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The five most underrated counties in Britain

Cornwall. Cumbria. Northumbria. North Yorkshire. Gloucestershire. Seascapes, moors, mountains, lovely stone houses, the houses of poets and the legacy of empires. Wonderful places all. And all over-publicised.

At least compared to these. I’ve chosen these as the most underrated counties to visit in England; and the least written-about. As a Midlander (originally) there’s maybe a bias in favour of those counties folk from the south and north speed through on the motorways. As a Londoner (adopted) I’m always dismayed how little otherwise well-travelled friends know of places just up the road.

1. SHROPSHIRE (OR ‘SALOP’)

Any county that shares its nickname with a French prostitute has be a bit unusual. You could argue that Salop gets a fair bit of attention as the birthplace of the industrial revolution. But how many tourists get beyond Ironbridge? – to a beautiful riverside county town (Shrewsbury), wonderful hills (The Wrekin, Bredins), and idiosyncratic towns (Ludlow, Much Wenlock). Literary interest: the sombre, puzzling very English A Shropshire Lad (A E Houseman).

2. NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Some of the UK’s least prepossessing towns surrounded by some of its most beautiful villages. It’s a real crossroads of north and south – Watford Gap is here – as is Watford Locks, a stunningly beautiful stretch of the Grand Union Canal.

3. BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Look beyond the stockbroker and footballer mansions to the Chiltern hills – the most beautiful rural area in the southern half of England until you get to Dartmoor. For a tree hugger, especially, if they love wrapping their arms around a rare black beech, the forest and woods at Ashridge and Wendover offer acres of delight. Get there before they put a train line through it.

4. ESSEX

There is another way to Essex – and another side to it. Find the sweet villages and big coastal skies as the county blends into much more celebrated Suffolk. “Sweet, uneventful countryside,” wrote John Betjeman. And what’s wrong with that?

5. LINCOLNSHIRE

Has Lincolnshire ever quite got over the stigma of being home to the most boring town in Britain? Grantham, birthplace of Margaret Thatcher, was given that accolade in 1982. But before Maggie, this was Tennyson’s county, and so inspired some of the finest lyric poetry ever written. The Wold gives the lie to those who think the county is relentlessly flat. Then there’s Skegness – a seaside resort no other country in the world could ever have produced. Even if they wanted to.

 

About the author

Mark Mark Jones, Editor, Do Not Disturb Travel writer for High Life, Sunday Telegraph, The Independent. Writer on other stuff for The Times. Midlands boy turned southern softy.

3 Comments

  1. Why not Kent Theres a wide range of beautiful countryside beyond the built up areas of north Kent and the larger towns? The Downs never fail to impress, the woods around Sevenoaks and Wetserham, the borderlands around Tenterden and Romney Marsh. And lets not forget the wonderful coast and the many river valley’s, notably the Medway and Darent. Compared with Essex, which is by no means ugly, there is just so much else here.

  2. Kent is indeed wonderful – but doesn’t everyone know that?

  3. I agree with these, especially Lincolnshire! Cumbria is also an amazing county: http://www.myseveralworlds.com/2012/10/30/travel-england-windermere-the-lake-district/

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