From the hills of Herefordshire, through the heart of England and out to the nature reserves of the Lincolnshire coast, the Midlands is a region with a surprising amount to offer. Holidaymakers can take their pick from a wide range of activities and sightseeing musts.
1. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
Covering 200 square miles of the Midlands, the National Forest crosses parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. The Countryside Commission first dreamt up the idea of a new “multi-purpose forest” in 1987, but it took until 1990 to fix on a location. Eight million trees have now been planted, creating a vast tract of woodland that links the ancient forests of Needwood to the west and Charnwood to the east. Don’t worry about not being able to see the wood for the trees, as there are walking, cycling and horse-riding trails on offer, as well as a variety of visitor attractions and festivals throughout the year. And, if you really want to get stuck in, there’s even a plant-a-tree scheme.
2. Exploring turrets and towers, and top-notch nosh
Ludlow is a picturesque market town, halfway between Shrewsbury and Hereford, with an impressive castle towering over proceedings. Having started life as a Norman fortress, this later became a royal palace and was where the two princes – whose grisly fate was sealed in the Tower of London – spent most of their childhood. Nowadays the town is quite the foodie haven, so don’t miss the fortnightly farmers’ market or the tasty array of local restaurants and gastropubs. And while you’re in the area, why not explore a few more of Shropshire’s 25 hill forts and 32 historic castles? Get those walking boots on!
3. Celebrate the Bard in Stratford-upon-Avon
Whether you are a regular theatregoer or a lover of the big screen (who else has seen Shakespeare in Love six times?), there are activities aplenty to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare’s New Place, opening in the summer of 2016, is a brand new exhibition centre on the site of the house where the Bard spent his final 19 years. Parts of the Great Garden – the largest part of Shakespeare’s estate to survive – have also been restored. You won’t want to miss the intriguing-sounding sunken Knot Garden.
4. Tour cider-making country – drinking optional
Herefordshire boasts breathtaking hills, rich farmland dotted with orchards and the beautiful Wye valley – where bookworms have turned Hay-on-Wye into a literary mecca. You can get a taste of the terrain by setting off on one of 15 circular walks. These range from 10 miles for pros to two miles for the less ambitious hiker (or those keener on sampling the local cider and perry). Or drop the pretence and simply make a beeline for Hereford’s famous Cider Museum!
5. Pottering around in Staffordshire
Do you know your Minton from your Royal Doulton? Then you’ll be heading straight for The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, where you can feast your eyes on the largest collection of Staffordshire ceramics in the world. As any good collector will tell you, ceramics have been produced in The Potteries since as early as the 1600s, due to the abundance of clay, salt, lead and coal locally. But if fine china isn’t quite your cup of tea, the museum’s permanent exhibition also explores the wildlife, landscape and geology of the area.
6. Desperately seeking Mr Darcy
While outdoorsy types will head for the vast moors and dales, rivers, springs and caverns of the Peak District National Park, those of a more romantic persuasion may be drawn to Chatsworth House. This stately home was the inspiration for Pemberley, family seat of the dashing Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice – which Jane Austen is said to have written while staying in nearby Bakewell. Chatsworth featured again in the 2005 film adaptation, when Matthew Macfadyen bravely stepped into Darcy’s much-admired breeches. New for 2016, there’s a rare glimpse into the dazzling lifestyle of socialite Deborah Devonshire, the late dowager duchess, through an exhibition of photos taken at Chatsworth by her close friend Cecil Beaton.
7. Small is beautiful in Lincolnshire
You’ll be spoilt for choice in the county of Lincolnshire . There’s the city of Lincoln itself, the Vales, the Fens, the Wolds and mile upon mile of coastline vying for holidaymakers’ attention. If historic cathedrals, nature reserves or the traditional British seaside aren’t quite for you, then what about something more quirky? And you won’t find quirkier than the Bubble Car Museum in Boston – the only museum in the UK dedicated to these small but perfectly formed runabouts. (Open weekends only.)
8 Find the fauna of the Black Mountains
Resembling an unlikely cross between a sheep and a giraffe, the llama’s closest relation is actually the camel. These South American natives are prized for their dense wool and seem to thrive on this side of the Atlantic too. There are half-day llama treks through the Herefordshire side of the Black Mountains, starting off at Old King Street Farm in the Golden Valley. It’s your chance to find out whether these normally social animals really do spit when irritated.
9. Revisiting the industrial revolution
The Ironbridge Gorge near Telford is known as the birthplace of industry and has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. The gorge, and the town of the same name, mark the site of the world’s first iron bridge, which has spanned the River Severn since 1779. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of the millions of tourists who have walked across it, and explore Ironbridge’s 10 award-winning museums. At Blists Hill, for example, you can step into a convincingly recreated Victorian town where you are encouraged to get into the spirit of time travel by changing your money into pounds, shilling and pence at the bank.
10. Delve below the surface of Nottingham
Did you know that beneath the busy streets of Nottingham there’s a series of 500 sandstone caves? With the earliest dating back to the Dark Ages, these have served as homes, cellars and cesspits over the centuries – and some were still in use right up to the 1940s. Nottingham has more man-made caves than anywhere else in Britain and was once known as Tigguo Cobauc (or “place of caves”). This subterranean world now has ancient monument status, and modern-day visitors to the City of Caves attraction can descend through dank tunnels to discover original Medieval wells, a tannery and the wartime air-raid shelters.
The West and East Midlands have plenty to offer to campers. From simply enjoying the great outdoors to indulging your passion for history, culture or fine food and drink – there really is something to suit all tastes. Book your sites at Campsited today.
Check out our blog on great things to do with Kids in the Midlands!