By Jim Ferri
Many first-time American travelers find England so attractive because of our shared heritage and language. Once they travel about England, however, they find its appeal much deeper.
Above all on this island nation, the cliché holds true: to travel through England is to travel through time.
England, after all, is the country that gave us Shakespeare as well as the Beatles, Beatrix Potter and Harry Potter, Diana and Darwin; Chaucer, Churchill, Chaplin…and innumerable others.
Even when you put its pedigree aside, you discover that England provides an incredible number of experiences. More incredible is that England is smaller than the state of Alabama, or approximately one-third the size of Japan.
It’s all amazingly compact. One morning you can be admiring Big Ben, the National Gallery or riding on the famous London Eye. The next morning you can be entranced by the beauty of the Lake District.
So go view Roman England in Bath and medieval England in York. Wander about seaside towns in picturesque Cornwall, and bucolic villages in the Cotswolds. See castles in Windsor and Warwick. And along the way visit any number of good restaurants that have put modern England on Europe’s culinary map.
Most travelers begin their tour of England with a tour of London. It’s a world-class city in all respects, offering travelers art, culture, shopping, dining, heritage and everything else in-between.
Furthermore, London is also home to some of the most iconic attractions in the world. From the double-decker bus to the red telephone box, from black cabs to the Tate Modern, London’s sites are instantly recognizable.
Some landmarks that you shouldn’t miss include the London Eye, London’s Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey and, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. There are several museums that are worth a visit, including the National Gallery, Tower of London and the British Museum. Furthermore, I’ve fond the quirky Soane Museum to be quite interesting.
Visitors also have an array of Michelin-starred restaurants where they can dine. Or you can always opt out and enjoy a show at the West End theatre. No matter what the budget or occasion is, you’ll find that London has something to accommodate everyone.
It’s one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites and surely one of England’s most popular tourist attractions. The old ring of Neolithic stones at Stonehenge has attracted hordes of pilgrims, philosophers and mystery seekers for centuries.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge is one of the most archaeologically rich spots in all of Europe.
It lures with not only with mysteries about its construction, but also with the unsolved mysteries and theories that are connected with its use.
Near the town of Amesbury, you can visit it on a day trip from London. You can also stop by if you’re visiting Bath, the Cotswolds, or southwest England.
The Jurassic Coast in Devon and Dorset, England
Another UNESCO World Heritage site is the Jurassic Coast. It’s a 95-mile (155 km) stretch of coastline in southwestern England, located the shores of east Devon and Dorset.
Although you won’t find T-Rex, you might go home with some Jurassic treasures, as fossils are scattered along its beaches. If plowing through the sand and mud is not your definition of fun, then just enjoy a leisure walk. The wild beaches have sheer white cliffs and stunning rock formations with millions of earthly years frozen in them.
The Lake District, England
There are numerous reasons to explore the Lake District in northwest England. First of all, it is postcard perfect with heather-covered moors and soaring fells, deep-green forests and shimmering lakes. It’s also an ideal place to hike.
Explore the 3210-foot-tall Scafell Pike the highest mountain in England, or Helvellyn, which can also be a distinct challenge. For those less strenuous adventurous, the region offers countless trails for walking.
You can also enjoy boat cruises on the area’s 16 lakes, and visit Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth lived. Another place os great interest for many is the Museum of Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit tales.
The British consider the Lake District the most beautiful area of England. It’s been a love affair since Victorian times when railroads made the area more accessible to the affluent of Londoners. Go see for yourself. It’s beautiful.
Apart from the fact that it’s birthplace of Shakespeare, the world’s greatest dramatist, and a primary source of his inspiration, Stratford-upon-Avon is also one of the prettiest places in England. And it’s less than two hours by car or train from London.
Set in the charming countryside of Warwickshire in The Cotswolds, it’s steeped in culture and history. Moreover, since it’s brimming with picture-perfect little houses, the town adds a magical quality to most down-to-earth activities like dining or shopping.
Stratford is one of the best places to sample Old England at its tastiest. Serving as a romantic (though crowded) hideaway for all the Romeos and Juliets, it’s also a hotspot for theater-goers.
Above all, be sure to see the old Church of the Holy Trinity where Shakespeare, along with his wife Anne Hathaway, is buried. Also, you’ll likely find Anne Hathaway’s cottage quite interesting, as well.
Located in the south-central northwest England, Manchester is England’s second city, and with the most visitors outside of London. A city of sport (with two Premier League football clubs), Manchester also offers a mix of culture, fashion, and shopping.
Manchester’s Chinatown, located right next to the Gay Village, is one of the city’s most bustling and colorful areas. It is an eye-pleaser for architecture buffs, a never-ending story for Orient lovers and a garden of Eden of restaurants.
It’s a city of music that is often synonymous with The Beatles. Moreover, Liverpool is also a culture capital, and a destination for art lovers, fans of the theater and museumgoers. You cannot visit Liverpool without seeing The Beatles Story at Albert Dock – a brilliant tour through the Beatles’ lives. You’ll find tons of memorabilia and insights from friends and family.
Also, to fully comprehend the significant influence Liverpool had throughout the centuries in the development of the British Empire, be certain to visit the Maritime Mercantile City.
Cornwall is that toe of land jutting out into the Atlantic in southwestern England. It’s a beautiful place of land and sea, with good restaurants, and plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy.
In my opinion, the Lizard Peninsula is stunningly beautiful no matter what time of the year you visit. Staggering cliffs, whitewashed cottages clustering around picturesque harbors, colorful fishing boats drying upside down on the beaches. It has a mild climate so you’ll see sub-tropical vegetation coming together with stunning views.
And if you’re in for a tidal spectacle, especially on a stormy day, don’t miss Kynance Cove. It’s considered by some to be the most beautiful stretch of coastline in the South West. A trip to the Eden Project will provide a full lesson on botany and the botanical enterprise found in Cornwall.
Also visit Polperro, a picturesque fishing village and old smuggler’s haven. I fell in love with beautiful Mousehole and the Minack Theater a few miles away. With a layout mimicking an ancient Greek theater, it’s set on a cliff overlooking a stretch of wild rocky coastline. Also quite popular (and, sometimes, quite crowded) is St. Ives.
Experience the great medieval walled-in city of York, in which the old encompasses the new.
First, you’ll likely be inspired by its exquisite architecture and its vibrant café-culture. Then enjoy a stroll through its cobblestone streets below York Minster, the beautiful Gothic Cathedral that dominates the city’s skyline.
Join the millions of travelers who have strolled through 1900 years of history on York’s impressive city walls. And also, if you take a walk there, be sure to look at the overhanging timber-framed buildings that line The Shambles. Take a boat ride on the River Ouse and walk through the world’s largest maize maze in the autumn.
When you’re in England, be sure to visit Bath. There you can relax as the Romans once did, in a rooftop spa with perfect views over this Georgian City.
Located in The Cotswolds, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some award-winning restaurants, luxurious hotels, and romantic B&Bs. And, of course, there’s the Thermae Bath Spa, which uses the same waters Celts and Romans used 2000 years ago. Also, don’t miss the ancient Roman Baths and the nearby Bath Abbey.
Exceptionally easy to navigate on foot, Bath also gives you a peek into Georgian England. Visit the magnificent Royal Crescent and the Circus, a Colosseum-like circle of homes). Also popular is the Jane Austen Centre, which pays homage to Bath’s most famous resident, and the small Holburne Museum.
You can also enjoy the city from above on a memorable champagne balloon flight.