When traveling to the U.K., most people automatically head straight to London, the country’s ancient capital and modern melting pot of over 8 million people. You can certainly experience the entire world in London, and that means it can be pretty tempting just to stay put within the city and not make the most of your time exploring the huge variety of history and culture on offer throughout the rest of the country. As the locals tend to say, London ain’t England, and you haven’t done the U.K. until you’ve ventured beyond the M25 to explore the rest of this green and pleasant land, from the quaint countryside to the cosmopolitan cities. Here’s some of the must-do experiences to be had in the rest of England.
Head to a Country Manor
Britain’s aristocracy may be a shadow of what it once was, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t relive your best Downton Abbey fantasy for the day in one of the country’s many opulent country manors now open to the public. Many of these sprawling and iconic palaces are still owned by the same noble families that have owned them for centuries, who have opened them up to everyone else to help cover the steep costs of running a gargantuan estate. Many of the best ones are just a stone’s throw away from London; head to the jaw-dropping Blenheim Palace to see the birthplace of Winston Churchill, as well as the set of countless films and TV shows. If you want some Versailles style opulence with a history of scandal to match, go for the sprawling Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. Or of course you can head to the real-life Downton Abbey, also known as the Highclere Castle in Hampshire.
Have a Day at the Races
Heading for a day at the horse races is a long-established and particularly British tradition, involving some serious dressing up and a lot of prosecco and Pimms. If you’re feeling particularly elegant and have done plenty of reading up on proper etiquette, head to the annual Royal Ascot in Berkshire where you can watch people betting seriously high stakes, and you might even catch a glimpse of the Queen. The most popular horse racing event in the country is the Grand National, which takes place every April in Liverpool, and is the place to sit back and gawk at the outlandish outfits and seriously over-the-top ladies’ hats. Those looking to go prepared can stay on top of the latest odds on the Grand National over at William Hill – Total Recall and Blaklion look the likely favorites as it stands.
Have a British Night Out
Some wary travelers may be apprehensive about hitting the town in one of Britain’s provincial city centers, given the reputation some places have for getting a little out of control. However, a British night out in one of the country’s great cities is absolutely not to be missed (in fact, Rough Guides recently picked a night out in Liverpool, England as one of the ultimate travel experiences to have before you die). Whether you end up in Liverpool or Manchester, Newcastle or Leeds, Edinburgh or Glasgow, each of these places has their own vibrant party scene and a fun, youthful vibe at night thanks to the always up-for-it and welcoming locals, which make a British night out a unique experience you can’t do without.
Are there any quintessentially British experiences outside of London which haven’t been mentioned here? Let everyone know in the comments!