by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:24th January 2020

History, culture and the seaside

So, you fancy getting away from the hurly-burly of old London town?

Whether you’re escaping with your family, friends or you even want a bit of quiet time on your own. We’ve chosen an exciting mixture of locations and historical places that we have loved.

Some of these localities you’ll be able to reach by public transport, others due to practicality of time and accessibility you may need to jump in a car.

You may also notice that a few of these settings are on the coast, if you know me by now, you’ll know I have a bit of a thing with water and the sea.

So no further ado, our first port of call is…..

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Our 8 destinations

We'll be discovering the following;
You can click on the link to jump to the section, and to return, just click on the title.

Yep, straight to the Kent coast.

If you love history and not just recent history, you’ll find Dover Castle incredibly fascinating. It’s now lovingly run by English Heritage, and I would say one of their flagship attractions.

A view of Dover Castle from the grass banks that surround it. There are some cast iron Napoleonic cannons set defensive positions in the foreground.
Dover Castle
Perched high on the White Cliffs of Dover, this imposing fortress has been protecting its nation for over eight centuries. Dover Castle has had visits from the Romans, Normans, Kings, Queens and Emperors.

Our Tip

The Wartime Tunnel tours fill up quick, arrive early to ensure you secure your place. You can’t book, it’s first-come, first-served basis.
In more recent history the Napoleonic tunnels were used as a base from which the Dunkirk evacuations were masterminded. Along with venturing into the secretive tunnels of Operation Dynamo, there are also medieval tunnels and an underground hospital.
The dining area inside Dover Castle with drapes on the wall. The room very much has a medieval feel to it.
Inside the Great Keep

This all before you’ve even been summoned across the drawbridge. To the Great Tower, which King Henry II had rebuilt into a Royal Palace.

Visiting Dover Castle is not only a fun day out; it’s also extremely educational.

English Heritage Membership

If you are planning on visiting multiple English Heritage sites, then you may want to consider an annual pass. You’ll be amazed at how much you will save, click on the banner below.

I feel that we’ve been a bit late to the party in visiting Oxford, as it is always high on overseas visitors lists. However, so often we’ve passed by en-route to another location.

After visiting Oxford, I now understand the allure. The history and centuries of traditions that are immersed so deep into its past, at times, I struggle to comprehend it. You feel like an onlooker gazing into this elitist world.

Inside Magdalen college Oxford a view of the cloisters and the tower on a summer's day
The Cloisters of Magdalen College

The University of Oxford has been teaching scholars since 1096, which makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. So, it isn’t surprising that you would feel honoured to be studying here.

As we saunter through the ancient lanes dodging the cyclists rushing to their next tutorial, you truly get the chance to appreciate the ornate sandstone colleges around every corner.

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford as the sun goes down on a summer's day. Is just like a scene from Inspector Morse.
Radcliffe Camera in the evening
Harry Potter fans and also those of you who remember the TV series Inspector Morse will recognise parts of this beautiful city.

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Ok, so we are back on the Kent coastline. I have to be honest here, my expectations weren’t too high. We’d visited Folkestone a number of years ago, and it needed more than a lick of paint.

Well, I was taken aback at the transformation. The rejuvenation that has taken place and still taking place I hasten to add is astonishing. The aqueduct and the disused old harbour station have been lovingly restored. They are now a place of recreation and pleasant waterfront walks.

A Harborview of Folkestone looking towards the slipway and the Old Town in the distance.
Overlooking the harbour slipway in Folkestone

You can stroll all around the harbour arm, enjoying the local pop up cafes and independently-run restaurants.

The addition to Folkestone that I particularly loved was the urban art demonstration that is on display through the whole town, and along the seafront. It is the UK’s largest urban contemporary art exhibition and is accessible 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.

Looking up Folkestone’s old High Street with a narrow cobbled lane in the centre and brightly coloured artisan shops either side that now occupies the creative quarter of the town.
The old high street in the Creative Quarter
A view of the renovated top of the old High Street where it meets Rendezvous Street in Folkestone. It's clear the town has gone through a regeneration process and it's old buildings restored to their former glory.
Rendezvous Street in Folkestone
It’s not all about the harbourfront, take a stroll up through the colourful cobbled streets and around the historical Bayle area, there are many a tale to be told here.

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.

If you love the nostalgia of the British motor industry, you’ll definitely want to visit the British Motor Museum. The museum is located in Warwickshire, northwest of London; however, if you are staying in Stratford-upon-Avon, it’s great for a day out.
Paddy Hopkirk's bright red Mini Cooper that won the Monte Carlo rally on display in the British motor museum.
The classic Mini Cooper

The British Motor Museum has so many pristine vehicles that have been lovingly resorted or preserved just for the memories that these British classics bring their owners.

In the museum, there are cars and trucks that you’ll recognise from the silver screen. Iconic racing events like the Monte Carlo Rally and historic models you thought had been lost forever.

A streamlined car with an MG badge in a metallic British racing green, designed to tackle the Land Speed record, on display in British motor museum.
A land speed MG display at the British Motor Museum

You can even watch from the viewing gallery the mechanics working on the exhibits below.

Visiting the British Motor Museum is a fun day out, especially for that inner petrol-head amongst us.

Tempted to?

Discover more of the Great British Isles, why not jump in a car and tour the country at your own pace. You can do it all on a road trip, Rental Cars cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Ok, so technically Eltham Palace is in London. However, believe me, when you step into this Art Deco paradise, you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.

Eltham Palace is now under the watchful eye of the English Heritage and, they perform an incredible job maintaining this beautiful building.

The opulent reception area of Eltham Palace in south east London with wood panels engraved with classical scenes. The whole area is an art deco masterpiece.
The reception area of Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace was once the childhood playground of Henry VIII; however, he was the last monarch that invested in the upkeep of the moated fortress. Which then soon went into decline, although the Great Hall survived.

In 1933 the wealthy Courtauld family took a 99-year lease from the Crown and had an elegant new house was built. The luxurious interior Art Deco décor is stunning, intricately inlaid wood panelling, smooth lines and sleek splendour. It is spectacular.

The view from the rock garden in front of the Moat that surrounds Eltham Palace on a cloudy but bright day.
Eltham Palace from across the moat

English Heritage is continually discovering more in this house, recently behind years of wallpaper they uncovered the Map Room.

As the Courtaulds were keen travellers, these would have been used to plan their adventures around the globe.

If you've yet to discover London and its ancient history, then let's start planning. I find these DK Eyewitness Travel Guides invaluable. They're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.

You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.

When you think of Canterbury, what springs to mind? The striking cathedral that witnessed the murder of Thomas Becket, Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, the quaint cobbled lanes around the Buttermarket, or the oldest school in the world.
An autumnal scene of the River walkway in Canterbury in front of the Westgate towers.
Strolling along Westgate River Walk in Canterbury

This ancient city has so much to offer, and yes, King’s School is known to be the oldest continuously operated school, which has been teaching scholars since 597AD.

Canterbury Cathedral stands as the towering centrepiece of the city and home to the head of the Church of England. It also forms part of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The stone War Memorial stands in front of the Christchurch gate that leads to Canterbury Cathedral in the butter market district of Canterbury.
The War Memorial & Christchurch Gate
A view along a quiet cobbled lane in Canterbury towards a historic building that was once home to Charles Dickens and is now a jewellers.
The quiet lanes of Canterbury

All around the Cathedral are flagstone streets and rickety old buildings that have stood the test of time. During the 17th-century the French-speaking Huguenots settled here and introduced silk weaving to the city.

Canterbury is full of so much history and truly makes a charming day out.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Ahh, does a town become anymore quintessentially English than Henley-on-Thames? World-famous for its annual Royal Regatta, this charming town in Oxfordshire is delightful.
The High Street of Henley-on-Thames decorated with bunting in preparation for the Royal regatta.
Hart Street , Henley-on-Thames

As the name would suggest, Henley-on-Thames is nestled along the banks of the River Thames. The town can trace its roots back to the 12th-century so, is full history. The Henley Bridge which straddles the Thames across two counties from Oxfordshire to Berkshire was built in 1786.

The old town is so welcoming with quaint boutiques, tea rooms and a regular Farmers Markets held on various days through the month.

A number of small boats moored up at the Thames Riverside in Henley-on-Thames on a bright summers day.
The waterfront, Henley-on-Thames

For five days during July, the Thames and the town truly come alive. People from far away shores take to the 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 metres) course, for their place in the history books.

However, you don’t need to be of Olympic standard to take to the waters; you can enjoy the pleasure of boating along the Regatta course yourself.

I know I’ve taken you back to the seaside again, I just can’t help it. This time it is Margate, made synonymous by Chas and Dave, the Turner Contemporary gallery and good old Only Fools and Horses.
The golden sands of Margate's beach with the Harbour arm leading to the Turner contemporary gallery in the distance.
The beach and the harbour

Like many other coastal towns around the UK, and particularly in Kent, Margate is turning a corner, being revigorated and has a new lease of life. Obviously, these changes take years and sometimes decades; however, Margate is well on the way.

This seaside town has a beautiful golden sandy beach, a charming quay encircled by a bustling harbour arm. You can even grab a pot of jellied eels or your favourite shellfish.

A brick-built building in Margate’s Old Town that was once the Wellington Hotel and is now home to a cafe called to Kentish pantry.
The Kentish Pantry in the old Wellington Hotel
The entrance to the Cinque Ports pub in Margate which shows a stylish interior. You are greeted by Vespa scooter decorated in the Mod style.
The Cinque Posts Pub in Margate

What more could you want, ahh yes, the old town is coming alive too.  Some quirky little shops popping up, trendy small boutiques and some great brewpubs.

I can see I’ll be visiting again.

Interested in parts two & three?

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