England has a fascinating culture and history, a varied landscape and a lot of unique places both natural and manmade. While London is one of my favourite places in the world there are places to visit in England outside of London.
There are so many reasons why you should get outside of London, for example:
- Historical interest, in particular, it is all around and easy to see and with a little imagination also experience.
- Nature is an important part of English heritage and some of these get out of the cities to experience the natural phenomenon of the countryside.
If you’re searching for ideas of where you can go in England other than London? Here are 10 incredible ideas for new adventures and places to visit in England.
- Beatles Trail
- The Lake District National Park
- Cotswolds Towns and Villages
- Lindesfarne – Holy Island
- Birmingham Back to Backs
- Jurassic Coast
- Harry Potter Oxford Tour
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
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Most people will know that the iconic pop group of the ‘60’s The Beatles come from Liverpool and unsurprisingly there is a Beatles Trail:
It is possible to buy a map and plan your own trail around the city, but there are also several guided tours to take you around the Beatles home city and check out the Beatles hotspots.
Start with the museum in the Albert Dock all about the Beatles called The Beatles Story, the museum is the authority on all things Beatles and even has replicas of some of the famous places, such as The Cavern and Matthew Street. You are whisked back to the 1960’s for a fact filled Beatles experience.
Visit Penny Lane and Strawberry Field, Paul McCartney’s childhood home, which is now also a museum and John Lennon’s childhood home. See the murals drawn by Cynthia Lennon and the fabulous Beatles statue.
The Lake District National Park
England’s first national park, The Lake District in Cumbria is unique with its rolling hills, rugged areas and sweeping lakes all interspersed with cute villages, Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain is also in the Lake District.
Whilst Scafell Pike is a must do for serious hill walkers, there are several routes up the mountain to suit different people and stunning far reaching views from the top.
It is not just the hill walkers who gain from visiting the Lake District though, there is such a lot that is special about the area. There are lots of other easier trails suitable for the less experienced or pleasure walkers, gentle rambles and family friendly explorations and even guided walks.
It is also not only walking that the Lake District offers either, there are cycling friendly trails, boat hire and of course the chance to just sit and look out over a lake and watch the world go by.
Lake Windermere is the largest and probably the best known of the lakes and it is possible to take boats from village to village around the lake.
Watch the various water vessels or hire a boat, kayak or paddle board and get out on the water that way.
There is a visitor centre near Windermere which includes children’s play area and treetop nets, fully enclosed nets like trampolines nine metres off the ground.
One of the smaller lakes Coniston is a great place to stay with plenty of little shops, pubs and B&B’s nearby.
Visit the pretty village of Hawkshead with its cobbled lanes, Beatrix Potter gallery and Wordsworth connection, there are pubs and cafes to enjoy as well.
An example of a different attraction is the Haverthwaite Steam Railway which is a great way to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Leven valley.
Covering nine hundred square miles there are plenty of choices of where to go and things to find to explore.
Cotswolds Towns and Villages
England has many pretty villages and towns; one of the best places to see several in one day or over a few days is to visit the Cotswolds.
An area of outstanding natural beauty AONB, the natural beauty is enhanced by the honey-coloured natural stone that many of the houses are built from.
The Cotswolds is an area which is in parts of five counties in south-west England; Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and North East Somerset including the famous town of Bath.
Many of the listed places will offer B&B and it is possible for the independent traveller to find a hidden gem off the beaten track. Here though to start with are two stunningly beautiful places to visit:
Castle Combe Wiltshire
The houses are built from the lovely honey hued Cotswold stone topped with rustic ancient tiles and the locals ensure it is kept pretty with lovely hanging baskets and well kept gardens.
Castle Combe was featured in the film War Horse and if you decide to stay there, be sure to leave the car and go for a stroll to best appreciate the beauty of the little town.
Picture postcard perfect and the quintessential Cotswold village, there is no wonder it is called the Venice of the Cotswolds.
The main street has the river Windrush running alongside it, crossed at regular intervals by low Cotswold stone bridges, the backdrop if the tickle of water lends a romantic feel to this beautiful place.
There is plenty to do in Bourton-on-the-Water, there is a world famous motor museum, a model village that beautifully captures the village in an easy to explore miniature version, a model railway, a nature reserve, a brewery and and of course some lovely little shops, cafes and pubs.
Other places recommended to visit are Burford, Fairford or Woodstock and if grand houses interest you then visit Blenheim Palace the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill which is in Woodstock.
Rye in East Sussex, lying serenely between rolling hills and the English Channel just along the coast from Hastings, it is a must visit location teeming with history through the ages and giving a fascinating glimpse into medieval England together with the nearby Harbour, Rye offers a unique experience.
With its cobbled lanes and crooked half timbered houses, Rye retains much of its medieval character and it is easy to imagine being back in history, was that a smuggler skulking in a doorway or just a shadow? Is that secret passage safe…?
Mermaid Street is a good place to start with its timber framed houses, many with unusual names giving a taste of the history of the place, these days the town is peaceful and gentle, picturesque and a great place for taking photos.
The town has far reaching views over the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, but whilst there take a trip down to the Harbour to see the little boats and enjoy a bracing walk along the coast to Camber Sands, a large expanse of sand dunes, gently lapped by the English Channel most of the time, but occasionally stormily moody.
The great thing is you can enjoy a walk along and get a bus back to Rye.
Stay at the Hope Anchor Hotel for far reaching views or the eleventh century Mermaid Inn, which is also a great place to stop for a drink and it is definitely a must to go in and explore the inside of this ancient Inn.
Rye has long been a draw for literary people and a visit to Lamb House where the American author Henry James wrote three of his novels and the house has also been used a few times as a film location. Rye has a railway station, making it ideal for non-driving visitors and has some wonderful little independent shops.
Rye and Rye harbour offer a unique and diverse experience, there are the ancient cobbles and pretty houses of medieval Rye and there is also architecture and preserved history throughout the ages to the present day and it is very easy to spend a lot of time walking along the ancient cobbles before exploring the harbour and other architecture.
The West Country Coast of England has many picturesque towns and villages and pretty harbours nestled into the hillside, none though catch the imagination quite like Clovelly on the North Devon Coast.
Nestled in steep tree lined cliffs, Stunningly pretty Clovelly’s cobbled, steep, main street barely more than a path in places is flanked by pretty mostly terraced cottages, some with little shops and galleries and of course cafes.
The walk down is steep and tricky, unfortunately, this is not for the faint hearted or less able, but for anyone who can this is a must visit destination, the memory will stay with you for a lifetime.
Once at the bottom, the last few steps open up to a viewing point over the pretty little harbour and right at the bottom of the town is the Red Lion Hotel. Clovelly’s charm is increased by the donkeys being pretty much the only mode of transport to carry things up the hill, including tired children.
The path can be so treacherous that delivery men and locals use sledges to drag things up and down.
Lindisfarne – Holy Island
St Aiden arrived at Lindesfarne in 635 AD and decided to open a monastery, thus as legend has it changing the island forever.
Lindisfarne is now often known as Holy Island and is an island attached to the mainland off of the Northumbria coast by a causeway, adding to the mysticism of the place.
The island is cut off from the mainland twice a day and any visit needs to be preceded by checking the tide times when the causeway will be closed.
Living on the island is a small community of less than two hundred people and many of these are involved with the tourism of the island.
Lindisfarne Castle built in the 1500’s is what dominates the island from a mainland viewpoint and is now in the care of the National Trust.
The Priory Ruins where there is also a museum is the other main attraction once on the island.
Still a location for Pilgrims, who walk an alternative route to the island than the causeway, you don’t need to be religious or a pilgrim though to appreciate and enjoy the unique island. There is also lots of wildlife and history to add interest.
Lindesfarne has a new car park where all but disabled visitors must leave their cars, or for those without a car who don’t wish to walk, it is possible to access the island from the mainland via a boat trip.
Birmingham Back to Backs
Within easy reach of the city centre are the Birmingham Back to Backs, are a step back in time. The little houses offer an interesting insight into the lives of the Birmingham working classes between the 1840’s and 1970’s.
These historically important and fascinating houses are just a few minutes’ walk from the Bullring and the picturesque area of the canal.
There is a lovely 1930’s sweetshop and interesting displays, a souvenir shop and various craft workshops. It is even possible to stay in a Back to Back Cottage managed by the National Trust, in fact they have two: 52 Inge Street in a Victorian style and 1930’s style 54 Inge Street.
England’s Jurassic coast is a World Heritage Site (UNESCO) and of tremendous historical interest and importance due to the access it gives scientists to the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
There is literally millions of years worth of history available to see there. If this is of little interest to you, don’t worry, there is more to the area than the fantastic and unique geology, although it is still this unique geology that creates the beauty.
The Jurassic coastline is a ninety five mile stretch of Dorset and Devon coastline and has created a stunning and varied landscape. Known for fossils, this is the place to do some serious fossil hunting or the casual searcher can also turn up some interesting fossils on a stroll combing the beaches.
Staggeringly beautiful cliff tops, give way to sweeping slopes and hidden valleys, the landscape inland is no less outstanding and plays home to some lovely pretty Dorset and Devon villages that are well worth exploring.
Although, probably the best way to enjoy the coastline is to walk all or part of the Jurassic Coast South West Coast Path, part of a much longer footpath that incorporates these ninety five miles.
There are plenty of places to join and for a shorter taste of the walk and to enjoy probably the most famous landmark Durdle Door, a simply magnificent natural limestone arch that juts out to sea next to a sheltered beach cove. Durdle Door was created by the power of waves eroding the rock causing a hole through the rock that looks like a doorway.
There is a handy car park near Durdle Door and access is by going through camp site to access the South Coast Path and the phenomenon is visible from the cliff top, there is an handy path that goes down to the sheltered shingle beach below, where it is possible to get much closer to Durdle Door and also to see some of the layers in the rock of the cliff.
Nearby is Lulworth Cove, a beautiful curved almost fully enclosed large natural cove, offering beauty, tranquillity and a sheltered place for sea bathing.
It is possible to walk along the cliff tops to the Cove and that is a fantastic way to view its breathtaking beauty.
If going by car, follow signs for West Lulworth, the village at Lulworth Cove that has a pub, toilets and take-a-way.
Harry Potter Oxford Tour
Whilst it is possible to tour the Warner Brothers Studios in London to see the sets where a lot of the films were made, another interesting aspect of the films is that a lot of it was also filmed at Oxford or inspired by Oxford.
Fortunately, it is possible to visit this historical learning city and see where many of the scenes were filmed and the sites that inspired the film makers to bring Hogwarts to life.
Go to Oxford and search on your own or book a tour; either way let your imagination run away with you as you walk the corridors walked by Harry, Hermione and Ron.
Duke Humfrey’s Library which is only accessible by a private tour is where the invisibility cloak library scene was filmed and Divinity School’s Bodleian Library was used as Hogwarts Infirmary, both in The Philosopher’s Stone.
The wonderful gothic Christ Church College was used a lot and can be spotted in a lot of scenes, the staircase in the scene where Professor McGonagall met Harry, Hermione and Ron and the scene where Hermione shows Harry the Quidditch trophy was filmed here.
The New College Cloisters feature in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry saw Malfoy sitting on a giant oak tree and Mad Eye Moody turned him into a ferret. The real tree used in the film is right there in the cloisters.
A lot of the impressive architecture of Oxford was used to create the sets at the studios drawing inspiration and direct copies from Oxford an example being the Tudor Great Dining Hall of Christ Church College inspired the set of Hogwarts Great Dining Hall and it is easy to see the similarities.
An absolute must for Harry Potter fans.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard offers a varied and interesting day out and a peak in to England’s maritime history. The attractions include:
Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, the genuine remains are in Portsmouth an almost perfect half, giving an interesting insight of a 500 year old English ship. As well as the actual Mary Rose the museum also has a lot of Tudor artefacts on show.
Lord Nelson’s famous HMS Victory is also at Portsmouth and undergoing restoration, the tours of Nelson’s ship are highly informative and interesting.
Another attraction is the Dockyards Apprentice, an historical recreation of 200 years of dockyard history exploring the ingenuity behind traditional boatbuilding techniques and imagined through the eyes of the dock workers.
For younger visitors there is also a Horrible Histories section.
The Dockyard is right next to the Royal Navy base and it is possible to see some of the modern fleet. This is just a snapshot of what is available at the Dockyard and a visit is a fascinating day.
The above ten ideas are a snapshot of some of the must visit places in England, some are a little off the usual tourist routes and less busy, being wonderful to do at any time. The following are best done out of the main summer season to gain the best possible experience:
The Cotswolds can get very busy in the summer and the lovely towns and villages can be enjoyed at any time. Probably best appreciated when less busy, but Castle Combe is at its best when the hanging baskets are in bloom when it is absolutely stunning.
Clovelly really is a must visit location, go in the spring, avoiding school holidays if you can when it is less busy, alternatively, arrive early and you’ll be climbing up when the bulk of visitors are going down.
The Jurassic Coastline is stunning at any time, if you are not bothered about sea bathing or paddling the beautiful coastline can be appreciated at any time and is quieter in the winter and autumn months, when a crackling log fire at the pub at Lulworth Cove is incredibly welcoming after a walk along the South West Coat Path from Durdle Door.
The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is always very busy at bank holidays and when special exhibitions are on. Best visited in the spring or summer or as a winter break outing.
Whilst the other places are also busy, The Lake District’s main tourist traps can be very busy, but avoid them and there are miles and miles of countryside to explore.
Birmingham is always a busy place, but the Back to Backs give you an hour or so to catch your breath and step back in time.
The holiday lets there are an ideal base to explore the area or when visiting the theatre.
Liverpool is also always busy, but go on a Beatles tour and it is as though time does not matter as you walk where the Fab Four walked and see where they played and grew up.