wiltshire has much to offer the avid photographer.

Constructed between 3000 and 2000 years before Christ, each stone is around 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighs around 25 tons.

Surrounded by myth, exactly how Stonehenge was built and what it was used for remain a mystery.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Quintessentially English, and often considered the prettiest village in England, Castle Combe is unsurprisingly popular as a filming location, having featured in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and the original Dr Doolittle film.

Unmistakably Cotswold, with its honey-coloured local stone, beautiful photos are all but guaranteed.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Castle Combe, Wiltshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

If you enjoyed the 2005 movie Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, then you’ll love the gardens of Stourhead’s 2,650-acre estate where some of the filming took place.

One of the best views is across the bridge towards the Pantheon, thought to be the most important visual feature of the gardens.

Stourhead Gardens, Wilstshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stourhead Gardens, Wilstshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Perched on a perfect green lawn, Salisbury Cathedral is a true wonder of medieval architecture.

Not only has it the tallest spire in Britain at 404 feet, but the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close.

Containing the best surviving copy of the Magna Carta—the founding text of Liberty—and one of the oldest working clocks in the world, Salisbury Cathedral is a must-see and a sight to behold.

Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire. Credit Bellminsterboy
Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire. Credit Bellminsterboy

15. Yorkshire

Largest of all British counties, Yorkshire is home to the historic city of York and to vast areas of unspoiled countryside.

Sometimes nicknamed “God’s Own Country”, the Yorkshire Dales comprises river valleys and hills with pastures separated by dry-stone walls and grazed by sheep and cattle.

Swaledale is a typical limestone Yorkshire dale, with narrow valley floor, glacier-formed valley sides, green meadows, and fellside fields.

Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales from the Pennine Way. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales from the Pennine Way. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Opened in 1875 to carry the Settle-Carlisle Railway across Baty Moss in the valley of the River Ribble, the Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the great feats of Victorian engineering and complements the scenery with its graceful curve of arches.

Ribblehead Viaduct, Yorkshire Dales
Ribblehead Viaduct, Yorkshire Dales

10 Fun Facts About the Yorkshire Dales: England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

Overhanging timber-framed buildings dating back as far as the 14th century characterize the medieval street known as “the Shambles” in the city of York.

Once home to 25 butchers’ shops, its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels meaning “flesh shelves”.

Today, the Shambles is a mix of eateries, souvenir shops, a bookshop, and a bakery that make for a delightful photograph, especially in the early light of dawn.

The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

The Shambles—York’s Famous Medieval Street.

Dramatically set into a rocky gorge, Knaresborough is a historic medieval market town and spa.

Weaving up from the river, a maze of cobbled paths and stone staircases begs to be explored.

Built in 1851, the castellated viaduct with its soaring arches spanning the River Nidd makes an excellent photo taken from the ruins of Knaresborough Castle.

Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The Beautiful Public Footpaths of Britain

The “right to roam” across hill and valley, field and glen, moor and fen.

Not quite … but it’s close.

England and Wales have designated paths on which our right to pass and re-pass is protected by law.

The Cotswold Way

At 102 miles, the Cotswold Way is the shortest and easiest of our three examples of long-distance footpaths and one of the most delightful.

A Cotswold Way Signpost Marker. Credit Richard Cocks
A Cotswold Way Signpost Marker. Credit Richard Cocks
Cotswold Way at Battle of Lansdown. Credit Ballista
Cotswold Way at Battle of Lansdown. Credit Ballista
Footpath from Mickleton village in the Cotswolds. Credit JR P, flickr
Footpath from Mickleton village in the Cotswolds. Credit JR P, flickr

Gently rolling hills rise from the meadows of the upper reaches of the River Thames creating a gorgeous grassland habitat that is ideal for sheep farming.

Flourishing during the medieval period, the Cotswolds’ wool trade created the wealth that has shaped so much of the region’s beauty.

The Cotswold Way. Credit Artur Kozioł
The Cotswold Way. Credit Artur Kozioł

Dotted with picturesque little villages, beautiful Georgian towns, and ancient sites, the Cotswold Way starts in the south at the city of Bath and ends in the charming market town of Chipping Campden.

Bath is a World Heritage Site largely because of its beautiful Georgian architecture in honey-coloured stone.

Much photographed in Bath is the 18th-century Palladian style Pulteney Bridge and weir.

Pulteney Bridge & the River Avon, Bath. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pulteney Bridge & the River Avon, Bath. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 of the best things to do in the City of Bath.

Notable for its elegant terraced High Street, Chipping Campden features many buildings from the 14th through the 17th century.

Meaning “market-place”, the word “Chipping” is found in other English town names like Chipping Norton and Chipping Sodbury.

Once a rich wool trading centre in medieval times, today it is a popular tourist haunt with old inns, pubs, and specialist shops.

Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Standing proudly at the centre of the town is the medieval arched Market Hall, built in 1627.

Chipping Campden old market hall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chipping Campden old market hall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Often referred to as the “Jewel of the Cotswolds”, Broadway is another charming village along the Cotswold Way.

Traditional corner shop in Broadway, Worcestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Traditional corner shop in Broadway, Worcestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Lined with red chestnut trees and honey-coloured Cotswold limestone buildings, the wide grass-fringed main street gives Broadway its name.

Broadway High Street. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Broadway High Street. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Designed by James Wyatt in 1794 to resemble a mock “Saxon” castle, Broadway Tower is a folly in the English county of Worcestershire and built for Lady Coventry in 1799.

Broadway Tower, Worcestershire. Credit Saffron Blaze
Broadway Tower, Worcestershire. Credit Saffron Blaze

Perched on the edge of the second highest point in the Cotswolds overlooking the Severn Vale, on a clear day, as many as 16 English counties can be identified from the top of the tower.

A view of Broadway Village from Broadway Tower. Credit Saffron Blaze
A view of Broadway Village from Broadway Tower. Credit Saffron Blaze

Built in the late 1500s, Stanway House is a Jacobean manor near the village of Stanway along the Cotswold Way.

Protected as a building of exceptional historic interest, Stanway House has been featured in the British comedy-drama series Jeeves and Wooster, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, and the period drama Father Brown.

Stanway House, the Cotswolds. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Stanway House, the Cotswolds. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

With its manicured gardens and superbly preserved structure dating back to the 1400s, Sudeley Castle is well worth a visit as you walk the Cotswold Way.

Once the home of Dowager Queen Catherine Parr, last of Henry VIII’s six wives, the castle chapel holds her marble tomb.

Sudeley Castle. Credit Wdejager
Sudeley Castle. Credit Wdejager
Sunshine after fresh rain on Cleeve Hill in the Cotswolds. Credit Jason Ballard, flickr
Sunshine after fresh rain on Cleeve Hill in the Cotswolds. Credit Jason Ballard, flickr

With countless beautiful old pubs and little antique shops, there’s plenty to discover on the Cotswold Way for memories that will last a lifetime.

Broadway Antiques shop. Credit JCNazza
Broadway Antiques shop. Credit JCNazza

The Pennine Way

Running 267 miles along the Pennine Hills, dubbed “the backbone of England”, the Pennine Way starts in the Peak District and ends just inside the Scottish border.

Around 260,000 walkers use all or part of the path each year, which includes 287 gates, 432 stiles, and 204 bridges.

Surveying the route from Mam Tor (Mother Hill), the Peak District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Surveying the route from Mam Tor (Mother Hill), the Peak District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

According to local ramblers, it is “one of Britain’s best known and toughest” national trails.

Footpath at Mam Tor, Peak District, Derbyshire. Credit Baz Richardson
Footpath at Mam Tor, Peak District, Derbyshire. Credit Baz Richardson

Inspired by America’s Appalachian Trail, journalist Tom Stephenson proposed the concept for the path in 1935 and lobbied parliament for an official trail.

The countryside at Castleton in the Peak District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The countryside at Castleton in the Peak District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Known as the official start of the Pennine Way, the Old Nag’s Head in Edale is a low-ceilinged, stone-built pub sitting at the top of Edale village square since 1577.

Hand-pulled real ales and old-fashioned English pub fare are very popular after a long day hiking to local viewing spots with names like “The Nab” and “Ringing Roger”.

The Old Nags Head at Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District. Credit Clem Rutter
The Old Nags Head at Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District. Credit Clem Rutter
Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pennine Way from above Muker. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Pennine Way from above Muker. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The Yorkshire Dales: England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

Public footpath near Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Immanuel Giel
Public footpath near Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Immanuel Giel

Nestled in the Swaledale valley of the Yorkshire Dales, Thwaite is a beautiful little village with buildings made from local stone.

Originating from Old Norse “thveit”, the name Thwait means a clearing, implying that the area was once covered by thick forest.

Thwaite from the Pennine Way, Swaledale. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Thwaite from the Pennine Way, Swaledale. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Grazed by sheep and cattle, the green upland pastures are separated by dry-stone walls built without mortar but stable thanks to a unique construction of interlocking stones.

The Pennine Way at Thwaite in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Bob Radlinski

The Kearton Tearooms and guesthouse are named after pioneering 19th-century wildlife photographers Richard and Cherry Kearton.

Named after the River Swale, meaning “rapid and liable to deluge” in old Anglo-Saxon, Swaledale is a typical limestone Yorkshire Dale with a narrow valley floor and green meadow glacier-formed valley sides.

View from a footpath along the River Swale in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Bob Radlinski
View from a footpath along the River Swale in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Bob Radlinski

Deriving from the Viking word Kelda meaning a spring, Keld is at the confluence of the Pennine Way and another long-distance footpath called the Coast to Coast Walk.

Keld in the Yorkshire Dales as seen from the Pennine Way. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Keld in the Yorkshire Dales as seen from the Pennine Way. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Comprising a series of four steps, each its own small waterfall with the largest single drop being about 20 feet, Catrake Force is about 1/2 mile walk from Keld along the Pennine Way.

Waterfalls in the north of England are often called Forces after the Norse word Foss which means waterfall, whilst Catrake derives from the Latin “cataracta”, also meaing waterfall.

Catrake Force waterfall at Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Catrake Force waterfall at Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The South West Coast Path

Voted “Britain’s Best Walking route” twice in a row by the Ramblers Walk magazine, at 630 miles, it is the longest of our three featured long-distance walks.

Signpost on the South West Coast Path at Bareppa, Cornwall. Credit Tim Green, flickr
Signpost on the South West Coast Path at Bareppa, Cornwall. Credit Tim Green, flickr

Since the South West Coast Path rises and falls at the mouth of each river, it is one of the most challenging walks in Britain.

The Cornish coast near St Agnes. Credit Baz Richardson
The Cornish coast near St Agnes. Credit Baz Richardson
A public footpath down some steps to a Cornish beach. Credit Jane White
A public footpath down some steps to a Cornish beach. Credit Jane White

Originating as a route for the Coastguard to walk from lighthouse to lighthouse patrolling for smugglers, it hugs the coastline and provides excellent views of the dozens of bays and coves.

North Cornwall Coast Walk. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
North Cornwall Coast Walk. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Turquoise waters lap beautiful deserted beaches.

Skylarks rise above steep green pastures.

Is this some Caribbean paradise isle?

No, this is Lantic Bay, Cornwall, a part of England bathed in the warmth of the Gulf Stream—an Atlantic ocean current originating in the Gulf of Mexico.

The South West Coast Path at Lantic Bay, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson
The South West Coast Path at Lantic Bay, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson

Lying within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Portloe is a good example of a secluded small fishing village that’s relatively untouched by tourism.

Two full-time working fishing vessels haul in fresh crab and lobster to be enjoyed at the Ship Inn or Lugger Hotel.

Portloe, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Portloe, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
A two-step stile in a Cornish forest. Credit Dennis White
A two-step stile in a Cornish forest. Credit Dennis White
The Golden Cock Footpath in Cornwall. Credit Denis White
The Golden Cock Footpath in Cornwall. Credit Denis White
The Cornish coast at Polperro. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Cornish coast at Polperro. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Once a staging point on the pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral for those pilgrims traveling from further west by sea and from Brittany in France, Kingswear village sits on the east bank of the River Dart in Devon.

Kingswear, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Kingswear, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Serving as the railhead for the Dartmouth Steam Railway, Kingswear provides walkers of the South West Coast path a chance to ride on an original steam train that first opened in 1859 to the seaside resort of Paignton about 7 miles away.

Dartmouth Steam railway. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Dartmouth Steam railway. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Dartmouth Steam railway. Credit Geof Sheppard
Dartmouth Steam railway. Credit Geof Sheppard

Durdle Door (sometimes written Durdle Dor) is a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset.

Privately owned but open to the public, the name Durdle is derived from the Old English ‘thirl’ meaning bore or drill.

Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset, England. Credit Lies Thru a Lens
Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset, England. Credit Lies Thru a Lens

Spanning 185 million years of geological history, the 96-mile long Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coastal erosion has exposed rock formations and fossils covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous geological periods.

Jurassic Coast, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Jurassic Coast, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Radically reshaped in the 18th and 19th centuries by deep-lode mining for copper and tin, the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape is another UNESCO World Heritage Site along the South West Coast Path.

Reflecting the flowering of innovation during the Industrial Revolution, the mines, engine houses, foundries, and ports enabled the region to produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of copper.

Following the copper crash of the 1860’s, production turned to focus on tin mining.

Cornish tin mine at Chapel Porth. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cornish tin mine at Chapel Porth. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

On your way along the north coast path of Cornwall, you might like to drop in on the picturesque fishing village of Port Isaac which served as the backdrop for the popular TV series Doc Martin.

Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The only question remaining is which path to take first?

Decisions, decisions.

Decisions, decisions. Credit Phil Sangwell
Decisions, decisions. Credit Phil Sangwell

Glorious Gloucestershire

Beautiful villages, a Regency spa town, an ancient city, historic docklands, and some of England’s most picturesque open countryside are yours to discover and explore when you visit Gloucestershire.

Comprising part of the Cotswold Hills, the River Severn fertile valley, and the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire offers some of the most outstanding scenery anywhere in Britain.

Gloucestershire’s Countryside

On a clear day, one of the finest views across the spa town of Cheltenham and out toward the Malvern Hills beyond can be enjoyed from the top of Leckhampton Hill.

Gloucestershire’s countryside is gorgeous.

Cheltenham and the Malverns from Leckhampton Hill. Credit Nilfanion
Cheltenham and the Malverns from Leckhampton Hill. Credit Nilfanion
Cotswold countryside at Snowshill, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cotswold countryside at Snowshill, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Winding through the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the River Wye is the fifth-longest river in the United Kingdom and forms part of the border between England and Wales.

The view north towards Ross-on-Wye from Symonds Yat Rock, a popular tourist destination in the Forest of Dean. Credit Robert Hindle
The view north towards Ross-on-Wye from Symonds Yat Rock, a popular tourist destination in the Forest of Dean. Credit Robert Hindle

Above a disused quarry in Leckhampton, a peculiar-shaped limestone rock formation known as “the Devil’s Chimney” rises from the ground.

Legend has it that the Devil would sit atop Leckhampton Hill and hurl stones at Sunday churchgoers, but that God turned the stones back, driving the Devil underground and trapping him there forever.

Devil's Chimney, Leckhampton Hill, Gloucestershire. Credit Wilson44691
Devil’s Chimney, Leckhampton Hill, Gloucestershire. Credit Wilson44691

Reserved for royal hunting by Anglo-Saxon kings, the Forest of Dean is one of the last surviving ancient woodlands in England.

Covering almost 43 square miles, the name is thought to originate from the Viking settlements, referring to the region as “Danubia” meaning “land of Danes”.

Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rising in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire, the River Churn is the first tributary of the famous River Thames.

Much of the catchment basin of the River Churn is known to have been an important area of Roman settlement in the second to fourth centuries AD.

River Churn in Cirencester. Credit Mark Philpott, flickr
River Churn in Cirencester. Credit Mark Philpott, flickr
A walk from Coln St Aldwyns to Bibury. Credit Jon Mountjoy, flickr
A walk from Coln St Aldwyns to Bibury. Credit Jon Mountjoy, flickr

Gloucestershire’s Roman Beginnings

Founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva, Gloucester is the county city of Gloucestershire.

Derived from the Roman name “Glevum” or “Glouvia” and the Anglo-Saxon word “ceaster” meaning fort, Gloucester was once a Roman colony for retired legionaries.

Statue of Nerva in Gloucester city center. Credit Nilfanion
Statue of Nerva in Gloucester city center. Credit Nilfanion

Granted farmland and called upon as Roman auxiliaries, legionaries built luxurious villas with exquisite mosaic floors.

Gloucestershire has some of the best Roman villas in Britain.

Orpheus Roman Pavement (replica) at Woodchester, Gloucestershire. Credit Pauline and John Grimshaw, flickr
Orpheus Roman Pavement (replica) at Woodchester, Gloucestershire. Credit Pauline and John Grimshaw, flickr

Including a heated and furnished west wing containing a dining-room (triclinium) with a fine mosaic floor, as well as two separate bathing suites—one for damp-heat and one for dry-heat—Chedworth Villa was an elite dwelling and one of the largest Roman villas in Britain.

Chedworth Villa, Gloucestershire, showing system for heated floors. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Chedworth Villa, Gloucestershire, showing system for heated floors. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014

Gloucester’s Medieval Gothic Cathedral

Originating in the 7th century as a church for the abbey dedicated to Saint Peter, Gloucester Cathedral has a Norman core with a 15th-century tower rising 225ft and topped by four delicate pinnacles—a local landmark visible for miles.

The cathedral cloisters were used for corridor scenes in several Harry Potter films, whilst the crypt featured in Sherlock’s Christmas special.

Gloucester Cathedral exterior. Credit barnyz, flickr
Gloucester Cathedral exterior. Credit barnyz, flickr

At over 1000 years old, Gloucester Cathedral is the oldest building in the world to have a solar array installed to reduce energy costs.

Gloucester Cathedral as seen from the Cloister. Credit David Iliff
Gloucester Cathedral as seen from the Cloister. Credit David Iliff
The Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff
The Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff

Designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Canterbury, the cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults.

The cloister of Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff
The cloister of Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucestershire. Credit David Iliff

Gloucester’s Docklands

Victorian ships once discharged their cargoes of corn from Ireland and Europe, timber from the Baltic and North America, and wines and spirits from Portugal and France.

Transferred to narrow canal boats, the goods were carried up the River Severn and through the inland canal network to the growing industrial towns of the Midlands.

A steam crane on the railway tracks by the North Warehouse in Gloucester Docks. Credit Nilfanion
A steam crane on the railway tracks by the North Warehouse in Gloucester Docks. Credit Nilfanion
Gloucester Docks. Credit Saffron Blaze
Gloucester Docks. Credit Saffron Blaze
Gloucester Docks. Credit kennysarmy, flickr
Gloucester Docks. Credit kennysarmy, flickr
Gloucester Docks Tall Ship Festival. Credit Nilfanion
Gloucester Docks Tall Ship Festival. Credit Nilfanion

Cheltenham Spa

Meaning “health and education”, Cheltenham’s motto “Salubritas et Eruditio” helped establish the town as a health and holiday spa resort since mineral springs were discovered in 1716.

Recognizing the commercial potential of its mineral springs, Captian Henry Skillicorne was regarded as “the founder of Cheltenham as a watering place”.

Building a pump room to regulate the water flow and an elaborate well-house with ballrooms and billiard room, well-to-do Georgian society flocked to Cheltenham.

Cheltenham High Street 1825 by Isaac Cruikshank
Cheltenham High Street 1825 by Isaac Cruikshank

Known for its elegant Regency buildings, tree-lined promenades and gardens, Cheltenham has remained a popular upscale shopping and entertainment destination through the Victorian era and up to the present day.

Promenade looking towards Hight Street Cheltenham, c.1895
Promenade looking towards Hight Street Cheltenham, c.1895

Regarded by many as among the finest Regency buildings in Britain, Cheltenham’s municipal offices were constructed during the reign of King George IV (1820 – 1830).

Cheltenham’s municipal offices. Credit Saffron Blaze
Cheltenham’s municipal offices. Credit Saffron Blaze

Since 1815, horse racing has been an important sport in Cheltenham, with £6m in prize money and over 700,000 visitors each year.

Cheltenham Racecourse. Credit Carine06
Cheltenham Racecourse. Credit Carine06

Cotswold Towns and Villages

Dozens of pretty villages and towns dot the Gloucestershire landscape.

Rising from the meadows of the upper River Thames is a range of rolling hills with a grassland habitat and a beautiful honey-coloured stone used to build villages, towns, and country houses.

Chipping Campden Post Office. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chipping Campden Post Office. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century, Chipping Campden was a rich wool centre of the Middle Ages.

“Chipping” derives from the Old English “cēping”, meaning marketplace.

Built in 1627, the arched Market Hall stands proudly at the centre of town.

Chipping Campden market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chipping Campden market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
A wine merchant in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
A wine merchant in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
14th-17th century buildings in the High Street of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk
14th-17th century buildings in the High Street of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk

Meaning “Farmstead on the Moor”, the delightful town of Moreton-in-Marsh has many buildings made from the local honey-colored Cotswold Stone, including several antique shops, art galleries, and hotels.

Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Swan Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Swan Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cotswold cottages, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cotswold cottages, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Known for its picturesque High Street, flanked by long, wide greens with the River Windrush running through it, Bourton-on-the-Water is known locally as the “Venice of the Cotswolds”.

Footbridge over the River Windrush at the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Credit Saffron Blaze
Footbridge over the River Windrush at the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Credit Saffron Blaze
Bourton on the water, Gloucestershire. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
Bourton on the water, Gloucestershire. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
The Little Nook at Bourton on the water. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
The Little Nook at Bourton on the water. Credit Tanya Dedyukhina
Lower Slaughter, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lower Slaughter, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Once part of the second-largest area of a city in Roman Britain, Cirencester grew into a thriving market town in the Middle Ages, trading in wool and cloth.

Cirencester market place
Cirencester market place
Castle Street, Cirencester. Credit Jack, flickr
Castle Street, Cirencester. Credit Jack, flickr

Built in 1380 as a monastic wool store, the picturesque Arlington Row cottages were converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century and are a very popular tourist hotspot and photographers’ favorite.

Arlington Row, Bibery, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski
Arlington Row, Bibery, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski

Castles, Country Houses, and Gardens

Castle-building in Gloucestershire began after the 1066 Norman invasion, with fortified manor houses becoming more popular in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Sudeley Castle. Credit Wdejager
Sudeley Castle. Credit Wdejager

Built in the 15th century, Sudeley Castle replaced a much earlier 12th-century castle that was destroyed by King Stephen during the “Anarchy”—a civil war against his cousin Empress Matilda.

Severely damaged during the English Civil War, the current castle is the result of extensive Victorian restoration.

Sudeley Castle. Credit Jason Ballard
Sudeley Castle. Credit Jason Ballard

Dating back to the 11th century, Berkeley Castle is believed to be the scene of King Edward II’s murder.

His body is interred in a canopied shrine in Gloucester Cathedral

Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski
Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski
Berkeley Castle dining room, Gloucestershire. Credit Fiducial
Berkeley Castle dining room, Gloucestershire. Credit Fiducial

Built by Walter and Miles de Gloucester for the crown in the 11th century, St Briavels Castle was used to govern the Welsh Marches on the border of England and Wales.

Empress Matilda held the castle during the Anarchy and it later became a hunting lodge for King John and then a center for making crossbow arrows.

St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Thomas Tolkien
St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire. Credit Thomas Tolkien

Hidcote Manor Garden is one of the best-known Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain.

Flourishing in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1920, Arts and Crafts was a movement of decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and advocated traditional craftsmanship of simple forms, with medieval, folk, and romantic influences.

Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built in the 1860s in an Elizabethan style, the Victorian mansion of Westonbirt House replaced earlier buildings in the Georgian and Tudor eras.

Occupied by Westonbirt School—a girls’ boarding school—since 1928, the house and 210-acre grounds are open to the public on certain days.

Westonbirt School in Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Westonbirt School in Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Surrounded by 274 acres of formal gardens, the baroque Dyrham Park country house was built during the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Sumptuously decorated with wood paneling and tiles of Dutch Delftware, the artwork and artifacts include a collection of Dutch Masters.

Dyrham Park mansion in Gloucestershire hosting an MG Owners Club meet. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Dyrham Park mansion in Gloucestershire hosting an MG Owners Club meet. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Drawing Room at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Drawing Room at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Bedroom at Dyrham Park Mansion, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Bedroom at Dyrham Park Mansion, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Stanway House, Stanway, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Stanway House, Stanway, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Stanway House is a Jacobean manor house set in historic parkland with a recently installed fountain rising 300ft, making it the tallest gravity fountain in the world.

Rodmarton Manor, nr Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Credit Robert Powell
Rodmarton Manor, nr Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Credit Robert Powell

Churches and Abbeys

One of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain, Tewkesbury Abbey is also the second largest parish church in the country.

Formerly a Benedictine Monastery, it became one of the wealthiest abbeys of medieval England.

Tewskesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire. Credit Paul Pichota
Tewskesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire. Credit Paul Pichota
The decorated ceiling of Tewkesbury Abbey directly above the choir and altar. Credt Bs0u10e01
The decorated ceiling of Tewkesbury Abbey directly above the choir and altar. Credit Bs0u10e01

Housing the most complete set of medieval stained glass in Britain, the parish church of Saint Mary at Fairford is an example of late Perpendicular Gothic architecture characterised by slim stone window mullions and light but strong buttresses.

Parish Church of St. Mary, Fairford. Credit Mymuk
Parish Church of St. Mary, Fairford. Credit Mymuk

The style enabled larger windows than previously, allowing much more light into the building.

The Transfiguration of Christ. Stained glass window in St Mary's Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire. Credit Julian P Guffogg
The Transfiguration of Christ. Stained glass window in St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire. Credit Julian P Guffogg
The Last Judgment. Stained glass window in St Mary's Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire
The Last Judgment. Stained glass window in St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire

Known as the “Cathedral of the Cotswolds”, St John the Baptist parish church in Cirencester was financed by wealthy wool merchants.

Street in Cirencester with St John the Baptist parish church. Credit SLR Jester
Street in Cirencester with St John the Baptist parish church. Credit SLR Jester
Interior view of St John the Baptist parish church in Cirencester. Credit Daniel 2005, flickr
Interior view of St John the Baptist parish church in Cirencester. Credit Daniel 2005, flickr

Whether you visit for a day trip or a longer stay, you’re sure to fall in love with Gloucestershire again and again.

Dreaming of Devon

Rolling hills, sandy beaches, fossil cliffs, medieval towns, and moorland—the English county of Devon has it all.

Deriving its name from the ancient Dumnonii tribe of Brittonic Celts, Devon is thought to mean “deep valley dwellers”.

With so much to experience and enjoy, we’re convinced you’ll be dreaming of dwelling in Devon for your next vacation.

Landscape and Scenery

Devon is the only English county with two separate coastlines—the ruggedly beautiful rural north, with its dramatic cliffs rising 1000 ft from the sea, and the gentler rolling hills of the south, dotted with pretty towns and seaside resorts.

Lashed by the Atlantic ocean, North Devon’s coastal swells draw surfers from far and wide.

North Devon Coast at Watermouth Cove. Credit Andrew Bone, flickr
North Devon Coast at Watermouth Cove. Credit Andrew Bone, flickr

Bathed in the semi-tropical warmth carried on the Gulf Stream, South Devon experiences a milder climate, with seaside family resort towns and pretty fishing villages.

Kingswear on the tidal River Dart within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Kingswear on the tidal River Dart within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
South Devon countryside near Sidmouth. Credit Bob Radlinski
South Devon countryside near Sidmouth. Credit Bob Radlinski
The River Tavy at Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The River Tavy at Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Branscombe, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Branscombe, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Teign Gorge, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Teign Gorge, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Bridge over the River Dart, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Bridge over the River Dart, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson

Seaside Towns and Beaches

The opening of Britain’s railways during the Victorian Era enabled ordinary folk to travel to seaside resorts all across Britain.

Comparing well with the French Riviera, Victorians began calling the outstanding 22-mile stretch of coastline centered on Torbay the “English Riviera”, and the name stuck.

Torquay in 1890
Torquay in 1890

With its picturesque harbours, bustling towns, and family-friendly beaches, the English Riviera is perfect for either a day trip or a longer stay.

Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Peak Hill Road & Scenery. From the road looking back down towards Sidmouth and the Jurrasic Coast. Credit Lewis Clarke
Peak Hill Road & Scenery. From the road looking back down towards Sidmouth and the Jurrasic Coast. Credit Lewis Clarke

Captivated by the beauty of the Georgian town of Sidmouth, the Poet Laureate John Betjeman called it “a town caught in a timeless charm”.

Sidmouth's Georgian-era seafront. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Sidmouth’s Georgian-era seafront. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Torcross & Slapton Sands, South Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Torcross & Slapton Sands, South Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Brixham Harbour from King Street. Credit David Dixon
Brixham Harbour from King Street. Credit David Dixon
The harbour at Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The harbour at Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Blackpool Sands, South Devon. Credit Matthew Hartley, flickr
Blackpool Sands, South Devon. Credit Matthew Hartley, flickr

Family fun and happy childhood memories are what a holiday in Devon is all about.

Good old-fashioned family fun in Devon. Credit Steve Johnson, flickr
Good old-fashioned family fun in Devon. Credit Steve Johnson, flickr

National Parks

Encompassing two National Parks, two World Heritage Sites, and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), over half of Devon’s land is protected by law.

Sunset at Haytor, Dartmoor. Credit Simon Vogt, flickr
Sunset at Haytor, Dartmoor. Credit Simon Vogt, flickr

Known for its rounded boulder-like outcrops of granite called tors, over 160 hills include the word “tor” in their name.

Combestone Tor in the centre of Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Combestone Tor in the centre of Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clapper Bridge on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clapper Bridge on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Hardy, and with excellent stamina and a kind temperament, Dartmoor ponies have lived in the south west of England for hundreds of years.

Used as a working animal by local quarries and tin mines, their numbers have fallen from around 25,000 in the 1930s to a few thousand today.

Dartmoor ponies, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Dartmoor ponies, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Inspiring Britain’s writers for centuries, Devon has featured in many famous works, including Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, and a host of Agatha Christie murder mysteries.

Stone enclosure on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stone enclosure on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Norsworthy Bridge, Burrator, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Norsworthy Bridge, Burrator, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Exmoor landscape. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Exmoor landscape. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Wild and windswept, Dartmoor soaks up the warmth of the setting sun.

Early evening on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Early evening on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Cathedrals, Abbeys, and Churches

Completed in around 1400 and dedicated to Saint Peter, Exeter Cathedral’s Decorated Gothic style replaced a much earlier Norman design, of which two massive towers remain.

Constructed entirely of local stone, notable features include the multi-ribbed ceiling, the Great East Window containing 14th-century stained glass, and Britain’s earliest complete set of fifty misericords (wooden carvings on seats designed to fold up and act as support during standing prayer).

Exeter Cathedral. Credit Joe Dunckley, flickr
Exeter Cathedral. Credit Joe Dunckley, flickr

Exeter Cathedral has the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in the world, at about 315 ft.

Exeter Cathedral Nave. Credit David Iliff
Exeter Cathedral Nave. Credit David Iliff

Buckfast Abbey is an active Benedictine monastery that was refounded in 1882 after the previous 12th-century abbey was destroyed during King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.

Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
fast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Interior of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Interior of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon princess Werburgh, the parish church at Wembury, in the hills above the beach, has commanding views across the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Church of St Werburgh at Wembury, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Church of St Werburgh at Wembury, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson

There are literally dozens of historically significant village churches to explore, many dating from Norman Britain.

St Andrew’s Church, Broadhembury. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
St Andrew’s Church, Broadhembury. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Church of St Mary, Ottery St Mary, Devon. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
The Church of St Mary, Ottery St Mary, Devon. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

Named after a Roman centurion who converted to Christianity, the parish church at Tavistock is a “wool church”—financed primarily by rich wool merchants and farmers during the Middle Ages, hoping their largesse would ensure a place in heaven.

St Eustachius' Church, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St Eustachius’ Church, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Castles and Country Houses

Powderham Castle is a fortified manor house and home to the Courtenay family, Earls of Devon.

The appellation “castle” was added in the 17th century and although never a true castle with a keep and moat, it had a protective curtain wall and yard on the east side.

Powderham Castle, Devon, east front
Powderham Castle, Devon, east front

Featuring a mixture of medieval towers and fine 18th-century decoration, Powderham Castle is named from the ancient Dutch word “polder”, and means “the hamlet of the reclaimed marsh-land”.

Powderham Castle and Rose Garden, Devon. Credit Erin Brierley
Powderham Castle and Rose Garden, Devon. Credit Erin Brierley

The Staircase Hall has an impressive mahogany staircase decorated with carved heraldic beasts and intricate plasterwork.

Inside Powderham Castle. Credit Manfred Heyde
Inside Powderham Castle. Credit Manfred Heyde

Used as the filming location for the highly-rated 1983 version of Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Knightshayes Court is pure Victorian Gothic, complete with gargoyles, corbels, and a medieval-inspired great hall.

Renowned architectural scholar Nikolaus Pevsner called it “an eloquent expression of High Victorian ideals in a country house”.

Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Becks, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Becks, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court Bedroom, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court Bedroom, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Designed by Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adam, the beautiful Georgian mansion of Saltram House was described by architectural scholar Pevsner as “the most impressive country house in Devon”.

Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Considered one of Adam’s finest interiors, the sumptuous drawing room features Rococo plasterwork, exceptional paintings, luxurious Axminster carpets, and the finest damask upholstered Thomas Chippendale furniture.

Drawing Room at Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Drawing Room at Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Devonshire Cream Tea

Derived from Devon county, the term “Devonshire Cream Tea” refers to a light meal taken in the afternoon at around 4 pm, consisting of a pot of tea with scones, clotted cream, and jam.

Anglo-Saxon texts from around the 8th century refer to “Defenascir”, meaning “Devonshire” after it changed from the Latin name “Dumnonia” following the fall of Roman rule in Britain.

A "chocolate box" Devonshire Cream Tea experience at Selworthy in Devon. Credit Heather Cowper, Flickr
A “chocolate box” Devonshire Cream Tea experience at Selworthy in Devon. Credit Heather Cowper, Flickr

Devon and Cornwall have different ideas over how to eat scones with cream tea.

Devonians prefer to add cream first followed by jam, whereas the Cornish way is to add the jam first.

Either way, Devonshire Cream Tea remains one of the most popular snacks ordered at countless tea shops and cafes in the region and across Britain.

Devon style scones with clotted cream and jam. Credit Linnie, flickr
Devon style scones with clotted cream and jam. Credit Linnie, flickr

Dairy farming has been important to Devon for centuries, with the 11th-century monks at Tavistock Abbey known to have offered bread with cream and jam to local workers who helped rebuild the Abbey after it was attacked by Vikings in 997 AD.

Related post: 8 Surprising Facts About British Tea Traditions

The best cream comes from happy cows, and Devon’s cows are among the happiest—churning out cream by the churnful!

Life on George Casely's Farm, Devon, England, 1942
Life on George Casely’s Farm, Devon, England, 1942

Watersmeet House is a beautiful former fishing lodge turned into a tea room and shop by the National Trust.

Surrounded by pristine countryside, it makes a perfect place to stop for afternoon tea for the whole family.

Watersmeet House near Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Watersmeet House near Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The 18th-century 16-sided “A La Ronde” is a licensed award-winning tea-room offering delicious homemade cakes, afternoon tea, and light meals.

Sourced from local farms, specialties include the smoked chicken, the South Devon sweet chilli jam and, of course, the Devonshire clotted cream.

Eat inside the tea-room or out on the lawn taking in the estuary views with picnic rugs provided.

A La Ronde near Lympstone, Exmouth, seen from the south-west. Credit Markfromexeter
A La Ronde near Lympstone, Exmouth, seen from the south west. Credit Markfromexeter
Olde Corner Shoppe teas and lunches in Coylton, Devon. Credit Sludge G, flickr
Olde Corner Shoppe teas and lunches in Coylton, Devon. Credit Sludge G, flickr

Coastal Walks

Stretching for 630 miles along the coasts of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Dorset, the South West Coast Path is England’s longest waymarked footpath and National Trail.

Originating as a path for coastguards to walk between lighthouses while patrolling for smugglers, the South West Coast Path covers both the north and south coasts of Devon.

The South West Coast Path above Pudcombe Cove. Credit Philip Halling
The South West Coast Path above Pudcombe Cove. Credit Philip Halling
The South West Coast Path above Blackpool Sands. Credit Philip Halling
The South West Coast Path above Blackpool Sands. Credit Philip Halling
Valley of the Rocks, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Valley of the Rocks, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Great Mewstone at Wembury Point, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Great Mewstone at Wembury Point, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Pretty Villages and Towns

Devon is dotted with dozens of pretty coastal and inland villages and towns.

Brightly-coloured fishing villages and quaint thatched cottages typify the beautiful settings—perfect for strolling among antique and gift shops, bookstores, and galleries.

The village of Beer, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The village of Beer, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Step back in time in the beautiful seaside village of Clovelly on Devon’s north coast.

Flanked by whitewashed houses—most of which are architecturally listed and protected as historically important—Clovelly’s steep cobbled main street descends 400 ft to the harbour below.

Clovelly Main Street. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Main Street. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The village of Axmouth, East Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The village of Axmouth, East Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Branscombe Village, Devon. Credit Gary Turner, flickr
Branscombe Village, Devon. Credit Gary Turner, flickr
Pretty Devon cottages at Branscombe. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pretty Devon cottages at Branscombe. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating back to 907 AD, Totnes was a thriving market town with many wealthy merchant’s  houses from the 16th and 17th centuries lining the “Fore Street”—the name given to the main thoroughfare in many towns of south west England.

Fore Street, Totnes, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Fore Street, Totnes, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson

Operating over part of a converted railway branch line, the Tramway in the little seaside town of Seaton runs 13 half-scale replicas of classic British trams on a 3-mile route through East Devon’s beautiful Axe Valley.

The vintage tramway at Seaton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The vintage tramway at Seaton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Dartmouth Regatta. Credit Adam Court, flickr
Dartmouth Regatta. Credit Adam Court, flickr

With so much to offer, Devon is sure to have you dreaming of your next visit.

Sunset over Plymouth Sound. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Sunset over Plymouth Sound. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The New Forest—once the royal hunting ground of William the Conqueror

Imagine a land where wild horses roam free, where deer forage in ancient woodland and fox cubs play on open fields.

Welcome to the New Forest—a vast region of southern England spanning the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, and parts of Dorset.

A land of untamed beauty.

Of pastures, heathland, and ancient woodland, dotted with delightful villages, churches, and country houses.

Join us as we explore the New Forest.

A lone wild horse feeding at sunrise. Credit Lies Thru a Lens, flickr
A lone wild horse feeding at sunrise. Credit Lies Thru a Lens, flickr
New Forest Pony by Ceri Jones on 500px.com
New Forest Pony. Credit gailhampshire
Camper Van on a road through the New Forest. Credit Steve Wilson, flickr
Camper Van on a road through the New Forest. Credit Steve Wilson, flickr
New Forest National Park. Credit weesam2010, flickr
New Forest National Park. Credit weesam2010, flickr
The ford over Dockens Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The ford over Dockens Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
An old gate to a field in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
An old gate to a field in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

History

Prior to the Norman Invasion of England, the area was colonised by the Jutes from the Jutland Peninsula of what is now Denmark and Northern Germany.

Following the Norman Conquest, King William I, commonly known as William the Conqueror, designated the land as a royal forest, reserved for the private use of the King and invited aristocracy.

Created at the expense of over 20 small hamlets and farms, it was a “new” area and the only forest described in detail in the ancient Domesday Book’s “Great Survey”.

A well-worn track in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk
A well-worn track in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk

Mysteriously, two of William the Conqueror’s sons died in hunting accidents in the New Forest.

Folklore has it that the deaths were punishment for William evicting locals from his newly acquired lands.

Richard of Normandy, his second son, died in around 1070, while his younger brother, William would suffer a similar fate 30 years later.

King William II was accidentally and fatally shot with an arrow in the New Forest

Struck by an arrow from one of his own men while hunting in August of 1100, King William II of England died in suspicious circumstances, leading to speculation of murder.

Historian Frank Barlow described King William II as:

A rumbustious, devil-may-care soldier, without natural dignity or social graces, with no cultivated tastes and little show of conventional religious piety or morality—indeed, according to his critics, addicted to every kind of vice, particularly lust and especially sodomy.
Rufus Stone near Minstead, New Forest. Credit Avalon20
Rufus Stone near Minstead, New Forest. Credit Avalon20

Marking the spot where the king was shot, the “Rufus Stone” bears the following inscription:

Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.

William’s brother Henry was among the hunting party that day and succeeded him as King.

Abanding his brother’s body, he rode straight for Winchester—then the capital of England—to seize the treasury and elect himself King.

Rights of Common

Ancient “rights of common” have allowed local inhabitants to turn horses and cattle out into the forest’s common pasture to graze.

A horse walks in a meadow of Oxeye Daisies at Rockford In Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A horse walks in a meadow of Oxeye Daisies at Rockford In Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Between September and November, pigs can roam freely to forage for fallen acorns and beechnuts.

Pigs and piglets roaming free in the New Forest. Credit ian mcwilliams, flickr
Pigs and piglets roaming free in the New Forest. Credit ian mcwilliams, flickr

New Forest ponies are typically not shy and can be bold enough to seek out a treat.

New Forest Pony. Credit Saffron Blaze
New Forest Pony. Credit Saffron Blaze
New Forest Pony Foal. Credit Stuart Webster, flickr
New Forest Pony Foal. Credit Stuart Webster, flickr
Silhouette of an oak tree at Backley Holmes in the New Forest. Credit JimChampion
Silhouette of an oak tree at Backley Holmes in the New Forest. Credit JimChampion

Wildlife

Abundant with diverse species of wildlife thanks to well-preserved lowland habitats—wetlands, heaths, and deciduous woodland—you’re sure to see some beautiful creatures including several deer populations, of which fallow deer is the most common, but also roe deer, red deer, sika deer, and muntjac.

Fallow Deer. Credit Jiří Nedorost
Fallow Deer. Credit Jiří Nedorost

If you’re lucky, you may see this fine bird of prey—the Northern Goshawk—before it sees you.

Northern Goshawk. Credit Andy Morfew
Northern Goshawk. Credit Andy Morfew

And the pretty Dartford Warbler can be spotted flitting around the gorse.

Dartford Warbler. Credit Paul Roberts, flickr
Dartford Warbler. Credit Paul Roberts, flickr

New Forest National Park

Covering about 120 square miles, the New Forest’s National Park and Site of Special Scientific Interest is the largest contiguous area of unsown vegetation in lowland Britain.

Natural Bridge, New Forest National Park. Credit weesam,flickr
Natural Bridge, New Forest National Park. Credit weesam,flickr
New Forest Ponies and Ancient Oak near Brockenhurst, New Forest. Credit JR P
New Forest Ponies and Ancient Oak near Brockenhurst, New Forest. Credit JR P
The ancient woodland of The New Forest National Park in autumn colours. Credit Tommy Clark, flickr
The ancient woodland of The New Forest National Park in autumn colours. Credit Tommy Clark, flickr
A rural track in Brockenhurst, New Forest, during the Autumn. Credit Jack Pease, flickr
A rural track in Brockenhurst, New Forest, during the Autumn. Credit Jack Pease, flickr
Spectacular beds of heather in September at Broomy Lodge in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Spectacular beds of heather in September at Broomy Lodge in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Looking towards Fordingbridge from Milkham Enclosure in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Looking towards Fordingbridge from Milkham Enclosure in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Docken Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Docken Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Villages and Historical Buildings

As eclectic as it is beautiful, the New Forest district is filled with pretty villages and historical buildings yearning to be explored.

Founded by King John in 1203, Beaulieu Abbey was occupied by 30 monks sent from the Cîteaux Abbey, the mother house of the Cistercian order.

Granted a rich endowment and lands in the New Forest, Beaulieu Abbey became very wealthy, with a scale and magnificence befitting its royal foundation until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and fell into ruin.

Remains of Outer Wall Around Cloister and Foundations of Beaulieu Abbey Church
Remains of Outer Wall Around Cloister and Foundations of Beaulieu Abbey Church
The interior of the chapter house of Beaulieu Abbey, New Forest
The interior of the chapter house of Beaulieu Abbey, New Forest

Once the gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House became the ancestral home of the Mantagu family when it was bought from the Crown following the dissolution of the abbey.

Extended in the 16th and 19th centuries, it is a superb example of a Gothic country house and reputedly one of the most haunted places in Britain.

Beaulieu Palace House, Beaulieu, New Forest. Credit DeFacto
Beaulieu Palace House, Beaulieu, New Forest. Credit DeFacto

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, conducted séances at Palace House and it is claimed he made contact with a ghost.

Reportedly sighted walking through walls and making a lot of noise in the private apartments, a lady in blue is believed to be the ghost of the Countess of Beaulieu, Lady Isabella, who died in 1786.

Beaulieu Palace House. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Beaulieu Palace House. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Dining room at Beaulieu Palace, New Forest. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Dining room at Beaulieu Palace, New Forest. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Beaulieu Palace House, New Forest. Credit Nigel Brown
Beaulieu Palace House, New Forest. Credit Nigel Brown

Founded in 1952 by Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, as a tribute to his father, who was one of the great British automobile pioneers, the National Motor Museum is hosted in the village of Beaulieu.

1903 De Dion Bouton Model Q at Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
1903 De Dion Bouton Model Q at Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe, flickr

Filled with around 250 vehicles from the late 19th century through decades of motoring history, the museum also features an exhibit of James Bond cars and a special Top Gear exhibit.

1912 Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe
1912 Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe

Noted for its fine collection of paintings and furniture, Breamore House is an Elizabethan manor house in Fordingbridge in the New Forest District of Hampshire.

Completed in 1583 by the Dodington family, it was purchased in the 18th century by Sir Edward Hulse, physician to Queen Anne and Kings George I and George II.

It was used as one of the locations for the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice.

Breamore House, New Forest. Credit Wulfrunian1
Breamore House, New Forest. Credit Wulfrunian1

Nearby is the parish church of Saint Mary, known for its Anglo-Saxon rood and intriguing historical details such as a Puritan-inspired plaque warning patrons to “Avoid Fornication”.

St Mary's parish church, Breamore, New Forest. Credit Plumbao
St Mary’s parish church, Breamore, New Forest. Credit Plumbao

With its cobbled streets, pretty whitewashed Victorian and Georgian buildings, and proximity to the New Forest, Lymington is a popular tourist destination.

Derived from Old English words “tun” meaning hamlet and “limen” meaning elm tree, Lymington’s history dates back to the Anglo-Saxons.

Lymington also runs a ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

The Small Port of Lymington, New Forest. Credit JR P, flickr
The Small Port of Lymington, New Forest. Credit JR P, flickr

In the countryside north of Lymington, beautiful villages like Boldre and Brockenhurst dot the landscape, once described by author and naturalist William Henry Hudson as “‘a land of secret, green, out-of-the-world places”.

Boldre village church, New Forest. Credit Alan Stewart
Boldre village church, New Forest. Credit Alan Stewart
A pretty thatched cottage at Rockford, New Forest. Credit Anguskirk
A pretty thatched cottage at Rockford, New Forest. Credit Anguskirk
Thatched cottage in Brook Village in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage in Brook Village in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A pretty thatched cottage framed by an old Oak tree at Highwood in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A pretty thatched cottage framed by an old Oak tree at Highwood in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage and geese in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage and geese in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Held annually at the end of July, the New Forest Agricultural Show has been running since 1921 and promotes the development of agriculture, forestry, equestrianism and horticulture in the region.

Burrell Steam engine 3902 'Elizabeth', built in 1921, powers a Ransomes threshing machine at the New Forest Show. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Burrell Steam engine 3902 ‘Elizabeth’, built in 1921, powers a Ransomes threshing machine at the New Forest Show. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Attending in 2012, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh honoured the Show as one of the country’s top ten agricultural Shows, attracting almost 100,000 people over three days.

Robey Steam Tractor, 'Our Nipper' at the New Forest Show. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

All that hard work soaking up the gorgeous scenery and atmosphere may make you thirsty and the New Forest doesn’t disappoint, with dozens of old pubs to choose from—as long as you don’t mind the local fauna waltzing by now and then.

The Red Shoot pub in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Red Shoot pub in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 18th century Alice Lisle inn at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 18th century Alice Lisle inn at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Families enjoy a Sunday lunch outside the High Corner Inn in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Families enjoy a Sunday lunch outside the High Corner Inn in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

The New Forest is a place to experience a way of life that’s been preserved for centuries.

Or a place to find peace and solitude.

Just you, the wind, and the wilderness.

Sunrise over Rockford Common, New Forest. Credit Ragamuffin Brian, flickr

10 Beautiful English Villages

Known throughout the world for their beauty, the quintessential English village is a magical escape for urban city-dwellers.

Quaint cottages nestled around a village green or bordering little rivers and surrounded by rolling countryside, there are dozens to enjoy across the British Isles.

Here are 10 of our favorite English villages.

1. Abbotsbury, Dorset

With nearly a hundred structures listed by English Heritage for their historic or architectural interest, Abbotsbury will surprise and delight.

Surrounded by hills and sat within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Abbotsbury is only a mile inland from the English Channel coast.

Abbotsbury’s 11th-century Benedictine Abbey was founded by one of King Cnut’s nobles from Scandinavia.

Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Abbotsbury comprises a long street called Rodden Row filled with pretty thatched cottages, some dating to the 1500s and built using stone from the ruined 11th-century Abbey.

18th century cottages in Rodden Row at Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
18th-century cottages in Rodden Row at Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Notable for its fine coastal views, the road between Abbotsbury and Burton Bradstock reveals an 18-mile section of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site famous for fossil discoveries in the 19th century.

Chesil Beach, from Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chesil Beach, from Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

2. Clovelly, Devon

Noted for its steep cobbled main street and stunning views over the Bristol Channel, Clovelly is a privately owned English village with over 800 years of history.

Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Descending 400 feet to the pier, Clovelly’s main street is too steep for wheeled traffic and uses sleds for deliveries of goods and collection of refuse.

Clovelly, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Donkeys used to haul the sleds uphill, but now goods are delivered to the top of the street and the sleds are pulled down the slope by hand, leaving the donkeys free to entertain holidaymakers.

Donkeys on the steep main street, outside the village's post office
Donkeys on the steep main street, outside the village’s post office

Charles Kingsley’s 1855 British historical novel Westward Ho! which celebrates England’s victories over Spain in the Elizabethan era, mentions this part of North Devon and helped make Clovelly a popular tourist destination.

Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Captured by artists for its richness of colour, the scenery along the South West Coast Path National Trail from Clovelly to Hartland Quay is particularly spectacular.

Clovelly Harbour, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Harbour, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

3. Dedham, Essex

Formerly a rich wool town and market town, Dedham is a flourishing commercial village, with good old-fashioned shops like a butcher, grocer, delicatessen, and art shop.

Lovely colourful Georgian and Elizabethan timber-framed houses line the High Street.

Dedham, Essex. Credit JR P, flickr
Dedham, Essex. Credit JR P, flickr

Nestled along the River Stour on the border between Essex and Suffolk counties, Dedham is frequently rated as having some of England’s most beautiful water-meadow landscapes.

River Stour, Dedham in Essex. Credit JR P, flickr
River Stour, Dedham in Essex. Credit JR P, flickr
A buttercup field in Dedham, Essex. Credit Keven Law, flickr
A buttercup field in Dedham, Essex. Credit Keven Law, flickr

Even on a crisp winter morning, a walk along the River Stour is idyllic, with its rows of evenly-spaced pollarded willow trees.

Trees along the River Stour, Dedham, Essex
Trees along the River Stour, Dedham, Essex
Rowing boats near Dedham. Credit Keven Law
Rowing boats near Dedham. Credit Keven Law

Dedham is “Constable Country” where famed English Romantic painter John Constable set up his easel to paint iconic scenes.

I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.John Constable, 1821

Revered as one of the greatest British paintings and currently hanging in the National Gallery, London, “The Hay Wain” of 1821 depicts a rural scene on the River Stour with “Willy Lott’s Cottage” in Suffolk on the left and the Essex meadows on the right.

The Hay Wain by John Constable, 1821
The Hay Wain by John Constable, 1821

You can visit the famous 16th-century cottage today at Flatford in the heart of the Dedham Vale.

4. Hambleden, Buckinghamshire

Meaning “crooked or irregularly-shaped hill” in Anglo Saxon, Hambleden is a beautiful little village just north of the River Thames about 40 miles west of London.

Hambledon was granted a royal charter in 1315 to hold a market in the village and a fair on St Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, every year.

The brick and flint cottages in the centre of the village have dormer windows topped with red tiles.

Cottages, Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Credit Oswald Bertram
Cottages, Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Credit Oswald Bertram

Hambleden served as a base for US soldiers in the build up to D-Day 1944 and was depicted as the training ground for Easy Company in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.

Used as a location for several films including Disney’s 1996 “101 Dalmatians” and Warner Bros. 1998 “The Avengers”, Hambleden also played host to Johnny Depp and Cristina Ricci for a month-long location shoot during filming for Tim Burton’s 1999 gothic horror “Sleepy Hollow”.

Houses at Hambleden village. Credit Peter
Houses at Hambleden village. Credit Peter

Dating from the 14th century, St Mary’s church has an intricately decorated ceiling and a tower with eight bells.

St Mary the Virgin, Hambleden. Credit GameKeeper
St Mary the Virgin, Hambleden. Credit GameKeeper

Hambleden’s village post office also serves as the local shop and cafe.

Post Office at Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Russ Hamer
Post Office at Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Russ Hamer

5. Hawkshead, Cumbria

An important wool market in medieval times, Hawkshead in the Lake District sits in a valley to the west of Windermere and east of Coniston Water.

Hawkshead, The Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hawkshead, The Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Originally owned by monks of 12th-century Furness Abbey, once the second-wealthiest and most powerful Cistercian monastery in the country, Hawkshead became prominent in the 18th and 19th centuries.

English Romantic poet William Wordsworth was educated at Hawkshead Grammar School and English writer Beatrix Potter lived nearby, marrying a solicitor from Hawkshead.

Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Hawkshead’s timeless atmosphere encourages visitors to explore its alleyways, overhanging gables, and medieval squares.

Wordsworth's Grammar School, Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Wordsworth’s Grammar School, Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

St Michael and All Angels Church in Hawkshead is considered to be one of the best Lake District churches.

Constructed in rubble stone with a slate roof, the 12th-century chapel was extended in 1300 and the north and south aisles added 200 years later.

Listed as a Grade I building of exceptional interest, the interior is thickly whitewashed with five-bay arcades consisting of segmental arches on round piers.

St Michael and All Angels Church at Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr
St Michael and All Angels Church at Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr

6. Lacock, Wiltshire

Unspoiled and owned almost entirely by the National Trust conservation organization, Lacock’s pristine appearance makes it a popular tourist spot.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book manuscript record of 1086, Lacock was later granted a market and developed a thriving wool industry during the Middle Ages.

Lacock abbey National Trust. Credit Barry Skeates
Lacock abbey National Trust. Credit Barry Skeates
The George Inn, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Robert Powell
The George Inn, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Robert Powell

Lacock village has been used as a film and television location, most notably the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, a series of Downton Abbey, and brief appearances in two Harry Potter films.

Related post: To many, Colin Firth IS Mr Darcy ….

Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Immanuel giel
Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Immanuel giel

St Cyriac’s Church was founded in the 14th century and dedicated to the Norman saint, St Cyriac.

The Church of St Cyriac, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit WJournalist
The Church of St Cyriac, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit WJournalist

Lacock has two public houses and a number of shops in its High Street including a grocery store, a bakery, gift shops and a National Trust shop.

The picturesque village Bakery at Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk
The picturesque village Bakery at Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk

7. Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire

Built on the banks of the River Eye in Gloucestershire, records exist showing that Lower Slaughter has been inhabited for over 1000 years.

A 19th-century water mill sits at the west end of the village, complete with an undershot waterwheel and a chimney for additional steam power.

The Mill at Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr
The Mill at Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr

Dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, the 13th-century Anglican parish church was enlarged in 1866, with the spire and peal of six bells benefiting from a recent restoration.

Saint Mary The Virgin Church in Lower Slaughter. Credit Jonathan, flickr
Saint Mary The Virgin Church in Lower Slaughter. Credit Jonathan, flickr

Several small stone footbridges join the two sides of the Lower Slaughter community that is divided by the river.

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire, Cotswolds. Credit Jonathan, flickr
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire, Cotswolds. Credit Jonathan, flickr

Honey-coloured Cotswold sandstone adorns the beautiful homes in the village, many with mullioned windows and other embellishments such as projecting gables.

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

8. Nether Wallop, Hampshire

Derived from the Old English words waella and hop, which together mean “the valley of the springing water”, Nether Wallop was once the site of an ancient battle between Britons and the invading Jutes, in which the Britons were victorious.

Nether Wallop is one of three beautiful villages known as The Wallops, with the other two being Over Wallop and Middle Wallop.

With its many old thatched cottages, Nether Wallop has featured in books and TV as one of the prettiest villages in England.

Thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

For over 200 years the village pub, The Five Bells, was the centre of village life and the community social hub, where villagers met to eat and enjoy real ales.

Related post: The History and Tradition of Social Networking in Britain.

The Five Bells pub in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Five Bells pub in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cows come to drink in Wallop Brook at Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cows come to drink in Wallop Brook at Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Related post: 18 Gorgeous English Thatched Cottages.

9. Polperro, Cornwall

Tightly-packed ancient fisherman’s cottages, a quaint little harbour, and pristine coastline combine to make Polperro a well-loved tourist destination.

The name Polperro is derived from old Cornish “Porthpyra” meaning “harbour named after Saint Pyran”, a 5th-century Cornish abbot and patron saint of tin miners.

Polperro inner harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Polperro inner harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Recognised as a fishing settlement as early as the 13th century, smuggling helped local fishermen boost their income from as early as the 1100s.

High taxation of imports caused by Britain’s wars with France and America made it worthwhile for spirits, tobacco, and other goods to be smuggled from Guernsey and elsewhere.

19th-century Coast Guards and the threat of stiff penalties eventually deterred the smugglers.

Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Typical old fisherman’s cottages in Polperro had storage for fishing nets on the ground floor with steps leading to the living accommodation above.

Fisherman's cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fisherman’s cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Polperro legends include the ghost of smuggler Willy Wilcox who disappeared whilst hiding in the beaches’ labyrinthine caves.

The Spirit of the Forest is said to come down from the woods above the village and leave sweetmeats at the homes of the poor during times of great economic hardship and foretells of good fortune for the recipients.

Misty day at Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Misty day at Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10. Staithes, North Yorkshire

Once a thriving fishing village, Staithes is now a center for tourism within the North York Moors National Park.

Derived from Old English, the name Staithes means “Landing Place”.

Staithes has a sheltered harbour, bounded by high cliffs and two long breakwaters.

The Blue Hour in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Vaidotas Mišeikis, flickr
The Blue Hour in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Vaidotas Mišeikis, flickr
Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Philip Edmondson, flickr
Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Philip Edmondson, flickr

More than half of the houses are second homes of outsiders from cities such as Leeds and York.

Villagers still practice local traditions, with many of the local women buying Staithes bonnets and local men singing in the Staithes Fisher Men’s Choir.

The main street in Staithes.. Credit mattbuck
The main street in Staithes.. Credit mattbuck

In the late 19th century, there were 80 full-time fishing boats putting out to sea from Staithes.

Now there are a handful of part-time fishermen still plying their trade in traditional fishing vessels called cobles.

Staithes’s most famous resident, James Cook worked as a grocer’s apprentice in 1745, beginning a lifelong passion for the sea.

Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Richard Walker, flickr
Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Richard Walker, flickr

7 Reasons to Fall in Love with Britain’s Beautiful Canals

Everyone deserves a place to escape.

And that’s exactly what Britain’s canals provide with their idyllic tranquility, natural beauty, and over two hundred years of history.

Whether you’re boating, walking, cycling, or fishing, Britain’s canal network will delight and surprise at every turn.

Here are 7 reasons to fall in love with Britain’s canals.

1. The fascinating history

Although the first canals were built by the Romans for irrigation and land drainage, the canal network we know and love today is largely a product of Britain’s industrial heritage.

As the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution, Britain needed a more efficient “mass transit” system to bring raw materials to factories and take finished goods to coastal ports for export.

And so Britain became the first country to build a nationwide canal network.

Horse-drawn narrowboats with a towpath alongside for the horse to walk along were standardized across the British canal network.

A horse drawn narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon canal at Kintbury in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A horse drawn narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon canal at Kintbury in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Before the canals, transport of goods was mainly via coastal shipping and horses & carts struggling along mostly unsurfaced mud roads.

A Beached Collier Unloading into Carts by Julius Caesar Ibbetson - circa 1790
A Beached Collier Unloading into Carts by Julius Caesar Ibbetson – circa 1790
Landscape with Cart Crossing a River by Lucas van Uden
Landscape with Cart Crossing a River by Lucas van Uden

What do afternoon tea and canals have in common?

If you were running a pottery factory like Josiah Wedgwood (1730 – 1795), making fine china tea sets for export all over the world, the method you used for transporting such fragile and expensive goods was very important.

Gliding along the water had advantages over the jarring, bumpy ride of packhorses or horse drawn carts, not to mention the sheer weight of goods carried by barge making the economics much more favorable.

Unsurprisingly then, the pottery manufacturers of Staffordshire were amongst the first promoters of canals.

Tea and coffee service. Made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory 1775
Tea and coffee service. Made at Josiah Wedgwood’s factory 1775

Often called the “Golden Age” of British canals, the period from 1770 – 1830 saw rapid industrialisation of the Midlands and the North of England.

But from about 1840, a new type of network was being built—one that threatened the canals and would lead to their eventual demise: the railways.

Fortunately, after a long period of neglect, Britain’s canals were renovated and returned to their former glory—this time as byways for leisure craft on lazy Sunday afternoons or as relaxing canal cruise vacations.

2. The prettiest boats you ever saw

Economic and engineering constraints of the 18th century kept canals narrow, with many locks built to just 7 ft 6 in wide.

This narrow gauge limited the beam (width) of the boats, which became known as narrowboats.

Narrowboats at Huddlesford Canal. Credit donald judge
Narrowboats at Huddlesford Canal. Credit donald judge

Competition from the railways forced boat operators to live on board, converting the rear portion into ingenious tiny living spaces complete with hot stove, steaming kettle, brightly painted decorations, fancy lace, and polished brass.

Brightly coloured historic narrowboats at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett
Brightly coloured historic narrowboats at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett

By the late Victorian era, it was common to paint roses and castles on the narrow boats and their fixtures and fittings.

Traditional boatman's cabin interrior. Credit Keith Lodge
Traditional boatman’s cabin interrior. Credit Keith Lodge
A Buckby Can on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett
A Buckby Can on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett

To this day, owners still personalize their narrowboats with their own unique touches.

Narrowboats at the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal
Narrowboats at the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal
Teapots and chimney pots. Credit donald judge
Teapots and chimney pots. Credit donald judge

3. The freedom to move about the country

Navigable in its entirety in a narrowboat of 7 ft wide by about 56 ft long is a network of some 2,200 miles of inland waterways just beckoning to be explored.

Narrowboating transports us back to a time without road rage when travelling at 4 mph was considered hurried.

Once the highways of the 18th century, the canals are now corridors of green best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Backwater at Bedford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Backwater at Bedford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cruising the peaceful waterways
Cruising the peaceful waterways
Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett, Surrey. Credit Zixi
Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett, Surrey. Credit Zixi
Entering the lock at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Entering the lock at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Opening the lock gates at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson
Opening the lock gates at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson

4. The spellbinding Victorian ingenuity

As the Industrial Revolution took hold at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, the technology allowed canals to be improved.

Early canals contoured round hills and valleys, whereas later ones went straighter.

Locks took canals up and down gradients, aqueducts spanned valleys, and tunnels went directly through hills.

Caen Hill Locks, Devizes, Wiltshire. Credit BazViv
Caen Hill Locks, Devizes, Wiltshire. Credit BazViv
Bingley Five Rise Locks. Credit Michael Spiller
Bingley Five Rise Locks. Credit Michael Spiller

At 1000 ft long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal spans the River Dee Valley in Wales and is Britain’s longest aqueduct.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales. Credit Akke Monasso
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales. Credit Akke Monasso

The 18-arch stone and cast iron structure took ten years to build.

Opening in 1805, it is the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest in the world.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales

With its 52-foot span, the Engine Arm Aqueduct near Smethwick in the West Midlands is much smaller, but its ornate cast-iron Gothic arches and columns make a splendid sight nonetheless.

The Engine Arm Aqueduct. Credit Oosoom
The Engine Arm Aqueduct. Credit Oosoom

Over three miles long, the longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain is the Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in Northern England.

Entrance to Standedge Tunnel, Marsden, West Yorkshire. Credit 54north
Entrance to Standedge Tunnel, Marsden, West Yorkshire. Credit 54north

Since March 30th 2009, boats have been allowed to pass through Standedge Tunnel under their own power accompanied by a trained “chaperone” from the Canal & River Trust.

Built without a towpath, before motorized boats the only way to get through the tunnel was by “legging” it.

Lying on a plank across the bows of the boat, and holding the plank with their hands, two people would propel the boat with their feet against the tunnel wall.

It was dangerous work, leading to many deaths for the “leggers” until safety was improved.

The horse would take a well-earned break and be led over the hill.

Inside Standedge canal tunnel. Credit G-13114
Inside Standedge canal tunnel. Credit G-13114
One of Birmingham's myrida canals

5. The countryside and nature surround you

Britain’s canal network passes through not only historic cities and pretty towns and villages, but also the magnificent open countryside.

Caen Hill Locks from 400 feet - Looking down from Bath Road Bridge. Credit Rmckenzi
Caen Hill Locks from 400 feet – Looking down from Bath Road Bridge. Credit Rmckenzi
River Stour, Worcestershire
River Stour, Worcestershire
The Lancaster Canal, Borwick, Lancashire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Lancaster Canal, Borwick, Lancashire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Tavistock Canal, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Tavistock Canal, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

You’re guaranteed to see some stunning wildlife on a daily basis in and around the canals.

If you don’t spot the brightly coloured Kingfisher perched on the canalside, you’ll almost certainly see one darting across the water as a characteristic “blue streak”.

Kingfisher. Credit Andreas Trepte
Kingfisher. Credit Andreas Trepte

And you’re bound to see one of these guys—a Grey Heron—the patient fisherman, waiting motionless for the right moment to wade in the shallows and show us what a master angler can really do.

Heron. Credit Gunnar Ries
Heron. Credit Gunnar Ries
Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rodley. Credit Tim Green
Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rodley. Credit Tim Green

6. The city’s never far away

Passing along the Grand Union and Regent’s canals, to the Docklands and Limehouse Basin, the London Ring lets you travel around London by narrowboat through Little Venice, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Camden Lock, Kings Cross, Islington and Victoria Park.

Sunset over the Regent's Canal in Camden, London. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Sunset over the Regent’s Canal in Camden, London. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Reading. Credit Yiannis Theologos Michellis, flickr
Reading. Credit Yiannis Theologos Michellis, flickr
Bridgewater Canal basin near Castlefield, Manchester. Credit Smabs Sputzer
Bridgewater Canal basin near Castlefield, Manchester. Credit Smabs Sputzer

Birmingham has more canals than Venice.

Extending to just over 100 miles, the Birmingham Canal Navigations include two long tunnels and several aqueducts.

Narrowboat negotiating the Broad St. Tunnel, Birmingham. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Narrowboat negotiating the Broad St. Tunnel, Birmingham. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, Greater Manchester. Credit Poliphilo
Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, Greater Manchester. Credit Poliphilo

7. There’s a vibrant community of enthusiasts

Escape into the country for some much-needed peace and tranquility or socialize with the big network of canal enthusiasts—it’s up to you.

Britain’s canal community is growing by leaps and bounds.

According to the Residential Boat Owners Association, as many as 15,000 people call Britain’s waterways home.

Citing freedom, economic advantages, a strong sense of community, and a closeness with nature as reasons for making their home on the water, many “liveaboards” can’t imagine returning to a life on land.

Dining al fresco with boating friends. Credit donald judge
Dining al fresco with boating friends. Credit Donald Judge
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr
A Boating Community.. Credit donald judge
A Boating Community.. Credit donald judge
Skipton May Boat Festival. Credit Ronhjones
Skipton May Boat Festival. Credit Ronhjones
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr 2
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr

10 Fascinating Facts About the English Lake District

It was a sunny spring morning in 1802 as William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy strolled along the banks of Ullswater in the English Lake District, Cumbria.

Inspired by the majesty of the moment, Wordsworth was about to change forever the way we view our relationship with the natural world.

Captured for eternity within the first stanza of his most famous poem, Daffodils, are the words that created a cultural movement.

Thousands would follow in Wordsworth’s footsteps to wander lonely as a cloud, beside the lake and beneath the trees.

The passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.William Wordsworth
Ullswater, early morning by John Glover, 1824
Ullswater, early morning by John Glover, 1824

Breathtaking vistas, lush valleys, sunlit passes—every bend in the road is a fresh celebration of the natural splendour of the Lake District and a new photo opportunity.

Here are 10 fascinating facts that may inspire you to visit this most beautiful corner of the British Isles.

1. The Lake District took over 2 million years of glaciations to create

Forming a roughly circular upland massif with a radial pattern of deep valleys, the geological character of the Lake District has evolved through repeated glaciations over the last 2 million years.

Displaying the U-shaped cross-section typical of glacial erosion, the Lake District’s valleys often feature elongated lakes with relatively flat ground at their heads.

Smaller lakes called “tarns” are found at the higher elevations.

Buttermere, Lake District. Credit john mcsporran, flickr
Buttermere, Lake District. Credit john mcsporran, flickr
Langdales, Lake District. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr
Langdales, Lake District. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr
Grasmere, Lake District. Credit Derek Finch, flickr
Grasmere, Lake District. Credit Derek Finch, flickr
Wrynose Pass, Lake District. Credit Jim Monk, flickr
Wrynose Pass, Lake District. Credit Jim Monk, flickr

2. William Wordsworth and the Lake Poets inspired a love of nature

No part of the country is more distinguished by its sublimity.William Wordsworth

Before the 19th Century, the more remote areas of Britain such as the Lake District were viewed as dangerous.

Through poetry, Wordsworth helped changed forever the perceptions of mankind’s relationship with nature.

Publishing his “Guide to Lakes” in 1810, William Wordsworth may have been completely unaware of the profound changes he was helping to bring about.

Fueling his vivid imagination, nature had always been important to Wordsworth.

He could see how “England’s green and pleasant land” and the working poor were being exploited by industrialists, and believed that a love of nature would lead naturally to a love of mankind.

Other famous poets moved to live or spend time in the Lake District, becoming known collectively as the Lake Poets.

Portrait of William Wordsworth by Benjamin Robert, 1841
Portrait of William Wordsworth by Benjamin Robert, 1841

Wordsworth’s most famous work is a lyric poem called Daffodils.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
William Wordsworth
Daffodils. Credit John Haslam, flickr
Daffodils. Credit John Haslam, flickr

3. The Lake District houses England’s highest peaks and deepest bodies of water

Formed more than 450 million years ago, Scafell Pike in the Lake District is England’s highest mountain.

On a clear day you can see other peaks in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man from the top of Scafell Pike.

The largest natural lake in England is also in the Lake District.

Windermere is 11 miles long and has 18 islands dotted along its length—the largest of which is Belle Island, where Roman artifacts have been discovered.

The four highest mountains in England are all in the Lake District and exceed 3,000 feet (910 m):

Scafell Pike, 978 m (3,209 ft)
Scafell, 965 m (3,166 ft)
Helvellyn, 951 m (3,120 ft)
Skiddaw, 931 m (3,054 ft)

Rock Climber Nape's Needle, Great Gable, English Lake District. Cedit Sea Kayak Oban, flickr
Rock Climber Nape’s Needle, Great Gable, English Lake District. Cedit Sea Kayak Oban, flickr
Buttermere, Lake District. Credit Jim Monk, flickr
Buttermere, Lake District. Credit Jim Monk, flickr
The view from the cairn built by the Westmorland brothers in 1876 to the SW of the summit of Great Gable, which they considered the finest view in the district. Credit Doug Sim
The view from the cairn built by the Westmorland brothers in 1876 to the SW of the summit of Great Gable, which they considered the finest view in the district. Credit Doug Sim
Lake District. Credit scott1346, flickr
Lake District. Credit scott1346, flickr

4. The Lake District is the most visited National Park in the UK

With 16.4 million visitors a year, 24 million tourist days, and a yearly visitor spent of £1.2 billion, the Lake District is by far the most popular national park in the UK—almost twice as popular as the Yorkshire Dales.

Regarded as one of the best places to eat in Britain, the Lake District has four Michelin Star restaurants: L’Enclume, The Samling in Ambleside, The Forest Side and Gilpin Hotel.

Cumbria has more microbreweries than any other county in Britain and together with Jennings Brewery supply a variety of superb English Ales to pubs and restaurants throughout the region.

Three Shires Inn, Little Langdale, Lake District. Credit SwaloPhoto, flickr
Three Shires Inn, Little Langdale, Lake District. Credit SwaloPhoto, flickr

With many buildings dating from the 17th century, Hawkshead has a timeless atmosphere, a warren of alleyways, overhanging gables, and medieval squares.

Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Rose Cottage, Hawkshead, The Lake District. Credit SwaloPhoto
Rose Cottage, Hawkshead, The Lake District. Credit SwaloPhoto
Boats at Ambleside, Lake District. Credit Nilfanion
Boats at Ambleside, Lake District. Credit Nilfanion

Built in 1840 by a retired surgeon from Liverpool, Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building on the shores of Windermere and open to the public year round.

Wray Castle, Lake District. Credit James Hopgrove
Wray Castle, Lake District. Credit James Hopgrove
Wray Castle. Credit Son of Groucho, flickr
Wray Castle. Credit Son of Groucho, flickr

5. The Lake District has only one “lake”

Only one of the lakes in the Lake District is called by that name, Bassenthwaite Lake.

All the others such as Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Buttermere are meres, tarns and waters, with mere being the least common and water being the most.

Map of the Lake District National Park, Cumbria
Map of the Lake District National Park, Cumbria
Bassenthwaite Lake, Lake District. Credit Natural England, flickr
Bassenthwaite Lake, Lake District. Credit Natural England, flickr
Windermere, Lake District. Credit Bill Richards, flickr
Windermere, Lake District. Credit Bill Richards, flickr
Buttermere and Fleetwith Pike, Lake District. Credit Robert J Heath, flickr
Buttermere and Fleetwith Pike, Lake District. Credit Robert J Heath, flickr
Blea Tarn, Lake District, England. Credit Jim Monk, flickr
Blea Tarn, Lake District, England. Credit Jim Monk, flickr
Derwent Water, Lake District. Credit Andy Rothwell, flickr
Derwent Water, Lake District. Credit Andy Rothwell, flickr
Ullswater, The Lake District. Credit Jake Cook, flickr
Ullswater, The Lake District. Credit Jake Cook, flickr

6. The Lake District has the best preserved Roman fort in the UK

Established in the second century AD under the reign of Emperor Hadrian, Hardknott Fort is the best preserved Roman Fort in the UK.

Garrisoned here were a detachment of 500 cavalry of the 6th Cohort of Dalmatians from the Dalmatian coast in what is today a historical region mostly within the borders of Croatia.

Abandoned in the late 130s AD, the small 3-acre fort became a temporary shelter for passing patrols and travellers.

Hardknott Roman Fort, Lake District. Credit Paul Hermans
Hardknott Roman Fort, Lake District. Credit Paul Hermans
Hardknott Roman Fort, Lake District. Credit Paul Hermans
Hardknott Roman Fort, Lake District. Credit Paul Hermans

7. Cumbria is home to six times more sheep than people

The Lake District is populated by a huge number of sheep — over 3 million in the county of Cumbria.

Whereas Cumbria has a population of close to 500,000, the Lake District itself has only about 45 people per square mile.

Known for being hardy and strong in tough weather conditions, the Herdwick breed thrives in the Lake District and is managed using traditional farming methods.

After tourism, agriculture is the region’s largest source of income, and Herdwick sheep are a huge part of this.

Farmers say the sheep are “heafed to the fell”, meaning that they can be safely left to wander the unfenced terrain.

Able to withstand the most appalling weather in winter, the sheep help maintain the “Lake District look” by grazing heather and grass evenly and keeping bracken and scrub at bay.

Lake District. Credit Jim Barter, flickr
Lake District. Credit Jim Barter, flickr
Sheep and mountains near Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr
Sheep and mountains near Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr
A Swaledale ewe in the Lake District. Credit David Iliff
A Swaledale ewe in the Lake District. Credit David Iliff

8. The Lake District is home to some of the rarest wildlife in Britain

Native to the woodland areas of the Lake District is the beloved British Red Squirrel.

Now an endangered species, the Lake District is one of the few remaining areas of Britain where Red Squirrels can still be found in the wild.

The Lake District National Park is also home to a large variety of other rare or protected species of wildlife including red deer, Peregrine falcons, barn owls, Natterjack toads and Britain’s only nesting pairs of Golden Eagles and Ospreys.

Red Squirrel. Credit Peter Trimming
Red Squirrel. Credit Peter Trimming
Golden Eagle. Credit Tony Hisgett, flickr
Golden Eagle. Credit Tony Hisgett, flickr
Red Deer. Credit Hans Drijer
Red Deer. Credit Hans Drijer

9. Beatrix Potter lived in the Lake District

Beatrix Potter, 1913

Created by the writer and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, Squirrel Nutkin is one of the most famous squirrels in the history of literature.

Inspired by much of the Lake District’s wildlife for her stories, Beatrix Potter’s most famous character was Peter Rabbit.

Following the adventures of the mischievous and disobedient young Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of the best-selling books of all time.

She bought her house, Hill Top in the Lake District with the profits.

Now a National Trust property, the house is open to the public and, as requested in her will, the interior has been “left as if she had just gone out to the post”: a fire burning in the hearth, cups and saucers on the table ready for a visitor.

Hill Top, Near Sawrey, Lake District. Credit diamond geezer
Hill Top, Near Sawrey, Lake District. Credit diamond geezer
The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Windermere, Lake District. Credit Ann Lee, flickr
The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Windermere, Lake District. Credit Ann Lee, flickr
TThe World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Windermere, Lake District. Credit Neil Piddock, flickr
TThe World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Windermere, Lake District. Credit Neil Piddock, flickr

10. Steamboats and Steam trains

At the turn of the 20th century, luxury steamboats were a familiar sight on Windermere’s 10.5 mile stretch of water.

Commissioned by wealthy Victorian industrialists, the extravagant vessels were perfect for cruising on weekend retreats around the area.

Outmoded by newer technology after World War I, most steamboats were broken up as newer technology replaced them.

But you can still experience a ride on a few remaining steamboats that are converted to diesel and enjoy the collection of restored boats at the Windermere Steamboat Museum.

MV Tern built in 1891 crossing Windermere. Credit RuthAS
MV Tern built in 1891 crossing Windermere. Credit RuthAS
The 'Swan' on Windermere. Credit mattbuck
The ‘Swan’ on Windermere. Credit mattbuck
Windermere steam ferry, Lake District, 1890
Windermere steam ferry, Lake District, 1890

The Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway is a heritage steam railway that runs from Haverthwaite via Newby Bridge to Lakeside at the southern end of Windermere.

Several services are timed to connect with sailings of the steamers on Windermere,.

The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway Cumbria Steam Engine. Credit mattbuck
The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway Cumbria Steam Engine. Credit mattbuck
The Lakeside and Haverthwaite heritage Railway, Cumbria. Credit bayphotographic
The Lakeside and Haverthwaite heritage Railway, Cumbria. Credit bayphotographic

10 British Garden Birds

Just beyond the rear windows, in gardens across the British nation, something amazing happens every winter.

Little flashes of colour dart and dance from fencepost to footpath, from gazebo to greenhouse, from treetop to trellis.

These are the garden birds that come foraging for food at this time of year.

For many British people, garden birds provide an almost constant source of delight.

Every time we enter the kitchen to put the kettle on and gaze into the garden, there’s usually something going on.

With their distinctive plumage and daredevil acrobatics, garden birds give a theatrical performance as they flit and flirt across the stage.

Many are fairly tame and quite used to living alongside human beings in the gardens, parks, and green spaces of Britain.

In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in garden bird feeding.

Bird tables and bird feeders stocked with nutritious, high-energy food are a magnet for the prettiest feathered friends you ever saw.

Here are 10 garden birds that you can expect to see in a British garden.

Blue Tit

Famed for their skill, as they cling to the outermost branches and hang upside down like gymnasts, blue tits are tiny blue and yellow birds with a dark blue line passing through the eye and puffy white cheeks, giving a very distinctive appearance.

Their nape, wings, and tail are blue while their back is green.

Blue tits are so adapted to life among humans that in the days of doorstep milk deliveries, they would peck through the foil lids of milk bottles and enjoy the cream beneath.

Blue Tit. Credit Ari Helminen
Blue Tit. Credit Ari Helminen
Blue Tit. Credit Arnstein Rønning
Blue Tit. Credit Arnstein Rønning

Bullfinch

Bull-headed and bulky, adult male bullfinches wear a black cap and striking rose-red breastplate, while females wear a more demure grey-buff attire.

With their large black bill, white rump and wing bars, they are striking when in flight.

Not as common a sight as the blue tit, so a special treat if you see one.

Bullfinch. Credit Michael Sveikutis
Bullfinch. Credit Michael Sveikutis
Bullfinch. Credit Steve Garvie
Bullfinch. Credit Steve Garvie

Goldfinch

Often depicted in Italian renaissance paintings of Madonna and Child, Goldfinches have a red, white, and black face and an eye-catching yellow bar on black wings.

It was thought that since goldfinches eat thistle seeds, and thistles are Christian symbols of Christ’s Passion and crown of thorns, they were sacred birds and a good-luck charm.

During the 19th century, many thousands of goldfinches were sold as cage-birds, the prevention of which was one of the earliest campaigns of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Goldfinch. Credit chapmankj75
Goldfinch. Credit chapmankj75
Goldfinch. Credit Karelj
Goldfinch. Credit Karelj

Great Spotted Woodpecker

From an ancient bird family, great spotted woodpeckers are almost unmistakable with their glossy black and white plumage in a zig-zag arrangement.

Dressed to impress, their large white shoulder patches, white bars on wings and tail feathers, and bright crimson on nape and under tail complete the ensemble.

Alighting on a tree trunk, watch as they work upwards, from side to side, using the stiff tail as an additional support.

Great spotted woodpecker. Credit Airwolfhound
Great spotted woodpecker. Credit Airwolfhound
Great Spotted Woodpecker. Credit Da Manne
Great Spotted Woodpecker. Credit Da Manne

Great Tit

Another distinctive small bird with black head and neck, white cheeks, yellow underparts and olive back.

Popular to watch for their acrobatic performances when feeding on nuts and seeds, great tits are also most likely to inhabit nest boxes.

Intelligent birds, great tits have been observed using conifer needles as tools to help extract food from difficult to reach crevices.

Great Tit. Credit Max Westby
Great Tit. Credit Max Westby
Great Tit. Credit Airwolfhound
Great Tit. Credit Airwolfhound

Jay

Colorful and noisy, jays are the bullies of the garden playground.

Mostly pinkish brown with lighter underparts, they have a black moustache and black and white flecked crown that can be raised to a crest for display or when alarmed.

Like magpies, jays tend to visit gardens in pairs and learn through observation—such as watching how smaller birds extract peanuts from feeders before trying it themselves.

Jay. Credit Pierre Dalous
Jay. Credit Pierre Dalous
Jay. Credit Tim Sträter
Jay. Credit Tim Sträter

Long-Tailed Tit

Tiny round bodies, with diminutive bills and very long tails distinguish these adorable pinkish birds with their black markings above the eyes and into the nape and black wings.

Incredibly agile, long-tailed tits can get to food in hard to reach places.

Often seen in flocks, they huddle together at night to keep warm.

Long-Tailed Tit. Credit David Friel
Long-Tailed Tit. Credit David Friel
Long Tailed Tit. Ian Kirk
Long Tailed Tit. Ian Kirk

Redwing

Related to the song thrush, the smaller redwing has a creamy strip above the eye and distinctive orange-red patches on their sides from which they derive their name.

Roaming Britain’s fields and hedgerows in large flocks, redwings are not as common a sighting as other garden birds, only visiting gardens when it gets really cold and snow covers the fields.

In flight the red patches under the wings are noticeable even at a distance.

Redwing. Credit Steve Garvie
Redwing. Credit Steve Garvie
Redwing. Ómar Runólfsson
Redwing. Ómar Runólfsson

Robin

Often viewed as Britain’s national bird and seen gracing many a seasonal greeting card, the robin is a plump little bird with bright orange-red plumage covering breast, face and throat.

In the fifteenth century, when people gave human names to familiar birds, it was known as robin redbreast, eventually shortened to robin.

Unafraid of people, robins are drawn to human activities, making them cheerful companions for gardeners.

Robin. Credit Tony Hisgett
Robin. Credit Tony Hisgett
Robin. Credit Si Griffiths
Robin. Credit Si Griffiths

Yellowhammer

Thought to have inspired poems by Robert Burns and influenced Beethoven’s 5th symphony, this conspicuous yellow sparrow-sized bird has a melodious song popularized by Enid Blyton as sounding like “little bit of bread and no cheese”.

Male yellowhammers have a bright yellow head and underparts, heavily streaked brown back, and whitish outer tail feathers.

A rarer sighting than other garden birds, corn and seed are most likely to attract them into the garden in winter when natural food is scarce.

Yellowhammer. Credit Christina Nöbauer
Yellowhammer. Credit Christina Nöbauer
Yellowhammer. CreditMartin Mecnarowski
Yellowhammer. CreditMartin Mecnarowski

10 Fun Facts About the Yorkshire Dales: England’s Green and Pleasant Land

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

—William Blake, Jerusalem.
Pattern

Such is the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales that as you traverse its rolling hills with pretty dry-stone walls, discover its delightful villages, with tearooms and bookshops, and gasp in awe at its breathtaking valleys, you may be forgiven for thinking this is God’s own country.

Whether by car, bicycle or on foot, the Yorkshire Dales will surprise and delight at every turn.

Join us, dear reader, as we explore 10 fun facts about the Yorkshire Dales.

Yockenthwaite is a hamlet in the Langstrothdale valley in the Yorkshire Dales. Creit Alison Christine
Yockenthwaite is a hamlet in the Langstrothdale valley in the Yorkshire Dales. Creit Alison Christine
Cyclists. Credit Tejvan Pettinger
Cyclists. Credit Tejvan Pettinger
Winding road through Littondale. Credit Kreuzschnabel
Winding road through Littondale. Credit Kreuzschnabel
Jordan Lane near Sedbergh, Yorkshire Dales
Jordan Lane near Sedbergh, Yorkshire Dales

1. The Yorkshire Dales are named after their rivers

Shaped by glaciers in the last ice age, the Yorkshire Dales are river valleys named after their river or stream.

River valleys all over Yorkshire are called “(name of river)+dale”—but only the upper, more rural valleys are included in the term “The Yorkshire Dales”.

Wharfdale is the "valley" (dale) of the River Wharf. Credit TJBlackwell
Wharfdale is the “valley” (dale) of the River Wharf. Credit TJBlackwell
Europe during its last glaciation, about 20,000 to 70,000 years ago
Europe during its last glaciation, about 20,000 to 70,000 years ago

The word “dale” means valley and is derived from the 12th-century Old English word dael. It is used in Scotland and northern England, and is related to the Welsh word dôl and the German word tal.

More general use of the word “dale” was superseded in the 14th century by the word “valley’ from Anglo-French valee.

2. The Dales has several amazing Limestone Rock formations including deep caves

Found in previously glaciated limestone environments, limestone pavements are flat areas of limestone with deep surface patterning resembling paving stones.

Limestone plateau, Malhamdale. Credit Andi Campbell-Jones
Limestone plateau, Malhamdale. Credit Andi Campbell-Jones

The underlying limestone has eroded to form vast caves in several areas. Gaping Gill is a 322 ft deep shaft that is the largest underground chamber open to the surface in England. The volume has been calculated to equal that of York Minster.

Gaping Gill. Credit Mjobling
Gaping Gill. Credit Mjobling

3. Massive, graceful edifices to Victorian ingenuity allow the railways to cross the Dales

When the Victorians wanted to cross the Yorkshire Dales by rail in the 1870s, this was their answer—Ribblehead Viaduct.

Ribblehead Viaduct crossing Ribbledale
Ribblehead Viaduct crossing Ribbledale

Undaunted by the undulations of the dales, the Ribblehead Viaduct traverses a 440-yard span with a height of 104 ft above the valley floor.

It took 1000 navvies to build, 100 of whom died during construction either from accidents or outbreaks of smallpox.

The term ‘navvy” derives from Navigational Engineer and means a manual laborer for a major civil engineering project.

These workers built their own shanty towns close to the viaduct, naming them after Crimean War (1853-1856) victories and biblical names.

The TV series “Jericho” is a period drama based on the building of the Ribblehead Viaduct.

As graceful a sight as Ribblehead is, anyone familiar with large-scale engineering projects will appreciate just how daunting this must have been for the Victorians—and will see it in a different light.

Ribblehead Viaduct cast in a glowing light. Credit chantrybee
Ribblehead Viaduct cast in a glowing light. Credit chantrybee

24 arches, each spanning 45 feet, with foundations sunk 25 feet into the valley required 1.5 million bricks and some limestone blocks weighing 8 tons each.

Considered to be the most beautiful and spectacular railway journey in England, the Settle to Carlisle Railway crosses the Ribblehead Viaduct with its incredible views of the Dales.

Southern Railway steam locomotive leaving Garsdale station. Credit David Ingham
Southern Railway steam locomotive leaving Garsdale station. Credit David Ingham

4. Dry stone walls wind their way across the rolling hills

Dry stone walls are as common as sheep and give the Yorkshire Dales its delightful appearance—weaving their way across the rolling hills in all directions.

Dry Stone Walls and Bridleways. Credit Dave_S
Dry Stone Walls and Bridleways. Credit Dave_S

With no mortar to help bind them, it is the interlocking compressional forces that give the walls their structural integrity.

Ribblesdale with Pen-y-Ghent peak in the background. Credit Darkroom Daze
Ribblesdale with Pen-y-Ghent peak in the background. Credit Darkroom Daze

Construction of dry stone walls requires considerable skill, with experienced wallers few in number. Large, flat stones are used at the base, diminishing is size as the wall rises.

To help prevent the wall simply breaking apart, long tie stones are placed periodically which span both faces of the wall. Similarly, long capstones finish the final layer and provide rigidity.

5. Wensleydale is named after the small market town that originally produced the delicious, crumbly Wensleydale cheese

Wensleydale is an exception to the way most dales are named after their rivers. It is named after the small market town that originally produced the delicious, crumbly cheese.

French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region of France who settled in Wensleydale brought with them a recipe for making cheese from sheep’s milk. Cow’s milk has been used since the 14th century.

The market town of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. Credit Peer Lawther
The market town of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. Credit Peer Lawther

After the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540, local farmers continued making the cheese up until World War II when milk was used to make “Government Cheddar” as part of the rationing of the war effort.

Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries
Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries

Wensleydale with cranberries is popular in restaurants and delicatessens and there is a Yorkshire saying:

“an apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze”

6. Mary Queen of Scots once stayed at Bolton Castle

The 14th-century Bolton Castle is a notable local historic site near Wensleydale.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes
Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes

Famous for serving as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots, a story tells of how she escaped and lost her shawl on the way to Leyburn, hence the name “The Shawl”—a cliff edge that runs westward out of Leyburn, known for easy walks with excellent views.

Bolton Castle Maze, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes
Bolton Castle Maze, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes
Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Freddie Phillips
Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Freddie Phillips

7. Bolton Abbey has a rich past—and rich owners too

Built in the 12th century as an Augustinian monastery, Bolton Abbey sits on the banks of the River Wharf on a 133,000-acre estate in Wharfedale.

Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Dr John Wells
Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Dr John Wells

Owned by the Cavendish Family (better known for the peerage titles Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who also own Chatsworth House), the estate has 8 miles of river, 84 farms, 88 historic buildings, and 27 businesses—including tearooms and bookshops.

Fly Fishing in the River Wharfe next to Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Carl Milner
Fly Fishing in the River Wharfe next to Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Carl Milner
The Dalesman Cafe Gargrave on the outskirst of the Yorkshire Dales
The Dalesman Cafe Gargrave on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales

8. The Yorkshire Dales has a long history in lead mining

Mining for lead was a major industry in the Yorkshire Dales from the mid-17th century until about 1900, with Britain the world’s leader in lead production.

Lead Mining
Top: Ruins of former lead mining buildings at Gunnerside Beck, Yorkshire Dales. Bottom-left: Surrender Mill at Surrender Bridge, near Kearton, North Yorkshire, former lead smelting site. Bottom-right: Gunnerside from North Hush. A hush was formed by building a dam, then breaking it so that the rush of water stripped away the topsoil, revealing the lead ore beneath.

Geological processes make the rocks of the dales rich in lead, but although landowners struck a bargain with miners to prospect for lead and share in the profits, few miners saw any wealth.

It was hard manual labor with picks and shovels in dirty and dangerous situations.

Today, the remnants of a once thriving lead mining industry scar the landscape and can be explored.

Yarnbury Lead Mine entrance. Grassington. Credit Tom Blackwell
Yarnbury Lead Mine entrance. Grassington. Credit Tom Blackwell

9. Beautiful waterfalls grace the Dales landscape

The Yorkshire Dales has several beautiful waterfalls, most notably Aysgarth Falls in Wensleydale, which is spectacular after heavy rainfall as thousands of gallons of water cascade over several levels of limestone steps.

Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale. Credit Rob Glover
Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale. Credit Rob Glover

Originating from old Norse, the name Aysgarth means an open space in the oak trees.

Featured in the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the falls have attracted artists and poets—Turner, Ruskin, Wordsworth—for over 200 years.

Aysgarth Falls on the descent into Wensleydale. Credit Dave_S
Aysgarth Falls on the descent into Wensleydale. Credit Dave_S
West Burton Waterfalls. Credit ukgardenphotos
West Burton Waterfalls. Credit ukgardenphotos

10. Medieval farms, sheep, and a good vet

Medieval farmsteads are dotted across the Yorkshire Dales.

With herds of sheep and cattle a common sight, a good veterinary surgeon has long been a valued member of the Dales community.

Yorkshire Dales Farmsteads
Yorkshire Dales Farmsteads

A major TV series based on the writings of Alf Wight, a Yorkshire veterinary surgeon who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot, was filmed largely in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep causing a traffic jam at Hawes, Wensleydale. Credit James Burke
Sheep causing a traffic jam at Hawes, Wensleydale. Credit James Burke

The books are a great read for anyone who wants to know more about Yorkshire country life, along with its characters and their inter-relationship with the farm animals of the Yorkshire Dales.

The sheep love James Herriot—just ask one.

Swaldale Sheep. Credit Ambersky235
Swaledale Sheep. Credit Ambersky235

7 Reasons Why You’ll Fall in Love With the Cotswolds

If you’ve decided on a trip to England for your next vacation, after you’ve enjoyed the bright lights of London, with all its glamour, sophistication and culture, one of the best places to slow-it-down and experience the quintessential English countryside is the Cotswolds.

Continue reading …

The Cotswolds is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by the government, which provides the same level of protection from development as the UK’s national parks. And it’s not difficult to see why this area is protected—gently rolling hills and meadows dotted with honey-colored stone-built historic villages, towns, country houses, and gardens.

There are many, many places to visit, but here are a few we visit on our journey through the Cotswolds.

One essential piece of equipment will be your camera because when you visit, you will want to capture the memories of this beautiful place forever.

Here are 7 reasons why you’ll fall in love with the Cotswolds.

1. The beauty will astound you

Cotswolds landscape. Credit Marina De Vos
Cotswolds landscape. Credit Marina De Vos
Several varieties of Lavender. Credit Saffron Blaze
Several varieties of Lavender. Credit Saffron Blaze
Linseed flower. Credit Herry Lawford
Linseed flower. Credit Herry Lawford
Bourton-on-the-water. Credit BritainandBritishness.com
Bourton-on-the-water. Credit BritainandBritishness.com

2. The buildings are made from the gorgeous honey-coloured local stone

Rich in fossils and dating from the Jurrasic period, the yellowish limestone of the Cotswolds varies in color from honey in the north to golden in central and southern parts and almost pearl-colored in the city of Bath.

The color takes on an especially warm hue as it reflects the afternoon sunlight.

House in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk
House in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk
Arlington Row in Bibury, Gloucestershire was built in 1380 as a monastic wool store. The buildings were converted into weavers' cottages in the 17th century
Arlington Row in Bibury, Gloucestershire was built in 1380 as a monastic wool store. The buildings were converted into weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. Credit: Saffron Blaze.
The Royal Crescent in the City of Bath
The Royal Crescent in the City of Bath

3. The Cotswolds is steeped in history

Dating from the 14th century, Chipping Campden was once a thriving market town made rich from the wool trade.

Under these arches and on this cobbled floor, 17th-century wool merchants would ply their trade.

Built in 1627, the Market Hall was donated to the village by Viscount Campden.

The cobbled floor of the 17th century Market Hall in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk
The cobbled floor of the 17th century Market Hall in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Anguskirk
Clockwise from top left: Almshouses donated to some of the village's poor folk by Baptist Hicks, 1st Viscount Campden; the banqueting hall is all that remains of Viscount Hicks's country mansion in Chipping Campden; Viscount Hicks; Viscount Hicks and his wife at rest in St James's church, Chipping Campden
Clockwise from top left: Almshouses donated to some of the village’s poor folk by Baptist Hicks, 1st Viscount Campden; the banqueting hall is all that remains of Viscount Hicks’s country mansion in Chipping Campden; Viscount Hicks; Viscount Hicks and his wife at rest in St James’s church, Chipping Campden

Standing 65 ft (20 m) tall, the Broadway Tower has a commanding view as the second-highest point in the Cotswold hills.

Built for Lady Coventry in 1799, the “Saxon” folly was the inspiration of Capability Brown—”England’s greatest gardener”—who wanted to answer a whimsical question from Lady Coventry: if a beacon tower were built here, could she see it from her house 22 miles away? Lady Coventry was so intrigued, she sponsored the construction.

Broadway Tower. Credit Phil Dolby
Broadway Tower. Credit Phil Dolby

Even buildings in the high streets of dozens of small Cotswold towns hold stories from centuries past.

Below, a rider passes in front of the Lygon Arms hotel in Broadway. Once called the White Hart Inn, Oliver Cromwell stayed here on 2nd September 1651, the night before the Battle of Worcester—the final and decisive battle of the English Civil War, fought between King Charles I’s royalist “Cavaliers” and Parliament’s “Roundheads”.

A rider passes in front of the Lygon Arms hotel in Broadway. Credit Saffron Blaze
A rider passes in front of the Lygon Arms hotel in Broadway. Credit Saffron Blaze

4. The Cotswolds is a garden lover’s dream

For gardening fans, there are several famous and historic gardens.

Hidcote Manor Garden at Kiftsgate is owned and managed by the National Trust and open to the public.

Bourton House Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit JR P
Bourton House Garden, Gloucestershire. Credit JR P

Property owners love their gardens and it’s common to see flowers used as creative decoration to adorn front doors.

Broadway Terraced Cottages. Credit JR P
Broadway Terraced Cottages. Credit JR P
A cottage in Moreton-in-Marsh with wisteria growing round the front door
A cottage in Moreton-in-Marsh with wisteria growing around the front door

5. It’s like stepping back in time

Dreaming of a bygone era? Look no further than the Cotswolds where good old-fashioned values take prominence over progress.

Delivery bicycle at Tisanes Tea Room in Broadway, Worcestershire. Credit Mick
Delivery bicycle at Tisanes Tea Room in Broadway, Worcestershire. Credit Mick
1924 Vintage Vauxhall. Credit Roland Turner
1924 Vintage Vauxhall. Credit Roland Turner
1937 Austin van at the Cotswolds Motor Museum in Bourton-on-the-water
1937 Austin van at the Cotswolds Motor Museum in Bourton-on-the-water
Steam locomotive 92203 at Toddington on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway
Steam locomotive 92203 at Toddington on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway
Old fashioned Ice Cream Van. Credit Jim Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Old fashioned Ice Cream Van. Credit Jim Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway

6. Shops, pubs, tea rooms, and restaurants abound

The Cotswolds is a place where villages still have a greengrocer on the corner and local residents walk the dog to fetch a morning newspaper, stopping along the way to chat with neighbors.

Shops along High Street in Broadway. Credit Saffron Blaze
Shops along High Street in Broadway. Credit Saffron Blaze
The Fox Inn in Lower Oddington in the Cotswolds. Credit JR P
The Fox Inn in Lower Oddington in the Cotswolds. Credit JR P
Waterfront Tea Room and Eatery - Riverside, Bourton-on-the-Water. Credit Elliott Brown
Waterfront Tea Room and Eatery – Riverside, Bourton-on-the-Water. Credit Elliott Brown
Afternoon tea or a cocktail in the garden of the Broadway Hotel
Afternoon tea or a cocktail in the garden of the Broadway Hotel

Whatever time of year you visit, the Cotswolds will delight and surprise. Enjoy fine dining or a beverage (or two) by a cozy fireplace.

The Trout Inn on the River Thames at Lechlade, Cotswolds, England
The Trout Inn on the River Thames at Lechlade, Cotswolds, England

7. There are public footpaths and cycle paths everywhere

Signpost along the Cotswold Way. Credit Richard Cocks
Signpost along the Cotswold Way. Credit Richard Cocks
Blockley, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit JR P
Blockley, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit JR P
A footpath in Blockley, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit JR P
A footpath in Blockley, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit JR P

18 Gorgeous English Thatched Cottages

The counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Gloucestershire
The counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Gloucestershire

Up until the early 19th century, thatching was the only style of roofing available for most people living in the English countryside.

From about 1820, Welsh slate started to replace thatch as the roofing material of choice and the canals and later railways made it easier and cheaper to transport to remoter areas of England.

By the late 1800s, thatch became a sign of poverty as mechanization replaced agricultural jobs and people migrated to cities to work in factories.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in historic building preservation and thatch is now a symbol of wealth.

Join us as we take a look at some beautiful thatched cottages from the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Gloucestershire.

Hampshire

A thatched cottage at Stoke in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk
A thatched cottage at Stoke in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk

Hampshire is the 3rd largest “shire” county in the UK. It has two national parks: the New Forest and the South Downs.

William the Conqueror created the New Forest as his personal hunting ground, evicting many poor peasant families from their homes in the process.

Two of his sons died in the forest, including his successor, King William II (William Rufus), who was struck by an arrow in mysterious circumstances. According to local folklore, this was an ‘act of God’ as punishment for his mistreatment of the area’s inhabitants.

Thatched cottage in the village of Longstock in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk
Thatched cottage in the village of Longstock in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk

You can visit the place where the king fell, called the Rufus Stone. The inscription reads:

“Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.”

A Thatched Cottage at Crawley near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard
A Thatched Cottage at Crawley near Winchester, Hampshire. Credit Neil Howard

Hampshire is famous for other other reasons too. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens both grew up here, as did one of the most prominent figures of the industrial revolution—Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk
A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk

If you reside in New Hampshire, or Southampton or Portsmouth, Virginia, in the United States, you may be interested to know that some of the earliest Jamestown settlers hailed from Hampshire, England and named places after their old English home towns of Southampton and Portsmouth.

A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk
A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk
A thatched cottage at Wherwell in Hampshire. Credit Neil Howard
A thatched cottage at Wherwell in Hampshire. Credit Neil Howard
Cottage in Winchester Road, Wherwell. Credit Anguskirk
Cottage in Winchester Road, Wherwell, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk

Wiltshire

The home of Stonehenge, the medieval Salisbury Cathedral, and Longleat and Stourhead country houses, Wiltshire has much to offer residents and tourists alike.

Largely agricultural, 390 mills, and even vineyards, are mentioned in the Domesday Book—William the Conqueror’s “Great Survey” in 1086.

“While spending the Christmas time of 1085 in Gloucester, William had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock and what it was worth.”

A pretty thatched cottage above the village of Pitton in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk
A pretty thatched cottage above the village of Pitton in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk

Prized for its wool in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Cistercian monasteries of Wiltshire supplied Florentine and Flemish markets.

Two thirds of the county lies on chalk, and has several white horses carved into the Wiltshire hillsides.

Claimed to commemorate King Alfred, who was born in the Vale of White Horse, according to legend, the first Anglo-Saxon invaders into England fought under a white horse standard.

Thatched cottage in Wiltshire. Credit JohnPickenPhoto
Thatched cottage in Wiltshire. Credit JohnPickenPhoto
Beautiful cottages at Haxton in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk
Beautiful cottages at Haxton in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk

Dorset

With a long history of settlement dating back to the Neolithic era, Dorset is no stranger to invaders, with Romans conquering the Celts, and the first recorded Viking raid on the British Isles in the 8th century.

Invaders of a different kind entered England in 1348 by way of flea-ridden rats carrying the Black Death at the Dorset coastal town of Melcombe Regis.

No wonder it was favored by invaders—over half of Dorset is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and three-quarters of its coastline is a World Heritage Site.

Cottage at West Lulworth, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk
Cottage at West Lulworth, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk
Gold Hill, Shatesbury, Dorset. Credit Louis du Mont
Gold Hill, Shatesbury, Dorset. Credit Louis du Mont
Thatched Cottage, Dorchester, Dorset
Thatched Cottage, Dorchester, Dorset

Gloucestershire

Comprising part of “The Cotswolds”—an area of gently rolling hills with golden-colored stone-built villages, historic towns and stately homes and gardens—Gloucestershire is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle—a year by year historical record of life in 10th century England.

The county is steeped in historic buildings from medieval Gloucester Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey and the church at Cirencester, to the Tudor Thornbury Castle which was thought so grand that it roused the jealously of a very powerful man—Cardinal Wolsey, who promptly beheaded its builder, the Duke of Buckingham, for alleged treason.

Thatched Cottage on The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit p&p
Thatched Cottage in Chipping Campden, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit p&p
Thatched Cottages in Gloucester
Thatched Cottages in Gloucester

Hope you enjoyed the guided tour of some of England’s loveliest areas and their beautiful thatched cottages.

9 Fascinating Facts About Bluebells — England’s Favorite Wild Flower

Dreaming of Spring. The time of year when woodlands all over Britain start to look bloomin’ beautiful, reaching a peak by early May as a dense carpet of blue spreads across the country.

The native bluebell makes a Spring walk through a British woodland a joyful experience—the brilliant color and sweet scent of bluebells, together with the melodic sounds of nesting birds enliven the senses and remind us that summer is just around the corner.

But there’s more to bluebells than just a pretty face. Here are 9 fascinating facts about the British Bluebell.

1. Bluebells are protected by law

In the United Kingdom, the British Bluebell is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is a criminal offence to uproot the wild common bluebell from land on which it naturally grows. Any trade in wild common bluebell bulbs or seeds is also an offence, carrying fines of up to £5000 per bulb.

2. Bluebells are known by many names

Carl von Linné 1707–1778

Known as Common Bluebells, English Bluebells, British Bluebells, wood bells, fairy flowers and wild hyacinth, there’s one name that groups them altogether thanks to a Swedish botanist named Carl Linnaeus.

Known as the “father of modern taxonomy”, in 1753, Linnaeus formalized the binomial nomenclature used to classify organisms.

He named the British Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, which basically means an “unmarked” hyacinth—to distinguish it from its classical ancestor of Greek mythology.

In Greek Mythology, Hyacinths were said to spring from the blood of the dying Hyacinthus. The god Apollo shed tears that marked the flower’s petals with the letters “AIAI” (“alas”) as a sign of his grief.

The Death of Hyacinth by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1753
The Death of Hyacinth by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1753

3. Bluebells were voted England’s favorite

In a 2015 Spring poll by botanical charity Plantlife, bluebells were voted the favorite wild flower of England.

Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish voters preferred the pale yellow primrose.

Looks like the fox has picked her favorite.

Image credit: Lee Roberts, flickr (fox); Pokrajac (yellow primrose); MichaelMaggs (bluebell)
Image credit: Lee Roberts, flickr (fox); Pokrajac (yellow primrose); MichaelMaggs (bluebell)

4. Bluebells were important for winning medieval wars

The English Bluebell’s sap is sticky and made an ideal glue for fastening flight feathers to arrows fired by medieval archers.

Battle of Agincourt (1415)
Battle of Agincourt (1415)

5. Emily Brontë wrote a poem about bluebells

In 1838, Emily Brontë, author of the classic Wuthering Heights, wrote a poem dedicated to bluebells.

“The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.”

Click to read "The Bluebell" poem.

6. Bluebells contain cancer-fighting agents

Bluebells synthesize chemicals that may have medicinal properties. At least 15 biologically active compounds have been identified in bluebells that are thought to give them protection against insects and animals.

Certain water-soluble alkaloids are chemically similar to those used to fight HIV and cancer.

Folk medicine uses the bulbs as various remedies and to help stop bleeding.

Bluebells by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1899
Bluebells by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1899

7. Bluebells reach their greatest densities in the British Isles

Often dominating the forest floor with a violet-blue carpet, affectionately called ‘bluebell woods”, bluebells flower and leaf early in Spring and do most of their growing before the woodland canopy closes over.

They grow well in old, dense woodland because the thick foliage limits the growth of other competing flora.

Bluebells in Buckinghamshire, England. Photo credit Keith Hulbert and Paul Zarucki
Bluebells in Buckinghamshire, England. Photo credit Keith Hulbert and Paul Zarucki

8. Native bluebells have a Spanish cousin

Hyacinthoides hispanica—the Spanish Bluebell—was introduced by Victorians as a garden plant. It now grows in the wild and crossbreeds with the British native bluebell—one of the main reasons the British bluebell is a protected species.

There are three main ways to tell them apart:

  • Native bluebells have a strong, sweet scent, whereas Spanish bluebells have no scent
  • English bluebells are a vivid blue-violet color while the Spanish variety is much paler
  • The strongly recurved tepals (outer parts of the flower) of native bluebells contrasts with the gentle bell shape of the Spanish bluebell.
Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

9. Bluebells grow best in ancient woodland

The presence of bluebells helps identify ancient woodland—what Americans call “old-growth forest”—that has existed continuously since the middle ages.

Before about 1600, planting of new woodland was rare, so woodland that was present at that time was likely to have grown naturally.

Since bluebells flourish in natural woodland, they are a very easy way to identify ancient woodlands that could be of special scientific or historical interest.

Path through bluebell wood

Bluebell bulbs have roots that contract and pull the bulbs deeper into soil up to 3-5 inches. Because of this they don’t grow so well on the shallow chalky soils prevalent in the South East of England.

Seven Sisters Cliffs, near Seaford town, East Sussex, England. Photo credit miquitos
Seven Sisters Cliffs, near Seaford town, East Sussex, England. Photo credit miquitos