Visitors flock to Yorkshire because there is no place on earth like God’s Own County. It considers its food and drink reputation as now the best in Britain. Yorkshire boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the country (apart from the clogged streets of London and who wants to go there?). The sheer beauty of the county, sometimes as unexpected as a dilapidated mill chimney stabbing up through a leaden sky, has inspired generations of painters: from John Atkinson Grimshaw’s moonscapes to the Victorian artists of the Staithes Group to David Hockney’s Yorkshire Wolds.
The only downside for visitors is the secret is out. Some 40 million visitors now travel here every year for heritage-related tourism alone. Good job its grand old cities and sweeping moors and Dales are large enough to soak them all up.
With sweeping, honey-stone Georgian crescents and terraces spread over a green and hilly bowl, Bath is a strong contender for England’s most beautiful small city. It has a fascinating and easily accessible history, from the Roman Baths to the life and times of one-time resident Jane Austen. Interesting, digestible galleries and museums – including the recently revamped Holburne and One Royal Crescent – are many and varied, while shopping is also a major draw. Bath’s Achilles heel used to be used to be a surprising dearth of good, affordable places to eat. But that is no longer the case. The foodie transformation of a number of the city’s pubs over the past decade has been the most significant improvement.
The glorious, honey-coloured towns and villages of the Cotswolds look as if they have strayed into the 21st century from another era. The area is characterised by gentle dynamism, with lively galleries, vibrant festivals and a liberal endowment of intriguing museums. Covering nearly 800 square miles across five counties (Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire), this region of “wolds”, or rolling hills, is the biggest of the 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England and Wales.
Every season has intrinsic appeal. Crowd-free winters are ideal for bracing walks, fire-side pub sessions – and lower hotelin spring to see lambs and wild daffodils. Visit in summer (inevitably with many others) for magical light, particularly in the long evenings. Or make an autumn excursion for a quieter atmosphere and wonderful leaf colour, especially at the two great arboreta, Westonbirt and Batsford.
Craggy coves and cream teas, surf breaks and strolls, picnics and pints in pub gardens – holidays in Devon are wholesome, simple and scenic. Most people are drawn to the magnificent beaches on the south and north coasts, but inland Devon has its appeal, too.
A visit here mixes two of life’s loveliest pleasures: good food and the great outdoors. Devon folk make the most of the rich larder of food on their doorstep. Lamb, venison, pheasant, pork and seafood are staples, and the county’s farmers’ markets are full of artisan producers selling delicious cider, apple juice, cheese and ice cream.
Visit the Lake District for Britain’s finest scenery, greenest countryside and grandest views. Its picturesque patchwork of lakes, valleys, woodlands and fells make it one of the best places in Britain to get out and experience the great outdoors, whether it’s on a leisurely bike ride down country lanes or a day-long hike across the hills.
The Lake District also has numerous artistic and literary connections, most famously William Wordsworth, who was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and drew much of his poetic inspiration from the surrounding landscape. And while the weather is notoriously unpredictable (locals will tell you that it’s not unusual to experience all four seasons in a single day), showers and racing clouds only emphasise the grandeur of the magnificent scenery.