Following on from my post on underrated and overlooked cities in Europe, and inspired by a tweet from VisitBritain on the UK’s hidden gems, I’ve compiled a short list of places in England that I think are well worth a visit that may not be the first on your agenda.
So cut short your trip to London, Oxford or Bath and consider heading out to one of these English gems instead.
While the field trip to Lincoln was a big deal at school, it seems that the city isn’t quite creating the buzz it should on the tourism stage – and it’s hard to see why. Though it’s a fairly small city today, Lincoln was a big deal back in the day – its cathedral was the tallest building in the world for almost 250 years. Today, there’s plenty to see and do – Lincoln boasts a castle, cathedral, two universities, several Roman gates and even two Primarks. There’s also the quaint –but gruelling – aptly named Steep Hill, a street full of small independent shops that was apparently named ‘Britain’s Best Place’ in 2011.
I haven’t been shy about my love for Chester, captured here. The city really surprised me when I first visited and I think a return trip is definitely overdue.
Sheffield is a great city. A lot has come out of Sheffield in recent years: the Arctic Monkeys, Reverend and the Makers, the film ‘Four Lions’ just to name a few. The city has a big student population and I spent a lot of time going to gigs there going up – there’s now a very successful free music festival ‘Tramlines’ held every year with stages across the city. Other highlights include the Winter Gardens, Meadowhall shopping centre, the Crucible and Lyceum theatres and the iconic Park Hill flats, which are now listed and undergoing an extensive renovation.
I’ve long been a fan of Liverpool, but a recent trip there really cemented my love for the place. With a huge rejuvenation project underway, the beautiful Albert Docks and the exciting new Museum of Liverpool, there’s a lot more to this city than just the Fab Four.
I’ve often felt Nottingham is hugely underrated as a tourist destination. One of the city’s landmarks is England’s oldest inn, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which is actually built into a cliff face, and has a chair said to make any woman pregnant and a model ship said to kill anyone who cleans it. Nottingham also has its own castle, which sits atop a labyrinth network of ancient tunnels. And of course, the city is forever linked to Robin Hood (though it must be said that Sherwood Forest is a fair drive away). Nottingham is also a stone’s throw from East Midlands Airport, and Chatsworth House in neighbouring Derbyshire.
Salford will probably be the biggest surprise on this list. Traditionally known for its startling crime rate (and subsequent near-constant overhead helicopters), Salford Quays has helped rejuvenate the city as the home of MediaCityUK. While the area is yet to reach its full potential, MediaCityUK has hosted an extensive programme of events over the summer, including the ambitious French performance on water, Water Fools. Salford Quays is also home to the Lowry, a theatre and art gallery exhibiting Lowry’s works as well as a water sports centre and weekly open-water swims. Though it can be quite bracing in the wind, the area is nice for a stroll from Manchester along the former shipping canal.
Though this list is possibly regionally limited and fairly biased (I was born in Nottingham, grew up near Sheffield and now live in Salford Quays), I think all six cities have enough to draw a few tourists away from the country’s hotspots and hopefully seduce one or two British daytrippers as well.
Which cities would you add to the list?