The cities of the Heart of England make an ideal base for exploring the region whilst having plenty to offer the visitor themselves.
England’s second city; a dynamic, bustling and innovative centre, home to the world’s first industrialists and now regenerated as a major international business and cultural venue. Historic canals, impressive civic buildings and renowned galleries rub shoulders with world-class entertainment, restaurants and shopping centres.
One of England’s most popular visitor destinations, Oxford offers the visitor the soaring spires and golden stone of its University colleges, one of the architectural gems of Europe. Follow in the footsteps of the great writers, scientists, philosophers and statesmen who have studied here over the centuries as you explore the city. The cobbled streets and lanes are home to wonderful shops, restaurants and traditional English pubs, while the museums, theatres and music reflect Oxford’s place as a hub of English life and culture.
A city of stunning contrasts with two thousand years of history from Londinium to the 2012 Olympics. Saunter along narrow medieval lanes and stumble on fragments of Roman city wall, in the shadow of the iconic 21st century Gherkin ! Wander the courts and alleys of the City, powerhouse of global finance. Explore the Docklands, once teeming with maritime commerce. Wonder at Wren’s Baroque masterpiece St Paul’s Cathedral. Shudder beneath the frowning battlements of the Tower, ancient guardian of the Crown Jewels, grim-visaged witness to a procession of the famous doomed passing through Traitor’s Gate! Up river, Westminster boasts the Mother of Parliaments, the incomparable Abbey, the seat of Royalty Buckingham Palace, and the West End, unrivalled for its galleries, shops and theatres. While you’re wondering whether to hear Big Ben, watch the Changing of the Guard, marvel at the British Museum mummies or feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, enjoy a bird’s-eye panorama atop the London Eye and share Dr Johnson’s observation: “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”.
Situated a short journey from Birmingham, Lichfield City is a wonderful mix of fine architecture and pleasant parks. Home of good food, birthplace of the Dictionary, and home to Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of the more famous Charles, there is plenty to discover as well as to enjoy. From its mediaeval Cathedral to the bustling Georgian fronted shopping areas Lichfield is an inspirational destination at any time of the year.
Nestling on the slopes of the oldest hills in England, Malvern is famous for its mineral waters. The fashionable and famous, including Edward Elgar, flocked here in the 19th century for their health and pleasure. Wander around the Winter Gardens, stroll up to take the waters at St Anne’s Well or contemplate the glorious colours in the stained glass in the magnificent mediaeval Priory Church as they did. Or just enjoy the charm of the elegant shopping streets.
From the Romans onwards, Shrewsbury has been a bustling centre of activity.
The town centre plan is something of a medieval maze with many of the streets linked by alleyways, known as ‘shuts’. You will find an amazing range of unique independent retailers as you explore the many back streets – you never know what hidden gems you may find, maybe even Ellis Peter’s monastic sleuth, Caedfal!
Cheltenham at the foot of the Cotswold escarpment, has much to offer. Its popularity as a spa town in the 18th and 19th centuries left a legacy of festivals, inviting shops and colourful gardens and everywhere elegant Georgian terraces. Explore fashionable Montpellier or the Pittville area and perhaps even take the waters.
In Roman times Gloucester was a fortified port on the River Severn. Gloucester Docks are just five minutes’ walk from the city centre and are famous for being Britain’s most inland port. They are also the county’s most popular tourist attraction. Gloucester Cathedral, one of the finest cathedrals in England, and rated as one of the seven most beautiful in the world is one of the glories of Gloucester City.
The historic Cathedral City of Worcester stands on the banks of the River Severn. It can be said that the English civil War began and ended at Worcester, earning the City its motto – ‘The Faithful City’, for its support of the Stuarts. Worcester’s magnificent Cathedral dates back to Norman times. The city has an impressive history of musical and cultural events and hosts the Three Choirs Festival every three years in August.
Hereford stands on River Wye near the Welsh Marches. The castle has mainly gone, but the cathedral, the mediaeval street pattern and several old buildings survive. The 13th century Mappa Mundi is one of the cathedral’s treasures, it depicts the world as round, flat and populated with a host of diverse creatures and people. Another is the Chained Library with nearly1,500 chained books, the largest collection in the world.