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    Counties with Class

    5 Destinations for Discerning UK Holidaymakers

    Sussex
    Sussex

    It would be wrong to assume that holidays in the UK are all kiss-me-quick hat and fish-and-chips-on-the-promenade affairs. Certainly, Britain has more than its fair share of brash and breezy family holiday resorts to offer but for those looking for a little more than funfairs and sandcastles there are counties to explore that offer a compelling mix of tradition, history, fine scenery, and a wealth of fun activities. As a taster, here’s our guide to five British counties that richly reward exploration.

    1. Sussex – Leafy Sussex is the perfect example of a traditional English county. Fourteen miles of coastline cater for those who enjoy the sea air, with resorts such as Eastbourne and Hastings providing a perfect blend of culture, history and entertainment. Not far from Hastings, the ancient city of Battle provides a thrilling journey back in time to recount the story of the famous Battle of Hastings in the grounds surrounding the town’s ruined Abbey. The diversity of the English countryside can be seen at its best, at any time of year, in a visit to the South Downs National Park. An area of outstanding natural beauty, the park encapsulates a variety of landscapes from chalk cliffs to summer meadows and shaded woodlands and is perfect for exploring on foot, bicycle or horseback. Within the park there are many charming and rustic Sussex villages and market towns to discover, and what better way could there be to round off the perfect day in Sussex than with a draft of locally-brewed real ale in a welcoming country inn?
    2. Oxfordshire –Oxfordshire is blessed with many fair and historic towns and cities, not least Oxford itself, famed worldwide for the ‘dreaming spires’ of its ancient and prestigious university. Whilst Oxford and towns such as Banbury, Bicester, Abingdon and Didcot undoubtedly merit investigation to uncover their individual histories and attractions, Oxfordshire, and particularly the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, offer a relaxing and rural idyll for those seeking a break from city life. Within this timeless landscape of rolling hills and gentle unspoilt English countryside, a multitude of fine stately homes such as the magnificent Blenheim Palace – the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill await your discovery, along with wildlife parks, gardens, museums and many delightful villages and market towns such as Chipping Norton, Burford and Witney. Outdoor pursuits such as horse riding, golf, country walking and even punting along the picturesque Oxfordshire stretch of the Thames make Oxfordshire the perfect county in which to discover all that the English countryside has to offer.
    3. Buckinghamshire –Easily accessed from London and the south east, the small county of Buckinghamshire distinguishes itself by containing more historic National Trust properties than anywhere else in the country, which makes Buckinghamshire a must for lovers of stately homes and gardens. From the magnificent collection of artworks at Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury to the enchanting temples within the landscaped gardens at Stowe, Buckingham’s treasures are never less than inspirational. Adrenaline fiends might prefer a day out at the legendary Silverstone motor racing circuit, host of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix. There are plenty of more sedate outdoor activities to enjoy in Buckinghamshire though, including gently cruising the Grand Union Canal, visiting Enid Blyton’s house or simply taking in the natural splendour of the Chilterns; some of the finest countryside in Britain. Nature reserves, charming villages, cream teas and traditional English pubs; Buckinghamshire has them all in abundance, making it a gem of a county in which to take a relaxing break.
    4. Wiltshire – Magical landscapes and mystical stone circles such as those at Stonehenge and Avebury are just part of Wiltshire’s rural charm. With many areas of outstanding beauty and diverse terrain which includes chalk downland, ancient woods and vast grassy plains Wiltshire is a haven for walkers and wildlife buffs; the rare and endangered Great Bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird) may be spotted here. Salisbury is a fascinating city to explore, not least to admire its famous thirteenth-century cathedral. An excellent example of early English Gothic architecture, Salisbury Cathedral boasts the tallest spire in the UK.  Following the winding country lanes that lead through Wiltshire’s spectacular countryside will lead you to many of the county’s fine stately homes and gardens, perhaps the most famous of which is the Elizabethan Longleat House, site of the first drive-through safari park to be opened anywhere outside Africa. To sample a taste of rural English village life, enjoy a selection of world famous landmarks and attractions or simply drink in the beauty of a varied English landscape few counties satisfy these pleasures better than Wiltshire.
    5. Shropshire – Where else but Shropshire can you discover England’s industrial heritage, medieval castles, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games and a host of welcoming and charming market towns and rural villages all set in breath taking landscape? History and nature combine in the spectacular Ironbridge Gorge, the origin of the Industrial Revolution. The industry has gone but this World Heritage Site still has many museums, historic sites and walking trails to discover. Shrewsbury, with its narrow streets and half-timbered buildings is a beautiful market town to explore, and the birthplace of the naturalist Charles Darwin. Ludlow, meanwhile, boasts a fabulous and well preserved medieval castle, the centrepiece of many ancient buildings in the area. The great outdoors is well represented by the stunning Shropshire Hills, and the county also hosts a great selection of stately homes, battlefields and public gardens to enjoy. Throw steam trains and canal cruises into the mix, along with many family oriented attractions and it’s easy to see why a break in gentle, historic Shropshire is the ultimate remedy for the stresses of modern life.

    John is a guest writer from Elite hotels who run some of the finest hotels in Sussex at Ashdown Park and The Eastbourne Grand Hotel Sussex

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