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Whether you live in the UK or are visiting for the first time, for such a small country, England is absolutely packed with things to see and do. This article aims to uncover some of the less well known destinations outside of London.
Whilst London is a fantastic city, and a great place to be entertained, particularly if you’re interested in these new shows – it is a melting pot of cultures, and heavily influenced by tourism, meaning it has a personality of its own that isn’t necessarily congruent with the true spirit of England.
If you’re thinking of coming for a mini break to England, of course London is a great option, but if you’re looking for something a little more traditional you might want to consider these hidden gems that are somewhat off the typical tourist trail.
Just two hours by train from London, York is a historic and beautiful chocolate box city that could be likened to Bruges; yet it isn’t overrun with tourists. Admittedly, you have a few coach tours of predominantly Asian tourists that can be found snapping away York Minster, but there’s a lot of tradition, authenticity and humility to this beautiful little city. Also, if you hire a car, you’ll have easy access to a beautiful natural coastline and unspoilt moorland just a short drive away.
Lancaster, also in the North of England, is one of England’s most picturesque Heritage Cities. You can walk through the town centre within about ten minutes, so be prepared there isn’t all that much to do in the city itself other than visit it’s incredible castle and priory, but this quaintness only adds to its charm. Again, like York, Lancaster is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is only half an hour’s drive to the stunning Lake District, Trough of Bowland and Yorkshire Dales.
Bournemouth is a traditional English seaside town, but unlike many English seaside towns such as Morecambe, Blackpool and Weston Super Mare that have been left to decay, due to domestic tourists choosing to fly overseas, Bournemouth retains a relatively affluent charm.
If you’re looking for an alternative to London, Bristol is a fantastically friendly and welcoming city that is lively yet a lot less busy and much more personal than London. It’s a university town that offers a warm welcome where the pace of life is slower than in London, yet many of its residents retain the affluence and ambition of Londoners – just without the bolshiness.
The local accent, known colloquially as “geordie” might make it sound as if people are speaking a foreign language, but their friendliness compensates for the likely lack of you being able to understand them. Newcastle is an interesting place to experience a fun night out, as it’s a very “down to earth” place where not much is left to the imagination.
Harrogate is a Victorian spa town nestled in the heart of an area of outstanding natural beauty. There aren’t all that many things to do in Harrogate, other than meander around nice shops, indulge in hearty local food, visit the famous Victorian Tea Rooms, and perhaps take a short train ride to the charming village of Knaresborough that has a beautiful riverside walk. That said, it’s a beautiful and gentile place that is close to both York and Leeds; making it a refreshingly gentile and traditional escape for the afternoon.
Birmingham, is the second largest city to London. It is a vibrant and multicultural city that is home to Cadbury World (where they make the famous British chocolate) and also the famous ‘balti’ dish which was created in Birmingham. It’s a great place for shopping with a relatively compact city centre that boats all the top brands, both high end and low end, whilst the nightlife is varied and intense.
THE LAKE DISTRICT
The Lake District is one of the most beautiful places in the whole of England. Unfortunately, as its name suggests, it does get rather wet up there. The best time to visit is at the beginning of Autumn where you can spend a few days hiking in the hills, then nestling next to a log fire in a cosy pub.
Matlock is one of several small towns within an area known as the Peak District – again, a mecca for walkers and cyclists. Interestingly, the Peak District is home to the UK’s number one theme park, Alton Towers which is a great day out for all the family with some of the world’s most serious roller coasters.
Home to the Beatles, Liverpool is a warm and friendly city that retains its musical heritage and is known for being a great place to visit for those interested in the arts. Similar to Newcastle, you might need a translator, as the accent is strong but the people are warm, welcoming, down to earth and helpful.