12 must-see places in England you won’t believe you’re in
You don’t have to go beyond the borders of England to find some amazing places. From hidden beaches to ancient buildings, this country has many destinations that look like they could be a plane away but are actually in your own backyard. No need to pack your passport: here are 12 of the best.
Pedn Vounder Beach, Cornwall
This expansive beach, with its turquoise waters and white sand, could be a Greek or Caribbean island, but it’s actually on the very tip of Cornwall. Smaller than its better-known neighbor Porthcurno, Pedn Vounder is relatively off-limits to tourists thanks to its tricky approach. But if you’re willing to climb a rugged cliff path to scramble down onto the sand, you’ll be rewarded with a crystal clear sea and secluded cove.
Lavender Fields, Gloucestershire
It may look like the rolling hills of Provence, but these lavender fields are actually in Gloucestershire. In a typical English summer, the signature purple plants should begin flowering in mid-June, with the best time to see them being early to mid-July. Farms offer entry for a small fee.
The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset
Immerse yourself in ancient history and spend an afternoon strolling through the Roman bathhouse complex in Bath. Built over a 46°C hot spring, the Romans would have bathed here before jumping into a cold pool to revitalize themselves. Featuring a temple dedicated to the healing goddess Sulis-Minerva, the baths now form one of the best-preserved ancient Roman spas in the world and are surrounded by beautiful 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
A natural rock formation in the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge is fringed by Britain’s highest inland limestone cliffs, rising 450 feet. Beneath your feet is a cave system formed by an underground river over millions of years, where stalactites and stalagmites can be seen. Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, the Cheddar Man, was found in 1903 and is estimated to be over 9,000 years old.
The Painted Hall, Greenwich, London
The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich has reopened after a two year conservation project to bring its magnificent ceiling back to life. The room has been dubbed the Sistine Chapel of the United Kingdom – its vast, decorated interior, stretching to 4,000 square metres, was designed by celebrated architect Sir Christopher Wren in the early 18th century as the ceremonial dining room for what was then the new Royal Hospital for Seamen.
Bowfell Mountain, Lake District, Cumbria
A casual observer might mistake the snow-capped peaks of Bowfell Mountain for somewhere in the Alps. The sixth highest peak in the area, it stands at 2,960 feet and is a fantastic vantage point at the top of the Langdale valley, making it popular with hikers.
Tresco Abbey Garden, Isles of Scilly
The sub-tropical climate on the Isles of Scilly means that thousands of exotic plants can thrive in Tresco Abbey Garden. Created around the ruins of a Benedictine abbey in the 19th century, the garden now houses species from around the world, from Brazil to New Zealand and Myanmar to South Africa. It’s fairly easy to spend a day meandering between sheltered clearings of tree ferns or strolling on sunny terraces and gazing across the borders at the sea beyond.
Rathfinny Wines, Alfriston, Sussex
Sussex may not be the first place one would associate with wine production, but this South Downs winery produces exemplary English sparkling wines thanks to a fortunate combination of limestone soil, temperate climate and south-facing slopes. Choose a sunny day and enjoy lunch at the vineyard’s restaurant and you could almost be in Champagne.
Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall
Perched on a bluff at the edge of the Atlantic, the Minack Theater might have been carved by ancient civilizations — but it’s actually built in the 1930s by a local theater lover, Rowena Cade. Today it is a spectacular setting for plays, musicals and opera during the summer months.
Sewage, Lake District, Cumbria
This spectacular lake is half a mile wide and 260 feet deep, the deepest of any lake in the area. Surrounded by mountains such as Red Pike, Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Scafell Pike – England’s highest mountain – the lake offers one of the best views for miles and is a good starting point for numerous walks.
Cliftonwood, Bristol, North Somerset
Just outside of central Bristol is Cliftonwood, an upscale enclave where many of the houses are painted bright colors. No one is quite sure when or why houses in the neighborhood were painted, but they have become a colorful and recognizable part of the city’s skyline. As well as being very photogenic, the area is known for its epic street festivals.
Royal Pavilion, Brighton, Sussex
This building would not look out of place in India but was built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, later George IV. Its onion-shaped domes, soaring minarets, and detailed colonnades have been compared to the Taj Mahal, albeit in a slightly cooler location.