Starting at the most westerly tip of England you will discover that Cornwall, with its stunning coastline, pretty harbour villages tumbling down to little bays and old smugglers’ inns, fulfils your every seaside fantasy. Nearby, the golden sands of easy-going Devon offer you the opportunity to swim and sunbathe followed, perhaps, by a trip to a village where in a thatched cottage you can partake of a cream tea complete, of course, with famous Devon clotted cream. On the opposite corner of the country is Kent, nicknamed the Garden of England because of its numerous orchards.
The south coast is dotted with lively resorts such as trendy Brighton or popular Bournemouth which have miles of beachfront. Moving up through the heart of the country you will find peaceful rural counties such as Gloucestershire and Herefordshire with their lush countryside and little villages, and the Cotswolds with the area’s trademark honey-coloured buildings. As you head further north the countryside becomes more dramatic, yet retains a wild beauty. The drama of the Derbyshire Peak District and the wide open spaces of the Yorkshire Moors are also home to pretty towns such as Bakewell and Thirsk and their welcoming residents.
At the top of the country are Northumberland and Cumbria where historic market towns cling precariously to the steep hillsides.
Visit these pretty places and you never quite know whether, round the next bend of a country lane, you might come across a village green where local lads are playing cricket or taking part in a typically English ritual such as Morris dancing. In the north of England look out for customs dating back hundreds of years such as the Derbyshire ritual of well-dressing, in which wells are decorated with flowers and colourful trimmings to ensure a good supply of water - or a game of quoits, a sport popular in the north east. Stop for a while and sample the fare at a village pub where a ploughman’s lunch with homemade bread and local cheese is a traditional meal, and you’ll find delicious ‘real ales’ on offer.
If village life is too quiet for you there are plenty of lively spots in England’s towns. That London is currently one of the coolest cities on the planet is well known but don’t forget that Leeds with its trendy nightlife and designer stores, and Manchester with eclectic restaurants and club scene, lead the way outside the capital. Recent urban development has also been happening in Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham and Newcastle, bringing exciting new life to these important cities in the way of great shopping, entertainment and a thriving arts scene. Wherever you go you’ll find the streets alive.
What all of these cities also have in common is their location - they are all close to areas of outstanding natural beauty. Whether you want to witness the beauty of the Peak District National Park; the wonders of the lovely Lake District with its acres of natural water or get out and walk in the expansive spaces of the Pennine hills, there is something to inspire everyone.
Of course, every area of the country also has its own special place in English history. For cathedrals visit Winchester, Salisbury, Gloucester and Canterbury in the south and Durham, Carlisle and York in the north. For a glimpse of life among royalty don’t miss the residences of Windsor Castle, Sandringham or Althorp, ancestral home of the late Princess of Wales, and seek out stately homes of past monarchs in the likes of Hampton Court and Hatfield House. For a real feeling of stepping back into the past, visit Hadrian’s Wall at the northernmost edge of England and imagine the clash of metal as the Romans fought back the Scots.
Slow down a little by heading towards the flat lands of East Anglia where the pace is matched by the easy-going nature of the local people. Here the landscape stretches unchanging to the sea, dotted by historic towns such as Ely, with its stunning cathedral and Norwich with its imposing castle. Villages such as Lavenham in Norfolk, and Aldeburgh and Southwold in Suffolk, are quiet retreats from the modern world. Hire a boat and navigate the ancient waterways of Norfolk, known as the Broads - Britain’s newest National Park - or head to the coast for miles of unspoilt beaches such as those at Holkham Bay and Caister-on-Sea.
From moorland to seaside and village green to city centre, a visit to England is more than just another holiday.