Dear GoMad Nomad:
My husband and I are going to England in two weeks. We have four days planned in London, but for the rest of the trip (6 days), we don’t really have plans. I’ve been reading books and trying to figure out what to do. Ideally, we’d like to take the train out to the country, visit some sites, etc. I was just wondering if you knew or had visited some off the beaten path places in England. We probably wouldn’t want to camp out too much, but stay in little inns, etc. With that said, we’d be up for camping maybe 1-2 nights if there was a particularly unique place.
-Erika, Louisville, KY
Yorkshire is a favorite of mine, whether you check out the city of York and its enormous minster and associated medieval history or the insanely delicious fish and chips and Abbey on the hill in the amiable seaside city of Whitby. It’s an especially good choice if you head out to the countryside.
It would probably be best to take the train up to York and then rent a car (a very small one, petrol is expensive) in order to drive around and see Yorkshire at your leisure, allowing you to stop at any random village in the countryside and enjoy a pint in the local pub or tea and scones at a café, or take a break to walk an inviting path along the famous stone walls on the edge of a sheep pasture. In the small market town of Masham you can taste the ales at two great breweries: Black Sheep and Theakston.
For National Parks, I would choose Yorkshire Dales over North Yorkshire Moors. I’m sure you could find plenty of camping in the area, although many will probably be private RV parks. I hear the Peak District is also worth visiting for some great hikes, but keep in mind it is the most visited park in England.
Further to the north from Yorkshire, are Durham and Newcastle, two cities that I’ve wanted to check out, but haven’t yet.
I might try and book your accommodation ahead because you will be traveling in high season. Of course, you could take your chances and just show up in some random villages and hope somebody has an open room.
If you wanted to avoid renting a car I would suggest, (and I know I’m all over the place now, far from Yorkshire) the Heart of Wales train line, which hits a number of villages and spa towns for 121 miles between Swansea and Shrewsbury through the middle of picturesque rural Wales.
I will admit, these suggestions certainly aren’t hard-core off the beaten path, but they are great places to visit and exploring the countryside, either in Wales or England will allow you to find your own off the beaten path favorites.
In terms of other cities in England, I’ve found Liverpool to be one of the most interesting because of its history, excellent (free) museums, and locals.
What are your favorite spots in England? Feel free to give Erika and her husband your own tips in the comments below.