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Harrogate is also known as "The English Spa." For centuries, visitors have flocked to the mineral hot springs. Today, those springs still soothe the body while the placid RHS Harlow Carr Gardens and Yorkshire Dales national park stimulate the soul. Tea rooms, architecture, and art galleries are the main pastimes in this pleasant town. With four rail stations for easy transport, travellers can board trains running between Harrogate and York, Leeds, Knaresborough, and London.
Just two hours north of London by rail, the city of York holds 1900 years' worth of history in its ancient walls. The Romans built the city in 71 AD, and the Vikings captured it in 866 AD. Stop by the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens for a look at what the Roman and Vikings left behind (they must have packed light when they left). From there, move on to the York Castle Museum for a not-so-quick overview of the most recent 400 years.
Famed for its football team and music scene, which has produced the likes of The Smiths and Oasis, this centre for sports and the arts is a down-to-earth and friendly city. The so-called Capital of the North has overcome industrial decline, bombing (in WWII and by the IRA) to become a confident and cosmopolitan city of well over two million. It is well served by a bus and light rail network. Top attractions include the Lowry art complex, arcade Affleck's Palace and Canal Street gay village.
One visit to the Yorkshire Dales and it’s easy to understand why the unspoiled countryside is the setting of so many novels. Must-see sights among the land’s lush woodlands and expansive moors include Hardraw Force (the longest single-drop waterfall in the North), Gordale Scar, and well-known hill range, the Three Peaks. Less adventurous visitors can rest easy, walking through the manicured lawns of Parcevall Hall Gardens or appreciating Skipton Castle’s medieval architecture. Although some prefer to take in the land’s wild beauty by foot or horse, the most popular way is via one of the park’s famed cycling routes.
When it comes to outdoor activities, the Peak District National Park is the whole package. Located in the north of England, the park offers everything from horse riding to rock climbing, windsurfing to paragliding, plus walking trails galore. One trail, Derwent Valley Heritage Way, allows you to take in the area’s open landscape while also showcasing its industrial roots. Discovering hidden underground formations at such spots as Titan Cave (the highest natural cavern in the U.K.) is another popular pastime. Best of all, there are camp- and RV sites throughout so guests can settle into these surroundings.
Liverpool's fortunes have historically been tied to shipping. But imports and exports like sugar, spice and tobacco pale in comparison with Liverpool's most famous export of all — The Beatles. Relive the hysteria at The Beatles Story Experience, and check out Paul's childhood home, but also leave time for exploring Liverpool Cathedral and the Walker Art Gallery.
Not to be confused with nearby Windermere, the tiny village of Bowness-on-Windermere lies on the shore of England’s largest lake. Ferries run from here across Lake Windermere, while the traditional stone cottages, lakefront pubs, and lively fishing harbour tempt travellers to linger a little longer.
This popular resort town is located just a mile from Windermere Lake, the largest lake in England and alleged home to more than one peculiar sea creature. If we've scared you out of skiing, boating and fishing in Windermere Lake, there's always horseback riding and golf. Or you can explore the lake from the safety of a ferryboat, which regularly takes passengers from Hawkshead to Bowness.
Cumbria's valleys and fells (as the low mountains are known) are home to idyllic villages, high moorlands and picturesque lakes. Literary buffs will enjoy Wordsworth's Dove Cottage (go in March to see daffodils), and if you've got kids in tow, visit The World of Beatrix Potter. Or just enjoy a leisurely drive through beautiful scenery.
The geographical heart of England, Birmingham began life as a sixth- century Anglo-Saxon village. Today, much of this city of over a million dates back to post-WWII redevelopment in the 1950s and 60s. Cutting edge museums and galleries, innovative theatres and excellent shopping have contributed to Birmingham's appeal as a weekend break destination. Don't miss the Balti Triangle, home to the Pakistani food in the UK, the hopping bars and cafes of Gas Street Basin, or the National Sea Life Centre.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, renowned for its heritage, culture and festivals.
Take a long walk around the centre to explore the World Heritage Sites of the Old Town and New Town, as well as all the area’s museums and galleries. Then stop for a delicious meal made from fresh Scottish produce before heading out to take in one of Edinburgh’s many events — including the famous summer festivals of culture, or the Winter Festivals of music, light and ceilidhs.
Bristol is a quirky British city with beautiful hilly vistas and plenty of historic sights to explore. Anyone interested in ships will have a blast aboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great oceanliner, and the Matthew, a replica of the ship upon which John Cabot sailed to America in the 15th century. The graceful Clifton Suspension Bridge is another must-see.
From Shoreditch’s swaggering style to Camden’s punky vibe and chic Portobello Road, London is many worlds in one. The city’s energy means that no two days are the same. Explore royal or historic sites, tick off landmarks from your bucket list, eat and drink in exclusive Michelin-starred restaurants, enjoy a pint in a traditional pub, or get lost down winding cobbled streets and see what you stumble across – when it comes to London, the possibilities are endless.
Known for its restorative wonders, Bath was once the home of Jane Austen. Sure, you could attempt to conjure up this elegant city by reading Pride and Prejudice in your tub, but as Bath has a lot more history than your bathroom (we assume, anyway) you'd be missing out. A stroll through Bath is like visiting an open-air museum, with roughly 5,000 buildings in the city drawing notice for their architectural merit. After your stroll, soak in the natural hot waters of the Thermae Bath Spa, once a favourite of the Celts and Romans.
You've probably heard that Guinness tastes better in Dublin (fresh from the factory), but what you may not know is that Dublin is a perfect destination for the whole family. No, we're not suggesting you let the kiddies drink a pint. Instead, take them to the Dublin Zoo, to feed the ducks in Stephen's Green or on a picnic in Phoenix Park. Scholars enjoy walking in the literary footsteps of such writers as Yeats and Joyce, while discerning shoppers have their pick of designer boutiques.
Over 15 million gallons of water bubble daily into Budapest's 118 springs and boreholes. The city of spas offers an astounding array of baths, from the sparkling Gellert Baths to the vast 1913 neo-baroque Szechenyi Spa to Rudas Spa, a dramatic 16th-century Turkish pool with original Ottoman architecture. The "Queen of the Danube" is also steeped in history, culture and natural beauty. Get your camera ready for the Roman ruins of the Aquincum Museum, Heroes' Square and Statue Park, and the 300-foot dome of St. Stephen's Basilica.