Heritage Tours of England

England

Driving around England can be a great way of discovering the country's heritage at your own pace. In this article you will find a detailed description of five interesting heritage self-drive tours and of their main highlights.

Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Sussex

Due their close proximity to London, these three counties are ideal to be visited during a long weekend, although there are enough attractions in the area to keep tourists entertained for weeks on end. This heritage tour begins in Salisbury, 88 miles west of London. At over 400 feet high, Salisbury's cathedral spires are the highest in England, and the views from the top of the tower are impressive. Historical sites like Old Sarum or Stonehenge are within easy reach of Salisbury too.

Twenty-five miles south visitors will find Southampton, whose history is inextricably linked to its docks and harbour. Southampton's cultural life is vibrant and varied, as there are several theatres and art galleries in the city.

A 66-mile drive will take you to Brighton, the only city in East Sussex. As you travel further east, you will come across historic towns, such as Lewes, Hastings, and Alfriston, which many consider to be a quintaessentially English town. Other attractions include the impressive Bodiam Castle and Rudyard Kipling's former house.

Shakespeare Country and the Cotswolds

Stratford-upon-Avon will be forever associated with the memory of English playwright William Shakespeare. While in town, it is possible to visit the writer's birthplace and the cottage where his wife lived as a young girl. Stratford's town centre has some fine examples of Tudor architecture.

Nine miles north of Stratford lies Warwick, known for its magnificent Victorian gardens. The medieval castles at Warwick and Kenilworth are also worth a visit, as they played an important role in the Elizabethan era. Further west, the Grand Union Canal and Hatton Locks make for a great lunch spot.

Those who have more time available can include a visit to the Cotswolds, where rural English life is at its best. This region has been an Area of Outstanding National Beauty for over 40 years, and many villages in the Cotswolds routinely appear in travel and photography magazines. Make sure to stop by Castle Combe, Sudeley Castle, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Adlestrop.

The West

When it comes to historical heritage, Bath needs no introduction. The city is known worldwide for its well-preserved examples of Roman, Medieval, and Georgian architecture. In addition to its famous Roman baths and hot springs, other places of interest in Bath include Bath Abbey, the Royal Crescent, Pulteney Street, and the Jane Austen Centre.

Driving 14 miles to the northeast will take visitors to Chippenham, where Dyrham Park offers spectacular views over the English countryside. The estate is managed by the National Trust and includes 272 acres of parklands, valleys, and a lovely Baroque-style house. On the way to Bristol, avoid driving on the M4 and take the A420 instead, stopping at the market town of Marshfield and at Bridgeyate.

Yorkshire

History and heritage can be found pretty much around every corner in Yorkshire, and the vast size of this county makes it ideal for driving tours too. The city of York makes for a great starting point to any heritage tour. Take a walk around the medieval city walls and the picturesque alleys known as the Snickleways. The Merchants' Hall, Clifford Tower, and York Minster are other must-see attractions.

Sixteen miles north on the A34 you will find Castle Howard. The surrounding area is dotted with historic sites, such as Bolton Abbey, Beninbrough Hall, and Kirkham Priory. The Yorkshire Lavender Gardens are also nearby and well worth a visit.

The 46 miles that separate York from Whitby are a scenic drive over the Yorkshire Moors. Once in Whitby, climb to the top of the lighthouse for great views over the North Sea. From Whitby you can drive on to Scarborough, a pretty Victorian town, or continue to Hull, which has been a thriving town since the 11th century.

Castles and heritage in Kent

The county of Kent (also known as the garden of England) was witness to many historic battles, and a visit to its 12 castles can help visitors understand better the significance that Kent had in the development of England as a nation.

Hever Castle, located 30 miles away from London, is known for being Ann Boleyn's home and for being one of the most picturesque moated castles in the region. Next to it is Tonbridge Castle, which has an interesting and rather unique design. Leeds Castle is 14 miles east, in Maidstone, and has been home to monarchs like Queen Elizabeth I, Edward I, and Catherine of Aragon.

From Maidstone visitors can drive east on the M2 for approximately 30 miles. This will take them to Canterbury, which boasts many examples of traditional English heritage in addition to Canterbury Castle. Some places worth a visit include Canterbury's cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church.

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