There’s a side of England people miss by only visiting London, and I think that’s it’s most quintessential side.
Quaint villages mapped out by winding cobblestone roads. Homes dating back to the the 14th century and beyond. Endless farmland only defined by miles and miles of dry rock walls. Country pubs that always seem to attract a crowd, even if they’re in the middle of nowhere. Horses, wellington boots and of course lavish retreat homes, once owned by nobility, now open to the public.
One wonderful thing I’ve learned from traveling a only few different countries more extensively in the last few years, rather than just one spot in several just to tick another nation off my list, is that when you only visit one city, you actually miss out on the country, both as a place and as a whole.
I made that mistake on my past three visits to the UK, most of which I spent in London. Don’t get me wrong. I love London. It’s an amazing place and a true destination unto itself, but it’s only a tiny part of a country with serious character (and plenty of them as well).
Ric made this very clear to me when we first started dating and I told him of my visits to the UK. Meeting and developing almost all of our relationship abroad, we must have talked about where we come from and the people there a million times before either of us got to actually see it for ourselves. His eyes would light up when he’d tell me of the England he knew and the places near him I had to see. Mine did the same when I finally got to visit his homeland this holiday season.
Between Christmas and New Year celebrations we managed to fit in a few day trips around northern England. All the places we stopped aren’t too far apart, yet still manage to have different histories and completely different accents. They can be part of a one or two day road trip and a few are entire trip destinations unto themselves, but all definitely deserve a place on any British tour itinerary.
With Roman ruins and several buildings dating back to medieval times, this city near the border of Wales allows visitors to slip back in time. Walk on top of the walls surrounding the city, which were built as far back as 70 AD for protection of the fortress. Go for a boat cruise on the River Dee. And admire the many types of architecture in the historical city.
Did you know due to an old law that still hasn’t been repealed, it’s legal to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow from inside the city walls after midnight in Chester?
Known as “plague village”, Eyam isolated itself after one of its residents contracted the plague from London in August 1665. Even today it’s sad to read plaques in front of the row of plague cottages, which state how many died in each house and when. Imagine losing your entire family in only a few months.
Only one plague victim is buried in the Eyam Church and that is Katherine Mompesson, wife to William, the rector of the church at the time who was a major decider in isolating Eyam when the plague broke out. Find her grave and make sure to go inside the church as well to learn more about the village’s history.
Peak District National Park
If your more interested in the scenery than history of the north, then head to the Peak District for some stunning walks and views. Located mainly in Derbyshire, this area stretches out to six different counties in the north. Not only is it United Kingdom’s first National Park, but it’s also home to the second highest pub in England. End your day of walking at Cat & Fiddle Inn, for a well-deserved pint.
Granted a market charter in 1204, you can bet this is a good place to go shopping for local produce and goods. Various markets take place take place all around the Derbyshire’s town almost every day. While you’re there, make sure to check out the ‘Crooked Spire Church’. A few legends surround why the spire went crooked, but it most likely has to do with poor construction.
Probably best known these days as a major film location for the BBC mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, this estate home and surrounding park make for a great day out, with a bit of history. The park grounds are spread across 1,300 acres of open space and walking trails home to deer whose ancestors there date back to Medieval times. Walk around Lyme Hall and its gardens, which were given to Sir Thomas Danyers by Edward III in 1346 for his service in the Battle of Crecy.
And don’t forget to visit the infamous lake where Mr. Darcy “strips off” and jumps in.
London still the only stop on your agenda? Didn’t think so.
Have you ever visited ‘up north’? What was your favorite destination?
Banner photo of Bollington, a northern village I stayed in close to all these locations.