England has plenty to offer when it comes to cheap weekend breaks – and you don’t need to decide between spending a small fortune in London or zipping up the tent and shivering on a campsite.
So, for today, here are three of my favourite ways to enjoy England:
1) Wander Around London’s Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Roads curve through Hyde Park, from the traffic chaos of Marble Arch to the manicured elegance of Kensington, Knightsbridge and the “museum district”. Yet a network of footpaths manages to give you the gift of peace and quiet. Stretch out on the grass and listen to nothing but birdsong.
Speakers’ Corner, meanwhile, offers a strange kind of insight into England today. Depending on your luck, you can hear impassioned speeches, offensive drivel or mumbling madness from an assorted collection of folk.
There’s also the Peter Pan statue that celebrates author J.M. Barrie who lived nearby, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and a more recent sculpture dedicated to the victims of the 7th July bombings.
You can ride horses, cycle, take rollerblading lessons or go boating on the Serpentine. All within the mayhem of central London.
Parking is possible but tricky within the park. You can reach Hyde Park through any one of five underground stations: Marble Arch, Knightsbridge, Queensway, Lancaster Gate and Hyde Park Corner.
2) Cycle Bristol to Bath
Fifteen miles separate these two historic cities and if you know where to look, you can find a smooth off-road path that joins the two. What’s more, the Bristol to Bath path was originally a train track, meaning that (yes!) it is flat.
For free, you can explore Bristol by gazing up at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, admiring the edgy street art in Stokes Croft and hunting down the whalebone in St Mary Redcliffe Church.
Cycle the protected tarmac route between trees and sculptures and find yourself admiring the Royal Crescent and Circus in Georgian Bath just over an hour later.
The Path itself has a few refreshment stops along the way. You can find directions to the access points here. Most trains between Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads allow you to take one bicycle per person on at the weekends, just in case your energy has already faded before the return journey…
3) Explore the Peak District
England’s oldest national park fits snugly between Sheffield and Manchester. The Peak District provides postcard-perfect countryside views as well as more rugged, bleak and isolated landscapes.
Walking and cycling are two of my favourite ways to get around, with the juicy reward of homemade fudge in Castleton at the end of it.
For a glimpse of history (and let’s face it, a way to keep dry if the weather has ruined all those outdoor plans) try the museum at the Derwent Reservoir. This tells the story of how the water board strategically submerged the local villages and catalogues the development of the Dambusters mission (pilots trained here, flying only 18 metres above the reservoir water level. )
Round off the weekend with a giant Yorkshire pudding or some mushy peas. Mmm.
The easiest way to get around the Peak District is to travel by car. You can find great walking routes here. Dress sensibly (layered clothes, sturdy walking boots and waterproofs!) and have fun.
More Ways to Enjoy England
Check out the Enjoy England section in the Guardian – or add your ideas and suggestions below: