England’s gorgeous countryside is waiting for you – south coast beaches to relax on, northern night skies to gaze at, valleys to cycle through, lakes to row across and mountains to stride over. And the great thing is, these pleasures are all easily reachable from any city, so you could be enjoying everything the English countryside has to offer this weekend.
Get inspired: short hop
Taking in woodland, lakes and even a pretty stretch of the south coast, the New Forest is easy to explore by foot, off-road cycle track or Twizy EV. Every town and village is delightful: picture-postcard Burley, the riverside idyll of Beaulieu and the handsome Georgian port of Lymington. Even in Brockenhurst, the New Forest’s largest village, cars slow down for wandering ponies. In fact, animals have right of way here, so it’s perfect for horse riding, too. Enjoy more of the ancient splendour with the very modern Brand New Forest Card, which gives you discounts on restaurants, spas and all kinds of activities.
The Broads is Britain’s magical waterland, 125 miles of peaceful waterways that you can navigate at your own pace, on a day boat, sailing boat or luxury cruiser. To start, head for Wroxham – only eight miles from Norwich – with numerous places to hire a boat, canoe or bike to explore the landscapes and wildlife. And it’s not all about birds: try an evening bat or moth tour, a wildflower walk, otter spotting or a photographic day out under the guidance of a local photographer. Or keep it simple and relax; take a picnic on board or find a mooring and sample the local ales at waterside pubs.
There aren’t many places where you can combine all-out physical activity with complete relaxation – but the Peak District is undoubtedly one of them. For taking it easy there’s the historic spa town of Buxton, the magnificent stately home of Chatsworth and the picturesque tea shops and country pubs of Derbyshire. However, with the spectacular underground/overground combination of Poole’s Cavern, the treetop zipwire thrills of Go Ape and the four mile-long rock climbers’ playground that is the gritstone crag Stanage Edge, you can get as full-on as you want. And with expert training offered for all abilities, anyone can experience the thrills.
Local author James Herriot described Sutton Bank as ‘the finest view in England’, and you’re certainly spoilt for choice for great views – the North York Moors National Park covers 554 square miles, along with 26 miles of coastline. The 90 villages dotted around the North York Moors and adjoining Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty provide everything from fine dining and tea rooms to summer festivals and artisanal arts and crafts. You’re also close to Scarborough’s sandy beaches and surftastic waves, and Whitby which, thanks to its associations with Bram Stoker and ‘Dracula’, hosts twice-yearly goth weekenders…
All the way up
The Durham Dales are a breathtaking landscape of heather moors, rivers, waterfalls, meadows, hills and valleys, dotted with lovely villages and market towns. The area’s beauty has inspired great works of creativity, including the poems of Sir Walter Scott and the paintings of JMW Turner. You’ll be inspired by the five-mile jaunt between High Force and Low Force waterfalls, or head for Hamsterley Forest for a poetic wander through nature. There are cycle routes, too, for the freewheeling and for those who prefer a serious challenge. Beyond these inland pleasures, the Durham Heritage Coast offers glorious beaches and rugged clifftop walks.