St. George’s Day (an annual holiday on 23rd April to commemorate England’s patron saint) is fast approaching and what better way to celebrate than with a trip to England? From royal castles to scenic beaches, my home country has something for everyone! Keep reading for all my tips on how to make the most out of your time in good Ol’ Blighty and for lots of reasons to venture past the London borders.
1 | Take a Hike
When people think of hiking in the UK, the first locations that come to mind tend to be the Welsh Brecon Beacons or the Scottish Highlands; however, England itself offers plenty of treks and trails! Whether you’re after glacial lakes or seafront paths, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to hiking routes
As you can probably guess from the name, England’s best hikes can be found in the Peak District. If you’re looking for a challenge, head to the peak of the 517-meter-high Mam Tor, from where you’ll get great views of the limestone parts of the park. Alternatively, you can take more relaxed strolls past mills, through villages, or across the grounds of the amazing Chatsworth House.
2 | Live Like a Royal
There’s no denying that some of England’s best palaces and castles are in London. Your trip would be incomplete without seeing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen. What I love most about this landmark, however, is that it’s right next to some of London’s best parks. So, when you’ve had enough of pushing through the crowds at the palace itself, go and enjoy a stroll or picnic in Green Park or Hyde Park.
Outside of the capital, you can visit gorgeous sights like Windsor Castle in Berkshire and Hampton Court Palace in Surrey. I particularly love the flower displays at Hampton Court and it’s only just down the Thames from central London, making for a perfect day trip.
3 | Splash Some Cash
While London hotspots like Oxford Street and Camden Market are a must-see for shopaholics, there are also plenty of malls and markets outside of the capital. Bluewater, Kent isn’t far from London, and offers tons of shops and restaurants across more than 150,000 square meters. Meanwhile, up North in Manchester, you’ll find the even larger Trafford Center, with nearly 300 stores!
If you’re after independent shops and smaller boutiques, check out The Lanes in Brighton. Here, you can find perfume, fashion, and jewelry, alongside delicious treats in Choccywoccydoodah, which featured in its own docuseries. My favorite independent shopping venue, however, is Leeds Corn Exchange. It’s worth visiting for the architecture and interior design alone; in fact, my boyfriend hates shopping but never complained about spending time in the incredible mid-19th century building. You can buy a range of gifts from local producers, including tea, clothes, beer, and artwork. I’d highly recommend re-energizing at Humpit, the Corn Exchange’s own falafel stand.
4 | Take a Wild Ride
Whether you’re traveling with kids or just enjoy an adrenaline rush, you’ll love England’s theme parks. My favorite is Thorpe Park; I’d highly recommend Stealth if you’ve got the need for speed, or Storm Surge for a more family-friendly experience. I also really enjoyed my visit to Alton Towers, which offers some of the largest and fastest attractions in the UK. The theme park also has its own accommodation, including a waterpark hotel and treehouses!
If you’re traveling with little ones, or aren’t a fan of heights, your best bet is to visit Chessington World of Adventures. As well as both large and small rides, the park offers a great safari experience and lots of restaurants and food vendors.
5 | Have a Beach Day
I can’t guarantee the weather will be on your side in April, but a trip to the English seaside is a must regardless of whether or not the sun is shining! The south coast hosts the country’s best-known sandy stretches in areas such as Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset. The beaches are all extremely well-maintained and particularly popular among watersports enthusiasts, thanks to their sometimes-challenging waves.
There are also plenty of beaches near the capital, if you’re after a relaxing day trip. Counties like Kent, Essex, and Sussex all host great beaches with clean sand and safe water for swimming or watersports. Kent’s Botany Bay, for example, offers classically British white cliffs, which provide the perfect backdrop to your peaceful day.
6 | Live the Student Life
England hosts some of the best universities in the world, including Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham. You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the intricate architecture, fascinating history, and beautiful gardens; in fact, I’ve spent tons of time around the Cambridge campus, despite the fact I studied in Leeds. One of my favorite things to do in the city is hire a small boat and punt down the river. If you don’t feel confident enough to do it yourself, why not book a punting tour? That way, you can kick back, relax with a glass of Pimms, and let someone else do the hard work.
England’s lesser-known universities are also worth visiting. While great schools like Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield might not have such stunning campuses (I’m allowed to say that as a Leeds alumnus myself!), you should still check them out for cheap pubs, bars, and clubs.
7 | Eat All the Food
I saved the best activity for last! Cream tea is an absolute must during your vacation. If you’re not on a tight budget, I’d recommend treating yourself to tea in a classic venue like The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason. If you’re traveling on a shoestring, or you’re not in London, however, you can find plenty of independent restaurants and cafés that offer savory sandwiches, sweet scones, and other tasty treats.
St. George’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, but don’t let that put you off trying a Sunday roast (you can actually eat this dish whenever you like!). Enjoy beef, lamb, chicken, or even a nut roast, accompanied by crispy potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and plenty of gravy! Another much-loved dish is fish and chips, which you’ll find in abundance if you visit any of the seaside destinations I mentioned. Enjoy battered cod and chunky chips, typically served with mushy peas and tartare sauce, though you could swap these for garden peas, vinegar, ketchup, or, if you’re in the North, curry sauce.