The patchwork countryside of England has gifted the country the nickname of the ‘green and pleasant land’, and it’s true that the rural parts of England are a haven of idyllic rolling fields and charming country villages. On the other hand, England is home to innovative cities and industrial centres, with vast urban sprawls and quaint historic towns. The capital, London, is a global metropolis, known for its royal heritage and stately architecture. If you travel to England, you’ll encounter a diverse range of people and landscapes, from modern cityscapes to medieval castles and rugged coastlines.
England is part of the United Kingdom, along with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. One of the most popular destinations in Europe, a trip to England is the chance to walk in the footsteps of a variety of cultural icons, from Shakespeare to The Beatles or the infamous King Henry VIII! Whilst the urban centres of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham or Bristol take centre stage on a tour of England, if you venture off the beaten path you’ll find charming seaside towns, spectacular national parks and historic heritage sites scattered throughout this pocket-sized country.
One thing’s for sure, a vacation to England will be filled with historic sights and cultural treasures. From millennia-old stone circles to vast stately homes, at every turn, England unveils its complex and fascinating island story. With some of the best museums and galleries in the world, a diverse and delicious national cuisine and a well-connected transport network, take a trip to England to discover a small country with a big personality.
History of England
The early history of England is characterized as a story of invasion and conquest. Built between 5000 and 4000 years ago, Stonehenge is the most famous and ancient site in the country, a must-see if you travel to England. The Celts were one of the earliest known societies that settled in England, but around 43 AD, the Romans successfully invaded, incorporating England into the Roman Empire. Relics of this era, such as the Roman town of Bath, Cirencester, Hadrian’s Wall and Fishbourne Roman Palace, are some of the most fascinating things to see on a tour of England. With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th-century, England was settled by seafaring Saxons, although both Celtic and Roman communities continued to flourish, particularly in the northern parts of the country. Between the 9th and 11th-centuries, England was subject to a number of surprise invasions by Vikings from Scandinavia, and if you visit the city of York, you’ll be able to trace this turbulent period in the island’s history. Finally, in 1066, the Norman conquest of England marked the end of the ongoing invasions and led to the signing of the legendary Magna Carta which guaranteed the rights of all free men.
The Tudor period, with its notorious monarchs and gruesome religious conflicts, also saw the arrival of Renaissance culture. Historic buildings such as Hever Castle, Leeds Castle, the Tower of London or Hampton Court Palace are amazing places to visit to uncover the story of Tudor rule in England. The monarchy continued to be the most powerful force in the country up until the English Civil War of the 17th-century, which resulted in the creation of the Bill of Rights in 1689, transferring power to Parliament. If you travel to London, visiting the Houses of Parliament in Westminster is a fascinating insight into the history of democracy in England.
The 18th-century saw the rise of the Industrial Revolution which dramatically changed society in England and spread throughout the world. Industrial centres such as Manchester grew in importance during this period. Whilst the 20th-century included two world wars, it also saw the cultural revolution of the ‘Swinging 60s’ and the rise of world-famous English musicians such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. A trip down Carnaby Street in London will whisk you back these heady days!
Nature in England
Although England is known for its unpredictable weather, it’s not all grey skies and rain! The climate is mild, with cool winters and moderately warm summers, and it rains throughout the year, so be sure to pack an umbrella if you travel to England! This temperate climate makes for a beautiful landscape, awash with greenery, wildflowers and wildlife. If you can escape the large cities, you’ll be rewarded with the peaceful charms of the countryside and the chance to get in touch with the England that inspired poets such as William Wordsworth and Robert Browing and painters such as John Constable and Turner.
With a coastline of almost 20,000 miles and 10 national parks, there are plenty of natural wonders to explore on a vacation to England. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District is home to some of the spectacular and characteristic landscapes in England. From the tranquil waters of Lake Windermere to the towering peak of Scafell Pike, the Lake District is a land of dramatic natural beauty.
For idyllic beaches and sandy coves, you can’t beat the coastlines of Devon and Cornwall, England’s most popular summer destination. You could even mistake these beautiful beaches for the Mediterranean when the sun is shining! Surfing is particularly popular in these parts of the country.
For that quintessential English countryside of your imagination, you can’t beat the county of Kent, known as the ‘Garden of England’. Manicured flower gardens, rolling meadows and patchwork farmlands set a picturesque scene for countryside walks or laid-back picnics, whilst the Kent coastline is known for its eye-catching white cliffs of Dover and pebblestone beaches.
When it comes to wildlife, you’ll find an abundance of bird and animal species if you know where to look! A number of deer parks are scattered throughout the country, whilst a trip to the countryside is a paradise for bird-watchers. Even in the most developed urban areas, green spaces are abundant, with London alone boasting around 3,000 public parks!
Culture in England
What would a vacation to England be without a night spent in a cozy old-world pub or a delicious afternoon tea? Indeed, England is known for its social and gastronomic traditions, be it a pint with friends, or a traditional Sunday roast dinner with family. Despite this, English culture is ever-evolving, a product of its diverse population. You’re just as likely to find a fish and chip shop on the high street as you are to find an Indian restaurant or a French bakery. This is the essence of modern English culture, a smorgasbord of influences from around the world, in some part the product of the days of the British Empire.
Culture, in all its forms, is highly valued here, just take a look at the amazing museums, countless art galleries and well-preserved heritage sites found throughout England. From the world-renowned British Museum in London, home to some of the most precious historical treasures in the world, to the Cavern Club in Liverpool, a place of pilgrimage for music lovers, the English celebrate and preserve their cultural heritage with pride and passion.
England also has rich folkloric traditions, with characters such as Robin Hood and King Arthur featuring heavily in the popular imagination. Nowadays, England is known for its music, literature and arts and cinema, and wherever you are in the world, it’s likely that you’re familiar with at least some English musicians, artists or writers.