England's southwest is simply spectacular. Here the past is ever present – prepare for close encounters with iconic stone circles, Iron Age hill forts and Roman baths. Blockbuster stately homes border romantic castles; serene cathedrals frame sumptuous Georgian cityscapes.
Birmingham, the Midlands & the Marches
Few other places come so close to the dream of England as here, the country's heart. If you're searching for green valleys and chocolate-box villages of wonky timbered houses, the legend surrounding Nottingham's Robin Hood, or stately homes that look like the last lord of the manor just clip-clopped out of the stables, you'll find them here.
Crossing from the Republic into Northern Ireland you immediately notice two differences: the street signs are in miles and the roads are well maintained. Soon enough, you find that these aren’t the only differences; the accent here is distinctly different, the currency is pounds sterling and you remark again about how nicely maintained the roads are.
You can't get further west than the ancient Celtic kingdom of Cornwall (or Kernow, as it's known to Cornish-speakers). Blessed with the southwest's wildest coastline and most breathtakingly beautiful beaches, this proudly independent peninsula has always marched to its own tune.
Devon offers freedom. Its rippling, beach-fringed landscape is studded with historic homes, vibrant cities and wild, wild moors. So here you can ditch schedules and to-do lists and hike a rugged coast path, take a scenic boat trip, or get lost in hedge-lined lanes that aren't even on your map.
With a population as big as Scotland's and an area half the size of Belgium, Yorkshire is almost a country in itself. It has its own flag, its own dialect and its own celebration, Yorkshire Day (1 August). While local folk are proud to be English, they're even prouder to be natives of 'God's Own County'.
Manchester, Liverpool & Northwest England
If you’re looking for clues as to what once made Britain great, you’ll find plenty of them in the Northwest. Dominating the region is Manchester, a paradigm of reinvention that has transformed itself from 20th-century industrial hulk into a modern city with accompanying distractions – from football to fine food.