England vacations overview
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a native or a visitor – there are enough country tracks, coastal trails and historic towpaths to invigorate even the most world-weary traveler in England. Explore on two feet or two wheels, but be sure to pack for all weathers. Crossing counties unlocks unique dialects and colloquialisms and if you’re ever asked the question ‘Does one apply jam or cream first to a scone?’ having first-hand experience is vital. Summer festivals, frosty winter mornings, newborn spring lambs and autumnal bonfires make England a land for all seasons. Find out more in our England travel guide.
Our top England vacations
Best time to go to England
If youíve ever wondered why the English discuss the weather so much, itís because they havenít a clue what itís going to be like from one day to the next. However as a general rule, it tends to be colder and wetter up north and windier along the coast, with the west of the country also experiencing plenty of rain. Autumn and spring tend to be the best time to visit England but thereís a lot to be said for beer gardens and cosy pubs so donít discount the winter or summer, whether the weather plays nicely or not.
Map & highlightsThe trick to visiting England is to get out of the cities and into the wide open spaces. National parks including the Peak District and the Lake District in northern England, and the South Downs, are paradise for walkers and cyclists, and have inspired countless poets and artists to take up their pens. The beaches of Cornwall are justly famous, as are the cream teas of Devon, just the thing to reward a ride along the famous Tarka Trail. Then there is the Isle of Wight, one of Englandís most beloved vacation destinations, with 100km of beaches and over 800km of walking trails.
Englandís southwest corner has long been one of the countryís most sought-after Ė and therefore crowded Ė vacation destinations. Tension between locals and vacationmakers and second homeowners is also problematic. We recommend avoiding the Cornish hotspots in favour of a ramble along the famous South West Coast Path, or staying in the stunning Fowey River Valley.
Idling over Devonís agricultural landscapes, the wilds of Dartmoor or the coves and beaches of the Jurassic Coast makes for a great break, ensuring cyclists and walkers will be in their absolute element. Eco-friendly accommodations, log fires in country pubs, the debate over jam or cream first on a scone, healthy, happy, muddy kids and dogs Ė you name it and Devon has got it in bucket loads.
Isle of Wight
3. Isle of Wight
Step on a ferry bound for Cowes, Yarmouth or Ryde, and youíll be transported to a vacation destination that boasts 100km of beach, 300km of cycle trails and over 800km of well-signed walking paths. Historic properties, such as Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle, provide the cultural interludes with numerous parks, gardens and even vineyards adding to the island's appeal.
4. Lake District
Although Windermere can get busy, especially during the summer, there are numerous lesser-visited shores where views and peace are completely unhindered. Tackling parts of walking routes, such as the Cumbria Way, will take you through some of the national parkís rarely seen areas with farmland, rivers and fells adding to the classic scenes youíll find en route from Ulverston to Carlisle.
5. Peak District
Stay in a traditional farmhouse near the market town of Ashbourne, with the option to self-cater or rely on your hosts for delicious homecooked meals. A fantastic option for walkers, families with young children (who will love collecting eggs and feeding the pygmy goats) and those with accessibility requirements. Youíre just 20 minutes from Dovedale, one of the loveliest areas of the Peak District.
South Downs National Park
6. South Downs National Park
Close to our heart, because itís so close to home for us, the South Downs National Park has over 3,000km of rights of way Ė the 161km South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne being among the most popular walking routes. You might stay in a rural B&B, a self-catering cottage, even a yurt, to explore the parkís many market towns, walking and cycling trails or beautiful coast.
Escape the cities
City breaks in England are overrated. Youíll be crammed into the same tired, overpriced tourist attractions as thousands of others, and rarely getting a feel for England beyond whatís on the posters. Instead, you could be exploring the joys of English landscape. Take in the cuisine at country pubs at a leisurely pace on long distance walks, sea kayak and cycle around pretty Devon while staying at an eco lodge, or enjoy a classic English beach vacation on the golden sands of Cornwall or the Isle of Wight. Thereís much more to England than Stonehenge, Stratford-upon-Avon and the landmarks of London.
In Devon, one of the most charming corners of England, it is possible to find picturesque pockets of peacefulness so quiet you can hear the grass growing under your feet. More adventurous travelers can find their happy place here coasteering or sea kayaking. Meanwhile, those that take a more laidback approach to their vacations can meander idyllic country lanes between country pubs, farm shops (great for self-caterers) and teahouses where you can dive into a plate of scones. Rural farm stays are perfect for families, with the welcome addition of electric bikes to make getting up those hills a little easier.
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Walking in England
Walking vacations in England are typically tailor made self-guided trips, and so ideal for independent hikers that like taking their time. Classic routes include the Thames Path, South West Coast Path and Pilgrims’ Way. Expect easygoing daily walks, overnighting in friendly B&Bs near tempting pubs, detailed maps and route notes, and landscapes that have inspired everyone from Wordsworth to Lewis Carroll. You can’t expect sunny weather throughout, even in summer, but the vagaries of the weather are actually one of the great pleasures of walking in England – just be sure and pack sun lotion as well as a raincoat.
South Downs National Park
England’s newest national park will always be close to our heart because it’s right on our doorstep. With over 3,000km of public walking and cycling routes, including the 161km South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne, and all of them a short hop from London, is it any wonder the South Downs National Park is liberally scattered with fantastic accommodations? From welcoming B&Bs to self-catering cottages, and even trendy yurts, this rural refuge encompasses the Sussex Heritage Coast, woodlands, pastures – plus market towns, where many a food and drink festival takes place.