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8 Things to do in Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Hatfield is situated 20 miles north of London. Originally a Saxon settlement, the old town of Hatfield grew into an important resting point for travellers going into the capital. Hatfield Palace was first built in 1485, and Hatfield House country estate, was built in 1611, after which time the area flourished.
The town became linked with aircraft when de Havilland opened a factory in Hatfield in the 1930s, and many local people were employed in the industry. Nowadays the factories are closed and the University of Hertfordshire has been built on part of the land.
Hatfield was expanded into a new town after the war, with many homes being built along with a town centre. There are a lot of places nearby to visit - like St Albans, Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage, but there is plenty to do in Hatfield town itself. Here are eight of the best:
1. Spend the Afternoon at Hatfield House
Queen Elizabeth I lived in the Old Palace, which is now within the grounds of Hatfield House, for 3 years and was seated beneath a tree in the gardens when she heard she was to take the throne in 1558. A larger, Jacobean house was built in the grounds in 1611 by the First Marquis of Salisbury, and the family still live here today over 400 years later.
Hatfield House is open to visitors between April and October. As well as the house itself, there is a large park, formal gardens, plus a children’s farm too. There's a lovely courtyard area beside the Old Palace which is accessible without an entrance fee. Pop along to the courtyard for its restaurant, coffee shop, gift shop, pottery barn, bridal shop and antiques loft.
Special events are organised throughout the year, such as live proms, plays, musical evenings, antiques fairs, farmers’ markets and Christmas fairs which take place in the grounds. These are advertised on boards around the area, and on the Hatfield House website.
2. Take a Tour of Mill Green Museum
Watch flour being milled the traditional way at this 18th-century watermill on the edge of Hatfield. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays are milling days so visit on one of these days to see the water wheel turning. All the inner cogs turn and the stones grind the grain, and the miller is on hand to answer questions.
Small exhibition rooms display some local history and artefacts. There is a tea room for a little light refreshment which offers cream teas on Sundays. Flour from the mill and honey from the area are also available to purchase.
There are special visitor days to look out for with activities and events for children. Learn how to bake different kinds of bread and traditional dishes at the museum by booking onto one of the museums foodie workshops. Find all the information and opening times here.
3. Sink a Pint in Old Hatfield
Old Hatfield has a couple of quaint streets lined wth cottages and town houses where trades-people once lived. The area used to be the perfect stopping place for travellers on horseback going between London and Cambridgeshire, and pubs in these days were in high demand. The Eight Bells in Park Street is a Grade II listed, 16th-century watering hole that is still trading today.
The Eight Bells is a good old-fashionedl English pub that is walking distance from Hatfield House. Its claim to fame is that Charles Dickens stayed here in 1838, and he used the location in one of his novels. The character Bill Sikes visited the pub whilst on the run after murdering Nancy in Oliver Twist.
4. Sniff out a bargain at The Galleria Outlet Mall
The Galleria has a number of high street chain stores selling goods at discounted prices. Clothing, home goods, sports wear, gifts and kitchen gadgets are all available for a fraction of the RRP. In the middle of the mall is a huge indoor children’s play area, and there's a choice of coffee shops and cafes as well. To one end is an multi-screen Odeon cinema, a number of well-known chain restaurants, a Burger King and McDonalds.
5. Pick up Something Unusual at a Car Boot Sale in Hatfield
In the Birchwood Sports Centre field, a car boot sale is held every Sunday and Bank Holiday from April to October, weather permitting. It opens to sellers at 10am. Walk along the rows of stalls and see if you can spot that must-have item you can't do without. You can pick up all manner of things here – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!
6. Cycle along the Alban Way
The Alban Way is a cycle and pedestrian route that goes from Hatfield to St Albans. Much of the way is along the disused railway - the tracks were removed many years ago. If you go from one end to the other, you'll cover 6.5 miles one way.
There are a few artworks along the route to look out for, and lots of nature. A map and all details can be found here
The Alban Way
Things to do in Hatfield
7. Climb, swim, run, hit, kick or serve
Hatfield has a wide choice of places that offer sport and fitness activities. The Hertfordshire Sports Village at the University of Hertfordshire is impressive and open to all – there’s a popular indoor climbing wall, swimming pool, squash courts, sprawling gym and numerous classes available 7 days-a-week. Most things can be paid for per visit for infrequent use, or via a membership option for regular users.
In additions to the Sports Village, there’s Hatfield Swim Centre by Asda, Hatfield Leisure Centre in Travellers Lane, Birchwood Leisure Centre near Tesco, a budget gym in the Town Centre, a budget gym near the train station and a luxury David Lloyd Club in the Business Park. No excuses for being a couch potato!
8. Kick Flip and Ollie at Hatfield Skate Park
In the centre of town, on the corner of Link Drive car park, there's a skate park where skateboarders and BMXers can do their thing in style.