In fact, there’s more than one answer! When I posted 10 days ago saying I has finally driven through all of England’s 48 counties since August 2017, I felt really chuffed as I’d ticked off one of my bucket list challenges. But on the BBC news website today, there’s a really interesting article saying that there are in fact three classification systems: historic, administrative and ceremonial, and it turns out that I could have made my challenge slightly easier! For example, the four ceremonial counties of Yorkshire (North, South, West and East) are grouped into one historic county of Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight is either a county in its own right or part of Hampshire depending on which categorisation system you choose. Anyway, this is merely academic because my journeys have taken me to some truly spectacular previously undiscovered places. Let me share with you 6 of my favourite places.
City of London
Yes, it may be crowded and noisy but the City of London (less than 3 square kilometres) is one of my favourite areas with its blend of traditional and modern architecture. In 2018, I discovered the best place you can eat breakfast whilst watching the sun rise over at our capital city: the Duck and Waffle Restaurant. Open 24 hours a day and located on the 40th floor, you’ll see the river Thames meander through the city. Also in the City of London, look out for the spectacular annual Lord Mayor’s Show, Sky Garden and Leadenhall Market that you may recognise from Harry Potter.
The Lake District, Cumbria
I might have mentioned the Lake District a few times before but having never visited the area, I was absolutely blown away from the mountainous region, lakes and the feeling of getting away from it all. This is a walker’s paradise but if you’re looking for a less active holiday, there’s so much to choose from including The World of Beatrix Potter, a boat trip on any of the lakes or even visit the Pencil Museum in Keswick! There really is something here for everyone.
Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire
I absolutely adore this town and this is a ‘must visit’ destination for any Shakespeare fan. Not only can you visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and other historic buildings, you can visit the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre and see one of his plays. I saw Romeo and Juliet but with a contemporary twist. Absolutely glorious.
Wells and the rest of Somerset
England’s smallest city but it’s certainly packed a lot in with its magnificent cathedral and market but it was also the main filming location for the superb comedy Hot Fuzz.
But Somerset as a whole offers so much with Cheddar Gorge, Wookey Hole show caves which were great fun and the stunning city of Bath where you can visit the Roman baths. I could easily spend a week here exploring just this county.
I can’t tell you how much I loved coming to Alnwick Castle, used in the filming of Harry Potter where Harry first learns to play quidditch. But there’s also a spectacular poison garden and the stunning treehouse restaurant which is my number one place to take my hubby to.
Blists Hill Victorian Town, Shropshire
If you want to learn about Victorian times and want to really experience history, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. As you walk around the various shops and interact with the employees who remain in character throughout your time, you will lose all sense of actually still being in the 21st-century. Items in shops are even priced in old money and you can go to the bank and change modern currency into shillings and pence. There’s a good old-fashioned singsong in the pub and you can have a lesson at the school when there’s not an interactive board in sight. Immersive history at its best.
I have also had afternoon tea at Highclere Castle (known to many of us as Downton Abbey), visited the beautiful city of Cambridge, spent an amazing weekend in Liverpool touring Anfield football stadium and meeting the cast of Fame, popped over to the Isle of Wight for a Diwali festival, drove through the gorgeous Cotswolds and Derbyshire Dales on top of exploring large parts of Scotland and Wales. What an adventure!
And my adventures don’t stop there. As well as visiting the remaining counties in Wales and Scotland, I have many ideas for trips this year and next year to discover new countries in Europe. Next weekend’s blog is going to be me considering the pros and cons of independent country-hopping versus using a tour company. I think I know which way I’m inclined (and anyone who knows me can probably guess!) but hopefully it will help to crystallise my thinking before I then share with you my future travel plans.
If you live in England or perhaps have visited, where is your favourite part and why? I’d love to hear.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend everyone XX