Top 10 Things to Do in England
(other than London)
Despite a colleague in England trying to convince me that Stonehenge was just a pile of rocks some old Victorian dodger constructed for tourists, we were in awe standing looking at it. Stonehenge is one of the most iconic and recognized structures in the world. It is also one of the oldest. Although you cannot walk through the stones or touch them, you can walk around them.
Nearby, in Avebury, you can actually touch the stones. Avebury is another neolithic stone circle in England (there are many). It is much bigger, but not as well known. It also lacks the top stones (lintel stones). We thought it was much more impressive.
The chalk figures on the hills found throughout the area are also pretty cool. Some date back a few centuries, while others are new renderings done by local artists. By removing the green grass, the white chalky soil is exposed underneath, so you can make a sizable figure that can be seen at a distance.
2. Down House – Darwin’s Estate
Back in the 19th century, Down House was in the countryside. Today, it is swallowed up in the London sprawl. However, it does still retain much of the country charm that Darwin loved about it. You can walk the same sandy path the Darwin did every morning for hours as he contemplated his scientific theories. The estate offers a unique glimpse into the life of one of the most controversial figures in modern history.
Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Nicholas Cage, Johny Depp, Van Morrison, Hugh Grant, and more have all called this old Roman spa town home. The Royal Crescent apartments overlooking the town were once a haven for up and coming artists, writers, poets, and thinkers.
The town was founded over a thousand years ago, but really became established as a proper city when the Romans colonized it as a northern outpost of the empire. They probably picked it because of the natural hot springs in the scenic valley. They quickly established opulent spas for their elite. They believed, as many do today, that the waters have mystical healing properties. You can pay for the luxury of sampling the water (not dipping in, drinking!). Guides dressed in Roman attire complete the Roman experience.
As science teachers, my wife and I got goose-bumps walking around the hallowed halls of Cambridge University. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, this has been a center for learning on a historical scale like no other. It is one of the undisputed best universities in the world, especially in the sciences. The college grounds are impressive and filled with history, tradition, and art. You can rent a flat boat and go punting on the Thames River. It is much harder than it looks!
Also one of the best universities in the world, but my wife and boys were more interested to see the movie backdrops for Harry Potter. Yes, you can go into the Great Hall of Hogwarts, which is actually the main dining room of one college. The library, however, is not open to the general public.
Seldom visited by tourists drawn to London, The Lake District is gorgeous. It is about a five hours drive north of London. You pass through it on your way to Scotland. This is the last of the natural unspoiled part of the British isle.
This is home to the tallest cathedral in the U.K. and second in the world. The cathedral truly is impressive on a grand scale. You could stack three double-decker London buses on top of each other in the naive. Our boys were enthralled by the story of the imp that is said to inhabit the cathedral.
Outside the cathedral is an old Roman fort, which was turned in to a prison, and is now a historical park. You can wander down the crooked street and visit all of the unique shops lining the cobble-stoned street.
Yes, there are zoos everywhere, but this one is really cool!
9. Nottingham Castle – Robin Hood fame
Although the original castle long ago burned down, another was built on the site. Take the tour beneath the castle through the catacombs. The town also has boat canals going through it with the unique English long boats going up and down.
10. Warwick Castle
This is the biggest baddest castle in all of England. It is fully restored. They regularly host anachronistic medieval fairs here complete with jousting, catapults, and mock battles!