Get inspired: short hop
With a magnificent landscape, a stunning coastline and a climate two or three degrees warmer than the mainland, the Isle of Wight has been a favourite with writers and artists for centuries. As well as beaches perfect for surfing, cycle routes that take you on a taste tour of the island’s best eateries, and dinosaur-themed attractions, the Isle of Wight has a great contemporary arts scene. Galleries exhibit and sell local art, in May there’s the Isle of Arts festival and every summer there’s an Open Studios month. And that’s before you even rock into the Isle of Wight’s legendary music festival season...
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the patch of Warwickshire where William Shakespeare grew up should be such an inspiring corner of our countryside. From Stratford-upon-Avon it’s easy to explore this beautiful region. It doesn’t get more picture-perfect than the place where his mother grew up – Mary Arden’s Farm in Wilmcote, just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, a working farm where you can get a sense of Tudor country life and try your hand at traditional crafts and farm skills. You can also take to the River Avon and float along in blissful tranquility, and, of course, you can’t leave without seeing a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Are those boots made for walking? Head for East Lincolnshire. In fact, it’s easy to get around by bike and on horseback, too, but the annual Lincolnshire Wolds Walking Festival each May is one of the country’s largest walking events. For 2014 the festival also includes cycle routes, but you don’t have to join festivalgoers to see the splendour of the Wolds. Try the 21-mile Poacher Country Cycle Route in any season, then improvise a route through the wonderful market towns – Alford for arts and crafts, or Woodhall Spa for a peaceful Edwardian gentility, and its quirky little movie house the Kinema in the Woods.
All the way up
Stretching from the Humber to the wild promontory of Flamborough Head near Bridlington, the Yorkshire Wolds takes in rolling hills, sprawling dales and sleepy villages. The undulating landscape is a great place for walkers to stretch their legs or for cyclists to work up a sweat, without needing to be Bradley Wiggins to get through the climbs. It’s also home to some of the country’s best birdwatching, on the rugged North Sea Heritage Coast. For a lazier time, visit beautiful market towns such as Malton, Pocklington and Beverley for browsing, wandering through galleries and tasting the region’s best food, some of it Michelin-starred.