We love England

By | Category: Travel destinations

Travel guide Lonely Planet has hailed England as the second best country in the world in which to travel. Here’s why…

Once the country’s first line of defence against invaders, the English coastline these days is a peaceful place where locals and visitors can enjoy more tranquil pursuits. Taking a bracing walk on a windswept pier, eating delicious fish and chips, searching for marine life in rockpools, finding fossils in ancient cliffs, building sandcastles and dolphin-spotting on picturesque beaches are just some of the activities offered by the English seaside. And indulging in these and more activities is set to become a whole lot easier with the 2020 launch of the England Coast Path, the longest continuous trail of its kind in the world, which promises access to the country’s entire coastline for the first time.

Population: 55.6 million 
Capital: London 
Language: English 
Unit of currency: Pound sterling
How to get there: London’s five airports have flights to virtually everywhere on the planet. Outside the capital, Manchester in the north has worldwide connections, and the country’s many smaller local airports have flights to Europe and beyond.

The silhouette of Norwich Cathedral’s tower in mist, as seen from Kett’s Heights. Credit: Getty

Tell me more… Brexit uncertainties have dominated the headlines in recent years but one constant amid all the confusion has been the timeless treasures that England is famous for. The historic castles and cathedrals, the quaint villages and rolling countryside and, of course, the seaside. Nowhere in England is more than 110km from the coast, and the English love of beach holidays is a longstanding tradition. Access, though, has sometimes been an issue, with sections of the shore cut off from the public, but a huge campaign by the Ramblers, a group dedicated to making England accessible to all, successfully persuaded the government back in 2014 to commit to a full England Coast Path by 2020. Although many sections already existed, it’s been no easy task joining the dots to create the 4800km trail. But determination has paid off and now anyone who wants to walk from Berwick-upon-Tweed in the country’s northeast to Bowness-on-Solway in the northwest just needs a sturdy pair of boots (and a detour via the Wales Coast Path, the world’s first national coast path when it opened in 2012).

Unmissable experiences 

  • Northumberland’s coast is a magical history tour, home to dramatic castles, offshore islands with puffins and seals, and the spectacular Holy Island, accessible only at low tide across a causeway. 
  • Walk, cycle, or jump on the Coasthopper bus: however you see it, the Norfolk Coast, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for over 50 years, is one of England’s most attractive sections of coastline. 
  • A pioneer of seaside access, the South West Coast Path takes the long way round from Somerset to Dorset. Originally developed to patrol for smugglers, these days it’s hikers who come for its wonderful walks and photogenic views. 
Roman Baths with Bath Abbey reflection in Bath, England. Credit: Shutterstock

Time your visit
There’s no guarantee of good weather at any time during the English year. More important for tackling the coast is coming prepared – good walking shoes and waterproofs are essential. Summer crowds on some sections can be off-putting, and you’re just as likely to see the sun in the quieter spring and autumn. To enjoy the trails with like-minded visitors, join a walking group – there are dozens across the country. 

ITINERARY 

Puffins on the Farne Islands. Credit: Getty

Two weeks in England 
Famed for hills, lakes and literary connections, the Lake District is also the start of the Coast to Coast Walk. 
Gentle valleys with cute villages make the Yorkshire Dales a joy. Grab some celebrated Wensleydale cheese. 
With an unrivalled history, York is the place to delve into England’s past – and try a Yorkshire rascal (cake) at the famous Bettys cafe. 
The North York Moors’ bleak beauty is best enjoyed on a steam-train ride – then keep walking to Robin Hood’s Bay: the end of the Coast to Coast Walk. 
After all that walking, head to Bath and rest your limbs in the spa waters like the Romans did. The shopping and Georgian architecture here are superlative. 
Finish with a night in the capital, London. Dine out in Soho, then head to a show in Theatreland. 

• By Clifton Wilkinson

Extract taken from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020. Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2019

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