Our Top 6 Things To Do in The Heart of England
The Heart of England conjures up images of a landscape we think of as quintessentially English – picturesque villages, stately homes, country pubs, market towns and meandering lanes – all of the can be enjoyed here in glorious abundance. Stretching from the Wye Valley and Welsh Marshes across the Midlands and Cotswolds, over to Leicester and Nottingham and up to Derbyshire and the Peak District, this is an inexhaustibly rich and fascinating area. Below are a few of our favourites among the major sights, as well as some quirkier attractions which might also tempt you, not to mention a few nearby Best Loved hotels to make the escape complete.
Tick off the major sights…
Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, is a brilliant, Baroque extravaganza built for the Duke of Marlborough – and the birthplace of Winston Churchill. www.blenheimpalace.com
The Feathers is located in Woodstock, just at the gates of Blenheim Palace – you can’t stay anywhere closer! This luxurious and stylish 4-star townhouse hotel also boasts excellent 2 AA Rosette cuisine and a Gin Bar with a record-breaking 400 varieties of gin.The Great Dining Room at Chatsworth
Chatsworth, the Derbyshire seat of the Duke of Devonshire, is one of England’s most Arcadian stately homes. www.chatsworth.org
When visiting Chatsworth, there’s nothing like actually staying on the Estate! That’s exactly what you do at Cavendish Hotel. Owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, this 4-star hotel features supremely comfortable bedrooms and exquisite food.Curbar Edge looking out at the Derwent Valley below
Take a walk in the southern hills of the Peak District. Try the Limestone Way from Middleton, or, south of Warslow, Ecton Hill and Thor’s Cave. www.peakdistrict.gov.uk
The Maynard in the magnificent Derwent Valley is ideally located for exploring the Peak District, including the finest walking trails, Chatsworth (only 7 miles away), Haddon Hall and the “plague village” of Eyam.
Watch a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Warwickshire town where the Bard was born. www.rsc.org.uk
Billesley Manor is a 4-star country house situated just three miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, yet its tranquil location feels like a world away. Even the library here was once used by Shakespeare.
Browse the state-of-the-art visitor centre at World of Wedgwood at Barlaston. You can tour the Staffordshire works and view exquisite pieces from the 18th century, too. www.worldofwedgwood.com
Soulton Hall in Shropshire is an impressive stately Elizabethan manor house situated on a 500-acre estate of working farmland. Owned by the same family for more than 400 years, this is the perfect place from which to explore the best of Shropshire and the Midlands.
Go on the trail of Herefordshire’s black and white villages, a 40-mile self-guided tour of pretty market towns with eye-catching timbered houses. www.blackandwhitetrail.org
Castle House is an elegant boutique Georgian townhouse in the centre of Hereford which somehow magically retains the feeling of a country house. Claire Nicholls’ seasonally-changing menu is the best dining experience in Hereford.
And for something different…
Visit the historic streets of the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, where craftspeople have put their skills to use on precious metals for more than two centuries. jewelleryquarter.net
See a show at the Theatre of Small Convenience in Malvern, Worcestershire. Set in a Victorian men’s toilet, this is the smallest commercial theatre building in the world. www.wctheatre.co.uk
Blast off at the National Space Centre in Leicester and take an interactive journey through the universe, including a 3D simulated rocket launch. www.spacecentre.co.uk
Stand in the shade of the Major Oak of Sherwood Forest, said to be the hideout of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Its crooked branches spread to more than 92ft and its trunk has a 33ft girth. www.experiencenottinghamshire.com
Shin kicking and Tug O War are two of the hotly contested events in the Olimpick Games near Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds, held each summer. www.olimpickgames.co.uk
Well-dressing – decorating old wells with art made from natural materials – is a curious tradition that takes place across the Midlands. Head to Tissington in Derbyshire in May for the blessing of its wells, dating from the 14th century. www.tissingtonhall.co.uk