Whichever way you look England has a fascinating façade. The myths, legends, accomplishments, achievements, and even misdeeds and misdemeanours of those who make up her past have all left a rich and indelible mark on the landscape.
And what a landscape! For a small kingdom, the diversity of England’s topography is exhilarating – from dramatic sea cliffs, to gently undulating wolds, from barren moorland, to ancient forests; from hedge-rowed farmland to wild heaths.
England offers a stunning panorama whichever way you look.
The human footprint has done much to beautify and embellish this landscape; from prehistoric menhirs to medieval castles; manicured gardens to landscaped parkland, from chocolate box villages, to Georgian spa towns, from thatched cottages to stately homes: this is a land that you will never tire of exploring.
London is defined more by its contrasts and contradictions than by its conformity.
Rich in history, yet progressive and modern; English, yet cosmopolitan; traditional and reserved, yet edgy and cool; arty and bohemian, yet trendy and hip.
If its antiquity and culture attract history buffs and culture vultures, then its music and fashion lures the young in-crowd, while its food and drink, once derided, is now the envy of most cities in the world. London is a city for everyone; you can each find what you are looking for here. For, as Samuel Johnson said: “if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford”.
Quite simply, you haven’t travelled, if you haven’t visited London, capital of the world.
The largest of all the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, the Cotswolds portray what many consider the quintessential image of rural England.
Known for its gently undulating hills (‘wolds’) and sweeping meadows corralled by dry stone walls, the area is dotted with magnificent stately homes and bucolic villages, instantly recognisable by their honey-coloured stone buildings.
The setting for Laurie Lee’s celebrated Cider With Rosie, the area also boasts the annual Cheese-Rolling and Wake in which daring volunteers risk life and limb to chase a wheel of cheese down one of the steepest slopes in the Cotswolds!
Yorkshire, or ‘God’s own country’ as the locals like to call it, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful counties in Britain.
Or rather, 4 counties, for it is divided into North, South, East and West Yorkshire. Topographically divided primarily into the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, this is mesmeric countryside formed of vertiginous crags, tranquil valleys, rolling hills, labyrinthine caves, windswept heather moorland and some of the finest limestone scenery in the UK.
But thousands of years of human activity have also left their mark: along with ancient castles and ruined abbeys, you’ll find beautiful stone-built villages ensconced in traditional farming landscapes of field barns and dry-stone walls.
Ever since the Romantic poets ‘discovered’ the Lake District, or ‘Lakeland’ thanks to the newly-built Victorian railways, people have been flocking to the area.
Lured by its soaring peaks, steep fells, glistening lakes and sparkling mountain tarns, the region’s popularity ensured its status as a National Park in 1951. In 2017, it was globally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although this is walking, or boating country, the literary links, stretching back to Wordsworth and Coleridge, also attract visitors, for it is here that others, such as Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome, also found inspiration.
The UK’s very first national park, the Peak District offers 555 square miles of gently rolling hills and valleys, gorges and lakes, wild moorland, and high plateaus, all peppered with bustling market towns, ancient stone villages, and stunning stately homes.
And there’s plenty to do too, including taking a cable car to The Heights of Abraham; hopping on an old-style tram at Crich Tramway Village; getting closer to nature at Peak Wildlife Park; and walking the iconic Pennine Way. Whatever you choose, the Peak District is sure to be one of the ‘peaks’ of any trip to Britain.
Pretty fishing villages cling to a wild and dramatic coastline that harbours scores of stunning beaches and a long history of shipwrecks and piracy.
Inland, verdant rolling hills, meandering rivers and thickly wooded valleys, hiding clusters of quaint thatched villages open up onto craggy rugged moorland with expansive plateaux and big skies. This stunning natural beauty combined with an exotic history has made it a favourite location for TV and film makers, with Devon and Cornwall providing the backdrop to such productions as Warhorse, Pirates of the Caribbean, Poldark and Doc Martin.
But it not just the landscape; the region is a veritable natural larder. The home of cream teas and scones, Devon and Cornwall offer some of the finest local produce in the whole of the UK, with local staples ranging from lamb, venison, pheasant, pork and seafood. Local farmers’ markets are full of artisan producers selling delicious cider, apple juice, cheese, ice cream and of course, the eponymous Cornish Pasty. Between them, the two counties boast nine Michelin starred restaurants.
They also offer numerous unique attractions including numerous historic houses and ancient castles, the incredibly ambitious Eden Project, the spectacular and incomparable open-air Minack Theatre, and the majestic St Michael’s Mount. The region has also long been a retreat and haven for artists, so much so that the Tate has its own modern art gallery in Cornwall, the Tate St. Ives.
Kent is best known as the ‘Garden of England’, a phrase first coined by Henry VIII. It claims to be the oldest county in England and contains some 17,000 listed buildings and is most famous for its oast-houses, old kilns used for drying hops, with their tall conical roofs. The county is also blessed with a spectacular coastline and is home to the famous and iconic White Cliffs of Dover, one of Britain’s best-known symbols.
Further along the coast, lies Sussex, a county dominated by the South Downs National Park. Green rolling pastures, wide open spaces, ancient woodlands, river valleys and dramatic coastline truly support the South Downs National Park’s ethos of being one of ‘Britain’s Breathing Spaces’. With over 3,300km of rights of way, the South Downs National Park offers a landscape as diverse as it is breath-taking. This is truly a place with something for everyone, all easily accessible.
Heading West, you will encounter Britain’s smallest National Park, the New Forest. Changed little since William the Conqueror established it as a royal hunting ground in 1079, even now the ancient “rights of common” mean that horses, cattle and pigs roam free not only throughout the forest, but also within its host of pretty villages.
And then one arrives at the Jurassic Coast, which stretches along 95 miles of truly stunning coastline from Dorset to Devon, with rocks recording 185 million years of the Earth’s history. A UNESCO World Heritage site, natural features seen on this stretch of coast include arches, pinnacles and stack rocks. Landslides have exposed a wide range of fossils along this coastline, the different rock types each having its own typical fauna and flora, providing evidence of how animals and plants evolved in this region.
Made up of the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, this is perhaps one of the UK’s most overlooked regions. Norfolk is long associated with the sea, being the birthplace of our most revered mariner, Lord Nelson. The Broads National Park, an inland wetland of narrow waterways and marshes, is not just an ecological wonder teeming with wildlife, but also a beautiful aquatic playground, offering a host of family-oriented activities. The whole area is studded with picturesque villages and market towns, which are among the prettiest in the country.
To the south is Suffolk, a landscape dotted with yet more charming hamlets seemingly lost in time. The county made its money on the back of the medieval wool trade, and magnificent churches and lavish Tudor homes attest to its wealthy past. Meander slowly through such picture-postcard villages of Kersey, Clare and Long Melford and you will be transported back to another age. A visit to Lavenham in particular is like travelling back to the 15th Century.
It is a landscape that has attracted artists for centuries and here lies Constable Country, so called for the famous images of an idealised, rural England painted by the 19th Century landscape artist, John Constable. Paintings such as The Hay Wain, Flatford Mill and Dedham Vale evoke a romantic, pastoral idyll that can still be discerned in today’s landscape.
But it is not all art and ancient history: in WWII, the area around Lavenham was home to thousands of US Airforce bomber crew, who frequented the town’s Tudor inn, The Swan. Many of them have been immortalised there, having inscribed their names on the low timbered ceiling of the hotel’s bar.
There’s the landscape, of course, from the Highlands, with their majestic peaks, hidden glens, and deep, dark lochs, to the Hebridean isles, with their expansive, wind-swept strands, and to the Lowlands, with its dense forests and gentle valleys.
The natural environment inspires much of what the country has to offer today: the colours of tartan, the taste of whisky and the challenge of links golf. The land has also inspired fierce loyalties and guilty betrayals, giving this small kingdom a history both rich and ancient, which in turn, provides inspiration to each traveller who visits.
Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, folded in amongst hills and peaks on the banks of the Firth of Forth. The city has grown around its landscape, with buildings and monuments clinging to rocky crags, or tucked underneath sharply rising bluffs. Looming over it all is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. From the Castle Esplanade, step into one of the most famous streets in the world, the Royal Mile, where there is ‘history in every cobblestone’. This is the heart of the Old Town, a compact and motley collection of medieval tenements, ancient alleyways of closes and vennels, hidden market squares and ghostly graveyards.
When the Georgians decided the Old Town or ‘Auld Reekie’ as it had become known, wasn’t fit for further habitation, they built the New Town, an ordered grid of neo-classical splendour, dividing the city into two distinct, yet equally charming, halves. The largest complete example of town planning from the Georgian period anywhere in the world, New Town’s mixture of classical architecture, grand squares and terraces, gardens and secluded lanes, means that a walk through its streets is a journey back in time to an age of elegance. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
Majestic soaring mountains, deep, dark lochs, the glorious glens watched over by stags. Woodland, rivers and plenty of historic castles; the Western Highlands are the Scotland of your imagination. This is big sweeping, spectacular landscape with a fascinating, but bloody, history to match. From Fort William, which sits at the centre of this remarkable area and in the shadow of UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, whichever way you turn what lies ahead is the most incredible and dramatic country that Great Britain has to offer.
To the east, and home to huge forests of ancient native trees, cascading waterfalls, and more wildlife than you can shake a sporran at, lies the Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the UK. Covering an area of 1,748 square miles, this breath-taking park boasts five of the UK’s six highest mountains, three of Scotland’s five ski resorts, as well as the highest, coldest and snowiest plateau in Britain. But it’s not always cold. In the summer, the snow melts and it becomes a mecca for hill-walking, climbing, deer stalking, fishing, and birdwatching – just watch out for the golden eagles!
This archipelago of islands off Scotland’s dramatic western coast offer some of the world’s most arresting seascapes. This is a desolate, rugged beauty, whose rawness belies a richness in wildlife, culture, history and adventure. From the whiskies of Islay, to the puffins of Treshnish; from the Cuillin hills of Skye to the standing stones of Lewis, you will at each turn be captivated and enthralled. This is a landscape of adventure and the great outdoors.
For this is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes, where before you know it you have fallen for the charm of the locals with the gift of the gab and a twinkle in their eye.
Having been embraced by their warmth and hospitality, you will then notice Ireland’s long history, rich culture and the stunning scenery. Each, in their turn, will bewitch and beguile you: once visited, Ireland will never leave you.
Split by the River Liffey, though joined together in 1816 by the Ha’penny Bridge, Ireland’s largest city is surprisingly small, compact and very cosy. It’s a wonderful city to slowly walk around and drink in its splendour … as well as the Guinness!
But Dublin’s not just about beer (or whiskey). While the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery are the city’s most popular attractions, Dublin is also a city of high culture. The inspiration of literary and musical giants like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Phil Lynott and Bono continue to infuse the city with infectious artistic talent, on display in every bar and street corner.
Ireland’s tangled political history can be discovered at the GPO Witness Museum and with a visit to Kilmainham Gaol, while even the grand Georgian and Palladian architecture is eclipsed by the incomparable Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1030 and the equally impressive St Patrick’s Cathedral, only 100 years younger.
But Dublin’s star attraction remains the 9th century masterpiece that is the exquisitely illuminated manuscript of The Book of Kells, Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure. Hosted in Trinity College, it is only a short walk from where Molly Malone can still be found wheeling her wheelbarrow. Sadly, her singing has stopped but the ‘craic’ in Dublin never does.
County Kerry is arguably the most scenic of all counties in Ireland, possessing the most spectacular landscapes and vistas in the country. Dramatic coastlines, awe-inspiring mountain ranges, glistening lakes and tumbling waterfalls, historic ruins, vibrant towns and picture-postcard villages: Kerry covers the whole wish-list of things to see and do in Ireland.
At the heart of it all lies the Killarney National Park, comprising some 26,000 acres of woodland, mountains and lakes and offering some of the most iconic scenery, from Ladies View, to the Gap of Dunloe and the MacGillycuddy Reeks. And then there’s the famous Ring of Kerry, one of the most spectacular drives in the world, with views of the film-star Skellig Islands. But even it is given a run for its money by the Dingle Peninsula, one of the most stunning sections of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. This is the Ireland of your imagination.
The historic city of Galway dances to a beat uniquely its own. Creative and alternative, Galway is one of Ireland’s most vibrant cities, brought alive by multi-hued pubs and cafes, offering live music inside, or prime seating outside for the ever-present street entertainers. Galway sees itself at the very heart of Irish life and culture, of which food, of course, is an integral part and today the city is a foodie destination in its own right. This medieval city buzzes with modern culture, from which the rest of the country takes its cue.
Just to the northwest of Galway City lies Connemara, the strong beating heart of traditional Irish culture. If you want to experience the real spectacular beauty of Ireland, or the ‘savage beauty’ as Oscar Wilde said, this corner of County Galway is the place you must see. Clifden, the ‘capital of Connemara’, is the centre of the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht and a vital part in keeping alive ancient traditions and culture. It is also the gateway to the beautiful Connemara National Park, one of nature’s most stunning works of art. A breath-taking coastline of sandy beaches and blue waters, rugged hills, woodland, lakes, rivers, dramatic and forbidding mountains, commingle to show Ireland in all her majestic glory.
Northern Ireland has come a long way since the dark days of the ‘Troubles’, although its history is never far from the surface. It is most apparent touring the Gaeltacht Quarter in west Belfast, where you can see sectarian murals and the infamous peace walls, and learn first-hand how the social division created by this long-running sectarian conflict still persists today.
But Belfast is much more than its religious divide and in the Titanic Quarter you will learn how the city turned itself into a booming industrial centre, which culminated in the construction of the ill-fated cruise liner in the city’s shipyards. You simply mustn’t miss the Titanic Museum.
Over the River Lagan lies the centrally-located Cathedral Quarter, with its rambling streets, buzzing pubs and top-notch restaurants. Nearby, you will find St George’s Market, a traditional Victorian market, home to over 300 traders, food hawkers, musicians and artisans. Further south is the leafy Queen’s Quarter, where you’ll find the Botanical Gardens and Queen’s University. This is a city that has reinvented itself and through its dramatic transformation, shed off its dark past to reveal the true Northern Irish character: vibrant, droll and fun-loving.
Long overlooked as a holiday destination in favour of the Highlands of Scotland, travellers have been driving north past Wales without realising what they are missing. But slowly, the message is getting out: that the wonder of Wales is a sight to behold made all the more captivating by the wit, lyricism, hospitality and vivacity of its inhabitants.
With over 640 castles, Wales has the highest density of castles of any country in the world, while the natural majesty of the Snowdonian peaks in the north draws hikers and adventure seekers. Surfers and beach lovers head to Pembrokeshire, while the tranquil beauty of the Wye Valley and Vale of Usk attract those seeking a more peaceful and bucolic escape. This is a land for everyone.
This is deepest darkest Wales, the land of druids and native Welsh speakers and rich in local culture and heritage. Wales’ mightiest castles dot the northern coastline: magnificent Conwy, monumental Caernarfon, the architectural wonder that is Beaumaris and, further round the coast, spectacular Harlech. Each is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Just to the south, rises the mountainous heart of southern Britain, the Snowdonia National Park, one of the UK’s most popular destinations. Home to Britain’s highest mountain, Snowdonia is also one of the most beautiful mountainous regions in the whole of the UK: its craggy peaks, ancient woodlands and estuaries teeming with birds, are laced with stone cottages, market towns, Celtic hill forts, standing stones and mediaeval castles. And everywhere you look, views to die for.
This natural masterpiece is also one huge playground, hosting the world’s fastest zipwire and some of the best mountain bike trails, it has Europe’s longest narrow-gauge steam railway lines that lead you to epic hiking routes and climbing rock faces. All within an hour of Manchester airport.
South Wales is a land of contrasts. It is home to almost three-quarters of the population of Wales (including the capital city, Cardiff), and yet a third of the area is covered by the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. Then there are the crystal-clear waterfalls of the Neath Valley and the unspoilt, timeless landscape of the Wye Valley. But these valleys stand in stark contrast to ‘the valleys’ – the proud working-class towns where coal-mining once ruled. While not an obvious tourist destination, these historic ‘pit towns’ are a crucial part of South Wales’ unique identity, and definitely worth a visit.
To the West, lies Pembrokeshire, or as the Welsh call it: ‘Gwlad Hud a Lledrith’ or the ‘Land of Mystery and Enchantment’. For good reason; in recent years National Geographic named Pembrokeshire the world’s second-best coastal destination and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path second in the world’s top ten long-distance paths. Here you will find purple-hued cliffs tumbling down into golden bays, caves, and rock stacks lashed by the Irish Sea, while along the cliff tops, single-track lanes twist to hidden coves and whitewashed taverns with panoramic sea views. You will encounter Neolithic cromlechs, Iron Age promontory strongholds, churches and chapels of the seafaring early Celtic saints, alongside Norman castles and Napoleonic forts.
We are able to arrange the logistics for these trips as well, the favourite destinations being Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
We also see considerable demand for trips to the Normandy beaches as well as the WWI battlefields in Flanders and we have long-standing links with local partners to arrange exclusive tours there with outstanding battlefield guides.
Extraordinary Britain curates personalised luxury travel and tours offering immersive experiences that match our clients’ interests and specific requirements. We cater to discerning, seasoned travellers who seek to learn and understand as much about the United Kingdom and Ireland as possible, delving deep into our nation’s history and contemporary culture.
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