Essential England

  • 2 weeks

Just over a week is long enough to tick off many of England’s highlights. This tour takes in a dozen of the nation's top sights, from London to the Lakes.

Start with a full day in the nation's capital, London, simply walking the streets to admire the world-famous sights: Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Sq and more. Then head west for one or both of the grand cathedral cities of Winchester and Salisbury. Next stop: ancient history – the iconic megaliths of Stonehenge.

A short hop northwest leads to the beautiful city of Bath, for Roman history and fabulous Georgian architecture. Then cruise across the classic English countryside of the Cotswolds to reach that ancient seat of learning, Oxford. Not far away is Stratford-upon-Avon, for everything Shakespeare.

Next, strike out north for the Lake District, one of the country’s most scenic areas, then across to York for Viking remains and the stunning Minster. End your trip with a visit to Cambridge, England's other great university city. Then a final day back in London, immersed in galleries, museums, luxury shops, street markets, West End shows or East End cafes – or whatever takes your fancy.

The Full Monty

  • 4 Weeks

With a month to spare, you can enjoy a trip taking in all the very best that England offers, without the pressure of a crowded schedule. This circuit of the country covers all the bases.

Kick off in London, and spend a couple of days seeing the big-ticket attractions, but make time for exploratory saunters as well – along the south bank of the River Thames, or through the markets of the East End. Next, go down to the sea at the buzzy coastal resort of Brighton; then west, via Portsmouth for the historic dockyard, to reach the picturesque New Forest. Head inland to the grand cath­edral cities of Winchester and Salisbury, and on to England's best-known ancient site, Stonehenge, and nearby Avebury Stone Circle – bigger than Stonehenge but a more intimate experience.

Onwards into deepest Wessex, via Thomas Hardy's hometown, Dorchester, to reach the wide and wild expanse of Dartmoor National Park. Then it's time for yet another historic city, Wells, with its beautiful cathedral, en route to the Georgian masterpiece of Bath and the southwest's big little city, Bristol. Next comes the classic English countryside of the Cotswolds, with a pause at delightful Stow-on-the-Wold, and maybe Broadway or Chipping Campden, before reaching Oxford, England's oldest university city. Not far away is Shakespeare Central at Stratford-upon-Avon – plan on seeing a play by the Bard himself. Continue journeying north via the heather-clad moors and tranquil limestone dales of the Peak District to reach England's second city, Manchester, and neighbouring cultural crossroads Liverpool.

Then it's back to the wilds again with a short hop to the scenic wonders of the Lake District. From the sturdy border town of Carlisle, follow the ancient Roman landmark of Hadrian's Wall all the way to re­vitalised city Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Then it's into the home stretch, south via Durham and its world-class cathedral, and then York for its Viking remains and stunning minster, to reach England's other great seat of learning, Cambridge. From here it's a hop back to London, to use up the last few days of your grand tour, taking in highlights such as Trafalgar Sq, the National Gallery, Tate Modern and the Tower of London, all polished off with a stroll across Westminster Bridge as the sun sets over the Houses of Parliament.

The Wild Side

  • 2 Weeks

This is a tour through the best of England's natural landscape, the inspiration for generations of poets, writers and composers. So put on your hiking boots, or have a camera at the ready, as we take a northeast–southwest meander through some of the country's finest national parks and stretches of open countryside.

Start at the spectacular Roman remains of Hadrian's Wall, one of England’s finest reminders of the classical era, where you can explore the ancient forts and stride beside the ramparts centurion-style. Then continue into Cumbria for the high peaks of the Lake District National Park, once the spiritual home of Wordsworth and the Romantic poets, now a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with hikes and strolls for all abilities, plus cosy inns and traditional country hotels.

Travelling east from the Lakes carries you across the Pennines – the chain of hills known as the backbone of England – to reach the green hills and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Nearby are the moors around Haworth – inspiration for Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

Travel south through the hills and dales of the Peak District National Park – stopping off to explore the great park around Chatsworth if time allows – then through central England, via Elgar's beloved Malvern Hills, to reach the classic English countryside of the Cotswolds. Then continue southwards again to enjoy the epic emptiness of Salisbury Plain, home to Stonehenge and other archaeological intrigues. Nearby is Avebury, England’s other great stone circle. A few miles more and you're on Dorset's spectacular fossil-ridden Jurassic Coast.

Then head into England's toe, the West Country Peninsula, jutting deep into the Atlantic. Take in the lush farmland of Devon and the heathery hills and sandy coves of Exmoor National Park, then it's on to the eerie granite tors of Dartmoor National Park, which offers some of the country's most bleakly beautiful views. Next stop: Cornwall, for pretty ports, gorse-clad cliffs and sparkling bays. Then finish this bucolic excursion at Land's End, where the English mainland finally runs out of steam and plunges headlong into the restless ocean.

Heart of England

  • 2 Weeks

This journey through the country's heartland takes in the best of 'Olde England', concentrating on castles, cathedrals and picturesque medieval towns and villages.

Start in London, with its biggest landmarks: Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. Out of the centre, the gorgeous gardens at Kew, Eton College and Windsor Castle are also must-see sights.

Beyond the capital lies old England proper, especially around the market towns of Kent, where Canterbury Cathedral and Leeds Castle are top historic sights.

Then loop through Sussex and into Hampshire, where Winchester, the ancient capital, boasts another fine cathedral. Jostling for prominence is nearby Salisbury, with its famous cathedral spire dominating the landscape for miles around.

Out to the west, Bath is crammed with landmark Georgian architecture, while the picture-perfect Cotswolds conceal a host of pretty towns and villages, such as Northleach, Wantage and Cirencester, as well as the grand stately home of Blenheim Palace. On to picturesque Oxford, crammed with college buildings carved from honey-coloured stone, and Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of Shakespeare and classic half-timbered houses, leaving just enough time to top up on English history at stunning Warwick Castle.

Urban Experiences

  • 8 Days

Outside of London, England’s provincial cities provide a vibrant counterpoint to the country's tranquil coast and countryside.

Start in Bristol, a thriving regional capital famed for its engineering heritage and lively cultural scene. Then head to Birmingham, in the heart of the English Midlands, once forlorn but now a byword for successful urban renewal.

Continue north to reach Manchester, famous for its music and football team, where architectural highlights include the stunning Imperial War Museum North. Nearby Liverpool is reinventing itself as a cultural capital, with the redevelopment most apparent at the historic waterfront, Albert Dock.

Cross the Pennines to reach Leeds, the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’, where once-rundown factories and abandoned warehouses are now loft apartments and ritzy boutiques. But don't forget the past: go underground at the National Coal Mining Museum.

Further north is Newcastle-upon-Tyne and neighbouring Gateshead, former kings of coal, ships and steel, where heavy industries have given way to art and archi­tecture, most notably the BALTIC contemporary gallery, and the Sage concert hall. Conclude your urban tour with a visit to England's best-known public art, the iconic Angel of the North.

Edge of England

  • 2 Weeks

If you like the outdoors, and prefer flocks of birds to crowds of people, try this backwater route along England's eastern fringe.

Start in Colchester, with its magnificent castle, then visit sleepy Suffolk, where quaint villages and market towns such as Sudbury and Lavenham dot the landscape. Along the coast you'll discover wildlife reserves, shingle beaches, fishing ports such as Aldeburgh, and the delightfully retro seaside resort of Southwold.

Things get even quieter in Norfolk, especially around the misty lakes and windmill-lined rivers of the Norfolk Broads. For beach strolls or historic country pubs head for the coastal villages near Wells-next-the-Sea.

North of Norfolk lies the eerie, flat landscape of the Fens, now a haven for otters and bird life. Then it's north again into Yorkshire to the heather-clad North York Moors, where humpbacked hills roll all the way to the coast to drop dramatically into the choppy waters of the North Sea.

Round things off with a stroll between the castles of Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh on the wild Northumberland Coast, finishing your tour at the historic island priory of Lindisfarne.

Southwestern Wander

  • 2 Weeks

The southwest of England takes a bit of effort to reach but repays in full with a rich green landscape dotted with hills and moors, surrounded by glittering seas.

Start in the historic university city of Bristol, factoring in the M-Shed Museum, a walk around the harbour and a visit to Brunel's groundbreaking steamship, SS Great Britain. Detour to beautiful Bath, and wander around the Royal Crescent and Roman Baths. Saunter down through Somerset to Glastonbury – famous for its annual music festival, ruined abbey and many mystical legends. South leads to Dorset, where highlights include picturesque Shaftesbury.

Head west to heathery Exmoor National Park, then it's onwards into Devon, where there's a choice of coasts, as well as Dartmoor National Park, with the highest and wildest hills in southern England.

Cross into Cornwall to explore the space-age biodomes of the Eden Project. Nearby, but in another era entirely, is Tintagel Castle, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. Continue west to visit the galleries of St Ives, before concluding your trip at Land's End, where the English mainland comes to a final full stop.