Rolling chalk hills, venerable Victorian resorts, fields of hops and grapes sweetening in the sun: welcome to England’s southeast, four soothing counties’ worth of country houses, fairy-tale castles and the finest food and drink. That fruit-ripening sun shines brightest and longest on the coast, warming a string of seaside towns wedged between formidable chalk cliffs. There’s something for everyone here, from the medieval quaintness of Sandwich to the bohemian spirit of hedonistic Brighton and the more genteel grandeur of Eastbourne.
The southeast is also pock-marked with reminders of darker days. The region’s position as the front line against Continental invaders has left a wealth of turbulent history, including the 1066 battlefield, Dover Castle’s secret war tunnels and scattered Roman ruins.
England’s spiritual heart is Canterbury; its cathedral and ancient Unesco-listed attractions are essential viewing for any 21st-century pilgrim.