The Best of the British Countryside

The Best of the British Countryside

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The British Countryside


Wherever you go in the UK, you’re never far from some spectacular countryside to discover or, indeed, rediscover. As you’ll see, you can explore awe-inspiring landscapes, such as mountain ranges, ancient woodland, waterfalls and wild moorland. For the ultimate in diverse British countryside, head to one of the many National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that extend from Dartmoor in the south-west of England to the Cairngorms in Scotland.

All these areas offer the chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, whether you like gentle strolls and leisurely drives or prefer more of a challenge, such as a muddy hike or bike ride that leaves you exhilarated. You might even seek the adrenaline rush of ziplining or kayaking! However you like to spend your time in the great British countryside, when you combine your trip with a restful stay at a spa hotel, you can enjoy the best of all worlds.

So, in this guide, we look at some of the highlights of the UK countryside and suggest a few well-located spa hotels that let you blend exploration with relaxation.

National Parks and AONBs

Overall, Britain boasts 15 glorious National Parks, 10 of which are in England, with three in Wales and two in Scotland. There are also 46 AONBs across the country, from well-known areas such as the Cotswolds to less well-publicised ones, for example Nidderdale in Yorkshire. The south-west of England is home to one of the UK’s finest National Parks, Dartmoor. This extends across 954 square kilometres (or 368 square miles) of Devon. Other areas to explore include East Devon, Dorset and Blackdown Hills AONBs. These areas are each unique, extending across coastline, heathland, forest and rolling hills, making the region a wonderful choice for a trip that includes plenty of beautiful English countryside. 

Lakes and lochs

The UK is home to some wonderful lakes and Scottish lochs, which offer lovely lakeside walks, nature-spotting and the opportunity to enjoy water-based activities. The Lake District in Cumbria remains one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations. Spanning 2,362 square kilometres (or 912 square miles), the Lake District has 16 major bodies of water. Bassenthwaite Lake is the only official lake, with the others classified as waters or meres. The best-known body of water is probably Lake Windermere, which is also the longest ‘lake’, at 16.7 kilometres (10.5 miles). The area also features spectacular mountain landscapes, buzzing market towns, quaint villages and historical sites, so it’s a wonderful destination if you want to see the best of the English countryside.

Mountains and hills

You can find plenty of fantastic peaks across the UK, such as Snowdon and the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Scafell Pike in Cumbria, and the Pennines in northern England. Some of the finest mountainous areas can be found in Scotland. The highest mountain in Scotland (and the UK) is Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highland. You can also find beautiful mountainous and hilly regions in the Cairngorms, including the Grampian Mountains, and in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, where you can explore 21 lofty Munros (which are Scottish mountains higher than 3,000 feet).

 

Dales and valleys

If you’re looking for a diverse rural landscape to explore on your next trip to the great British countryside, dales and valleys are accessible and beautiful areas that offer great walking and other outdoor activities, and endless photo opportunities. The word ‘dale’ actually means ‘open valley’, so expect plenty of green space, as well as hills, fells, rivers and wooded areas. Plan a visit to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which extends over 2,178 square kilometres (841 square miles), mostly in North Yorkshire, encompassing picturesque towns and villages and farmland, as well as the stunning valleys. 

 

Moors, fens and wetlands

Celebrate the untamed space of the UK’s moorland and fenlands. These diverse areas are characterised by wide open spaces that can include heathlands, shrublands, grasslands, and swampy landscapes. Magnets for wildlife, the habitats are vibrant ecosystems offering plenty of undisturbed hiding and feeding places for animals and birds. Head to the North York Moors, which offers one of the country’s largest continuous expanses of heather moorland. Meanwhile, East Anglia and the East Midlands are home to the 3,900 square kilometre (1,500 square mile) Fens. 

Woodland and forests

Discover some superb wooded areas throughout the countryside in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Indeed, woodland accounts for 13% of the UK’s overall land area. When it comes to woodland, Scotland has 46% of the UK's total, while England has 41%. The most popular forested areas include the New Forest in Hampshire, Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, Epping Forest in Essex, and Glen Affric in Scotland. You can also spend a wonderful afternoon at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, which hosts 2,500 species of trees (booking required, at the time of writing).

Rivers, canals and waterfalls

If you would like to spend your time in the British countryside enjoying leisurely riverside and canal towpath walks and inspiring waterfalls, there are lots of great locations to explore. The longest rivers in the UK are the River Severn, River Thames, River Trent, River Wye, and the River Great Ouse, each of which winds through lots of towns and pretty countryside. Likewise, the UK boasts a wonderful canal network joining such hubs as Leeds and Liverpool. You can also find superb waterfalls dotted across the UK, with some especially fine examples in Scotland and Wales. One of the finest is Horseshoe Falls on the River Dee in Denbighshire.

Caves and caverns

Not all the attractions of the UK countryside are above ground! Indeed, Britain is home to some wonderful caves, many of which can be explored on guided tours. If you fancy a trip underground to see some excellent subterranean sights, head for the Peak District National Park. A particularly popular set of caves can be found at Castleton in Derbyshire. There are four caverns here, one of which used to go by the charming name of the Devil’s a***! For more adventurous exploration, Titan Cavern, the UK’s highest natural cavern, has long been a favourite of (experienced) cavers.


Countryside spa hotel locations

If you would like to experience the highlights of the great British countryside, with the added luxury of some spa pampering and excellent hospitality, we’ve picked out a few of our favourite locations:

Bovey Castle in North Bovey, Devon is a wonderful option if you’d like to explore one of England’s fine National Parks. Located within Dartmoor National Park, this luxury spa hotel offers the chance to unwind in style amid the loveliest rural surroundings. This former manor house has been converted into a superb hotel, featuring an on-site golf course, excellent dining and an impressive spa. Book now.

The Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa in Windermere, Cumbria is perfect for a break to the spectacular Lake District. Located in the bustling town of Windermere, on the edge of Lake Windermere, the hotel offers easy access to all the area’s attractions. Relax in one of the comfortable guestrooms and dine at the lovely lakeview restaurant. The restful spa features luxurious treatments, an inviting swimming pool and a rejuvenating thermal suite. Book now.

Located to the south of Cairngorms National Park and within reach of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Dunkeld House Hotel in Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross is a great base for enjoying the area. Ben Vorlich and Ben Macdui peaks are accessible from here, as is Ben Nevis. The hotel offers plenty of on-site activities, well-appointed rooms, and an elegant restaurant. Retreat to the serene spa for pampering treatments and facilities that include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. Book now.

The Harrogate Spa at DoubleTree by Hilton Harrogate Majestic Hotel and Spa in Harrogate, North Yorkshire is ideally situated for enjoying the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales. The stunning spa hotel is housed in a stately Victorian property in the upmarket town of Harrogate, right on the doorstep of the Dales. The hotel offers charming guestrooms and fine on-site drinking and dining options, including a piano lounge and champagne terrace. Enjoy a luxurious treatment at the tranquil spa and make full use of the facilities that include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. Book now.

Explore the fantastic Fens and enjoy a relaxing escape at The Cambridge Belfry in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. Located on the edge of the popular university city, the smart spa hotel has everything you need for a relaxing break to the calming Fenlands area, with modern rooms, a casual lounge bar and chic restaurant. Indulge in a luxurious treatment at the restful spa and enjoy facilities including a heated indoor swimming pool, spa bath and sauna. Book now.

The upmarket De Vere Tortworth Estate in Tortworth, Gloucestershire enjoys a prime position near Bristol and the Cotswolds, with Westonbirt, The National Arboretum around 15 minutes away by road. Spend a wonderful day exploring the British countryside and then retire to this imposing manor house hotel, with its elegant on-site restaurant, well-appointed guestrooms and superb spa, which features pampering treatments, an inviting indoor swimming pool and thermal facilities. Book now.

The stylish Ruthin Castle in Ruthin, Denbighshire is an easy drive from Llangollen, where you can find the scenic Horseshoe Falls. The picture perfect spa hotel is worth a visit in its own right, boasting a rich regal history and resident peacocks. Opt for a spa break here and you can look forward to modern guestrooms, excellent on-site dining options and a sumptuous spa, with superb thermal facilities, outdoor hot tubs and dedicated relaxation zones. Book now.

If you’d like to experience the Peak District’s wonderful caves, Ringwood Hall Hotel and Spa in Chesterfield, Derbyshire is a great choice. Located just 20 miles from Castleton, the hotel offers easy access to the town’s four caverns, as well as all the other delights of the National Park. A former 19th century manor house, this luxury spa hotel promises fine hospitality and excellent dining. In the superb spa, you can enjoy pampering treatments and facilities that include a vitality pool, Jacuzzi and herbal sauna. Book now.