For as much as I love the bustle and excitement of London, the English countryside and its green rolling hills, are deeply ingrained in my childhood memories. In the summers, my parents and I would go on Sunday drives. Sometimes these drives had a destination, planned by my dad and his AA book on places of interest, and sometimes they didn’t… just a meandering drive through country lanes to see what was going on in the little towns and villages of England. We always ran into something. A cute village, a picturesque riverside, historical landmarks, a village fete. Even when you’re in the middle of seeming nowhere in England, you’re never far from somewhere and something. I love this about being home.
One of my favorite day trips was to the many historical homes and castles dotted around every area in the British isles. I HEART British history, hard. We went everywhere around the country when I was a kid, in day trips and two week holidays, criss-crossing the nation in the path of Kings and Queens and Lords and Ladies. And it was definitely something I wanted to share with my girl while we were home.
I have some really fantastic memories of this stately home in Essex. The most recent one was right before I came to officially live in the U.S. My parents, my then-husband-to-be and I, came out for the Last Night of the Proms, a picnic under the stars classical concert with full orchestra. There is such patriotism around the Proms and we waved little Union Jacks while singing Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory while the sky lit up with fireworks. For a 20 year old girl who was leaving home for a new country, it was a bittersweet evening.
The English countryside is so beautiful, as are the large, historical home that adorn it. I love the sweeping, green lawns, and the big blue skies with puffy white clouds. I love this history and the majesty.
After all good days out, a drink and a spot of dinner at the local pub, is the perfect ending.
Leeds Castle is actually not in Leeds but it is affectionately known as “The loveliest castle in the world.” It dates back to Norman times and was one of the homes of Henry the VIII (who I have a historical obsession with) and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The grounds around the castle are just as breathtaking as the castle itself and the walk along shaded pathways up to the castle entrance was just incredible. The castle is one of those places where I could have happily strolled around for hours, exploring each nook-and-cranny with my camera, finding something new to love at every turn.
You can also stay at the castle, either one of the many cottages, in their bed-and-breakfast rooms, or on the grounds in what they call “Knight’s Glamping.” Personally, a night in the Maiden’s Tower looks good to me. Maybe next time…
Old MacDonald’s Farm is a relatively new attraction to the area where I grew up. We took my girl there not long after it opened, which was during our last trip 5 years ago. Although it doesn’t hold childhood memories for me, places just like it do. Small, simple, fun parks like this can be found all around England and they’re perfect for a relatively inexpensive but fun day out. Whenever we went on our two week holidays, we would inevitably find and visit little parks like this wherever we were.
Since we went on a weekday during school hours, we basically had the park to ourselves. In some ways that was cool but it did mean that the visit lacked the atmosphere created but hundreds of kids flying around at breakneck speed to the next thing.
Norfolk and my nerd-gasm at a Church in Windsor Castle