A guide to England's hidden gems

England is home to many iconic landmarks, green open spaces and vibrant cities, from the Tower of London to honey-coloured Cotswolds villages, but why not dream of embarking on a tour of our lesser-known, but equally charming, destinations? Whether it’s the traditional pubs of South Yorkshire, the winding canals of the Midlands, or the musical history that beats through the heart of Manchester that you’re after, dream of a short break that is a little more unexpected…


Quirky shops: Like Brighton, love Margate


A woman outside Peony Vintage in Margate, England.

Next to its pebbled beach and illuminated pier, the southern seaside resort of Brighton is known for the quirky, independent shops that line the bohemian streets of The Lanes, but those in the know hold the seaside town of Margate in Kent to a similar level of fashionable individuality. Margate has plenty of high-fashion clothes shops and places to pick up stylish independent homeware, but if you’re searching for a unique souvenir then you can scour the expansive junkyards too. Mixing the coolness of London’s fashion areas with a taste of Brighton’s quirky second-hand shopping, Margate is a place unlike any other – there’s also a traditional theme park and the inspirational Turner Contemporary art gallery, that shouldn’t be missed.


Welcoming pubs: Like Bristol, love Sheffield


A view of Sheffield City Centre at night.

A hub of creativity in England’s southwest, Bristol’s distinct personality is always illustrated by its many pubs and bars, with drinking spots sitting prettily along the tranquil harbour side and cobblestoned streets. If the thought of experiencing the bustling energy of Bristol nightlife sounds good, you might want to branch out further to a city bursting with its own identity – Sheffield. South Yorkshire’s ‘Steel City’ is full of charming traditional pubs, like the cosy(and Vegan friendly) Red Deer, or the Irish pub Shakespeare’s, as well as Trippets Lounge Bar, renowned for its jazz music. Whether it be walking the cobbled streets or trying the local ales, the city’s charm is infectious.


Charming villages: Like the Cotswolds, love Bakewell


A couple walking outside the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop in Bakewell, England.

If you’re dreaming of walking through England’s quaint villages then you’ve probably already considered the Cotswolds’ postcard-perfect cottages, tea rooms and ivy-clad pubs, but the northern county of Derbyshire also offers a glimpse into this picturesque way of life. The traditional market town of Bakewell, found along the River Wye, has history, heritage and a honey-coloured high street perfect for a taste of country life. Longing to de-stress? You can plan an itinerary of riverside walks, including exploring the charming traditional shops and tasting the local historic delicacy that is the Bakewell Pudding!


Wonderful waterways: Like London, love Birmingham


Gas Street Basin, a key crossing at the heart of Birmingham City Centre.

An undeniable icon for the capital, the bustling city of London was built around the River Thames, making a walk or serene cycle along its banks a dream for many. But if you’re looking to experience some lesser-known waterways, you should add Birmingham’s canals to your bucket list. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries to aid Birmingham’s thriving industry, the Midlands city boasts 35 miles of waterways which can be explored on foot, on two wheels or even via canal boat! Adventurers can plan to swing by the refurbished Roundhouse when it reopens, a canal-side Grade II-listed former stables building that is being reimagined into a hub from which to discover the city.


Monumental music: Like Liverpool, love Manchester


Outside Salford Lads Club, featured on the inside of the Smiths album The Queen Is Dead.

Liverpool might be drenched in musical heritage and Beatlemania from the 1960s, but for a taste of music history ranging from heavyweights such as The Fall and The Smiths, to Oasis and Joy Division, lovers of sound should turn to the streets of Manchester. Much like Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, Manchester is home to some pilgrimage-worthy spots for music fans, including the legendary Smiths location at the Salford Lads’ Club, the Gallagher brother’s childhood record shop, Sifters in Didsbury, and the Epping Bridge in Hulme, made famous by Joy Division. It is a city with the roots of indie music at its core.     


Historic sites: Like Bath, love Canterbury


A group of people punting between historic buildings in Canterbury, Kent.

The south western city of Bath is known for its world-class history and heritage; from its romantic Regency architecture and awe-inspiring 10th century Abbey to the ancient Roman Baths, you can absorb the past with every step. If you’re yearning to step through centuries of history, you should also add the cobbled streets of Canterbury, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to your list. Nestled in the southern county of Kent, Canterbury provided the inspiration for Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and is home to the cathedral that saw the infamous murder of Thomas Becket in 1170, as well as the impressive remains of St Augustine’s Abbey. Another way to enjoy the sights is by punting along the River Stour!


Literary legends: Like Stratford-upon-Avon, love Haworth


A view down a cobbled hill in the village of Haworth, West Yorkshire.

Literature lovers will no doubt relish the idea of exploring the English market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Also known as Shakespeare country, this area of the West Midlands has sites such as the playwright’s birthplace, the cottage of Anne Hathaway and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  If you’re keen to immerse yourself in classic plays and novels, you’ll also love a trip to Haworth in West Yorkshire, the home village of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.  Here you can dream of roaming the wild moors, exploring the family home turned museum and visiting Haworth Church, the final resting place of the literary siblings.

21 Apr 2022(last updated)

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