Last week on the Sykes blog, we featured a shortlist of the top 10 most picturesque places in England. As you’d expect, all the usual suspects were there – Cornwall, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Devon, Kent, Derbyshire, Northumberland, Dorset, Isle of Wight and Gloucestershire – but there are some obvious omissions; where for instance is Somerset? Norfolk? Lancashire? Lincolnshire? Suffolk? Oxfordshire? Shropshire? And so on and so on…
Sadly, these places missed out on a place in the top ten, but that’s not to say they aren’t perfectly picturesque in their own right.
Today, we want to pay homage to the lesser known counties that we think are as pretty as the Cumbrias and Cornwalls of this world – so let’s get down to it.
With two AONBs (the Quantocks and Mendips) and one National Park (Exmoor) Somerset packs a picturesque punch. This small yet perfectly formed county offers the very best of coast and country; from the seaside resorts of Minehead and Weston-super-Mare to the rural charm of Taunton, Wells and Cheddar. Don’t miss a hike in the Blackdown Hills, a ride on the West Somerset Steam Railway and a drive through the stunning Cheddar Gorge.
Despite being one of England’s flattest counties, Norfolk proves you don’t need peaks to be picturesque. This beloved county is home to a handful of England’s – nay, Britain’s – most beautiful beaches, including Hunstanton, Sheringham and Holkham. Then there’s the Broads, whose canals, windmills and thatched roof cottages are irrevocably English. Head into Norwich, the county capital, and you’ll be delighted with the prettiness of the place. Norwich is one of England’s oldest cities, and was once the second largest city in the country after London.
Lancashire is all too often overlooked as a holiday destination, and we haven’t the foggiest why. Go beyond the metropolis of Greater Manchester and you’ll be greeted with some of the prettiest and quietest countryside in England. From the Ribblehead Valley and the Forest of Bowland to the Arnside and Silverdale AONB, Lancashire offers rugged beauty without the usual gaggle of tourists. The county is home to several historic towns too including Lancaster, Ormskirk and Clitheroe, all of which offer a pleasant place to stay on your trip to this picturesque English county.
Landlocked on the border of Wales, Shropshire is a surprisingly rugged and attractive English county. In the south, the Shropshire Hills Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty has peaks and valleys that North Wales would be proud of; and to the north, the medieval town of Shrewsbury offers the same level of historic eye-candy as York, Chester and Norwich. Speaking of history; pay a visit to the picturesque Severn Valley, where you’ll find all manner of fascinating museums, as well as the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge – thought to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
Did you know that Oxfordshire is home to the Cotswolds, one of England’s most beloved and picturesque regions? Well, it is, which makes it – in our opinion – one of England’s prettiest counties. The Cotswolds are renowned for their postcard blend of rolling hills and chocolate box towns and villages, including Burford, Chipping Norton and Bampton. Of course, no visit to Oxfordshire would be complete without a daytrip to the “City of Dreaming Spires” – aka Oxford – whose historic architecture will have you reaching for the camera.
Don’t forget to check out our Top 10 most picturesque places in England for even more holiday inspiration.