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

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

10 of the Best Things to See at the British Museum

Do you like human history? How about art and culture? Variety? London?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then we can heartily recommend the British Museum as a place you will find hours of pleasure.

Don’t have time to visit? Too far away?

Fret not, dear reader, because we are going on a virtual tour without leaving our seats.

By clicking on the “Google Street View” links at the end of each section, we can go inside the British Museum and get a good look at these exhibits as though we were actually there. Amazing!

10 of the best things to see at the British Museum (from your favorite armchair).

1. The Sutton Hoo Treasures

Sutton Hoo Helmet

Sutton Hoo is a fascinating archaeological site located near Woodbridge, Suffolk

The burial is believed to be of a high-ranking figure, possibly even a king, from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Angles—a tribe originating from Angeln in Germany—now an area called East Anglia (shown in re. The artifacts provide valuable insights into their beliefs, customs, and social structure.

The cemeteries were in use at a time when Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, held sway among the English people and played an important role in establishing Christian rule in England. It was a time when myths and legends melded with the historical record.

The site has been vital in understanding the early Anglo-Saxon period.

2. The Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone

To appreciate the significance of the Rosetta Stone, we need to understand how difficult it was to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs without it. For about 1400 years, from the time hieroglyphs ceased to be used until the 1820s, they were a complete mystery.

The key to the mystery lay in three versions of the same text that are inscribed on the stone’s surface. The upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest is Ancient Greek.

By transcribing between the alphabets, French scholar Jean-François Champollion was able to unlock the secrets of the Ancient Egyptians.

The story of the Rosetta Stone’s discovery is almost as interesting as the stone itself. In 1799, one of Napoleon’s soldiers found it while on the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt. But just two years later, British forces defeated the French in Egypt and took the stone back to England. It is now the most-visited object in the museum.

3. The Hinton St Mary Mosaic

Hinton St Mary Mosaic

Thought to be one of the oldest known representations of Jesus Christ, the Hinton St Mary Mosaic is a large Roman mosaic named after the village where it was discovered in Dorset, England.

Christ is portrayed as clean-shaven with the letters chi (X) and rho (P) behind his head—the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ “Christos”.

Britain was a far-flung province of the Roman Empire at the time Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in AD 312. The mosaic was found in the dining room or house-church of a villa belonging to a Roman aristocrat.

4. The Parthenon Sculptures

Parthenon Sculptures
Parthenon Sculptures

Originally part of the temple of Parthenon in the Acropolis of Athens, Greece, the marble sculptures were brought to Britain by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin in 1816 under a controversial royal decree from the Ottoman Empire that had ruled Greece since 1460.

While some supported the move, cultural leading figure and poet Lord Byron disapproved, likening the removal of the sculptures to vandalism or looting.

In 2014, the Greek government urged Britain to return the sculptures as part of its efforts to restore one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. But Professor of Law and Art at Stanford University, John Merryman argued that the sculptures were obtained legally, adding that the Ottoman sultan had no interest in the Parthenon and permission to remove the sculptures was also a token of gratitude to the British for checking Napoleon’s expansion in the region.

5. The Bust of Ramesses (The Younger Memnon)

Ramesses the Great. Credit Denis Bourez
Ramesses the Great. Credit Denis Bourez

Ramesses II, renowned as Ramesses the Great, stands as an iconic figure in ancient Egyptian history, often hailed as the most formidable pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire.

Ascending to the throne during his youth, Ramesses orchestrated triumphant military expeditions that reinstated Egyptian dominance in Canaan, encompassing present-day Israel and Lebanon. His rule endured an astonishing span, reaching the remarkable age of approximately 91 years.

Picture the grandeur of his army, a formidable force of 100,000 soldiers, their chariots gleaming under the scorching Egyptian sun. Ramesses’ vision extended beyond military conquests; he embarked on ambitious construction projects of monumental proportions, mobilizing the populace to reshape the landscape of Egypt.

His unwavering commitment to leaving an indelible legacy ensured that his colossal structures and accomplishments would transcend time, solidifying his status as a pharaoh of unparalleled significance in the annals of Egyptian civilization.

6. Easter Island statue

Hoa Hakananai'a
Hoa Hakananai’a

The Easter Island statue at the British Museum has been described as “the finest example of Easter Island sculpture”.

At the time it was removed, it was identified by islanders as being of Hoa Hakananai’a, meaning “stolen or hidden friend” in Polynesian.

Made from a block of flow lava, Hoa Hakananai’a’s blocky face with prominent nose and heavy brow watched over an extinct volcano, with his back to the sea.

Found in 1868 by the Royal Navy, the statue was offered as a gift to Queen Victoria, who proposed it should be given to the British Museum.

7. Samurai Armor

Set of armour from Japan
Set of armour from Japan

From a country that was never invaded came the lightest, strongest, and most lethal weapon in the world—the samurai sword.

An equal, if not greater, level of sophistication and precision was required to protect samurai against such a cutting weapon. In addition to swordsmanship, samurai practiced archery on horseback and needed very lightweight armour that allowed for freedom of movement.

Samurai armour was made from leather and iron scales, connected together with leather and silk lace. Specific patterns and colors of silk thread would identify noble families, but could take many months to complete just one suit of armour.

Even as the 16th century introduced firearms from Portugal, Japanese armour makers were able to make bullet-proof armour using a combination of iron and steel plates.

8. Jade terrapin from India’s Mughal court

Jade Terrapin from Allahabad
Jade Terrapin from Allahabad

Carved from a single piece of jade and weighing 90 lbs (41kg), the Jade Terrapin from Allahabad dates from the early 17th century Mughal Empire.

Covering vast areas of the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan, the Mughal Empire was best known for Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, who constructed the Taj Mahal at Agra as well as several other monuments.

Shah Jahan’s predecessor was Jahangir, who had the jade terrapin carved as a decorative ornament for the landscaped pools of his palace gardens at Allahabad.

Discovered by accident in 1803 during engineering work, it’s historical value was immediately recognized and it was shipped to England and later bequeathed to the British Museum in 1830.

9. Cartonnage mummy cases

Mummy of a young adult man
Mummy of a young adult man

Cartonnage, a crucial material in the realm of ancient Egyptian funerary practices, served as the foundation for intricately adorned masks and mummy cases. Crafted from layers of papyrus encased in plaster, the technique resembled the art of papier-mâché. Once dried, cartonnage could be skillfully molded into a shell resembling the human form, providing a canvas for elaborate paintings and gilded embellishments.

In Ancient Egypt, meticulous care of the deceased was imperative, driven by the belief in appeasing Osiris and ensuring a prosperous afterlife. Over four millennia, the mummification process underwent minimal evolution. Removal of perishable organs and desiccation of the corpse were standard procedures. The brain, liquefied and drained through the nose, showcased the meticulous nature of the process. Filling the abdominal cavity with aromatic herbs, dehydrating with salt, and wrapping the body in bandages soaked in waterproof and antimicrobial gum culminated in the preservation of the deceased.

The British Museum houses a significant collection of 120 mummies, offering a profound glimpse into the ancient Egyptian rituals surrounding death and the afterlife.

10. The Mechanical Galleon

Mechanical Galleon
Mechanical Galleon

The Mechanical Galleon is a clockwork automated table ornament in the shape of a ship.

Made by Hans Schlottheim (1545–1625), a goldsmith and clockmaker from Augsberg Germany, the mechanical galleon had moving figures and played music. Seven figures were made to walk before the seated Holy Roman Emperor as trumpets blared, and the cannons could even produce smoke.

Clockwork was a novelty in the 16th century and the Mechanical Galleon might have entertained guests at imperial banquets—its three clockwork mechanisms driving its movement across a table, guns blazing and trumpets blowing.

References
British Museum
Wikipedia
Ancient Lives, New Discoveries—The Telegraph