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Destination England

Steeped in royalty, tradition and culture, England is the crown jewel in the U.K. traveler’s itinerary. From castles to cottages and pubs to high tea, it has something for everyone, starting with the massive capital of London—a melting pot of the world. We’ve chosen 12 destinations throughout the country, but they’re only the beginning of an unforgettable British adventure.

London Sights

English Traditions

An entire world pulses through London’s Underground every day. The Tube, as Londoners call it, carries more than one billion passengers a year on a network of 249 miles, 11 lines and 270 stations. Inaugurated in 1863, it is the oldest underground in the world and the largest in Europe. Take the fascinating Insider London Underground and Tube Tour and journey across 150 years in two hours, from the city’s first station to its most modern.

Travel from underground to lofty heights with a visit to London’s Globe Theater the pinnacle of artistic craft. Hailed as the greatest dramatic poet of the English language, Shakespeare lived and worked in London for much of his life. The original 16th-century theater in the red-light district that staged the bard’s plays attracted everyone from vagrants to the well-heeled. Today, the recreated thatched-roof, open-air theater stages classic Shakespeare productions. If you can’t catch a performance, visit the theater’s Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition for an absorbing look at Elizabethan England’s stage world.

A 17th-century street in central London began its transformation into a 1960s phenomena when it welcomed its first boutique in 1958. Quickly inhabited by a slew of fashion independents, Carnaby Street became a happening scene of mod and Hippie styles. Music bars and psychedelic clubs helped fuel the untamed energy of radical innovation. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010, Carnaby has matured and expanded, but it pays tribute to its heritage with special events throughout the year.

English Traditions

English Traditions

Country inns have been on the English road map for centuries. Coaching inns once stabled horses for mail and stagecoaches, and offered weary travelers much-needed rest and nourishment. Today, Michelin-starred food and rooms in the vicarage or over the pub can be found at the stellar Stagg Inn and Restaurant in the small village of Titley. After a leisurely day exploring nearby antique shops, bookshops and traditional black-and-white villages, the Stagg is a welcome place to call home.

From there, travel on to Chester, a remarkable walled city established as a Roman fort in approximately 74 A.D. Teeming with fabulous historic English architecture, Chester also showcases the unique medieval Rows—two-tiered, covered storefront walkways. From there, take a day trip to Wedgwood. Founded in 1759, the factory offers tours demonstrating the process of fine bone-china manufacturing. Acquire “bests” and “seconds” of such famous patterns as Spode’s Blue Italian and Royal Albert Old Country Roses at one of the area’s factory shops.

Fine china comes to life in the refined and graceful ritual of afternoon tea. Once the mark of wealth, tea and sugar became popular in the mid-1800s when afternoon teas turned into formal, high-society events. Freshly baked scones, cream and jam, delicate sandwiches and assorted pastries make up this delightful English tradition, still served at many establishments today. For a sip of the best, head to the foot of the North Yorkshire Moors to the Black Swan Hotel. Awarded the Top Tea Place of 2010, it’s a modern-day affair with age-old English class. Afternoon tea’s most famous address is London’s Ritz Hotel. If you go, book well in advance and pack formal attire—a jacket and tie are required for men.

Royalty, History & Culture

Royalty, History & Culture

About an hour outside of London, you’ll find Hever Castle and be transported to the Tudor world of Anne Boleyn, second wife
to King Henry VIII. Her family home is replete with moat and drawbridge, portraits, wax figures of Henry’s six wives, Anne’s prayer books and the last letter she wrote to King Henry before he had her beheaded. Stunning gardens encompass 125 acres and include water mazes, a boating lake and a special moonlit supper and ghost tour on Oct. 30.

To take in more modern-day pop royalty, a visit to Liverpool is key. As the birthplace of a music phenomenon, Liverpool casts a nostalgic allure. Plenty of tours flood this otherwise industrial city, but a ticket to ride on the Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour will take you on
a personalized journey of the band’s world. Knowledgeable and accommodating Liverpudlian guides chauffeur you to all four of the superstars’ childhood homes and more.

A visit to Oxford offers visitors a sense of the deep, rich tradition of England’s most esteemed educational institution. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, with roots in the 11th century, the city and university are filled with history, culture and architecture—not to mention otherworldly activity. An evening on Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trails is historically informative and chillingly entertaining, as an eccentric Victorian undertaker takes you on an unforgettable theatrical walking tour of Oxford’s cobbled alleys and hidden back streets.

England’s Scenic Landscape

England's Scenic Landscape

England boasts thousands of miles of managed walking trails that showcase the diverse landscape of the countryside. Hadrian’s Wall Path follows the 73-mile wall constructed by the famous Roman Emperor in 122 A.D. to ward off attacks by the Picts. Stay in castles, cottages and farmhouses along the route while visiting forts and other Roman sites, or take the Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus to get around the area. For more walking routes around England, visit the National Trails website.

The Lake District’s scenic mountains, valleys, lakes and villages inspired late 18th- and 19th-century Romantic poets, who championed imagination and emotion. White cottages, ancient Norse settlements, stone circles and grey sheep—along with local traditions such as fell running and hound trailing, Cumberland sausage and a fair share of unearthly mystique—combine to create the rich culture of the area. Walking, cycling or just driving here is food for the creative soul.

The charming countryside of Dorset County, with miles of footpaths, ivy-dressed cottages and quiet country lanes captures romantic England at its finest. Nestled in the heart of the Dorset heathland stands the childhood cottage of Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet. Stay at the 16th-century Acorn Inn of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, take a stroll through the Melbury Estate to enchanting Melbury Osmund and don’t forget to try the cream tea with homemade scones and clotted Dorset cream.

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