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Travel and Places: My Best of Britain
Hi there, here you will find my very own Top10 places to visit in Britain, ranging from beaches to castles and woodlands to picturesque chocolate box villages. I have never travelled abroad, in fact I don't even own a passport, but I hope you will enjoy my selection of personal favourites and perhaps understand why i believe that sometimes, the most beautiful places, are right there on your very own doorstep.
They are in no particular order as I find each place has it's own unique atmosphere and beauty. You may well have visited some of these places yourself, if so, why not let us all know what you thought of them by adding your thoughts below, it would be great to know what other people make of your favourite places.
Puzzle Wood, Gloucestershire
If like me you are an avid fan of the Lord of The Rings movies, then Puzzle Wood is a must for you. This very enclosed and atmospheric wood situated close to the village of Coleford in the Forest of Dean, evokes images of marauding orcs and you almost expect to be ambushed by some defending archers round every turn.
You can spend hours exploring meandering pathways through this beautiful ancient woodland. The miles of crooked paths wind through gulleys and moss covered rocks, over bridges and through intriguing tree and rock formations.
In the early 1800s a local landowner laid down a mile of pathways which meandered through the trees and gulleys through this ancient forest originally for the amusement of his friends and children. Then, in the early 1900s, Puzzlewood opened to the public, with an honesty box at it's entrance for the benefit of the local church. Since then it is has remained virtually unchanged with the same pathways, caves and bridges as in earlier times.
JRR Tolkien, was a regular visitor to the Forest Of Dean, and is widely believed to
have visited Puzzlewood, and many believe the wood was the inspiration for the fabled forests of Fangorn and The Shire of Middle Earth in the Lord of The Rings trilogy.
The wood attracts thousands of visitors every year and it is right up there as one of my most favourite places.
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Rhosilli Beach, The Gower Coast, Wales
Around 90 minutes from my home in Cardiff, lies the stunningly beautiful Rhosilli Beach on the Gower penninsula. Rhossili is a wide expansive sandy beach that can be accesed at the southern end of the beach via the picturesque Rhossili village, or nearer the centre of the bay at Hillend which is near the village of Llangennith. This is probably the most famous beach on the Gower coast and is famous for surfing and sea fishing.
At low tide there is a huge stretch of beach. It is possible to walk across the bay to Llangennith or even cross onto the Worms Head. There is always some sand, even at high tide. It is very popular with surfers and birdwatchers alike as many different varieties of birds nest on the cliffs.
My family love to come to this beach during the summer, where our whole day is spent bodyboarding, barbecueing, exploring the coves or playing cricket on the huge beach. I could not recommend this place highly enough and I believe this is, as ii was rightly awarded, the best beach in the UK.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
What can I say about this place, it is a truly magnificent spectacle of nature during the whole year round, and you really do need to see this place during each and every season to appreciate it's splendour.
The Autumn months here are particularly outstanding and the mix of Autumn colours would leave any artist envious.
Winter too is a magical time at the arboretum, especially if it has just snowed.
The trees are lit up by various bright colours and you would be mistaken for thinking that you were in some enchanted forest in Narnia or perhaps Lapland, Sweden or Norway.
Westonbirt Arboretum has an incredible array of trees from all over the world.
There are 18,000 of them from across the globe, planted from 1829 to the present day, producing 600 acres of beautifully landscaped Cotswold countryside.
Visitors to the arboretum can wander wherever they please along 17 miles of winding pathways, or simply sit and relax in a leafy glade and admire some of the biggest, oldest and rarest trees and shrubs of their kind in the world.
If you get the chance, you really should give this place a visit, trust me, you would not be disappointed.
Lanhydrock House, Cornwall
When I was a boy, I came to this stately home on at least 4 seperate occasions with my school and was immediately in awe of the place. It is surely one of Britain's most beautiful houses, from it's resplendant gatehouse, which you can arrive at by vintage car, it's magnificently manicured gardens, it's very own chapel to the wonderful sprawling main house.
Lanhydrock was the home of the Robartes family in the 17th century and after a devastating fire in 1881 the house was refurbished in the high-Victorian style. The name Lanhydrock comes from St Hydroc, believed to be an Irish missionary to Cornwall.
The estate was owned by the Priory of St Petroc in nearby Bodmin until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530's. After a series of owners, it was bought by Sir Richard Robartes, a powerful local merchant and the son of an extremely successful Cornish moneylender,
in 1620. Sir Robert and his son John, completed the construction of a new house on the site, a traditional four-sided house around a central courtyard. For the next 335 years, many of the owners of Lanhydrock became MPs.
Only the granite gatehouse survives from their house, which was laid out on the four sides of a central square. John Robartes was in fact the leader of the Parliamentarian faction in Cornwall, but was able to ingratiate himself with Charles II on the restoration, and became Earl of Radnor.
Lanhydrock House was the setting for the 1996 film version of Twelfth Night starring Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia.
Derwent Water, The Lake District, Cumbria.
I only discovered the incredible beauty of the Lake District a couple of years ago, thanks to the recommendation of my other half, and was I glad we went.
We stayed in a little rented cottage in the Cumbrian town of Keswick, where much of life seems to have stood still for hundreds of years.
Just on the edge of the town you come across the majestic Derwent Water and when I saw it for the first time, all I could think to say was WOW!.
What an incredible sight, a beautiful lake with it's own inhabited little island across from the Keswick Launch, where the lake stretches far out to the horizon where more little islands are dotted along the lake's edge.
The mini-mountain of Catbells in the distance was also a wonderful sight and the next day we climbed it, just so that we could see the lake from the other side and it was certainly worth it.
We spent a lovely week here swimming in the fresh lake, drawing the scenery from the top of Catbells and sampling the local fayre of the very old public houses....well, when in Rome!
I think anyone visiting Britain must take in the Lake District at some point, it truly is awe-inspiring when you come off the motorway, look up and all you see is mountains, utterly wonderful.
I can't wait until we go back!
Kingsand & Cawsand Coves, Rame, Cornwall
When my father first brought me to Kingsand and Cawsand bays in Cornwall, I was probably only about 6 years old and I fell in love with the place. We would spend hours swimming in the crystal clear blue waters of Cawsand and summer days seemed to last forever back then.
They are two of the most beautiful little fishing villages you could ever wish to see. You could take a leisurely stroll through the old windy streets browsing around gift shops, having lunch in the numerous little pubs and cafe's, exploring rock pools and finishing the day with a walk through the woods that run along the headland, before ambling back to the coves for fish and chips and ice cream before contentedly setting off home, usually sound asleep in the back of the car.
What 6 year old boy could ask for more than that?, certainly not me. After spending around 15 years living in Devon and Cornwall, these two little coves are the places I probably miss the most. I took my girlfriend there for the first time a couple of years ago and she fell in love with it too.
If ever a place reminded you of your long childhood days of summer, this place is it, hopefully we will get back there sometime soon and who knows, maybe my son may come to love the place too.
Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, UK
If like me you were brought up on the legends of knights, castles, magic and myth, then a trip to Warwick Castle in Warwickshire is surely a must for you.
I went there around 4 years ago and was instantly transported back to my childhood.
My family and I had an exceptional time wandering around this majestic castle, whilst re-enactments of battles, archery, falconery and the firing of a medieval trebuchet were going on all around us.
The staff and performers at the castle were superb, from singing peasants to jousting knights, the whole day was a terrific experience which we have now done twice.
My son loved it as he got to fire a real bow, even if his arrows went slightely askew, and had his photo taken with two of the meanest cutthroat medieval knights your ever likely to come across.
I couldn't recommend Warwick Castle highly enough and the castle itself is also a great tour with countless resplendant drawing rooms, banqueting halls, lavish bedrooms, huge kitchens and stunning architecture inside and out.
Give it a visit and see if unlocks that boyhood knight or princess in you.
Oxford Town Centre & University Buildings
Oxford has to be one of my most favourite cities in the UK, if not the most favourite. I have visited the city many times and just love to amble around the historic streets, in and out of bookshops, cafe's, markets and university buildings.
Although probably seen as an elitist city, there is no getting away from the fact that Oxford has some of the most historic and fascinating architecture in Britain. Modeled after Venice's Ponte dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs in the centre of Oxford is a beautiful structure and you'd be forgiven for thinking you may well be in Venice itself.
The Oxford University buildings are another majestic sight as you stroll around the city. One of England’s most popular visitor destinations, Oxford offers the visitor the soaring spires and golden stone of its University colleges, one of the architectural gems of Europe.
Once the seat of learning for the great writers, scientists, philosophers and statesmen who have studied there over the centuries, Oxford's cobbled streets and lanes are home to an array of unusual shops, restaurants, a cosmopolitan indoor market and traditional English pubs, while the museums, theatres and music reflect Oxford’s place as a hub of English life and culture.
I absolutely love to visit Oxford as much as I can to take in it's rich culture, sit a while and have a drink by the waterside as boats are punted down the river and waste a few hours mooching around the bookshops.
Hopefully you'll get to visit and explore the history of Oxford yourself.
Bath City , Somerset, England, UK
The city of Bath and the beautiful countryside which surrounds it, is surely one of my favourite places and one of Britain's most beautiful destinations. Bath is situated in the south west of England and is a fabulous city to visit.
The city is in the county of Somerset and is renowned for it's hot springs, Roman baths and splendid Georgian stone crescents and the city has been attracting a wide and varied society of people for centuries.
Bath and its stunning surrounding countryside offer’s an array of fantastic attractions from stately homes and gardens to the impressive Stonehenge. The city centre is easy to wander around at leisure and boasts a unique and diverse range of restaurants, shops, pubs, markets and theatres.
If you get the chance you should really take in the magnificent Royal Crescent. It has been the backdrop for many a Bronte television drama and the Crescent can be simply described as stunning
It is often chosen to be on postcards of the city and is situated next to the Royal Victoria Park, it consists of 30 glorious houses, decorated with a facade of columns and built of pale-gold Bath stone. All is on a grand scale and designed to take your breath away.
Bath is surely a great day out and is on a par with Oxford as one of Britain's most attractive cities. It's great for shopping and socialising and I try and get there as much as possible.
Hope you like it too!
Bourton on the Water/Stow on the Wold, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire.
Finally, but by no means least, I have chosen the twin Cotswold villages of Bourton on the Water and Stow On The Wold. These two stunning villages just ooze country charm and wouldn't be out of place on an old fashioned chocolate box cover.
Bourton is affectionately known as "The Venice of the Cotswolds" and it's easy to see why, not just because of the bridge-spanned stream that runs through the village. It is without doubt the most beautiful village that I have ever seen and I was priviledged enough to have lived about 20 miles away in Cheltenham for around 10 years, so I got to go there on many occasions.
The traditional Cotswold architecture, some dating back to the seventeenth
century has honey coloured limestone walls, mullioned windows and stone tiled
roofs. The village has everything and just ambling up one side of the river and down the other, taking in all the sights on a summer's day is an absolute joy.
Stow on the Wold is also a stunning location, but busier than Bourton, it is one of the bustling major market towns of the Cotswolds and famous for its antique shops.
The church of St. Edward's in Stow on the Wold, like most Cotswold churches, deserves a visit. It dates from Norman times, but much of it's more visible parts, including the 28 metre tower dates from the 15th century.
The north porch and its two flanking yew trees are like something straight out of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.
The two villages then, though different in their own unique ways, both have that elegant, yet charming English feel that is seen all around the stunning Cotswold countryside. Anyone visiting Britain would be sorry to miss these villages and they remain a permanent favourite of mine and always will.
Well I hope you liked my mini tour of Britain and can relate to why I think all 10 of these places are exceptionally beautiful to me. Of course one day I hope to see equally stunning foreign destinations, but until then, I think I can make do with what I have right here.