Five great English breaks

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By Ann Bird, a Travel Professional

Read more on Henley-on-Thames.

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Recommended for:
Family, Shopping, Short Break, Expensive, Mid-range

Historical sights, farmers markets, riverside walks and seaside charms... you'll find them all in this guide to some of the loveliest destinations the English countryside has to offer

HENLEY-ON-THAMES

WHY GO
The Royal Regatta at the beginning of July is a good excuse to dust down your blazer, but you’ll also have plenty to see when the boaters and flannel trousers have been put back in the wardrobe. The Head of the River races and a scenic towpath route for walkers of all ages are worth sampling. And if you want to mix it up a bit, try the Astors’ former residence, Cliveden, where Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi have all been guests. There’s also Windsor and Legoland close by.

MUST SEE
The River and Rowing Museum, where The Wind In The Willows is brought to life and there are vessels of every shape and size.

WHEN TO GO
The Henley Festival (8-12 July 2009) hits the banks of the river the week after the regatta, with dance, theatre, outdoor dining and fireworks.

WHERE TO STAY
If you want to go posh (and this is the place to do so), then get your brogues and Jimmy Choos to the Hotel du Vin. Ignore the name - it’s actually in an old brewery. If your list of must-haves includes an outdoor bathtub and a walk-in shower, this places ticks both.

HEXHAM

WHY GO
Will being voted “England’s best market town” do? It’s just a stone’s throw from Hadrian’s Wall, too. The countryside is so stunning, you’ll understand why those Roman chappies wanted to hang on to it.

MUST SEE
The Farmers Market, which takes place every second and fourth Saturday in the month. Locally reared, brewed, pickled and smoked everything is here.

WHEN TO GO
Hexham Abbey holds its festival from 25 September to 3 October 2009, featuring jazz, folk, film and a free street festival.

WHERE TO STAY
The best choice for history buffs is probably Langley Castle. With 7ft-thick walls in the rooms, you won’t be disturbed by the guests next door running an early bath. It dates back to the 14th century, but the prices are modern. If you have a Rumpelstiltskin fantasy, this is the place to indulge it. Expect your prince to be charged for parking though.

ISLE OF WIGHT

WHY GO
If you get all wistful about an age when people happily left their front doors unlocked, you’ll like this diamond-shaped gem. What’s wrong with a time warp anyway? When everything else in life seems to have speeded up, this is a top place to wind down. The half-hour ferry ride does its bit towards achieving that, as well as giving you the feeling you’ve almost gone abroad, but without the hassle of packing passports, currency and a phrasebook.

MUST SEE
The Baywatch-on-the-Beach café at St Helen’s. Despite its name, it thankfully has no link to brassy blonde lifeguards. It’s so close to the beach, you won’t need to add salt to your food. Enjoy a scrumptious all-day English breakfast or a fishy dish, and build a few sandcastles while you wait for puds to arrive.

WHEN TO GO
Any time is good - but if you want a bit more action, hop over for Cowes Week (1-8 August 2009) or the Bestival rock festival (11-13 September).

WHERE TO STAY
An island’s obvious selling point is the fact that you’re never far from the sea and The George Hotel fits the bill for seaside charm. It’s been here since 1764 - surely that says enough!

BAKEWELL

WHY GO
In the heart of the Peak District, Bakewell is a history- and heritage-lovers dream. It was mentioned in the Domesday book, and has a market dating back to at least the 1300s. Then there are the puddings (please don’t say tarts). Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice here and as she so rightly put it: “To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”

MUST SEE
Chatsworth House - it’s terribly, terribly splendid and is said to be the fictional Pemberley Hall of Mr Darcy fame. Check out Haddon Hall for another literary link - it was the location for Jane Eyre.

WHEN TO GO
There’s lots to do all year round. But if you like an excuse, try the Bakewell Show in August. Check out the Knights of the Damned jousting team and the inland beach!

WHERE TO STAY
The Devonshire Arms at Beeley is very convenient for Chatsworth House, or you could self-cater in style at Haddon Grove Farm.

CANTERBURY

WHY GO
Don’t just focus on the Cathedral, magnificent as it is; this partly walled city has many other must-see sites. There’s also great walking and cycling country nearby, as well as worthy coastal towns like nearby Whitstable. Plus, if you really get the urge to flex your passport, Calais is a little Channel-hop away.

MUST SEE
The City Wall Trail: in just a couple of hours you’ll have a great sense of perspective, as it goes halfway round the city.

WHEN TO GO
Canterbury has year-round charm and popularity. It’s perfect for Christmas shopping in its narrow lanes lined with quirky shops. In late spring there are acres of bluebells in the woods. And in summer, you can try a wonderful walk or river boat trip (but be prepared for swarms of tourists, too).

WHERE TO STAY
Abode Canterbury is quite swanky, but like many of these very cool, chic hotels, consumers view it like Marmite - love it or loathe it. You be the judge.

 

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More information on Five great English breaks:

Author:
Ann Bird
Traveller type:
Travel Professional
Guide rating:
1
Average: 1 (1 vote)
Total views:
488
First uploaded:
6 July 2009
Last updated:
4 years 29 weeks 6 days 17 hours 3 min 2 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Family, Shopping, Short Break
Budget level:
Mid-range, Expensive

Ann recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Hotel Du Vin And Bistro Henley
£140
N/A
2. Langley Castle Hotel
£116
N/A
3. The Devonshire Arms
£115
N/A
4. Abode Canterbury
£88
N/A
5. The George Hotel Isle of Wight
£99
N/A
6. Haddon Grove Farm
N/A

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Community comments (2)

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Why, when there are a lot of very talented writers, amateur and professional, contributing to this site do you include so-called guides such as these which could be written without the author even leaving their office? Has this writer even been to Bakewell, for instance?

Was this comment useful?

Ouch! This is only meant to be a taster article to whet a traveller's appetite!
I certainly did leave the office for some "light" research (walking the entire length of Hadrian's Wall, several trips to the Baywatch Cafe and to spend a few years in Canterbury...)
But thanks for your comment and I hope you enjoy your visits as much as I did.