I’m English, so maybe I’m biased. But for me, there’s nothing better than when the sun shines over rolling hills, particularly when you’re in a beer garden with a cold cider in hand! The problem is, the sun doesn’t shine all that often in God’s country. Hence why I moved to Australia almost five years ago.
So, a trip home for a couple of weddings made me want to discover more of what makes Great Britain great and I’m happy to tell you, there are loads of things! Rain or shine, this tiny isle will keep you entertained, you just need to know where to look.
While driving the length and breadth of the UK we made a quick stop off in historic Oxford. Having family in the area gave us another excuse to visit the city, first stop lunch at The Jam Factory. My cousin used to run this place before he moved over to the States so we wanted to check it out. After a great lunch and a look at the local art on display we decided to have a look at nearby Oxford Castle. This place is really old and steeped in history…some of it pretty gruesome with this being the place for hangings and public executions back in the day. Well worth a visit!
If you like to shop (and I LOVE to shop!) I would also recommend a visit to nearby Bicester Village. This outlet village has a plethora of stores to choose from and some bargains to grab. I shopped up a storm here last year but alas, I had no chance to this time!
A family wedding took us to the Cathedral City of Winchester. The surrounds of this place are stunning, the wedding was held in the church of tiny hamlet of Houghton with the reception in the grounds of a stunning stately home. The day was amazing and we had the best weather of the whole trip in Europe! A few of the guests even got a touch of sunburn, shocking in the UK, I know! The local 18th Century pub, The Boot Inn, is well worth a look, right on the river it’s well worth a stop for a pint in the sunshine. On our way home we stopped of in Winchester itself for a walk around and a few photo ops. Sunshine really does make all the difference.
Most people, for obvious reasons start in our nations capital, London Town. We too ended up there first, thanks to Singapore Airlines dropping us off at Heathrow after a 24 hour journey from sunny Sydney.
London is awesome. There is literally everything here. Having never lived in London myself, I turned to Elaina for her underground expertise seeing as she, like every other Aussie who visits the UK, called London home for almost a year way back when.
We walked around, we jumped from tube to tube, we supped vino in a cave, we browsed the market stalls in Portobello Road and, most importantly, we found the best coffee in the whole of England.
If you ever end up in London and want to do it The Freedom Travellers way, here’s our top recommendations…
Gordon’s Wine Bar
If you want to have a unique drinking experience in London then make sure you head to Gordon’s Wine Bar. Think supping wine in London’s oldest wine bar which just so happens to be a candlelit cave underground. Uber cool! That would usually be enough to draw us in but the best thing about this place is it’s cheese bar. For under a tenner you can get a cheese board with fresh bread. Cheese and wine is our fave thing ever so this place was top of our list!
If you want fresh healthy food this place is great! With superfood salads and traditional British eats done well The Refinery is awesome. Close to South Bank and the Tate art gallery this is a great place to head after a day of sight seeing for a glass of bubbles and some tasty dinner.
My favourite gallery in London. I’ve been coming to the Tate for years and it never disappoints.
For one of the best burgers you’ll ever taste head to this tiny Hawaiian joint off Carnaby Street, Kua ‘Aina. Work up an appetite beforehand as the portions are pretty sizeable. Top Tip: Order a side of their sweet potato fries, yum!
I never considered myself to be a coffee snob…until I arrived back in the UK. Australia really does do coffee well so after weeks of pretty bad coffee in Europe we were craving a good caffeine hit. A quick search on Google delivered the info we needed. There was little cafe in Soho run by Aussies and Kiwis promised to serve up a great tasting Capp. And they were right. Best coffee in the UK bar none. If like us you appreciate a good coffee then head to Flat White, you won’t be disappointed.
My home county has a lot to offer. As the birthplace of industry, there’s a shit load of history here. From castles to bridges, historic pubs to stately homes, this place has everything for those looking for that quintessentially English experience.
Aside from catching up with friends and family, we made time for some exploring. Our highlights? Here’s a few…
Bridgnorth is very close to my heart as it’s where my grandparents lived and where my mum and her sisters grew up. Having spent many years when I was younger here I took the opportunity to show Elaina around. There is heaps of super old stuff here, from a castle ruin, to caves, to pubs dating back centuries. One pub that we popped into was The Black Boy which just so happens to be run by my cousin Steve. Now this pub is over 400 years old so it’s pretty special. It’s special for another reason as it’s the place Elaina tried her first ever pork scratchings and scrumpy cider. Loved it! I also re-lived my childhood by catching the Cliff Railway from Lowtown to Hightown, there’s a great view from the Castle Walk which starts at the top.
The birthplace of industry just so happens to be on the doorstep to my folks place so we took the chance to have a wander around. The Ironbridge was opened in 1779 and was the first of its kind in the world. We had a proper Sunday roast at The Woodbridge Inn on the river, perfect spot to spend an English Sunday afternoon. Other sights you might want to check out in Ironbridge would be Coalport tunnel and Blists Hill.
Basically a big hill overlooking the whole of Shropshire. If you want to get out in the fresh air and do a bit of exercise this is a great way to do it. On a clear day you get a cracking view over the Welsh hills. With the crisp air in your lungs and the sun on your face it makes for a great way to see this truly stunning countryside.
Another historic market town, Shrewsbury, like Bridgnorth and Ironbridge is steeped in history. That wasn’t what brought us here however, we were on the hunt for somewhere cool to eat and drink and a couple of places were recommended. First up, The Libertine for a couple of pre dinner cocktails. Tea house by day, cocktail bar by night, this place is super cool and serves up some awesome champagne cocktails. For dinner we headed next door to House of Rising Sun for some Asian Fusion. Living in Australia has spoilt us where Asian food is concerned. Not only at home is there awesome Asian food but being so close to places like Vietnam and Thailand has meant we’ve really tasted some of the best the world has to offer. That said, this place was one of the best meals we had in the UK so if you’re in the area it would be worth checking out.
So, there you have it. Those were our highlights from England. We’ll be back again next year so if you have any must sees or great places to eat and drink hit us up with a comment below!