Electrifying cities, soaring cathedrals, ancient cobbles and rolling hills: little England is one magnificent medley. Many flocking here make a beeline for iconic London, with its world-famous landmarks and anything-goes ethos. But beyond the M25 there's the characterful countryside of the Peak and Lake Districts, the sandy beaches of Cornwall, and many a charming city in between.
England's rail network comprehensively covers the country, with fast trains running from London to most major cities. For the cheapest fares book in advance, buses are cheaper and also fairly comprehensive, while internal flights are often the quickest, and sometimes cheapest, option for zipping from one end of the country to the other.
See & do
Arriving in London, there's so much to do that the problem can be deciding where to start. The bulk of the city's renowned museums are free to enter, while main tourist zones such as Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square and St James' are all within easy walking distance.
York leads the way in terms of popular historic cities to visit, with its old winding lanes, Viking past and grand cathedral. Forever associated with Jane Austen and the polite society of the 19th century, the old Roman town of Bath is also much loved, as is the quaint town of Canterbury in Kent, thought to be the birthplace of Christianity.
The English are wont to head to Cornwall at the country's southwestern tip for their holidays, and it's not hard to see why. With its pretty towns, beautiful beaches and distinct Cornish culture, you could easily be in nearby Brittany across the Channel.
Of course, tranquil verdant countryside is synonymous with England, too. The Peak District, largely in Derbyshire, will keep you mesmerised for days with its gently undulating hills and historic stately homes such as Chatsworth House. The Lake District in the north is more dramatic, furnished rugged peaks and glacial ribbon lakes.
England's cities are diverse, and proudly so. Although tourists favour picturesque York, nearby Leeds is a rip-roaring city with well-preserved historic streets and enviable nightlife. Liverpool, as well as being a magnet for Beatles fans, is also a vibrant cultural hub featuring some truly extraordinary architecture. Straddling the River Avon, Bristol is a handsome, artistic city splashed with street art and brimming with alternative culture.
In the north-eastern corner, Newcastle displays a gleaming quayside, and historic Durham with its Hogwarts-style university always charms. Outside the cities, the landscapes of Norfolk and Suffolk offer broad and windswept beaches, elegant villages and green fields; unsurprisingly the region is a favourite with hikers.
Food & drink
Gone are the days of England’s cuisine being stuff of ridicule. The country has produced or nurtured some of the world’s best chefs in recent years – just look at Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck near Windsor, or Michel Roux at London's Le Gavroche. The astronomic rise of gastropubs across the country and its veritable smorgasbord of international influences have both helped push on the country’s expectations for top notch cuisine in leaps and bounds.
Drinking culture is still going strong, and pubs remain a huge social hub for the English. There is on-going transformation in this area too, with flavourful crafts beers and ales enjoying a massive resurgence of late.