Exploring the Narrow Streets and Passageways of Cornwall

Cornwall’s traditional fishing villages are full of narrow streets, passageways, and delightful little nooks and crannies.

If you’ve ever watched the popular TV sitcom “Doc Martin”, you’ll have seen Dr Martin Ellingham struggling to squeeze his Lexus down the narrow streets of Port Isaac, otherwise known as “Portwenn”.

Lined with whitewashed cottages, or pastel shades like yellow ochre, the picturesque village dates back to the time of Henry VIII, although its centre is mostly from the 18th and 19th century when its prosperity depended on the shipping and fishing trades.

Fore Street in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bryan Ledgard
Fore Street in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bryan Ledgard

Meaning “corn port”, Port Isaac initially served the trade in corn grown on the surrounding arable lands.

Later, cargoes of coal, wood, stone, and pottery were hauled along its narrow streets to the harbour, then shipped out to sea for export.

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

“Fore Street” is a name often used in the south west of England to mean the main street of a town or village.

Derived from the Cornish word “Forth”, meaning “Street”, and corrupted to “Fore” in English, there are over seventy examples in Cornwall alone.

English colonists from Cornwall are thought to have named Fore Street in Portland, Maine, in the United States.

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

Stroll the meandering narrow streets and you’ll pass traditional family-run butchers shops, tucked-away seafood restaurants, and confectionery shops with Cornwall’s famous fudge made from local cream.

Old cottages in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Manfred Heyde
Old cottages in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Manfred Heyde
The narrow streets of Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow streets of Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pride of Place confectionary shop in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Pride of Place confectionary shop in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Become a stowaway at the Stowaway Tea Shoppe where they also sell delicious Cornish ice cream that some say is the world’s best.

The Stowaway Tea Shoppe in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Stowaway Tea Shoppe in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

And no trip to Port Isaac is complete without a visit to the Doctor—that’s Doc Martin, naturally.

Famous for the film location of ITV’s Doc Martin comedy-drama series, Port Isaac also played host to the original 1970s version of the BBC’s Poldark series.

Doc Martin's House, Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Doc Martin’s House, Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Another delightful Cornish village lined with narrow streets is Polperro.

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

Meaning “Pyra’s Cove” in the Cornish language, Polperro’s tightly-packed fishermen’s cottages, quaint harbour, and beautiful coastline make it a popular tourist destination in summer months.

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

Dating from the 1700s, a typical old fisherman’s cottage featured a fishing net store on the ground floor with steps leading up to the living accommodation above.

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

Off-season, when there’s little to no traffic, the locals can have a good old chinwag about the weather in peace.

The narrow streets of Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow streets of Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Don’t forget to buy some postcards and postage stamps at the village Post Office!

Fast disappearing, these icons of the British way of life can still be found in many seaside towns and villages.

Polperro Post Office, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Polperro Post Office, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Lined with holiday cottages, the “Warren” is a narrow street providing perfect walks along the harbour front.

The Warren at Polperro harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Warren at Polperro harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Tucked away in The Warren is a house covered in seashells called “The Shell House”.

The Shell House, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Jarkeld
The Shell House, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Jarkeld

And if you like quirky buildings, why not visit “The House on the Props” restaurant and tearooms which also offers Bed and Breakfast accommodations.

The House on the Props, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The House on the Props, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Wits End Cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Wits End Cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Leading up the hill from the harbour is Lansallos Street which is filled with quaint shops, pubs, and art galleries.

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

Quaintly named, the little fishing village of Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzle”) is laced with a maze of narrow streets.

Narrow street in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Narrow street in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Destroyed by the Spanish raid on Cornwall in the Anglo-Spanish war of 1585-1604, the only building to survive any damage was a pub owned by local resident Jenkyn Keigwin who died from a cannonball shot while defending it.

Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfinion
Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfinion

Ringed by lichened cottages and houses, the picturesque harbour reveals a sandy beach at low tide that’s popular with families.

Mousehole harbour, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Mousehole harbour, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Reminding you of its delightful name and giving you another opportunity to practice how it’s pronounced, The Mousehole giftshop joins galleries, pubs, and restaurants along the harbour front.

The Mousehole gift shop in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Otto Domes
The Mousehole gift shop in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Otto Domes

Over a thousand years old, the ancient town of Looe in south-east Cornwall straddles the Looe River.

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

Situated on the east side of the river, East Looe has numerous narrow streets and lanes, one of which is Fore Street—the main thoroughfare—teeming with shops, bakeries, pubs, and restaurants.

Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Formerly a 15th-century merchant’s house, the timber-framed and painted-stone “Ye Olde Cottage Restaurant” on the tiny alleyway of Middle Market Street features oak ceiling beams and an old oak fireplace lintel.

The narrow old streets of Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow old streets of Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Only wide enough for single-file traffic, Buller Street joins Fore Street and both are dotted with coffeeshops, pubs, pasty shops, bakeries, and crêperies.

Buller Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Buller Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Originally built in 1420 and featuring salvaged oak timbers from a wrecked galleon of the Spanish Armada, the Smugglers Cott is said to have a tunnel leading to the quayside that was used by smugglers bringing their loot ashore.

Now serving loot of the edible variety, the restaurant offers delicious local seafood, steaks, and rib roast carvery.

Medieval building in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Medieval building in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Just in case anyone is tempted to drive down such a narrow alleyway on Lower Chapel Street, the no-entry sign is a reminder that it’s not a good idea.

Lower Chapel Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lower Chapel Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Upstairs or downstairs? Many former fishermen’s cottages now offer holiday season lettings.

Old Cornish cottages in East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old Cornish cottages in East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Set in a quiet traffic-free passageway a few yards from the harbour, Sandpipers is a 150-year-old former fisherman’s cottage, refurbished to offer comfortable accommodations.

Former fisherman's cottage in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Former fisherman’s cottage in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

If Mevagissey‘s narrow streets were as busy as her little harbour, people might be stuck in traffic for hours!

Nestled in a small valley, tourism may have supplanted a once thriving fishing industry but Mevagissey manages to maintain 63 working fishing boats alongside dozens of pleasure vessels.

Mevagissey harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Mevagissey harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rising up the steep slopes of the surrounding hillsides, the outer areas provide accomodations for local residents while the village centre is filled with eateries and shops aimed at tourists.

The narrow streets of Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow streets of Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Narrow street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Narrow street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Named after two saints —St Mevan and St Issey—in the late 1600s, the village thrived on pilchard fishing and smuggling and there were at least 10 inns, of which the Fountain Inn and Ship Inn remain to this day.

The 15th century Fountain Inn, Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The 15th century Fountain Inn, Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

We hope you enjoyed a whirlwind tour of some of Cornwall’s narrow streets and feel inspired to visit one day in the not too distant future.

Hyns diogel! (Have a good trip!)

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

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 Beautiful Churches of Rural England

Doomsday is approaching for many rural English churches.

The Church of England has warned that dozens of churches will become redundant within 10 years unless it can attract new members.

Fortunately, there are government bodies such as “Historic England” that are tasked with protecting the historical environment of England by preserving and listing historic buildings and ancient monuments.

Instead of simply being demolished or left to ruin, many redundant churches that aren’t protected by Historic England find new uses as community centres, museums, or even homes.

Accounting for about 2% of English building stock and amounting to about 500,000 across the United Kingdom, “listed buildings” are those are on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

There are three types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales:
Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest.
Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.

Most of the beautiful churches in our selection are Grade I listed buildings chosen from several counties across England.

For added atmosphere, consider playing the British patriotic hymn “I Vow to Thee, My Country”, a poem by Sir Cecil Spring Rice set to music by Gustav Holst.

Bedfordshire

Dating from the 12th century and made of coursed limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, the Church of All Saints, Riseley is designated a Grade I listed building.

Paired belfry windows, embattled parapets, crocketed pinnacles, and gargoyles give the 15th-century tower a classic gothic appearance.

Church of All Saints, Riseley, Bedfordshire. Credit Deni Bokej
Church of All Saints, Riseley, Bedfordshire. Credit Deni Bokej

Mostly 13th-century with various later details and reworkings, the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Salford is constructed of coursed rubble, a mixture of limestone and ironstone, and ashlar dressings.

Replacing an earlier tower, the gable of this Grade I-listed building is surmounted by a distinctive 19th-century bell-cote of heavy timbers topped with a spirelet.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Salford, Bedfordshire. Credit Philip Jeffrey
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Salford, Bedfordshire. Credit Philip Jeffrey

Cheshire

English architectural historian, writer and TV broadcaster, Alec Clifton-Taylor includes St Mary and All Saints Church in Great Budworth in his list of ‘best’ English parish churches.

Mostly of the English Gothic style, with the older north transept of Decorated Gothic, a reference to a priest in Great Budworth dates back to the 11th century.

The oldest part of the present Grade I-listed church is the 14th-century Lady Chapel—a traditional British term for a chapel dedicated to “Our Lady”, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St Mary and All Saints Church, Great Budworth, Cheshire. Credit Joopercoopers
St Mary and All Saints Church, Great Budworth, Cheshire. Credit Joopercoopers

Originally built during the reign of Edward III in the 14th century, St Lawrence’s Church in Over Peover was later rebuilt in brick in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Round windows and arched bell-windows with pilasters characterize the tower’s three stages, whereas the south chapel has two bays, three buttresses surmounted by gargoyles, and a battlemented parapet.

During the Second World War, General George Patton and his staff worshipped in the church while stationed in the village at Peover Hall.

St Lawrence's Church, Over Peover, Cheshire. Credit Peter I. Vardy
St Lawrence’s Church, Over Peover, Cheshire. Credit Peter I. Vardy

Cornwall

Known as the Cathedral of the Moor, the Church of St Nonna is the second largest church on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.

Stood in the village of Alternun, meaning “altar of Nonn”, the Grade I-listed church is dedicated to Saint Non (or Nonna), who was the mother of St David, the patron saint of Wales.

Largely 15th-century English Gothic in style, it is known for its fine Norman font and fine old woodwork dating to 1684.

Church of St Nonna, Altarnun, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Church of St Nonna, Altarnun, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Of Norman origin with 15th-century additions, the Grade I-listed St Clarus’s Church at St Cleer is constructed of granite rubble with a slate roof and crested ridge tiles over the nave and chancel.

Saint Clarus was an Englishman who traveled to Cornwall to preach to local inhabitants in the 8th century.

Founding the church of St Cleer, he lived a saintly life until a local chieftainess fell in love with him.

Although he fled to France to escape her advances and continue an isolated saintly life, the spurned woman had him pursued and murdered.

St Clarus's Church, St Cleer, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St Clarus’s Church, St Cleer, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Cumbria

Although dating from about 1500 in its present form, the materials from earlier churches have been incorporated into the Grade I-listed St. Andrew’s Church at Sedbergh.

Constructed in rubble stone with sandstone quoins and dressings, the three-stage tower features an embattled parapet with pinnacles at each corner.

The churchyard is said to contain a yew tree under which English Dissenter George Fox preached the Christain awakening from which came the Quaker movement.

Poet, American loyalist, and Anglican missionary to colonial South Carolina, Revd. Charles Woodmason is said to be buried here in an unmarked grave.

St. Andrew's, Sedbergh, Cumbria. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
St. Andrew’s, Sedbergh, Cumbria. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Constructed of rubble stone with a slate roof, the Grade I-listed St Michael and All Angels Church at Hawkshead was first established in the 12th century and extended in about 1300.

The tower features a doorway on the west side, with a two-light window above, a small window and a clock face on the south side, louvred bell openings with straight heads, and an embattled parapet with corner pinnacles.

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

Derbyshire

Dating from the 14th century and having a heritage designation of “Grade II*”, St Mary the Virgin’s Church at Newton Solney was restored between 1880 and 1882.

Recessed behind battlements atop the tower having narrow slit bell-openings on three sides, the octagonal stone spire features tall gabled lucarnes.

St Mary the Virgin's Church, Newton Solney, Derbyshire. Credit Gammock
St Mary the Virgin’s Church, Newton Solney, Derbyshire. Credit Gammock

Mostly 14th- and 15-century, but dating from the 11th century, St Michael’s Church at Breaston is a  Grade I listed parish church.

Some restoration work was completed in 1871 by noted English architect Robert Evans, with pews and choir stalls replaced, flooring and tiling work to aisles and re-leaded roof.

St Michael's Church, Breaston, Derbyshire. Credit Russ Hamer
St Michael’s Church, Breaston, Derbyshire. Credit Russ Hamer

Devon

Known as the Cathedral of the Moor due to its 120-ft tower and large seating capacity for such a small village, the Church of Saint Pancras was originally built in the 14th century in late gothic style.

Proceeds from the local tin-mining industry paid for several extensions over the years.

Saint Pancras Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Saint Pancras Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Legend has it that St Brannock’s Church in Braunton was founded by Saint Brannock in the 6th-century who was told in a dream to look for “a sow and piglets” and that should be the site to build a church.

Designated Grade I, the present church dates from the 13th century and has been described by historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the most interesting, and also one of the most puzzling in North Devon”.

St Brannock's Church, Braunton, Devon. Credit Dietmar Rabich
St Brannock’s Church, Braunton, Devon. Credit Dietmar Rabich

Dorset

Described as “one of the most exciting parish churches in the county”, St Mary’s in Puddletown’s has 12th-century origins—parts of the tower date from 1180–1200, and the 12th-century font has a notable tapering beaker shape, with diapering depicting crossing stems and Acanthus leaves.

Puddletown village provided the inspiration for the fictional settlement of Weatherbury in his novel Far from the Madding Crowd.

St Mary the Virgin's church, Puddletown, Dorset. Credit PaleCloudedWhite
St Mary the Virgin’s church, Puddletown, Dorset. Credit PaleCloudedWhite

Named after the statue of St Michael which still exists from the earliest structure in Norman times, this was Thomas Hardy’s local church and where he was baptised.

Stinsford is the original ‘Mellstock’ of Hardy’s novels Under the Greenwood Tree and Jude the Obscure.

Hardy truly left his heart in Stinsford, which is buried alongside the graves of his first and second wives.

St Michael's church, Stinsford, Dorset. Credit Martinevans123
St Michael’s church, Stinsford, Dorset. Credit Martinevans123

Essex

Standing for nearly 1,200 years in the little village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar in Essex, Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in the world.

Dated to the mid-9th century, the oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church.

Church of St Andrew, Greensted, Essex. Credit Acabashi
Church of St Andrew, Greensted, Essex. Credit Acabashi

All Saints Church at Rickling is a 13th-century flint church known for its intricate screen and pulpit and designated as a Grade I listed building.

The chancel, south aisle, and west tower were built in 1340 and later alterations made in the 15th, 16th, and 19th centuries.

All Saints' parish church, Rickling, Essex. Credit Acabashi
All Saints’ parish church, Rickling, Essex. Credit Acabashi

Gloucestershire

Chipping Campden’s medieval gothic church of St James’s features extravagant monuments to local wealthy wool merchants hoping to ensure a place in heaven thanks to their largesse.

Standing 120 ft tall, the tower dates from around 1500.

St James's Church, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St James’s Church, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

With a nave thought to be from Saxon times, a 12th-century chancel and 16th-century tower, St Michael’s Church in the Cotswold village of Duntisbourne Rouse is designated Grade I for exceptional interest and international importance.

St Michael's Church, Duntisbourne Rouse, Gloucestershire. Credit Saffron Blaze
St Michael’s Church, Duntisbourne Rouse, Gloucestershire. Credit Saffron Blaze

Still visible on the south wall of St Michael and All Angels parish church in Stanton is evidence of stone benches for the old and infirm, dating from when most of the congregation stood during the parts of the service that did not require kneeling.

Featuring columns from about 1200, early English Gothic pointed arches, and 15th-century font, porch and parvise, the church is designated Grade I.

St Michael and All Angels parish church, Stanton, Gloucestershire. Credit Saffron Blaze
St Michael and All Angels parish church, Stanton, Gloucestershire. Credit Saffron Blaze

Hampshire

Notable for its variety of architecture, the Church of St Lawrence in Alton, was also the site for the concluding action of one of the most savage encounters of the English Civil War (1642 – 1651).

Designated a Grade I listed building, repeated additions and extensions down the centuries have resulted in an amalgam of architectural styles, ranging from early Norman and early English to Perpendicular and Tudor.

Church of St Lawrence, Alton, Hampshire. Credit Ericoides
Church of St Lawrence, Alton, Hampshire. Credit Ericoides

Dating from the 12th century, Binsted’s Holy Cross parish church consists of stone walls, a tiled roof, and stone-slated porch and is designated Grade I.

Holy Cross parish church, Binsted, Hampshire. Credit Mike Cattell
Holy Cross parish church, Binsted, Hampshire. Credit Mike Cattell

Recorded in the Domesday Book under the name Cilbodentune, the parish church of St Mary the Less at Chilbolton in Hampshire dates back to the 12th century, on the site of an earlier wooden church.

Church of St Mary the Less, Chilbolton, Hampshire. Credit Andrew Mathewson
Church of St Mary the Less, Chilbolton, Hampshire. Credit Andrew Mathewson

St Mary’s Church at Breamore is noted for its Anglos-Saxon rood—the large crucifix above the entrance to the chancel of a medieval church.

St Mary's Church, Breamore, Hampshire. Credit Plumbago
St Mary’s Church, Breamore, Hampshire. Credit Plumbago

Lancashire

Protected as Scheduled Monuments, three well-preserved Anglo-Saxon crosses in the churchyard are evidence of a church existing on the site from before the Norman Conquest of England.

Dating from the 13th century and designated Grade I  by English Heritage, the current Church of St Mary and All Saints in Whalley was constructed from sandstone rubble with a stone slate roof.

The ancient parish church of St. Mary and All Saints at Whalley in Lancashire. Credit Craig Thornber
The ancient parish church of St. Mary and All Saints at Whalley in Lancashire. Credit Craig Thornber

Monks from Fountains Abbey had the Church of St Mary le Ghyll in Barnoldswick built in about 1160 to replace an older church on the same site.

Designated as Grade I, the stone and slate-roofed structure has a tower with diagonal buttresses and a stair turret.

St Mary le Ghyll, Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Credit Tim Green
St Mary le Ghyll, Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Credit Tim Green

Lincolnshire

Built on a hillside overlooking the Vale of Belvoir, the Church of All Saints at Barrowby suffered damage to stained glass windows and its rood screen during Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries.

Constructed from limestone ashlar and ironstone with a Westmorland and Welsh slate roof,  its tower is of Decorated style with six bells and an octagonal spire containing two tiers of lucarnes.

Church of All Saints, Barrowby, Lincolnshire. Credit Russ Hamer
Church of All Saints, Barrowby, Lincolnshire. Credit Russ Hamer

Greatford’s church dedicated to St Thomas Becket of Canterbury is built in the Early English style, and is Grade I listed.

St Thomas Becket parish church, Greatford, Lincolnshire. Credit Julian Dowse
St Thomas Becket parish church, Greatford, Lincolnshire. Credit Julian Dowse

Norfolk

Dominating the Market Place and surrounding area, the 98 ft tower of St Michael and All Angels parish church has a small spire on top that can be seen for miles around.

A fine example of Gothic architecture of the Decorated style, the nave, aisles, and chancel were built in the 13th century with the tower added in the 14th.

St Michael & All Angels, Aylsham, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St Michael & All Angels, Aylsham, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

One of 125 existing round-tower churches in Norfolk, St Mary’s Church at Burnham Deepdale houses a Norman font.

St Mary's Church at Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St Mary’s Church at Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Northamptonshire

Dating from about 1300, the Grade I Church of St Nicholas in Stanford-on-Avon is built from squared coursed limestone, lias and granite with ashlar dressings and slate roof.

It contains the oldest metal organ pipes surviving in Britain.

Church of St Nicholas, Stanford-on-Avon, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Church of St Nicholas, Stanford-on-Avon, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built from ashlar, coursed limestone rubble and ironstone, the Church of St Edmund at Warkton has 12th-century origins with the tower added in the 15th century.

The 4-stage tower has plinth clasping buttresses, a quatrefoil frieze with gargoyles, and castellated parapet with corner pinnacles.

Church of St Edmund at Warkton, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Church of St Edmund at Warkton, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Staffordshire

Containing the tombs of four Bishops of Lichfield, the 13th-century Holy Trinity church in Eccleshall is Grade I listed.

Showing two phases of English Gotic architecture, the tower is 13th-century Early English for most of its height, with the upper section of 15th-century Perpendicular style.

Holy Trinity church, Eccleshall, Staffordshire
Holy Trinity church, Eccleshall, Staffordshire

A church has stood on the site of All Saints’ parish church in Alrewas since at least 822AD, although construction of the current Grade I-listed structure was mainly from the 13th, 14th, 16th, and 19th centuries.

Believed to be made of timber, the original building was from a time when Alrewas was a flourishing settlement owned by Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia.

Replacing the simple wooden church with one of local stone, parts of the later Norman structure are still visible in the tower doorway, the north aisle door and the heavy rough hewn pieces of masonry in the north wall.

All Saints' parish church, Alrewas, Staffordshire. Credit Bs0u10e01
All Saints’ parish church, Alrewas, Staffordshire. Credit Bs0u10e01

Suffolk

Considered to be one of Suffolk’s finest churches, the parish church of Southwold is dedicated to St Edmund and renowned for its East Anglian flushwork, especially that of the tower.

Narrowly missed by a German bomb during World War II, the explosion destroyed nearby houses blew out most of the churches 15th-century stained glass windows.

St Edmund's Church, Southwold, Suffolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St Edmund’s Church, Southwold, Suffolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

One of 38 existing round-tower churches in Suffolk, the 13-century St. Andrew’s Church in Bramfield has a separate 12th-century tower standing in the church grounds—the only example of its kind in the county.

Both the church and the tower are Grade I listed buildings.

St Andrew's Church, Bramfield, Suffolk. Credit Bernd Jatzwauk
St Andrew’s Church, Bramfield, Suffolk. Credit Bernd Jatzwauk

Sussex

Dating from the 12th century and made from Sussex Marble, the font is the oldest part of the Holy Trinity Church, Rudgwick.

With a 13th-century tower, and most of the remaining structure dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, the church is designated Grade I in historical importance.

Holy Trinity Church, Rudgwick, West Sussex. Credit Martinking73
Holy Trinity Church, Rudgwick, West Sussex. Credit Martinking73

Built in the 1370s, the GradeI-listed St Andrew’s parish church in Alfriston is known as the “Cathedral of the Downs”.

Thought to be the site of a pre-Christian place of worship, the church sits on a small, flint-walled mound in the middle of the village green.

St Andrew's parish church, Alfriston, East Sussex. Credit David Iliff
St Andrew’s parish church, Alfriston, East Sussex. Credit David Iliff

Surrey

Built during Anglo-Saxon and early Norman periods, records show that St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Godalming was a redevelopment of a prior Anglo-Saxon church.

Made from the local hard sandstone, the church has two integrated medieval chapels and is designated Grade I.

St Peter and St Paul's Church, Godalming, Surrey. Credit Hassocks5489
St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Godalming, Surrey. Credit Hassocks5489

Dating back to the year 1250, All Saints’ parish church in Warlingham is built of flint rubble with stone dressings and is designated Grade II*.

Local vicars maintain that long-serving Archbishop Cranmer began experimenting with the first Book of Common Prayer at this church.

All Saints' parish church, Warlingham, Surrey
All Saints’ parish church, Warlingham, Surrey

Warwickshire

Under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust as a Grade II* listed building, St John the Baptist church in Avon Dassett is a redundant church no longer used for regular worship.

Built in 1868 on the site of an earlier Norman church, the north wall of the chancel has a recess containing a 13th-century stone coffin with a lid.

St John the Baptist church in Avon Dassett, Warwickshire. Credit Steve Daniels
St John the Baptist church in Avon Dassett, Warwickshire. Credit Steve Daniels

St Leonard’s Church in Spernall is another example of a redundant church no longer used for service but of architectural and historical significance.

Under the care of a registered charity called “Friends of Friendless Churches” as a Grade II* listed building, much of the structure dates from the 12th century, although work continued until 1844.

St Leonard's parish church, Spernall, Warwickshire
St Leonard’s parish church, Spernall, Warwickshire

Wiltshire

Standing close to “Old Sarnum”, the earliest settlement of Salisbury, St Lawrence’s church in Stratford-sub-Castle is a Grade I listed building thought to have used much of the stone from abandoned buildings at the settlement during the 13th century.

Restored in various stages during the 20th century, the church was said to have been consecrated in 1326.

St Lawrence's church, Stratford-sub-Castle, Wiltshire. Credit Ashley Pomeroy
St Lawrence’s church, Stratford-sub-Castle, Wiltshire. Credit Ashley Pomeroy

Dedicated to a Norman saint, the Church of St Cyriac in Lacock is a 14th-century building designated Grade I and having Norman origins.

Prospering as an important market town on the Bath, Somerset sheep-droving route to London, substantial local tax revenues enabled the more extensive 15th-century rebuild that we see today.

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

Worcestershire

Built in the 13th-century, the parish Church of St. John the Baptist reveals a close connection of the Sandys family who owned the manor at Wickhamford village with the American colonists.

Penelope Washington, whose mother married Sir Samuel Sandys and moved to the Manor House, is buried in the church and was a distant relative of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.

St John the Baptist Church, Wickhamford, Worcestershire. Credit Philip Halling
St John the Baptist Church, Wickhamford, Worcestershire. Credit Philip Halling

St Peter’s Church in the village of Pirton, Worcestershire is a Grade I listed building thanks largely to its timber-framed tower—the only example in Worcestershire of a tower with aisles.

St Peter's Church, Pirton, Worcestershire. Credit David Evans, flickr
St Peter’s Church, Pirton, Worcestershire. Credit David Evans, flickr

Yorkshire

Corner pinnacle and gargoyles decorate the tower of All Saints’ parish church in Kirk Deighton, and an octagonal spire rises 100 ft.

Dating from the 11th century and mentioned in the Domesday book—the manuscript record of King William the Conqueror’s “Great Survey”—the church underwent restoration in 1849 and is a Grade I listed building.

All Saints' parish church, Kirk Deighton, North Yorkshire. Credit Tim Green
All Saints’ parish church, Kirk Deighton, North Yorkshire. Credit Tim Green

Built in the 13th and 14th centuries and restored in 1843 and again in 1913, All Saints’ Church in the village of Roos is designated Grade I.

All Saints' Church in Roos, East Riding of Yorkshire
All Saints’ Church in Roos, East Riding of Yorkshire

Cambridge — the ancient city of colleges and scholars

Breathtaking views, stunning architecture, and lazy summer afternoons punting on the River Cam.

Cambridge is a beautiful city full of beautiful minds, where mankind first split the atom and discovered the secret to life through DNA.

Cambridge University

Founded in 1209 by scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townsfolk, Cambridge University is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world.

31 constituent colleges with over 100 academic departments have educated scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking, philosophers like Francis Bacon and Bertrand Russell, economists like Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes, poets like Lord Byron and John Milton, and no less than 95 Nobel laureates and 15 British prime ministers.

Peterhouse was Cambridge’s first college, founded by the Bishop of Ely in 1284.

Peterhouse, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Peterhouse, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Founded in 1326, Clare College is the second-oldest college

Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Clair College is known for its beautiful gardens on “The Backs”—the back of the colleges that overlook the River Cam.

The Scholars' Garden, Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Ed g2s
The Scholars’ Garden, Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Ed g2s

Among the highest in academic performance, Pembroke is Cambridge’s third-oldest college and one of its largest.

Croquet at Pembroke College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Croquet at Pembroke College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Housing a Victorian neo-gothic clock tower, the college library has an original copy of the first encyclopaedia to contain printed diagrams.

Pembroke College Library and Clocktower, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Pembroke College Library and Clocktower, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Ridley's Walk, Pembroke College, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Ridley’s Walk, Pembroke College, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

No less than ten Nobel Prize winners, seven prime ministers, and twelve archbishops were educated at St John’s College.

English Romantic poet William Wordsworth studied here, as did slavery abolitionists William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson.

St John's College & Bridge of Sighs. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John’s College & Bridge of Sighs. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John's College, Cambridge - First Court. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John’s College, Cambridge – First Court. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge University - Senate House. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge University – Senate House. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Gonville & Caius College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Gonville & Caius College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Queens College, Cambridge - President's Lodge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Queens College, Cambridge – President’s Lodge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Chapels and Churches

Taking almost 100 years to complete, King’s College Chapel is one of the greatest examples of Gothic English architecture.

Side view of Kings College Chapel from inside the college. Credit Dmitry Tonkonog
Side view of Kings College Chapel from inside the college. Credit Dmitry Tonkonog

Seen as a symbol of the city of Cambridge, King’s College Chapel was built in phases during the Wars of the Roses by a succession of English kings.

Cows graze across the river Cam from Kings Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr
Cows graze across the river Cam from Kings Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr

King’s College Chapel houses Peter Paul Rubens 8 ft by 11 ft masterpiece “Adoration of the Magi” from 1617.

Bought in 1959 for a then world-record price, property millionaire Alfred Ernest Allnatt donated it to King’s College Cambridge in 1961.

Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617
Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617

Noted for its splendid acoustics, the world-famous chapel choir sings on most days during term and performs concerts, and makes recordings and broadcasts such as those on Christmas Eve for the BBC.

Interior of King's College Chapel, view of the stained glass windows. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Interior of King’s College Chapel, view of the stained glass windows. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Twenty-four of the twenty-six stained glass windows date from the sixteenth century.

Interior of King's College Chapel, showing the fan ceiling. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Interior of King’s College Chapel, showing the fan ceiling. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Featuring the world’s largest fan vault, this uniquely English design resembles a fan in which the ribs are all of the same curvature and spaced equidistantly.

King's College Chapel Fan Ceiling and Stained Glass. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
King’s College Chapel Fan Ceiling and Stained Glass. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
The Chapel of St John's College from across First Court in Cambridge, England. Credit David Iliff
The Chapel of St John’s College from across First Court in Cambridge, England. Credit David Iliff
St John's Chapel interior. Credit David Iliff
St John’s Chapel interior. Credit David Iliff
Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge, by Wren. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge, by Wren. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Pembroke College Chapel was Sir Christopher Wren’s first architectural project, which his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, asked him to design in 1663.

Wren would become best known for designing St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Pembroke College Chapel. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pembroke College Chapel. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, England viewed from Parker's Piece. Credit Cmglee
The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, England viewed from Parker’s Piece. Credit Cmglee
Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

The Bridges of Cambridge

Designed by English architect Henry Hutchinson in 1831, the Bridge of Sighs of St John’s College is probably Cambridge’s best-known bridge and based on a similarly named bridge in Venice.

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Connecting two courts of S John’s College, the Bridge of Sighs is one of Cambridge’s main tourist attractions and Queen Victoria is said to have loved it more than any other spot in the city.

The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built in 1640, Clair Bridge is the oldest of Cambridge’s current bridges crossing the River Cam.

It is the only remaining bridge from the English Civil War period.

Clare Bridge reflected - Cambridge. Credit bvi4092
Clare Bridge reflected – Cambridge. Credit bvi4092

Crafted from a single block of limestone, carved to give the appearance of masonry, Kitchen or Wren Bridge is the second-oldest bridge and was built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren.

Kitchen or Wren Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Darren Glanville
Kitchen or Wren Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Darren Glanville

Connecting two parts of Queen’s College, Mathematical Bridge is a wooden footbridge built in 1749.

Built entirely of straight timbers, its sophisticated engineering design gives it a curved appearance.

Punting Under Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Punting Under Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Designed by English architect James Essex who built portions of many colleges in Cambridge, Trinity Bridge is a triple-arched stone road bridge completed in 1765.

Cambridge - Trinity College Bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge – Trinity College Bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Punting on the River Cam

For beautiful picture postcard views of elegant bridges, green lawns, and graceful willows, what better way to while away an afternoon than punting along the River Cam as it passes through a stretch known as “the Backs” where several colleges back onto the river.

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

Designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water, punts are flat-bottomed boats with a square-cut bow propelled by pushing against the river bed with a pole.

The Backs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Backs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalen College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalen College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
Punting Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge

Parks and Gardens

Leafy green spaces abound in Cambridge, ranging from “the Backs”, which is the name given to the gardens by the river behind various colleges, to larger parks like Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.

Jesus Green, Cambridge, England. Credit Ardfren
Jesus Green, Cambridge, England. Credit Ardfren
Claire College Gardens. Credit Ardfern
Claire College Gardens. Credit Ardfern
Stourbridge Common - footpath along the River Cam. Credit mattbuck
Stourbridge Common – footpath along the River Cam. Credit mattbuck

Framed by mature trees and shrubs, the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden comprises diverse, superbly landscaped settings.

University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Shops, Pubs, and Restaurants

Cambridge has the best of both worlds for those who love to shop.

All the popular brand names can be found in the Grand Arcade on St Andrew’s Street, but venture down the older streets and you’ll discover long-established boutiques, bookshops, and jewellers nestled inside grand Georgian townhouses and half-timbered Elizabethan buildings.

Shops in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Credit The Wub
Shops in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Credit The Wub

How about this little gem of an Edwardian-era Art Nouveau fronted shop?

Art Nouveau shop on Green Street, Cambridge. Credit Fæ
Art Nouveau shop on Green Street, Cambridge. Credit Fæ

Restaurants and pubs are equally at home in gorgeous old structures like the La Tasca Spanish tapas restaurant on Bridge Street.

Tudor building on Bridge Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Tudor building on Bridge Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old buildings in Magdalene Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old buildings in Magdalene Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rose Crescent is one of several pedestrianized streets connecting to Cambridge’s market square.

Rose Crescent, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Rose Crescent, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Operating since Saxon times, the outdoor marketplace has dozens of pretty stalls selling everything from local produce to works from some of the region’s most talented artists, craftsmen, potters, sculptors, and photographers.

Cambridge market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge Market Place by Frederick MacKenzie, 1841
Cambridge Market Place by Frederick MacKenzie, 1841

History and culture are never far away in Cambridge.

Stop for a pint at The Eagle pub where Nobel prize winners Crick and Watson sketched the structure of DNA on a napkin.

The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Credit Andy Oxford
The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Credit Andy Oxford
Fort St George pub, Cambridge. Credit Wheeltapper
Fort St George pub, Cambridge. Credit Wheeltapper
The County Arms, Cambridge. Credit The Wub
The County Arms, Cambridge. Credit The Wub

The Champion of the Thames pub’s name derives from an oarsman who won a sculling race on the Thames before moving to Cambridge in 1860.

Requesting that all his mail be addressed to ‘The Champion of the River Thames, King Street, Cambridge’, the rowing connection continues thanks to the pub’s sponsorship of the “Champion of the Thames” rowing club.

The Champion of the Thames pub, Cambridge. Credit William M. Connolley
The Champion of the Thames pub, Cambridge. Credit William M. Connolley
Café Rouge - Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Café Rouge – Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The Cycle-friendly City

Cambridge is the most bicycle-friendly city in the UK.

Relatively flat and boasting over 80 miles of cycle lanes and routes, cycling is the easiest and most eco-friendly way to enjoy the beautiful architecture and open spaces of Cambridge.

Bicycle friendly Cambridge. Credit Oscar Arky
Bicycle friendly Cambridge. Credit Oscar Arky

In Cambridge, bicycles vastly outnumber cars.

Bicycles outside Cambridge railway station, England. Credit Rept0n1x
Bicycles outside Cambridge railway station, England. Credit Rept0n1x
Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, 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

10 Reasons to Love Winchester—the Ancient City of Kings and Knights

Steeped in history and legend, Winchester is a reminder of Britain’s mythical past.

Soak up the gothic splendor of Winchester Cathedral, stroll along ancient river walks, laugh at street theatre, or relax over wine or a fine ale.

Winchester is an adventure in time.

Here are 10 reasons you’ll fall in love with Winchester.

1. Ancient Capital of England

Honored by a huge statue 17 feet high, Alfred the Great stands watching over the city he built on top of the old Roman settlement of Venta Belgarum.

Today it is known as Winchester—the Anglo-Saxon capital of England before London.

King Alfred's Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea
King Alfred’s Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea

Venta Belgarum means “Town of the Belgae”—a confederation of tribes mostly living in present day Belgium, but some living in southern England.

Following the Roman invasion of Britain, the Romans founded the settlement in around 70 AD and developed it into a major trading center with city walls, before withdrawing from Britain some 340 years later.

During diggings at the corner of Little Minster Street and Minster Lane in 1878, a beautiful Roman mosaic was discovered.

Depicting a dolphin, you can see the mosaic on display at the Winchester City Museum.

Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr
Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr

But Winchester’s history goes back much further to the Iron Age (1200 BC – 1 BC), with the remains of three hill forts all in the nearby vicinity—Oram’s Arbour, St. Catherine’s Hill, and Worthy Down.

St. Catherine's Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Catherine’s Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

One day in 2000, a retired florist was out in the fields of Winchester hoping to get lucky with his metal detector and perhaps find something interesting.

Striking one of the most important Iron Age gold hoards for fifty years and valued at £350,000 ($457,000), he was a little more than lucky.

Housed in the British Museum, the Winchester Hoard is thought to be a lavish diplomatic gift dating from about 75-25 BCE.

Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr
Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr

2. Winchester Gothic Cathedral

Having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe, it comes as little surprise that Winchester Cathedral is the major landmark of the city.

Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Originally founded in 642 and known as the “Old Minster”, it was demolished by the Normans in 1093 and a new cathedral built in its place.

Squat and square, the tower is 150 ft tall which pales in comparison with Salisbury Cathedral’s 404 ft spire—just 25 miles to the west of Winchester.

Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com
Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com

Some speculate that Winchester Cathedral may have later had a spire if funds had been available since spires were highly desirable.

But the current tower is the second after the first collapsed in 1107—an accident blamed on the impious William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s heir) who was buried in the Cathedral.

It’s possible this “bad omen” halted any plans for a spire that would reach to the heavens—which might have looked like the image below.

What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff

Honored as a beautiful statue, Saint Joan of Arc stares in vain at the Chancery Chapel of Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, a man who helped condemn her to death by burning at the stake in 1431.

The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

Spire or no, Winchester Cathedral is beautiful inside and out, and whether out for a stroll in the grounds or a guided tour, the setting is absolutely magical.

Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

3. Winchester Castle and King Arthur’s Round Table

Arthur increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.

At one time, Winchester had a castle, of which only the Great Hall still stands, but it houses one of the greatest artifacts from Arthurian Legend—The Round Table.

Symbolizing equality since a round table has no head, by the close of the 12th century, it came to represent the chivalric order of King Arthur’s court and the Knights of the Round Table.

Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Normal poet Robert Wace said that Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others.

King Arthur's Round Table at Winchester Castle
King Arthur’s Round Table at Winchester Castle

In Celtic lore, warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior.

British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth says that after establishing peace throughout Britain, Arthur “increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.”

The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d'Espinques, 1475
The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d’Espinques, 1475
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903

4. Winchester College

Claiming the longest unbroken history of any school in England, Winchester College was established in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and chancelloer to Edward III and Richard II.

Founded in conjunction with New College, Oxford, it was meant to prepare students to attend Oxford University.

Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge would later follow the same model.

The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Be sure to pop into the Wykeham Arms pub for a bite to eat and a pint of delicious local ale.

You can even sit at old school desks from the college, complete with ink wells.

Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr
Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr

An independent boarding school for boys in the British public school tradition, according to Tatler Magazine, 35% of leavers in 2015 had places at Oxford or Cambridge; most of the rest attended other universities, including those in North America.

Performance like that doesn’t come cheap, with fees of £38,100 per year (almost $50,000 per year).

The 14th century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th-century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

5. Jane Austen’s House

Living in Chawton, Hampshire, about 18 miles north-east of Winchester, Jane Austen started feeling unwell early in the year of 1816.

When her uncle died leaving nothing of his fortune to his relatives, her condition deteriorated and by mid-April she was bed-ridden.

Jane Austen's house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Suffering agonizing pain, her sister Cassandra and brother-in-law Henry brought her to Winchester for treatment in May.

She lived here, at 8 College Street, Winchester for the last few weeks of her life.

Jane Austen's house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen's House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen's House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr

On 18 July, at the age of 41, Jane Austen, one of the most prolific writers of the Regency Era, passed to another place free from pain.

She is buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen's memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
Jane Austen’s memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

6. Ancient City Walls, Streets, and the River Itchen

When you enter Winchester through one of the medieval arched gateways, you get a buzz—a feeling that this is going to be special, that you are traveling back in time to a land of Anglo-Saxon Kings, Knights, Bishops, and peasants.

In short, Winchester has atmosphere.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk

Parts of the medieval city walls still stand, strong and imposing, forever protecting the city inhabitants.

Sat here, time stands still, allowing your mind to wonder how many travelers passed this way on pilgrimages to the magnificent cathedral.

Winchester's Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester’s Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Fortunately, advances in city architecture have left Winchester largely free from blight.

It’s a city with relatively few brutal buildings from the 60’s and 70’s and has remained beautiful for hundreds of years.

High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell
High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell

The town clock still reminds you what time it is regardless of how many carry mobile phones.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

There’s time to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

The Victorians appreciated aesthetics—their gothic revival architecture blended with the medieval to keep the mythical past alive.

The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. Swithun's Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Swithun’s Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

Powered by the River Itchen, the old City Mill is probably the country’s oldest working watermill, with over a thousand years of history.

Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

7. Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty

Founded in the 1130s by Henry de Blois—the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Winchester, and grandson of William the Conqueror—the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr

Built on the scale of an Oxbridge college, the almshouses are the largest medieval examples in Britain.

St. John's almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. John’s almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Since at least the 14th century, and still available today, a ‘wayfarer’s dole’ of ale and bread has been handed out at the chapel.

The sustenance was supposedly instigated to aid pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.

Handing out Wayfarer's Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Handing out Wayfarer’s Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

8. Street Theatre, Fairs, and Farmers Market

Just as our medieval forebears enjoyed street entertainments, so too do Winchester residents who gather on the cathedral lawns or the High Street to celebrate street theatre during the summer festival season.

Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Winchester hosts one of the UK’s largest farmers’ markets, with about 100 stalls of fresh locally grown produce.

The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

During the Christmas holiday season, hundreds of children holding paper lanterns process along the High Street to the Cathedral Close to mark the opening of the Christmas Market and Ice Rink.

The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

9. Walking, Cycling, and Surrounding Countryside

Whether you’re working off a big evening meal with a pleasant stroll or engaged in a more active pursuit, Winchester’s walks are a delight for the senses.

From the City centre, there is a lovely 20-minute walk along the riverside footpath to the ancient Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse.

The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

How much more enjoyable does it get to soak up Winchester’s sights than on a bicycle made for two?

A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire’s countryside, towns, and villages are some of the prettiest in Britain, with fields of green and bright yellow stretching for miles.

An ancient Roman road that is now a footpath will take you on an adventure from Winchester Cathedral to Salisbury Cathedral—this is “Pillars of the Earth” country.

Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire is one of the best counties to see gorgeous thatched cottages.

Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

10. Cafes, Pubs, and Restaurants

Winchester boasts some of the oldest pubs in Britain.

From debating the best way to grow prize roses to who will win the county cricket championships, there’s not much beats a glass of wine al fresco.

Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Pubs
Winchester Pubs

Delightful pubs and restaurants abound in Winchester.

Whether you’re looking for a delicious lunch at the Chesil Rectory—Winchester’s oldest house—or something French for evening upscale dining at the Hotel du Vin, Winchester is sure to be one of your best and favorite memories.

Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin

10 Reasons to Love Oxford—the City of Dreaming Spires

One of the most famous university cities in the world, Oxford is steeped in history, with beautiful honey-coloured college buildings dotted throughout the city.

Wander the cobbled streets and peaceful courtyards and admire the famed spires reaching to the heavens as you contemplate the enormous wealth of human talent Oxford has given the world over the centuries.

Here are 10 of our favorite things to love about Oxford.

1. The “City of Dreaming Spires”

So beautiful were the views of Oxford from nearby Boar’s Hill that 19th-century poet Matthew Arnold was inspired to write a poem called Thyrsis in memory of his close friend and fellow poet Arthur Hugh Clough who lived in the city of dreaming spires.

And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening
Matthew Arnold
The Dreaming Spires of Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
The Dreaming Spires of Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson

At 240 lines, Thyrsis is a long poem. Here are the first six stanzas.

View of Oxford by William Turner of Oxford, 1820
View of Oxford by William Turner of Oxford, 1820

Today, those spires are best appreciated from atop St. Mary’s Church or Carfax Towers in the city center, or from South Park.

Oxford from Carfax Tower. Credit chensiyuan
Oxford from Carfax Tower. Credit chensiyuan
Oxford spires from South Park.. Credit anataman
Oxford spires from South Park.. Credit anataman
View of Oxford spire at night. Credit Meraj Chhaya
View of Oxford spires at night. Credit Meraj Chhaya

2. History

On this spot, where the Folly Bridge crosses the River Thames, basking in the golden glow of the evening sunlight, there was once a ford.

It was no ordinary ford. It was a ford to be crossed with a valuable cargo of oxen—”Oxnaforda” in Anglo-Saxon, from which Oxford derives its name.

Oxen were the haulage lorries (trucks) of the Middle Ages, used for hauling carts and wagons and also for ploughing.

Folly Bridge over the Thames. Credit Scott D. Haddow
Folly Bridge over the Thames. Credit Scott D. Haddow

They were a form of wealth comparable to money, and Oxford might have been a major crossing point on a cattle “drove road”, along which they were driven for long distances.

Another theory about the origins of Oxford’s name is that “Ox” derives from the Celtic word for river.

Either way, for history buffs, Oxford will not disappoint since centuries past remain to explore and enjoy.

High Street, Oxford by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1799
High Street, Oxford by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1799

It’s nice to know that in this world of change, some things don’t change.

The carriages may be different, the people dressed differently, but Oxford High Street looks the same now as it did at the end of the 18th century.

And that’s reassuring—some things are worth preserving.

High Street, Oxford. Old and new
High Street, Oxford. Old and new
High Street, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
High Street, Oxford. Credit David Iliff

3. University of Oxford

Evidence of teaching at Oxford dates as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Banned from attending the University of Paris by King Henry II, students flocked to Oxford instead and the university grew rapidly from 1167.

But in 1209, disputes between students and townspeople led some faculty to move north-east and establish Cambridge University.

The two universities became known as “Oxbridge” and are frequently cited in the top five in world rankings, with Oxford currently rated #1 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017.

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

Oxford University has 38 constituent colleges and has educated many notable alumni, including 28 Nobel laureates, 27 British Prime Ministers, and many other heads of state.

Christ Church alone has produced 13 British Prime Minsters—more than any other Oxbridge college.

Christ Church College, Oxford
Christ Church College, Oxford

Known as the Bridge of Sighs because of its supposed similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Hertford Bridge is, however, closer in appearance to the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

Built as a skyway over New College Lane, the “Bridge of Sighs” joins two parts of Hertford College and has become a city landmark.

The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
Lincoln College, Oxford. Credit Caro Wallis, flickr
Lincoln College, Oxford. Credit Caro Wallis, flickr
St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Credit simononly
St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Credit simononly

All Souls College was founded in 1438 and is unique in having only Fellows as members of the college, and no undergraduates.

All Souls College features a magnificent quadrangle, with striking twin towers designed in the 1720s by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the Gothic style to harmonise with the medieval college chapel.

All Souls College, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
All Souls College, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson

There are lots of old doors like this one all over Oxford and one thing is for certain: there’s a lot of scholarly things going on behind each one.

Schola Linguarum. Credit Caro Wallis, flickr

4. Architecture

Demonstrating noteworthy examples of every English architectural period since the late 11th century, the historic buildings in Oxford make it an ideal location for film and TV crews.

Occupied by the Carfax Tobacco Company and a branch of Lloyds Bank since first opening in 1901, the ornate Rennaissance Revival building marks the start of Oxford High Street.

Lloyds TSB Bank Building, Oxford. Credit Ozeye
Lloyds TSB Bank Building, Oxford. Credit Ozeye

Further down the adjacent Cornmarket Street on the corner of Ship Street is a 14th-century timber-framed building originally built as the New Inn and now owned by Jesus College, which restored it in 1983.

Jesus college was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571.

14th-century timber-framed building in Cornmarket Street, Oxford.
14th-century timber-framed building in Cornmarket Street, Oxford.

The Sheldonian Theatre was built for the University of Oxford between 1664 and 1669 after a design by Sir Christopher Wren who also designed and built St Paul’s Cathedral.

A City Sightseeing Oxford tour bus sets down passengers in Broad Street, Oxford, between the Clarendon Building on the left and the Sheldonian Theatre on the right. Credit Martin Addison
A City Sightseeing Oxford tour bus sets down passengers in Broad Street, Oxford, between the Clarendon Building on the left and the Sheldonian Theatre on the right. Credit Martin Addison

Named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the University from 1667 – 1669 and the project’s main financial backer, it is used for music concerts, lectures and University ceremonies.

But since 2015 has it also been used for drama, with the Christ Church Dramatic Society staging a production of The Crucible.

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford - interior. Credit Baz Richardson
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford – interior. Credit Baz Richardson

5. Museums

Established in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum was the world’s first university museum and is the oldest museum in the United Kingdom.

Originally housing a “cabinet of curiosities” give to the University of Oxford in 1677, it now holds significant art and archeology works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, and Picasso, as well as treasures such as the Scorpion Macehead, Parian Marble, the Alfred Jewel, and “The Messiah” Stradivarius violin—regarded by many as the world’s finest.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Credit Sarah Casey
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Credit Sarah Casey

Housed in a large neo-Gothic building in Oxford University’s Science Area, the University Museum of Natural History boasts skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, and the most complete remains of a dodo found anywhere in the world.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Credit Geni
Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Credit Geni
Velociraptor at Oxford's Natural History Museum. Credit IntoTh3Rainbow
Velociraptor at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. Credit IntoTh3Rainbow

Founded in 1884, the Pitt Rivers Museum contains over 500,000 items from the University’s archaeological and anthropological collections.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Credit Geni
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Credit Geni

6. Cafes, Pubs, and Restaurants

According to the famous 17th-century politician and diarist Samuel Pepys, the first English coffee house was established on the precise site of the Grand Café on Oxford’s High Street in 1650.

This is where some of the great luminaries of the Enlightenment would meet to exchange ideas, acting as a supplementary sphere to the university.

Grand Café, Oxford
Grand Café, Oxford

The absence of alcohol created an atmosphere more conducive to serious conversation than an alehouse.

Coffeehouses also played an important role in the development of financial markets and newspapers, and political groups frequently used them as meeting places.

The Grand Café. Credit Meraj Chhaya, flickr
The Grand Café. Credit Meraj Chhaya, flickr

Oxford’s pubs overflow with enough character and atmosphere to stimulate the minds of some of the best fiction writers of all time.

Meeting here every Tuesday morning between 1939 and 1962, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and other friends, popularly known as the “Inklings” would drink beer and discuss the books they were writing.

The Eagle and Child pub, Oxford
The Eagle and Child pub, Oxford

The Head of the River Pub is adjacent to Folly Bridge which crosses the River Thames at the point of the ancient ford for which Oxford is named.

The Head of the River Pub and Restaurant. Credit David Iliff
The Head of the River Pub and Restaurant. Credit David Iliff

For light refreshment, why not try Gee’s Restaurant and bar, serving a uniquely rustic, Mediterranean dining experience set in an iconic Glasshouse.

Gee's Restaurant. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Gee’s Restaurant. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

7. Religious Buildings

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin is the centre from which the University of Oxford grew.

With an eccentric baroque porch, designed by Nicholas Stone, its spire is claimed by some church historians to be one of the most beautiful in England.

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Credit Diliff
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Credit Diliff

Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and constructed in 1854–60, the chapel at Exeter College, Oxford, was heavily inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Exeter College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Exeter College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Keble College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Keble College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
The interior of the chapel of Worcester College, Oxford, England. Credit Diliff
The interior of the chapel of Worcester College, Oxford, England. Credit Diliff

8. Footpaths, Waterways, and Cycle Lanes

Oxford has 28 nature reserves within or just outside the city ring road, making it one of Britain greenest cities.

Whether you prefer a leisurely walk along one of Oxford’s many footpaths, a relaxing punt ride down the river, or an invigorating cycle ride, Oxford is a magical place for all.

An evening walk, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
An evening walk, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
Christ Church Meadow Walk, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster
Christ Church Meadow Walk, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster
Punting on the River Cherwell, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
Punting on the River Cherwell, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
Masters Garden, Christ Church College, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster
Masters Garden, Christ Church College, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster

While away the hours in the peace and tranquility of Oxford’s Botanic Gardens.

Oxford Botanic Garden. Credit JR P, flickr
Oxford Botanic Garden. Credit JR P, flickr

Oxford is second only to Cambridge in the popularity of cycling.

22% of Oxford’s residents ride three or more times per week.

Cycling in Oxford. Credit Tejvan Pettinger, flickr
Cycling in Oxford. Credit Tejvan Pettinger, flickr

9. Books, Books, and more Books

The University of Oxford maintains the largest university library system in the UK.

With over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles (190 km) of shelving, the Bodleian group is the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library.

Entitled to a free copy of every book published in the UK, the Bodleian is growing its collection at a rate of over three miles (five kilometres) of shelving every year.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the Old Bodleian Library to see inside its historic rooms, including the 15th-century Divinity School, medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library, and the Radcliffe Camera.

Duke Humphrey's Library, the oldest reading room of the Bodleian Library in the University of Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Duke Humphrey’s Library, the oldest reading room of the Bodleian Library in the University of Oxford. Credit David Iliff

Designed by James Gibbs in the neo-classical style and built in 1737–49, the Radcliffe Camera (Camera, meaning “room” in Latin; colloquially, “Rad Cam” or “The Camera”) was built to house the Radcliffe Science Library.

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Christopher Michel
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Christopher Michel
Radcliffe Camera interior. Credit Stickinho
Radcliffe Camera interior. Credit Stickinho

Book lovers, be warned—you might be here a long time.

Blackwell’s Bookshop has the largest single room devoted to book sales in the whole of Europe—the cavernous 10,000 sq ft Norrington Room.

Norrington Room, Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford
Norrington Room, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford

10. Literature and Film

Oxford was mentioned in fiction as early as 1400 when Chaucer referred to a “Clerk of Oxenford” in his Canterbury Tales.

Oxford University’s hallowed halls have been a source of inspiration for several authors of classic children’s literature.

It was July of 1862 and a slightly eccentric young man named Charles Dodgson rowed up the river Thames with a colleague and the three daughters of the Dean of Christ Church college where Dodgson taught mathematics.

Better known today as Lewis Carroll, the young man told a story to keep the children amused during the five-mile journey to Godstow.

Star of the adventure was Alice Liddell, the ten-year-old middle sister, who, as Dodgson began, had followed a rabbit down a hole.

Alice in Wonderland illustrations by John Tenniel, 1890
Alice in Wonderland illustrations by John Tenniel, 1890

Much inspiration for Dodgson’s story came from Christ Church.

The long-necked “firedogs” that held the logs in the fireplace gave him the idea for Alice’s neck to stretch.

When Alice Liddell’s father, the dean, descended a narrow spiral staircase, it reminded him of a rabbit disappearing down a hole.

And a cat perched on a mulberry tree outside the library was the inspiration for the Cheshire cat.

Studying English Literature at Oxford University when World War One broke out,  J. R. R. Tolkien finished his degree before enlisting in the Oxford University Officer’s Training Corps.

Stretcher bearers struggle in mud up to their knees to carry a wounded man to safety
Stretcher bearers struggle in mud up to their knees to carry a wounded man to safety

It was the experience at the Battle of the Somme, where one million men were wounded or killed, that helped him describe the evil barren landscape crossed by the hobbits on their way to Mordor.

Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails on the lands about.J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Christ Church college’s dining hall was used in the filming of the movies of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

Christ Church College Dining Hall, Oxford. Featured in the Harry Potter movies
Christ Church College Dining Hall, Oxford. Featured in the Harry Potter movies

The “Inspector Morse” and “Lewis” TV series were both set in Oxford as were “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh and the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman.

10 Fascinating Facts About Covent Garden, London

Once an important working market and the backdrop for the musical My Fair Lady, Covent Garden today is one of London’s biggest tourist magnets, attracting over 44 million visitors annually.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about this historic area of London.

1. Covent Garden was once the bustling center of an Anglo-Saxon trading town

Established about a mile to the west of Londinium—the old Roman settlement now known as the City of London or “the Square Mile”—was a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon trading town called Lundenwic, centered around the area that is now Covent Garden.

Described by the English monk, Bede the Venerable, in the 8th century as “a trading centre for many nations who visit it by land and sea”, the Old English term -wic derived from the Latin word vicus for “trading town”—so Lundenwic meant “London trading town”.

The Venerable Bede translating the Gospel of John on his deathbed by James Doyle Penrose
The Venerable Bede translating the Gospel of John on his deathbed by James Doyle Penrose

During Viking invasions in the 9th century, the Danish “Great Heathen Army” sacked Londinium and held it until 886 when Alfred the Great, “King of the Anglo-Saxons”, recaptured it and repaired the Roman walls.

As trading shifted to Londinium once more, Lundenwic was abandoned and became a wasteland.

Lundenwic became known as Ealdwic, meaning “old trading town”.

Recent excavations in Covent Garden have revealed that the early Anglo-Saxon settlement once stretched from where the National Gallery is now to the area called Aldwych—some 150 acres.

2. Covent Garden derives its name from the French word couvent meaning Convent

“Covent Garden” is essentially a corruption of “Convent Garden” using the French couvent derivation as opposed to the Latin conventus.

Couvent means a religious building such as a nunnery or monastery.

By the 13th century, most of the present Covent Garden area was land belonging to Westminster Abbey which included a walled vegetable garden tended by the monks.

Covent Garden on the City of London in the 1560s with surrounding wall marked in green and Westminster Abbey inside black circle. British Library
Covent Garden on the City of London in the 1560s with surrounding wall marked in green and Westminster Abbey inside black circle. British Library

3. Henry VIII seized the lands of Covent Garden and gave them to a friend

Francis, 4th Earl of Bedford by Henry Bone
Francis, 4th Earl of Bedford by Henry Bone

Dissolving the monasteries in the 16th century gave King Henry VIII plenty of new lands, including those formerly owned by Westminster Abbey.

Covent Garden was given to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford.

Sitting idly by for over 100 years in the family estate, it wasn’t until Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford had the bright idea to build a house on the land, that the Covent Garden we know today got its start.

Two of the area’s street names—Russell Street and Bedford Street—commemorate the family’s involvement in Covent Garden’s beginnings.

4. Covent Garden was designed by Royal Architect Inigo Jones

Commissioning Inigo Jones to build a square “fit for Gentlemen with ability”, the Earl of Bedford also asked Jones to build a church—St Paul’s—for his aristocratic clientele.

“fit for Gentlemen with ability”

Inigo Jones is considered to have been the first significant architect of the early modern period.

To keep costs down for the church, the Earl requested nothing more extravagant than a barn.

“You shall have the finest barn in London”, replied Jones.

The porticoed St Paul’s Church has sat proudly overlooking the piazza to this day.

Portrait of Inigo Jones after Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of Inigo Jones after Anthony van Dyck
St Paul's Church, Covent Garden. Credit Adamina
St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Credit Elisa Rolle.
St Paul's Church, Covent Garden. Credit Patrice78500
St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Credit Patrice78500

5. Covent Garden was the first piazza in London

“A passageway reminiscent of the Place des Vosges”

Influenced by the grand piazza’s of Europe, Covent Garden’s piazza was originally bounded by “portico houses” on its north and east sides with continuous arcades running underneath, creating a passageway reminiscent of the Place des Vosges in Paris.

Known as the Great Piazza and the Little Piazza respectively, the houses sold quickly to aristocrats and court society.

Covent Garden Piazza, by Edward Rooker after Thomas Sandby, 1768
Covent Garden Piazza, by Edward Rooker after Thomas Sandby, 1768
Place des Vosges, Paris. Credit Mbzt
Place des Vosges, Paris. Credit Mbzt
Piazza and buildings in front of Covent Garden
Piazza and buildings in front of Covent Garden
Apple Store Covent Garden. Credit Magnus D, flickr
Apple Store Covent Garden. Credit Magnus D, flickr
Covent Garden Piazza. Credit Wally Gobetz
Covent Garden Piazza. Credit Wally Gobetz

Influencing the overall design of Covent Garden was Inigo Jones’s knowledge of town planning in Europe, particularly the Grand Piazza in Livorno, Tuscany.

Piazza Grande, Livorno. Credit Luca Aless
Piazza Grande, Livorno. Credit Luca Aless

6. Covent Garden has run a market since 1656

Setting up stalls against the garden wall of Bedford House, the early market traders served mostly wealthy tenants.

Wooden rails were erected around the piazza and traders with baskets, trestles and carts congregated on the south side outside the rails.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, scores of Londoners left the City and descended on Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Piazza and Market, London by Joseph van Aken, 1730
Covent Garden Piazza and Market, London by Joseph van Aken, 1730

Dozens of traders hawking fruit and vegetables became an established feature of Covent Garden.

Granted a Royal Charter in 1670, the Earl of Bedford sought to regulate the market’s spread.

Covent Garden Market 1864 by Phoebus Levin © Museum of London
Covent Garden Market 1864 by Phoebus Levin © Museum of London

And in 1830, his descendant John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford, commissioned English architect Charles Fowler to build a neo-classical market building that remains at the heart of Covent Garden today.

The Apple Market, Covent Garden. Credit Roman Hobler, flickr
The Apple Market, Covent Garden. Credit Roman Hobler, flickr

7. Covent Garden was an 18th-century red-light district

“Described the physical appearance of the Covent Garden Ladies and their sexual specialties”

Published from 1757 to 1795, Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies was an annual directory of prostitutes working in and around Covent Garden.

In lurid detail, the pocketbook described the physical appearance of the Covent Garden Ladies and their sexual specialties.

Miss B of Old Compton is described as:

a mistress of every Manoeuvre in the amorous contest that can enhance the coming pleasure. In bed she is all the heart can wish, or eye admire, every limb is symmetry, every action under cover truly amorous; her price is two pounds two.

Miss R from Rathbone Place:

pleasing, though fond, and can make wantonness delightful; every part assists to bring on the momentary delirium, and then each part combines to raise up the fallen member, to contribute again to repeated rapture; her price is commonly two guineas.

Kitty Fisher and Fanny Murray were two high-class courtesans.

Kitty Fisher by Joshua Reynolds, 1763
Kitty Fisher by Joshua Reynolds, 1763
Fanny Murray by Henry Robert Morland
Fanny Murray by Henry Robert Morland

Connections in high places had their advantages.

Famed prostitute Betsy Cox was refused entry to a gathering of polite society at the newly opened Pantheon assembly rooms.

But the Duke of Fife came to her aid, drawing his sword to enforce her entry.

8. Both the Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane are said to be haunted

During construction work in 1999, workers were struck by flying debris.

Bits of brick and metal would be flung at them throughout the day.

Could the work have awoken the resident poltergeist?

Since security was so tight, it was thought almost impossible to be someone who walked in from the street.

Could the work have awoken the resident poltergeist?

Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Credit Yair Haklai, flickr
Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Credit Yair Haklai, flickr
The Royal Opera House, Bow Street frontage, with the statue of Dame Ninette de Valois in the foreground. Credit Russ London
The Royal Opera House, Bow Street frontage, with the statue of Dame Ninette de Valois in the foreground. Credit Russ London
Floral Hall, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Floral Hall, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Royal Opera House. Credit Gzen92, flickr
Royal Opera House. Credit Gzen92, flickr

Paranormal expert Tom Ogden calls the Theatre Royal one of the world’s most haunted theatres.

Frequenting the theatre, the appearance of any one of its ghosts is said to signal good luck for the actors or production.

Drury Lane Theatre, 1807
Drury Lane Theatre, 1807

A famous ghost called the “Man in Grey” haunts the theatre

According to legend, a famous ghost called the “Man in Grey” was an 18th-century nobleman who was stabbed to death in the theatre, his skeletal remains having been found in a walled-up passage in 1848.

He wears a cape, a tricorne hat, riding boots, and a sword and is often seen in the upper circle moving along the rear gangway near the royal box where the remains were discovered.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Credit David Blaikie, flickr
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Credit David Blaikie, flickr

Could the spirits of patrons past still visit the theatre?

Queen Victoria in the Royal Box of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1837
Queen Victoria in the Royal Box of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1837

Or could it be Mr Bean who just got lost on his way to the restrooms?

Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) outside Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 2009. Credit Glenn Standish
Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) outside Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 2009. Credit Glenn Standish

9. Covent Garden has over 60 pubs and bars

The area’s oldest pub earned the nickname ‘Bucket of Blood'”

There’s no shortage of liquid refreshment to accompany the cultural entertainments in Covent Garden.

Listed as historically important buildings, several pubs will transport you back in time.

With a reputation as the oldest pub in the area, the Lamb and Flag will take you back to a time of bare-knuckle prize fights in the early 19th century.

So gruesome were these gladiatorial clashes that the pub earned the nickname “Bucket of Blood”.

The Lamb and Flag Pub, Covent Garden. Credit Michael Broad, flickr
The Lamb and Flag Pub, Covent Garden. Credit Michael Broad, flickr

The Freemasons Arms on Long Acre is linked with the founding of the Football Association in 1896.

Charles Darwin attended the annual meeting of the Philoperisteron Society for pigeon fanciers here on 8 January 1856 and became a member later that year.

Freemason's Arms Pub, Covent Garden. Credit Ewan Munro
Freemason’s Arms Pub, Covent Garden. Credit Ewan Munro
Signage above the Covent Garden Market entrance. Credit Eduard Díaz i Puig
Signage above the Covent Garden Market entrance. Credit Eduard Díaz i Puig

10. Covent Garden street performers run shows every day of the year except Christmas Day

Plaque on the wall of St Paul's church in Covent Garden. Credit Jack1956
Plaque on the wall of St Paul’s church in Covent Garden. Credit Jack1956

Street performances have long been a tradition at Covent Garden.

17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys recorded the first mention of a Punch and Judy show in Britain.

Licensed for street entertainment, performers audition for timetabled slots in a number of venues around Covent Garden, including the North Hall, West Piazza, and South Hall Courtyard.

A street performer in Covent Garden. Credit Aqwis
A street performer in Covent Garden. Credit Aqwis
Covent Garden Street Performer. Credit CGP Grey
Covent Garden Street Performer. Credit CGP Grey

10 Beautiful English Market Towns

“Market town” is a term originating from the Middle Ages for a settlement that has the right to host markets.

Performing an important role for the community, market towns acted as centres of trade for regional farms and villages where goods and services were exchanged.

During more recent times, market towns have become desirable places to live for the well-heeled thanks to their historic significance and overall quaintness.

Here are 10 beautiful English market towns, each set in a different county, and each providing a perfect day trip or a weekend getaway.

1. Dorchester, Dorset

A historic market town, Dorchester sits on the banks of the River Frome to the south of the Dorset Downs.

Pathways around the town known as “The Walks” follow the remains of ancient Roman Walls and the museum contains many artifacts from Roman finds.

The Romans named the settlement Durnovaria, and by the 9th century, Saxons calling themselves Dorsaetas, meaning “People of the Dor”, dominated the area.

By the 17th century, the town was at the heart of Puritan emigration to America. Local rector John White organized the colonization of a settlement of the same name—Dorchester, Massachusetts.

High Street, Dorchester, Dorset. Credit Tudor Barker, flickr
High Street, Dorchester, Dorset. Credit Tudor Barker, flickr
Blue Bridge at The Water Meadows, Dorchester, Dorset. Credit Tudor Barker, flickr
Blue Bridge at The Water Meadows, Dorchester, Dorset. Credit Tudor Barker, flickr

Thomas Hardy’s novel “The Mayor of Casterbridge” is set in Dorchester, with his childhood home just to the east of the town.

Thomas Hardy's Cottage, Dorchester, Dorset. Credit Tudor Barker, flickr
Thomas Hardy’s Cottage, Dorchester, Dorset. Credit Tudor Barker, flickr

2. Downham Market, Norfolk

Lying on the edge of the once marshy region known as the Fens and on the banks of the River Great Ouse, Downham Market is about 30 miles north of Cambridge.

During the Middle ages, Downham Market was famous for its butter market and horse fair.

King Charles I hid in the town after the disastrous Battle of Naseby during the English Civil War (1642 – 1646), where the New Model Army of the Parliamentarians almost wiped out the Royalist force, inflicting 6,000 casualties out of 7,400.

Buildings of note are the medieval parish church and the Victorian clock tower, dating from 1878.

Clock Tower in Downham Market, Norfolk. Credit Uksignpix
Clock Tower in Downham Market, Norfolk. Credit Uksignpix
Downham Market, Norfolk. Credit Martin Pearman, Andy F, John Salmon, Andy Peacock
Downham Market, Norfolk. Credit Martin Pearman, Andy F, John Salmon, Andy Peacock

3. Faversham, Kent

Head towards Canterbury from London and after 48 miles you’ll find Faversham, a beautiful market town next to the Swale—a strip of sea separating North Kent from the Isle of Sheppey.

Latin and Old English in origin, the name Faversham means “the metal-worker’s village”, indicating it’s importance as a local centre of trade.

Nearby is an ancient British trackway known as Watling Street, which was used by the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons.

Watling Street was the site of Boudica’s defeat by the Romans and the southwestern border of the Danelaw.

Settled since pre-Roman times, Faversham was mentioned in the Domesday Book—a “Great Survey” of England and parts of Wales ordered by William the Conqueror.

Faversham Market. Credit Ed Webster
Faversham Market. Credit Ed Webster
Elizabethan Tudor listed buildings in Faversham, Kent. Credit Jim Linwood
Elizabethan Tudor listed buildings in Faversham, Kent. Credit Jim Linwood

4. Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Henley-on-Thames is a market town on the River Thames in Oxfordshire.

King Henry II bought some land in 1179 and by 1278, the town was described as a hamlet with a chapel.

Granted by a charter of King John, who signed the Magna Carta (a medieval “sacred text’ that was an early precursor to the constitution of the United Kingdom), the Thursday market is thought to have been in existence since 1269.

Henley-on-Thames Town Hall. Credit Diamond Geezer
Henley-on-Thames Town Hall. Credit Diamond Geezer

Henley is a world-renowned centre for rowing. Each summer the Henley Royal Regatta is held on Henley Reach, a naturally straight stretch of the river just north of the town. The event became “Royal” in 1851, with the patronage of Prince Albert.

Henley-on-Thames. Credit Diamond Geezer
Henley-on-Thames. Credit Diamond Geezer

5. Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Hitchin is a market town first mentioned in a 7th-century document called the “Tribal Hidage” which lists 35 tribes of Anglo-Saxons.

In 673, the Archbishop of Canterbury Theodore of Tarsus, is said to have chosen Hitchen for the “Councils of Clovesho” where Anglo-Saxon kings, bishops, abbots, and nobles met to decide important issues for Christianity in England.

The name “Hitchen” is associated with the River Hiz that runs through the town and was at one time pronounced “River Hitch”, although today pronounced exactly as it’s spelled.

Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Credit Oscar Arky
Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Credit Oscar Arky

Prospering from the wool trade, the town built the largest church in Hertfordshire—St Mary’s Church. Apart from the tower, which dates from 1190, most of the church was built in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Saint Mary Church, Hitchin, Herefordshire
Saint Mary Church, Hitchin, Herefordshire
Hitchin. Credit OLU
Hitchin. Credit OLU

6. Keswick, Cumbria

Keswick is an English market town situated in the Lake District National Park.

King Edward I granted a charter for Keswick’s market in 1276 and it has been running continuously ever since.

First recorded as “Kesewik”, it is thought the Old English name means “farm where cheese was made”.

Although in Tudor times. Keswick was an important mining centre, since the 18th century, tourism has been the biggest industry.

English poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey together with William Wordsworth from nearby Grasmere helped popularize the scenic beauty of the area.

Keswick, Cumbria. Keswick's market has an unbroken history of more than 700 years. Credit David Iliff
Keswick, Cumbria. Keswick’s market has an unbroken history of more than 700 years. Credit David Iliff
Keswick, Cumbria. Credit Simon Swales
Keswick, Cumbria. Credit Simon Swales

7. Ledbury, Herefordshire

Ledbury is a market town in Herefordshire, lying west of the Malvern Hills.

Although the Market Place was established as early as 1122, the Tudor timber-framed Market House was built much later in 1617.

Raised on 16 pillars, the upper floor of the two-storey building is thought to have been used for storing corn, wool, hops, and acorns for the tanning of animal hides.

Ledbury itself dates from about 69 AD and was recorded in the Domesday Book as “Liedeberge”, taking its name from the River Leadon and the Old English “burg”, meaning fortified or defended site.

Ledbury was the birthplace of poet laureate John Masefield and poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

William Wordsworth wrote of Ledbury in his sonnet “St Catherine of Ledbury”

“WHEN human touch (as monkish books attest)
Nor was applied nor could be, Ledbury bells
Broke forth in concert flung adown the dells,
And upward, high as Malvern’s cloudy crest;
Sweet tones, and caught by a noble lady blest”

Read the entire sonnet "St Catherine of Ledbury".

Legend has it that Saint Catherine had a mare and colt stolen from her and saw their hoofprints in the bed of a nearby brook. Following the footprints the horses were safely recovered and the thieves punished by being petrified as “Hoar Stone”. At one time locals made fake hoofprints as souvenirs for visitors.

Ledbury Market House
Ledbury Market House
Timbered Elizabethan houses in Church Lane, Ledbury, Herefordshire. Credit David Wilson
Timbered Elizabethan houses in Church Lane, Ledbury, Herefordshire. Credit David Wilson

8. Market Harborough, Leicestershire

Market Harborough is situated on land that was once a medieval royal hunting forest.

The old market was run from the open ground floor of a small timber building dating from 1614, the upper floor of which was the Old Grammar School.

Founded by the Saxons between 410 and 1066, Market Harborough was originally known as “hæfera-beorg” meaning “oat hill”.

Established in 1204, the market has been held every Tuesday since 1221.

During the English Civil War, Market Harborough acted as the King’s headquarters from where he planned the ill-fated Battle of Naseby.

In 1841, a cabinet maker named Thomas Cook walked from Market Harborough to Leicester to attend a meeting of the Temperance Society.

During his walk, he had the idea to organize excursions on the newly opened rail line.

A pioneer in the tourism industry, he would later found the travel agency Thomas Cook & Son.

Old Grammar School, Church Square, Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The school was on the first floor; the open ground floor was a butter market. Credit G-Man
Old Grammar School, Church Square, Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The school was on the first floor; the open ground floor was a butter market. Credit G-Man
Market Harborough. Credit Holly Victoria Norval
Market Harborough. Credit Holly Victoria Norval

9. Newbury, Berkshire

Newbury is a historic market town spanning the River Kennet in Berkshire—located about halfway between the cities of Oxford and Winchester.

Featuring a rare medieval Cloth Hall and half-timbered granary, it has a wealth of 17th- and 18th-century buildings of special historic interest.

Founded in the 11th century following the Norman conquest, Newbury became an important centre for the cloth trade.

John Winchcombe, nicknamed “Jack O’Newbury”—one of the richest and most influential cloth merchants of the 16th century—resided in Newbury and is thought to have owned England’s first factory.

The famous tale of the “Newbury Coat” tells of a bet that a gentleman’s suit could be made in a single day, starting with the shearing of the sheep in the morning.

Newbury lies on the edge of the picturesque Berkshire Downs, an area of outstanding natural beauty and is also famous for horse racing, with events having run since 1805.

Bartholomew Street, Newbury. Credit Tom Bastin
Bartholomew Street, Newbury. Credit Tom Bastin
Newbury Clock Tower. Credit Bill Boaden
Newbury Clock Tower. Credit Bill Boaden

10. Oswestry, Shropshire

Oswestry is the largest market town in Shropshire and close to the Welsh border.

With a story dating back some 3000 years, Old Oswestry has one of Britain’s best preserved Iron Age hill forts.

It is sometimes called Caer Ogyrfan, meaning The City of Gogyrfan, the father of Guinevere, wife of the legendary King Arthur.

Legend has it that in 642, two Anglo-Saxon kings fought at the Battle of Maserfield. One of the kings—Oswald of Northumbria—was killed and dismembered. A raven carried one of his arms to an ash tree where miracles were said to have been performed since Oswald was considered a saint.

And so “Oswald’s Tree” is thought to be the origin of the name Oswestry.

The right to hold a market each Wednesday was granted in 1190 and saw an influx of Welsh farmers, with many townsfolk becoming bilingual.

Oswestry, Shropshire. Credit Shropshire & Telford TSB
Oswestry, Shropshire. Credit Shropshire & Telford TSB
Oswestry Llwyd Mansion. Credit Shropshire & Telford TSB
Oswestry Llwyd Mansion. Credit Shropshire & Telford TSB
Oswestry Food Festival. Credit Peter Broster
Oswestry Food Festival. Credit Peter Broster

The Story of the Medieval Town of Arundel

Towns and cities were often sited on rivers. Besides providing fresh water for drinking and irrigation, rivers provided a convenient means of transport and created natural boundaries and defenses.

Britain has many examples of beautiful towns and cities built around rivers. Some even have their own medieval castles.

In the 2nd century AD, the great Hellenistic writer Ptolemy described a river that ran through the steep vale of the South Downs of Provincia Britannia (Roman Britain) as Trisantonis, from an ancient Celtic language meaning “the trespasser”.

He was alluding to the river’s propensity to flood its lower reaches close to the sea. But in its upper reaches, it flowed quickly, and smoothly, and locals called it Arno meaning “run”.

And so it is believed that the town of Arundel means “dell of the flowing river”.

Arundel Castle and Town in 1644
Arundel Castle and Town in 1644

Arundel is home to the Dukedom of Norfolk—the premier Dukedom in the peerage of England. As such, the Duke is also the Earl of Arundel, the premier Earl. As if that wasn’t enough greatness for a single peer, he is also the hereditary Marshal of England—the Earl Marshal, a chivalric title under the sovereign of the United Kingdom.

Arundel Castle. Credit MrsEllacott
Arundel Castle. Credit MrsEllacott

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle is the Duke of Norfolk’s home. Although the title refers to the county of Norfolk, Arundel is in West Sussex.

Arundel Castle aerial view. Credit Miles Sabin
Arundel Castle aerial view. Credit Miles Sabin

As the first Norman King of England, following the successful invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror set about dividing up the country among his Norman magnates.

Roger de Montgomery, a cousin and top lieutenant of King William, was declared first Earl of Arundel and established Arundel Castle, high on a hill, on Christmas Day of 1067.

And so began nearly 1000 years of history, with Arundel Castle handed down through successive generations of noble families, and sometimes reverting back to the crown.

The current owners are the Fitzalan-Howard family, 18th generation of the Dukedom of Norfolk—and they actually live at the castle.

The courtyard of Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England. Credit Mark Tollerman
The courtyard of Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England. Credit Mark Tollerman
Arundel Castle on a sunny October day. Credit Gregg M. Erickson
Arundel Castle on a sunny October day. Credit Gregg M. Erickson
Arundel Castle. Credit Ilya Schurov
Arundel Castle. Credit Ilya Schurov
Baron's Hall, Arundel Castle. Credit Loz Pycock
Baron’s Hall, Arundel Castle. Credit Loz Pycock

Fitzalan Chapel

14th-century St Nicholas Church sits on the western grounds of Arundel Castle and is one of only a few churches that is divided into areas of Catholic and Anglican worship.

St Nicholas Church, Arundel. Credit JohnArmagh
St Nicholas Church, Arundel. Credit JohnArmagh

Its Catholic chapel is a private mausoleum of the Dukes of Norfolk and their families.

Fitzalan Chapel and White Garden. Credit The Land
Fitzalan Chapel and White Garden. Credit The Land
Ftizalan Chapel. Credit Jim, flickr
Ftizalan Chapel. Credit Jim, flickr

For nobles of high birth, it was common practice to place a recumbent effigy on top of their tomb.

A husband and wife were often depicted together, side by side in a state of eternal repose, awaiting resurrection.

Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel Castle. Credit The Land
Effigies in Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel Castle. Credit The Land

There was also a period when cadaver tombs displayed the life-sized effigy of the person, as they were just before death, above a rotting cadaver in the macabre state of decomposition.

Tomb and effigy of John FitzAlan, 14th Earl of Arundel (died 1435), in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel. Credit Lampman
Tomb and effigy of John FitzAlan, 14th Earl of Arundel (died 1435), in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel. Credit Lampman

Arundel Cathedral

Suppressed from worship in 1664, the Roman Catholic Dukes of Norfolk could no longer attend a religious service in a Catholic church or cathedral until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.

In 1868, the Duke of Norfolk commissioned a new Roman Catholic sanctuary in celebration of the 1850 restoration of Catholic hierarchy in England.

Complementing Arundel Castle’s medieval architecture, he chose the French Gothic style, which was popular between 1300 and 1400 at a time when the Dukes of Norfolk rose to prominence in England.

Arundel Cathedral is regarded as one of the finest examples of French Gothic Revival architecture in the country.

Arundel Cathedral seen from Arundel Castle gardens. Credit The Land
Arundel Cathedral seen from Arundel Castle gardens. Credit The Land
The nave of Arundel Cathedral looking west, in West Sussex, England. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Arundel Cathedral looking west, in West Sussex, England. Credit David Iliff
Arundel Cathedral Sanctuary. Credit David Iliff
Arundel Cathedral Sanctuary. Credit David Iliff

Arundel Town and Environs

Arundel’s pretty High Street rises up the hill towards the castle, it’s side walks lined with traditional shops and restaurants. There’s an old-fashioned butcher, a greengrocer, a second-hand bookstore, and even a shop specializing in walking sticks.

High Street, Arundel. Credit John Turner
High Street, Arundel. Credit John Turner
Top left clockwise: The Moathouse Cafe (credit grassrootsgrounds); The Tea and Biscuit Club; Shopping Arcade, Tarrant Street (credit Roger Kidd); Kim's Bookshop (credit Basher Eyre)
Top left clockwise: The Moathouse Cafe (credit grassrootsgrounds); The Tea and Biscuit Club; Shopping Arcade, Tarrant Street (credit Roger Kidd); Kim’s Bookshop (credit Basher Eyre)

There’s nothing quite like enjoying your favorite beverage in a pub with centuries of history. Arundel has more than its fair share.

The Duke of Norfolk built the Norfolk Arms in 1785. Fashionable visitors from Brighton stayed there and by the early 1800s, it was the chief coaching inn of the town. The room over the entrance archway could accommodate 150 people for dinner.

The Swan Hotel is recorded as far back as 1759 and was a favorite for carriers. Both it and the Red Lion—possibly built as early as 1658—catered to the new pastime of cycling in the late 19th century. St. Mary’s Gate Inn dates from the early 1800s and had its own bowling green at that time.

From top left clockwise. Norfolk Arms, The Swan Hotel, St Mary's Gate Inn, The Red Lion
From top left clockwise. Norfolk Arms, The Swan Hotel, St Mary’s Gate Inn, The Red Lion

Passing through Arundel is a long-distance footpath that approximates the route taken by King Charles II when he was on the run after being defeated at the Battle of Worcester by Oliver Cromwell’s “New Model Army”.

Top right clockwise. Monarch's Way. (Credit Peter Holmes); Mill Road lined with lime trees on both sides (Credit Nigel Cox); Houses at Crossbush (Credit Chris Shaw); Row boats out on Swanbourne Lake (Credit Shaun Ferguson).jpg
Top right clockwise: Monarch’s Way. (Credit Peter Holmes); Mill Road lined with lime trees on both sides (Credit Nigel Cox); Houses at Crossbush (Credit Chris Shaw); Row boats out on Swanbourne Lake (Credit Shaun Ferguson).jpg

Arundel in Art

Arundel, Early Morning by Alfred East
Arundel, Early Morning by Alfred East
Arundel, West Sussex, at Sunset by George Vicat Cole - 1872
Arundel, West Sussex, at Sunset by George Vicat Cole – 1872
Arundel Castle, with Rainbow by Joseph Mallord William Turner - 1824
Arundel Castle, with Rainbow by Joseph Mallord William Turner – 1824
Arundel Mill and Castle by John Constable
Arundel Mill and Castle by John Constable

For further information, see the history of Arundel Castle.

10 Things to Love About Stratford-upon-Avon

To Be or Not to Be in Stratford-upon-Avon?

Without reservation, the answer is To Be, for Stratford-upon-Avon is not only the birthplace of Shakespeare—the greatest playwright of all time—but a beautiful medieval market town with lots to see and do.

Here are 10 of the best.

1. Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Described as “a Mecca for all lovers of literature”, this restored 16th-century half-timbered house on Henley Street is where William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and spent his formative years.

Considered a substantial dwelling for the time, it was divided into two parts: living accommodations and a separate area for Shakespeare’s father to conduct his business as glove maker and wool dealer.

Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

Over the centuries, changes were made to the original façade, and so in 1847, with the aid of luminaries like Charles Dickens, the house was purchased and restored to its original 16th-century appearance.

Shakespeare's birthplace as it appeared in 1847 in the Illustrated London News
Shakespeare’s birthplace as it appeared in 1847 in the Illustrated London News

At the back of the house, the walled garden has been specially planted with flowers and herbs known to be from Shakespeare’s time.

Rearview of Shakespeare's Birthplace. Credit Michele Walz Erikson
Rearview of Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Credit Michele Walz Erikson
Shakespeare's Birthplace (Gardens). Credit Tony Hisgett
Shakespeare’s Birthplace (Gardens). Credit Tony Hisgett
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.William Shakespeare
The view towards Henley Street from the upper floor of William Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Ozeye
The view towards Henley Street from the upper floor of William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Ozeye

2. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

About one mile west of Stratford-upon-Avon sits a beautiful 12-roomed farmhouse where Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare, spend her childhood.

Known as Hewlands Farm in the 16th century, it had more than 90 acres of land and is about three times the size of a typical cottage.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Credit Tony Hisgett
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Credit Tony Hisgett
The kitchen in Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Credit Baz Richardson
The kitchen in Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Credit Baz Richardson

3. Mary Arden’s Farm

Owned by Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Shakespeare, née Arden (c. 1537 – 1608), this working farmhouse in the village of Wilmcote, about three miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, gives visitors a good idea of what 16th-century farm living was really like.

Included in the rare animal breeds kept at the farm are Mangalitza and Tamworth pigs, Cotswold sheep, Long Horn cattle, Baggot and Golden Guernsey goats, geese, and even a Hooded Vulture.

Mary Arden's Farm, Wilmote. Credit Elliott Brown, flickr
Mary Arden’s Farm, Wilmote. Credit Elliott Brown, flickr
Mary Arden's Farm courtyard, Wilmote. Credit Nathan Reading, flickr
Mary Arden’s Farm courtyard, Wilmote. Credit Nathan Reading, flickr

4. Hall’s Croft

Housing a collection of 16th- and 17th-century paintings and furniture, Hall’s Croft was once the home of William Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna Hall, and her husband Dr John Hall.

The impressive walled garden contains plants that Dr Hall may have used in his obscure medical practices—about which there are further exhibits inside the house.

Stratford-upon-Avon. Hall's Croft - Shakespeare's daughter's house. Baz Richardson
Stratford-upon-Avon. Hall’s Croft – Shakespeare’s daughter’s house. Baz Richardson
Hall's Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Michelle Walz Eriksson
Hall’s Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Michelle Walz Eriksson

5. Holy Trinity Church

Known as the place of baptism (1564) and burial (1616) of William Shakespeare, Holy Trinity Church is Stratford-upon-Avon’s oldest building, dating from 1210.

Buried next to him are his wife Anne Hathaway and eldest daughter Susanna.

Just one month before Shakespeare’s death, his son-in-law was found guilty of fathering an illegitimate son by a woman who died in childbirth. The shame of such an incident would have brought great distress to the family and may have hastened William Shakespeare’s demise.

Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap
Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap
Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Poliphilo
Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Poliphilo
William Shakespeare's grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon. Credit David Jones
William Shakespeare’s grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon. Credit David Jones

In modern English, the inscription reads:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

6. Nash’s House and New Place

Converted into a museum that traces the history of Stratford-upon-Avon from the earliest known records, Nash’s House on Chapel Street sits next to the ruins and gardens of Shakespeare’s last residence, known as New Place.

Shakespeare died at New Place in 1616, leaving the house to his daughter, Susanna, who moved in with her husband Dr John Hall.

Nash's House, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit summonedbyfells
Nash’s House, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit summonedbyfells
Shakespeare's final home, called 'New Place'
Shakespeare’s final home, called ‘New Place’

7. Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Home to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the recently redeveloped theatre complex sits on the banks of the River Avon and is dedicated to the life and works of William Shakespeare.

Going back to its roots, the “one-room” theatre brings actors and audience closer together, with a stage that reaches out into an audience on three sides—creating a more personal, traditional Shakespearean theatre experience.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit MylesMc
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit MylesMc
Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The redeveloped theatre takes design inspiration from the first Victorian memorial theatre complex, with the observation tower providing the same commanding views of the River Avon and environs.

The first Shakespeare Memorial theatre complex, pictured in the 1890s
The first Shakespeare Memorial theatre complex, pictured in the 1890s

8. Walking the beautiful Tudor-lined streets

The name Stratford derives from a combination of the Old English strǣt, meaning “street”, and ford, where a road forded the river Avon.

As you walk Stratford-upon-Avon’s streets, you are immersed in the timber-framed Tudor architecture of Shakespeare’s era.

Stratford-upon-Avon High Street. summonedbyfells
Stratford-upon-Avon High Street. summonedbyfells

Until around the late 19th century, sheep from the nearby Cotswold Hills were brought to slaughter in Sheep Street.

Sheep Street, Stratfrd-upon-Avon. Credit Baz Richardson
Sheep Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Baz Richardson

One of the oldest buildings in Stratford-upon-Avon, a resident of Shrieves House on Sheep Street (below) is said to have been the inspiration for the character Sir John Falstaff—appearing in three of Shakespeare’s plays.

Military and political leader Oliver Cromwell, who beheaded King Charles I of England, is thought to have stayed here in 1651.

Shrieves House. Credit Tony Hisgett
Shrieves House. Credit Tony Hisgett
Shrieves House. Credit Elliott Brown
Shrieves House. Credit Elliott Brown

Just off Sheep Street is Shrieves walk, a very quaint walkway with several small independent stores, including a Vintage Clothing shop.

With its many al fresco cafés and street entertainers, Henley Street is a pedestrian tourist and shopping precinct.

Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Gambitek
Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Gambitek
The Nutcracker Christmas gift shop, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap
The Nutcracker Christmas gift shop, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap

9. Sightseeing Tours

From “hop-on hop-off” open top buses, to relaxing canal and river cruises, there are lots of ways to see and experience Stratford-upon-Avon’s many delights.

Open Top Bus Tour. Credit Martin Arrand, flickr
Open Top Bus Tour. Credit Martin Arrand, flickr

Centrally located between the main shopping streets and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is Stratford Canal Basin, a bustling mooring center for Canal and River tours.

Whether you prefer a leisurely 45-minute cruise or lunch, dinner, or cream tea aboard the “Countess of Evesham” luxury restaurant cruiser, you’ll find it here, along with a large selection of snack and ice-cream vendors.

Stratford-upon-Avon canal basin. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stratford-upon-Avon canal basin. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Credit Roger Kidd
Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Credit Roger Kidd
River Cruises, Stratford-upon-Avon
River Cruises, Stratford-upon-Avon

10. Pubs, Restaurants, and Hotels

Whether you prefer cozy pubs with a fireplace or the opulence of a Victorian mansion, Stratford-upon-Avon has a wealth of options for accommodations and dining.

Garrick Inn is reputedly the oldest pub in town. Although the precise date of construction is not known, it is considered to be built in the late 16th century, with parts dating back to the 1300s.

Garrick Inn and Harvard House. Credit Tony Hisgett
Garrick Inn and Harvard House. Credit Tony Hisgett
The Windmill Inn, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Windmill Inn, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon. The Shakespeare Hotel. Credit summonedbyfells
Stratford-upon-Avon. The Shakespeare Hotel. Credit summonedbyfells
Stratford-upon-Avon, Falcon Hotel. Credit Palickap
Stratford-upon-Avon, Falcon Hotel. Credit Palickap
Falcon Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
Falcon Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Heather Cowper
Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Heather Cowper
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew Stratford. A place of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. Alas, can it be time to leave already?
Stataue of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Stratford-upon-Avon, by Lord Ronald Gower
Statue of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Stratford-upon-Avon, by Lord Ronald Gower

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.