1. Whitstable, Kent.
A justifiably popular day trip for Londoners, but worthy of a few days of anyone’s time, bohemian Whitstable is famous for its oysters but offers a host of other charms, including a vibrant High Street and a picturesque and quiet seafront.
Where to stay: Victoria Villa, a charming B&B just off Harbour St. Or you can hire old school fishermen’s cottages by the beach.
Where to eat and drink: Grab a pint in Old Nepture and check out Wheeler’s Oyster Bar before you leave.
Don’t miss: The annual Oyster Festival in late July.
2. Buxton, Derbyshire.
While the natural spas that have brought people here since Roman times are now closed, Buxton boasts a wealth of attractions, is perfectly situated for exploring the Peak District, and hosts numerous festivals across the year.
Where to stay: Try Grosvenor House or Roseleigh, which is a converted townhouse.
Where to eat and drink: The Columbine is an upmarket treat.
Don’t miss: Either the Buxton Festival, or the Buxton Festival Fringe, which are packed with music, readings, theatre and film.
3. Dorchester, Dorset.
Dorchester is internationally famous as Thomas Hardy town, but its history stretches way beyond the Victorian era. The centre is full of pretty Georgian buildings and the town’s origins go back to the Romans.
Where to stay: The Old Rectory is, unsurprisingly, a restored rectory in Winterbourne Steepleton, four miles away.
Where to eat and drink: Shelleys Plaice is a typically quirky seafood bistro boasting local catches and lobster pots on the walls.
Don’t miss: The Dorset County Museum will scratch your Hardy itch, while the nearby Cerne Abbas giant is worth a quick trip.
4. Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
Cirencester calls itself the “capital of the Cotswolds”, and has a number of attributes that help back up that claim, most notably a delightful Market Place and a wealth of picture perfect seventeenth and eighteenth century houses.
Where to stay: The Corinium Hotel is justifiably popular, but the Old Brewhouse is a top B&B worth checking out too.
Where to eat and drink: Seek out Jesse’s Bistro, down a de rigeur cobbled street, which offers seasonal local produce as well as a fishmonger and the all-important cheese shop.
Don’t miss: The Corinium Museum will get you up to speed on the town’s history, while the New Brewery Arts Centre is the place’s beating cultural heart.
5. Dartmouth, Devon.
Dartmouth, along with neighbouring Kingswear across the river, squats on a particularly beautiful stretch of the Devon coastline. A haven for sailors, artists and eccentrics, it’s an unmissable stop on a west country itinerary.
Where to stay: Try the Royal Castle Hotel or the Dart Marina Hotel.
Where to eat and drink: Start your days at the legendary Café Alf Resco, which offers fry-ups and endless toast in a pretty courtyard and finish them at historic boozer The Cherub Inn.
Don’t miss: Take a walk out to Dartmouth Castle, perched perilously on the rocks at the mouth of the River Dart, or charter a small boat upstream to bohemian Totnes.
6. St Ives, Cornwall.
Long a retreat for England’s artsy elite, St Ives consolidated on its reputation with the opening of the Tate St Ives in the ‘90s. It remains an enchanting stop off on the north Cornwall coast.
Where to stay: The Little Leaf guesthouse keeps it in the family while St Ives Backpackers offers budget digs.
Where to eat and drink: Alba is among the best harbourfront picks while Blas Burgerworks flip the best patties for some distance.
Don’t miss: The art gallery, obvs.
7. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.
Berwick-upon-Tweed has changed hands between the English and the Scots numerous times over the centuries, so perhaps unsurprisingly it comes encircled by impressive battlements, over a mile long and built by the Elizabethans, which you can spend a decent hour navigating.
Where to stay: No 1 Sallyport is possibly your best choice, but you’ll have to get in quick; they only have a handful of rooms.
Where to eat and drink: Reivers Tryst serves up English food all day.
Don’t miss: Walking the defensive walls, thinking you’re Jon Snow or something.
8. Rye, East Sussex.
One of the country’s most beguiling medieval villages, with a tourist quota to match, Rye is worth braving the crowds for. Seemingly stuck in a time warp, it’s an evocative warren of cobbled lanes, timber-beamed buildings and curiosity shops.
Where to stay: Another justifiably popular spot, The George In Rye comes with a cosy bar too.
Where to eat and drink: The food’s not bad at The George actually, but the Mermaid Inn offers affordable grub also.
Don’t miss: Just wondering around taking it in, with a stop off at the Rye Castle Museum.
9. Ludlow, Shropshire.
With an impressive historical centre that fans out from the imposing castle, Ludlow is another English town steeped in history. It’s also been home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Where to stay: Dinham Hall Hotel is a good choice, right by the castle.
Where to eat and drink: La Bécasse and Mr Underhill’s are the cream of the high end crop while DeGreys offers a decent English cuppa on the more budget side of things.
Don’t miss: Eating. And the castle.
10. Colchester, Essex.
As England’s oldest town, Colchester, which lies sleepily a mere 50 miles from London, is full of history. Dating back to at least the 5th Century BC, it’s peppered with key Roman sites. It’s also the gateway to some of East Anglia’s most idiosyncratic seaside spots, from archaic Frinton-on-Sea to livelier Walton-on-the-Naze.
Where to stay: Old Manser B&B is one of the town’s top spots.
Where to eat and drink: The Lemon Tree is an old favourite, but The Company Shed offers the most memorable dining experience: a flurry of oysters and seasfood in a tiny shack.
Don’t miss: The castle, which was constructed shortly after the Battle of Hastings.
11. Harrogate, Yorkshire.
Another British town that owes its existence to natural springs and the spas that sprung up as a result, Harrogate long languished under the reputation as a hotspot for silver-haired travellers. However, the town has shaken off that dodgy accolade and welcomes all ages to its picturesque delights.
Where to stay: Try The Studley Hotel or The Kimberley Hotel – both are worth their four stars.
Where to eat and drink: Van Zeller, in the Montpelier Quarter, is named after Michelin-trained chef Tom Van Zeller, and offers everything from a set lunch to a tasting menu if you’re looking to splash some cash. Betty’s tea room, meanwhile, is as Yorkshire as they come, and the place to go for your cake fix.
Don’t miss: A dip in one of the town’s spas, as well as an aimless meander round the 120-acre Valley Gardens.
12. Stamford, Lincolnshire.
Stamford was marked as the country’s first Conservation Area in the ‘60s and a few minutes here will underline why: the place is littered with pretty buildings in Lincolnshire limestone lining the narrow streets that climb from the River Welland.
Where to stay: The George, a four star hotel dating back to 1597, has played host to Charles 1. If it’s good enough for him…
Where to eat and drink: Real ales, eccentric architecture, and a history dating back 700 years make the Tobie Norris a vital stop for a pint.
Don’t miss: Playing spot the period drama set amid Stamford’s impressively preserved architecture. Burghley House, a sprawling Elizabethan mansion a couple of miles away, is also worth a peek.
13. Cartmel, Cumbria.
A tiny Cumbrian treat, Cartmel sprung up around its Augustinian priory centuries ago but has recently established itself as a foodie’s mecca. L’Enclume, the restaurant from The Trip with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, is here and the town is known as the home of sticky toffee pudding.
Where to stay: L’Enclume of course.
Where to eat and drink: May we suggest L’Enclume?
Don’t miss: L’Enclume, but also Holker Hall, a top country estate, is worth a look. The whole area is spoilt with breathtaking views and memorable walks, and Cartmel Priory should be part of your itinerary.
14. Southwold, Suffolk.
Perched atop some impressive cliffs, Southwold is an affluent and pretty seaside resort, all sandy beaches and well-maintained beach huts. Erstwhile home to George Orwell’s parents, the town also boasts an assortment of Georgian buildings and a heathland for bracing walks.
Where to stay: The Swan is a Georgian curiosity shop of period design and old-fashioned knick knacks; bag a room in the main building rather than the modern extension if you can.
Where to eat and drink: The Crown serves reliable seasonal fare.
Don’t miss: Beer lovers should head to the Adnams brewery, while the harbour is a pleasant spot to while away a few hours. Latitude Festival takes over the neighbouring fields every July.
15. Glastonbury, Somerset.
Glastonbury town, ensconced in the legendary Vale of Avalon, is hippy mecca and an eccentric kind of place at the best of times. Home to perhaps the UK’s most unique high street, featuring shops like The Physic Piglet and Man, Myth and Magik, it’s a gloriously odd little charmer.
Where to stay: White House B&B offers two well-appointend little rooms and The George And Pilgrim boasts several more throughout its fifteenth century building.
Where to eat and drink: Rainbow’s End, a homespun veggie café in the heart of Glastonbury town, is a local’s favourite and Michael Eavis is often spotted munching within.
Don’t miss: Glastonbury Abbey is worth the few bob they charge for entry and its namesake festival is an essential experience at least once in your life.
16. Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.
A beautifully preserved town on the northern fringes of the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden is the picture postcard vision foreigners often expect, but rarely find, on a visit to England: all stone cottages, characterful pubs and trimmed gardens. Despite this, it’s somehow remained relatively tourist-free.
Where to stay: The Noel Arms or the Red Lion Inn.
Where to eat and drink: The Ebrington Arms covers your gastropub needs while Maharaja offers decent Indian fare.
Don’t miss: The Court Barn Museum, which is devoted to the arts and crafts figures that have given the area its reputation as a creative hub.
17. Avebury, Wiltshire.
Avebury is plonked right in the middle of a stone circle that rivals Stonehenge. While its rock formations aren’t as famous, they’re equally as myterious, and potentially of more significance to England’s druids of yore.
Where to stay: Manor Farm, a working farm and B&B right in the middle of town.
Where to eat and drink: Circle offers decent veggie food while The George Inn nearby is a good shout.
Don’t miss: Wandering around the ancient stones, and also taking a trip to Lacock 12 miles away, which has stood in for Harry Potter locations among numerous others.
18. Lancaster, Lancashire.
Another key British town dating back to Roman times, Lancaster enjoyed a heyday in the 18th century and is still an essential stop off in Lancashire.
Where to stay: Penny Street Bridge, which serves up decent local ales in the bar to residents and visitors alike.
Where to eat and drink: Whale Tail Café is the top spot for veggies while The Borough offers gastropub grub.
Don’t miss: Lancaster Castle, and the Maritime Museum, which highlights Lancaster’s role in the slave trade.
19. Whitby, Yorkshire.
Whitby’s got it all: narrow medieval streets, a harbour full of colourful boats begging to be Instagrammed, pubs and shops galore, and an imposing abbey perched on a cliff watching over it all. Arguably one of Yorkshire’s top spots.
Where to stay: Head to the White Horse & Griffin for character, the Whitby YHA for value, or the Avalon if you want to stay where Bram Stoker stayed.
Where to eat and drink: Green’s has long been thought of as the best spot it town, while the Magpie offers world class fish and chips.
Don’t miss: The Dracula Trail, which traces many of the real locations referenced in the book.