When people from outside the UK visit England most people go to London. Of course this is a great city to visit. There is a lot to see and do and when it’s your first time in this fascinating country I can definitely recommend it. You can easily spend a week in “the Big Smoke” and still only see a few things. Museums, theaters, parks, nightlife. There is plenty to do for everyone. I wrote about it in a previous story on our blog.
If you’ve been to the UK before and are looking for other nice places to visit there are many options. It is tempting to visit another big city. Some are well worth going to. However, it is also possible to explore a smaller one. In this story I will tell you about five of my favorite smaller cities in England to see and why you should go there.
“Lytil Jhon and Robyne HudeWayth-men ware commendyd gudeIn Yngil–wode and BarnysdaleThai oysyd all this tyme thare trawale.” (Andrew of Wyntoun)
The first time I took a train to this charming city was almost twenty years ago. I was staying at a friend’s who was studying there. The only thing that I knew about this town with a population of 330,000 was that it starred in the story of Robin Hood. I was pleasantly surprised.
Of course I visited the castle and had a look at the statue of the famous Robin Hood. People still speculate whether he actually existed. In the city center I specifically enjoyed the bookshop. No surprise to the people who know me well. What I didn’t know about Nottingham was that it is notably for its literary heritage. In 2015 it was declared City of Literature by UNESCO. Lord Byron, D.H. Lawrence and many others lived here during certain periods of their lives.
As I am about to publish this article they are investing an amount of 29.4 million GBP to the redevelop Nottingham Castle. Therefore they closed the grounds until 2020.
It was also a friend who introduced me to Chester. I immediately liked this old city with its city walls and two-layered covered shops called the ‘Chester Rows’. The Cathedral is well worth a visit and so is the old Roman amphitheater. Don’t forget to see the Eastgate Clock, which is yet another famous landmark of this stunning city.
One of the fascinating things to watch as a foreigner is the British dressing up for an evening out. Chester has a racecourse, which is presumably the oldest one still in use in the UK. When the horse races are on, you can find women in pretty, but also in revealing dresses, even when the weather is cold. I guess wearing a coat is ‘not-done’, because then you can’t admire their outfits. It’s great to watch them parading through the streets.
This city, which is first of all known for its old roman baths, is a UNESCO world heritage site. While they started building the temple and the Roman baths in 60 AD, the abbey wasn’t built until the 7th century. This religious center grew and in the 18th and 19th century the city became bigger and bigger. These days it has two Universities as well as many museums and theaters.
When I was visiting Bath many years ago I was told that this was the place Lady Diana went shopping. I don’t know whether this was really the case, but I do know that Bath is a great place to go shopping.
Of course I visited the Roman baths. I was a bit disappointed. The idea of people creating a bathing complex is nicer than actually seeing one. I guess it is nicer to enjoy the experience of going to a spa. Although these days you can’t go into the water of at the Roman baths, you can visit the Thermae Bath Spa and enjoy the natural hot spring there. I will definitely do that next time I visit Bath.
Years ago my father and I were on a self-organized ‘garden-tour’ through the UK. While we were nearby, one of the landmarks we visited was Stonehenge. Our trip to Stonehenge itself was very disappointing. There was a rope around it and there was not much to do, apart from walking around with a weird branches showing us that there were ley lines around. There were two advantages to our Stonehenge-trip though: first of all it was a private one. No one else seemed to be interested in going, so we had an entire double-decker bus to ourselves as well as a private guide.
Our guide knew a lot. About Stonehenge, but also about Salisbury, our city of departure and place where we were staying. She advised us to go to the cinema. So we did. The Odeon Movie Theater in Salisbury is situated in an English heritage listed building of a former cinema that opened in 1931. Some of its designs are even much older. The carpets on the walls are something you don’t see in every cinema and the facade and outer foyer even have swords and shields to look at. Though the sound and wheelchair accessibility is less than in a new cinema building, the entire experience is unique and well worth going.
While we were staying in Salisbury some of its inhabitants opened their private gardens for a day to raise money for a good cause. In exchange for a small donation we were allowed to have a look around in some of Salisbury’s beautiful gardens. We were extremely lucky. Some people sold tea, scones and muffins on the side. The weather was nice, so we’re the people, the food and the gardens.
“I cannot say much of Chichester, in which, if six or seven good families were removed, there would not be much conversation, except what is to be found among the canons, and the dignitaries of the cathedral.” (Daniel Defoe)
People always remark how special my purple ‘spring-coat’ with its pink rose shaped buttons is. It is actually a Scottish coat, but I bought it in a small shop in Chichester. Although I quite liked shopping in Chichester, there is a lot more to this beautiful Roman city than just shopping.
One of the must-sees in Chichester is it’s 12th century Cathedral. My friend showed me a Green Man inside this Cathedral and told me a story about them. And indeed, when I looked up, a sculpture of a man’s face, surrounded by leaves, leaves even coming out of its mouth, was staring down at me. Although I was vaguely known with this phenomenon, this was actually the first time I saw one of these figures. They are quite fascinating. Apart from these Green Men, this Cathedral has many other treasures. I can highly recommend a visit. Even peregrine falcons find this Cathedral interesting. They chose it as a nesting place.
Also on Travelharts.com.
We also have a photo site. If you like to see more photos of Chester, you can visit our album about the temporary Chester rhino’s.
Chester is a small city. It is the capital of the county Cheshire. The center of Chester is one of the best preserved fortified cities in the UK.
If you haven’t been to London before, check out my story to find out what there is to do in London.
In this story about London I’ll tell you a bit more about 5 things you can do: West End, a park, the London Eye, a historical building, a museum.