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Last updated : Nov 2009
Midlands
Midlands - TravelPuppy.com
The Midlands cover a great area of the country south of the Humber Estuary and from the Welsh border in the west to the fringes of the Southeast. In this section the counties included are Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands.

From the moors of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park and cities like Birmingham to the quiet villages of Northamptonshire and Herefordshire, the Midlands is a region of great diversity.

The Industrial Revolution began in Shropshire; indeed industrial heritage is a main feature here: the Staffordshire Potteries draw large numbers of visitors, while the motor industry has strong connections with Warwickshire.

Shakespeare lived in Stratford-upon-Avon (see the Top Seven Destinations section) while Nottingham is tied to the legend of Robin Hood.

Great cathedrals, such as those of Coventry, Lichfield, Lincoln and Worcester, abound.

The region’s only stretch of coastline, that of Lincolnshire, has an range of seaside resorts, including Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe and Skegness. Canals cross much of the Midlands, and these former industrial routes are nowadays an important tourism source, offering a relaxing way to enjoy the countryside from hired cruisers and narrowboats.

For further information contact Heart of England Tourist Board (telephone: (01905) 761 100; fax: (01905) 763 450; email: info@visitheartofengland.com).

Warwickshire and the West Midlands

The industrial centre of Britain is surrounded by beautiful countryside. Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city, is the heart of both industry and culture. It has a grand library, and the Central Museum & Art Gallery is one of the best in the country. Also in the city are the National Sea Life Centre, and the Jewellery Quarter, a museum that tells the story of this interesting district. Birmingham has more canals than Venice, many of which are still navigable. Aston Hall, to the east of the city centre, is a stately home, while in the southern suburbs at Bournville, Cadbury World is a family attraction in this famous chocolate manufacturing centre. Birmingham is also home to the National Exhibition Centre, site of major exhibitions and trade fairs.

Northwest of Birmingham is the Black Country, a region extending into southern Staffordshire. A former industry powerhouse and coal mining centre, the main town of interest here is Dudley, which has a castle and a zoo in the same complex. The town also has the open-air Black Country Living Museum, where it is possible to take canal boat trips through the tunnel to the Singing Cavern.

At Wolverhampton, Moseley Old Hall was the hiding place of the future King Charles II following his escape from the Battle of Worcester in the year 1651. The Walsall Arboretum, large decorative gardens, stages the popular Walsall Illuminations every September and October.

Coventry, city of Lady Godiva and centre of the British motor industry, is famous for its modern styled cathedral, designed by Sir Basil Spence after destruction of the original during World War II. Warwick is home to many historic houses and Warwick Castle is one of the area’s most popular attractions. In the historic Market Hall, the Warwickshire Museum has displays of local archaeology and other historic items, while a Jacobean mansion houses St John’s Museum. The Collegiate Church of St Mary, the Doll Museum and the Lord Leycester Hospital are also worth a visit. In the countryside are several stately homes, including 17th-century Ragley Hall, near Alcester. Leamington Spa is an 18th-century spa resort.

Herefordshire and Worcestershire

The stretch of country between Worcester and the Welsh border is a rich farming area, with fields and meadows full of apple orchards, hops and white-faced red cattle. Black and white half-timbered buildings decorate the villages and market towns such as Ledbury. The Wye Valley, the Malvern Hills and the Teme Valley add to the region's beauty.

The Wye Valley is a beautiful area, with the river flowing first through gentle countryside and then through spectacular gorges near Symonds Yat. The town of Ross-on-Wye is a good starting point for exploring this area. Northwest of Ross is Hereford, on the River Wye, an attractive cathedral city, which has a City Museum and Art Gallery and the Cider Museum. Nell Gwynne, actress and mistress of Charles II, reputedly was born here. The medieval Mappa Mundi is on display at Hereford Cathedral, which also has a rare Chained Library.

To the west is Golden Valley, a remote area containing many attractive villages. At its northern end on the Welsh border is Hay-on-Wye, famous for one of the world’s largest second-hand bookshops.

Worcester, on the banks of the River Severn, has a Cathedral, the factory of the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company, a Guildhall with a Queen Anne facade and many streets with overhanging half-timbered houses from the Tudor period. The Commandery, once headquarters of Charles II, now boasts a Civil War audio-visual display.

South of Worcester are the Malvern Hills, offering views across the rich agricultural landscape. Great Malvern began as a spa resort in the 18th century. Tastings of the spring water are available at St Anne’s Well.

Some 32km or 20 miles north of Worcester is the Wyre Forest, good for walking and riding. The main towns in this region are Bewdley, Kidderminster and Stourport, home to the terminus of the Severn Valley Railway, England’s longest standard-gauge steam railway system. Worcestershire’s biggest visitor attraction is the West Midlands Safari Park at Bewdley.

Shropshire

This is an area of varied landscapes with moorland, forests, gentle hills and open pasture. Shropshire was also birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, evidence of which is visible in Ironbridge Gorge. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum occupies a number of sites but the area’s main landmark is the world’s first Iron Bridge built in 1779. The ruined Buildwas Abbey is nearby.

To the west is The Wrekin, a conical-shaped hill that figures in local tales and legends. The county town, Shrewsbury, is one of the best Tudor towns in England, famed for the flower market held every summer. Shrewsbury Quest portrays the monastic life at the time of Ellis Peters’ ‘Brother Cadfael’, a fictional 12th-century resident of the town.

South and southwest of Shrewsbury are the Shropshire Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Ludlow, Church Stretton, Bishop’s Castle, Much Wenlock (13th-century Wenlock Priory is the major attraction here) and Bridgnorth are all attractive towns.

A large plain with quiet roads, make it ideally suited for cycling or walking, dominates the north of the county. Market Drayton, Oswestry, Wem (famous for its beer) and Whitchurch are the main market towns in this region. Hawkstone Park, with its follies, and a cave where Aleister Crowley supposedly held satanic rituals, is an unusual diversion, while the Roman City at Wroxeter is an archaeological site.

Staffordshire

Staffordshire lies partly within the Peak District National Park and has some of the most spectacular countryside, such as Thor’s Cave and the limestone gorge at Dovedale on the Derbyshire border.

Stoke-on-Trent, known worldwide for its pottery, has many visitor attractions including the Wedgwood Story and the former pottery works now at the Gladstone Museum. Other famous brands associated with the city, which has some 40 factory outlets offering bargain china, are Royal Doulton and Spode.

East of the Potteries are the scenic Churnet Valley and Vale of Trent, the latter home to Cannock Chase, an area of heath and woodland. One of the most famous sights in the is the unusual Lichfield Cathedral, which has three spires. Samuel Johnson’s home is open to the public. Nearby Tamworth has a castle, along with the country's first indoor ski slope using real snow, the Snowdome, and Drayton Manor theme park.

Staffordshire’s many stately homes include Shugborough, home of photographer Lord Lichfield. To the northeast is Alton Towers, the UK’s largest theme park; while to the east is the traditional centre of the English brewing industry, Burton-upon-Trent, where the Bass Museum provides the story of ‘real ale’ in the town.

Northamptonshire

Although road and rail links traverse Northamptonshire much of the county remains unspoilt. One of the attractive regions is the Rockingham Forest area in the east, home to several historic houses, and mighty Rockingham Castle. There is a Red Kite observatory at the RSPB Centre near Corby.

Close to Oundle, a market town famous for its architecture and public school, only a mound remains of the Fotheringhay Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots met her demise in 1587. Althorp has the museum on the grounds commemorating the late Diana, Princess of Wales and Sulgrave Manor is the ancestral home of George Washington. Other places of interest are the Central Museum in Northampton with its shoe collection, the Waterways Museum and the Santa Pod drag racing circuit outside Wellingborough.

Leicestershire and Rutland

Leicestershire has castles, manor homes and market towns. Leicester itself has Roman remains and plenty of Medieval architecture, and today is an important shopping centre. A major new attraction, the National Space Centre, is now open in the city. Other towns include Market Harborough (close to Foxton Locks, the longest chain of canal locks in England), Lutterworth (home of John Wycliffe) and Melton Mowbray, famed for Stilton cheese and pork pies. Near is Market Bosworth, site of one of English history’s most famous battles, when Henry Tudor defeated Richard III in 1485. Belvoir Castle near Melton Mowbray, is a popular attraction.

On the Warwickshire border, Twycross Zoo is a popular attraction, while at Coalville, to the northwest of Leicester, the Snibston Discovery Centre is an interactive world of technology. Conkers, a children’s attraction about the natural world, is at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Rutland has the distinction of being England’s smallest county. In the town of Oakham, Oakham Castle has a collection of decorative horseshoes, each presented as a symbolic toll to the borough by monarchs passing through over the centuries.

Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire is the largest county in the East Midlands and only one with a coastline, has several seaside resorts, Mablethorpe and Skegness, both of which are towns with good amounts of sunshine. Grimsby is an important fishing port, while nearby Cleethorpes is the Pleasure Island Theme Park, a major attraction here.

Inland are the rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds, where Tennyson spent much of his life. The area around Spalding is some of the country’s richest farmland, and is famous for flower bulbs and its annual Flower Festival.

In the 12th century, Boston was one of the three most important ports in England, and from here many of the Pilgrims planned to set sail for The Netherlands to find religious freedom, but were betrayed and imprisoned in cells in Boston Guildhall. Boston’s unusual church tower, known as the Boston Stump, is visible for miles.

Lincoln is a well-preserved Medieval city and the Cathedral, set on a limestone hill includes three towers, a fine Norman front and a beautiful 13th-century presbytery. Steep Hill has some interesting shops and the Jew’s House, halfway up, is an unusual attraction. River cruises are available.

Stamford, at the border of four counties, is another Medieval town, with fine churches and buildings of mellow stone. Nearby is Burghley House, built by one of Elizabeth I’s powerful ministers. The Medieval Old Hall at Gainsborough in north Lincolnshire is also an interesting attraction.

Lincolnshire has a number of castles, among them Bolingbroke Castle at Spilsby and Tattershall Castle at Coningsby.

Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire was legendary home of Robin Hood, and many parts of Sherwood Forest still survive in the Country Park north of Nottingham. North Nottinghamshire is a former mining region, in which lies Eastwood, the birthplace of D H Lawrence. Both his childhood home and the village’s Durban House Heritage Centre pay tribute to the controversial author. Closer to Nottingham is Newstead Abbey, the family seat of Lord Byron.

The university city of Nottingham has the beautiful neo-Classical Nottingham Castle, which overlooks the city and a museum and art gallery, and nearby Wollaton Hall, an Elizabethan mansion housing a natural history museum. The Tales of Robin Hood, the underground Caves of Nottingham, and the Trip to Jerusalem, reputedly England’s oldest inn, are also of interest. Nearby is the Lace Market area, where attractions include Condemned! a museum dedicated to crime and often grisly punishment, and Lace Hall. Newark-on-Trent has a 12th-century castle, and is an antiques trading centre.

Derbyshire

The spa town of Buxton, the highest market town in England, is a good base from which to explore the Peak District National Park, 1300 sq km or 500 sq mile of limestone dales and open moors.

Other areas of interest in Derbyshire include Matlock Bath, with its cable car ride crossing the Derwent Gorge to the Heights of Abraham and Blue John mine. Bolsover, a small town with a 17th-century castle, is set in rich farmland. Creswell Crags has a Visitor Centre at the site of archaeological finds. Chesterfield is good for exploring the Peak District and famous for its crooked-spire church.

At Bakewell, Chatsworth House is the main attraction; there is the Wind in the Willows Visitor Centre, based on the stories of Kenneth Grahame, at Rowsley.

The county town of Derby is the home of the famous Royal Crown Derby porcelain, and the city also has a cathedral, museums and the Assembly Rooms.

For family outings, the American Adventure Theme Park at Ilkeston is a popular place, while at Crich, is the National Tramways Museum and the Midland Railway Centre near Ripley.