Five places where city and countryside meet
There’s no need to be torn between a cultural city break and a refreshing dose of countryside. Here are five of our favourite spots to go from wandering through quaint side streets and independent shops to stomping up hills, through forests and beside lakes all in the same trip.
Made up of exquisite Roman and Georgian architecture, Bath is known for being one of the UK’s most desired cities. It sits on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds, so expect to find quiet paths that meander along the city’s river and canal as well as far-reaching views of the hills beyond.
In the city itself, you’ll find a huge variety of local cafés, bakeries, restaurants and pubs, as well as homeware, gift and clothes shops. Though you could while away days mooching around the city and taking occasional pit stops for tea and cake, it’s worth exploring the surrounding area too. Little Solbury is just one mile from the city centre and provides the best views of the cityscape and greenery surrounding it. Once an iron age encampment, it is now used for its endless walking and mountain biking trails. A little further afield is St Catherine’s Valley, but if you’re after a good day’s hike head 30 minutes south to the Mendips where you’ll find the stunning Cheddar Gorge and Valley.
It’s not often you’ll find an ancient volcano in a UK city, so Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat is a unique standpoint. At just over 250 metres, the peak can be seen rising out of the wide grasslands of Holyrood Park and provides the most magnificent views of the city. Best yet, it’s just a short one-mile walk from the iconic Royal Mile. Within Holyrood Park, you’ll also find the Salisbury Crags – a series of 150ft cliff faces dominating Edinburgh’s skyline as well as Dudding Loch, a freshwater loch that’s rich in birds and wildlife.
After an afternoon hiking, you’ll be more than ready to settle into a corner at one of the cosy pubs or try a bit of whisky tasting in a bar. The trendy Leith area is a great spot for dinner and dancing, with the historic Leith Theatre having been saved from disrepair it is now a haven for music and theatre lovers.
Brighton may be most well known for its bohemian, hedonistic vibe, but it’s also a brilliant spot to get back to nature. Not only can you inhale big gulps of fresh sea air down at the beach, the city is also within a stone’s throw of the stunning South Downs National Park. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty provides over 1,600 km of rolling green pastures and a multitude of walking routes. It’s easily reachable from the city centre; a short 30-minute journey via bus or car will take you deep into the Sussex countryside.
Hikers will love the South Downs Way walking route, whilst cyclists can easily join the Devil’s Dyke cycle route straight from Brighton and Hove. Starting at the marina, you’ll head up into the Downs through fields, up hills and past vineyards taking in endless views along the way. Nothing tops an active day like pints of local ale at the pub, live music in a bar or delicious food at one of the many highly-rated restaurants. Then it’s a spot of vintage shopping, walking through the gardens or perhaps even a show to add even more variety to your holiday.
This UNESCO City of Literature offers so much in the form of culture: heaps of independent book shops, a daily outdoor market, antique warehouses and of course very pretty architecture. A recent visit made us realise you could spend an entire week meandering through the city’s charming backstreets, but we had an itch for visiting the nearby Norfolk coast.
Norwich is a city that’s surrounded by miles of rural countryside, and within just 25 minutes you could be out of the city and boating down the Norfolk broads with the wind in your hair. The Broads is a National Park that contains over 125 miles of navigable, lock-free waterways set in countryside studded with charming towns and villages. Beach lovers can be at the coast in under an hour, basking in the sun, hiking the coastal paths and visiting the resident seals. Make sure you head to Horsey Gap to see the huge colony of seals and iconic windmills, as well as Holkham Beach to experience the very best of the wild landscapes.
Its honey-stone houses, literature links and botanical garden makes Oxford a popular choice for staycations. Add in pretty streets, good shops, river punting and pub stops and you have the ultimate weekend away. Whist city trips are always fun, there’s nothing better than mixing in a bit of green space too, and Oxford is just 30-miles from the charming Cotswolds AONB.
You can easily retreat to the countryside as a day trip from Oxford or tag it on to a few days away after the city. There’s something for everyone to enjoy; plenty of pretty cottages, Blenheim Palace for history and Daylesford Farm for fresh fruit and veg. The walking opportunities are also second to none, and you could spend days or weeks exploring everything this area has to offer. Pick up the famous Cotswolds Way for a scenic walk to Broadway Tower, or the Wycharon Way to Brendon Hill for views. Dursley to Wotton-under-Edge is a quiet trail that takes you to an off-the-beaten-track nook among an amphitheatre of forested hills.
Discover our guides to Cornwall, the Lakes, Yorkshire, Norfolk and more. Each one is carefully crafted after we head out on the road and get under the skin of these special regions.
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