Ok so, England is my favorite. It’s been about a month since we’ve been back and let me tell you it was magical. I’m the kind of girl that wanted to see castles, everything King Henry the VIII touched and visit where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet would have walked if they were real people which, in my mind they are.
I am a big history geek and couldn’t wait to finally experience the history and culture I have been in love with since I was little (Mr.Darcy and Mr.Rochester were my teenage crushes). Although we didn’t have a ton of time I saw all of the places on my bucketlist without anything feeling rushed. Let me tell you, I did A LOT of research and it totally paid off. Hopefully this travel guide will help you plan your own romantic Downtown Abby-esque trip in England.
Day 1: Arrived in London
We arrived @ Heathrow, picked up our rental car [tip: get a built GPS – it will literally save your life if you’re from a country where you drive on the OTHER side of the road] and drove to the Tooting borough to our friend Tracy’s house, an adorable little town home with wood floors, a gorgeous sitting room, and has a pretty wilderness in the back. Tracy and I met in an American-style pizza parlour in Bolivia about four years ago while we were backpacking on our own and have been really great friends ever since. We knew we were soulmates when we shared a room in the Salt Hotel (Uyuni, Bolivia) and spent the night chatting about how our candlelit room reminded us of Jane Austen characters. Also we both took a bus on the infamous “death road” which, after surviving tends to really bring people together.
Before Jay & I came to London we were looking forward to trying some good Indian food (our favourite), and Tracy assured us her neighbourhood had the best Indian food in London. She was totally right! That night we grabbed a couple beers and headed out for dinner. You’ll notice this area has a lot to choose from. A good tip: choose one that is busy and has locals! The curry was amazing (we went back again later in our trip too). We had a feast of Tikka Masala, rice & naan. I think it’s probably your best bang for your buck in London. Tooting is a great place to see what the real London is like and is full of an ecelectic mix of people from lots of cultural backgrounds which makes for great shopping and restaurants. There are lots of little bars and eateries along the main streets. From the Tooting Bec tube stop it’s super easy & quick to get into central London. Her neighborhood also has the cutest little breakfast place, Zaf’s where you try a traditional English breakfast with the most amazing curry potatoes. I recommend checking it out!
Time to explore central London! We woke up early and chomped on some eggs and toast, and washed it all down with two Americanos from Zaf’s. We were off! We took the tube into central London & everything was super easy to get to.
My must see spot was the Tower of London and the Beefeaters. Best tour I’ve ever been on. What is better than a historical tour that has you laughing for the rest of the day? You can really spend a whole day on the grounds wandering around where King Henry VIII walked and Anne Boelyn had her head cut off. A highlight you don’t want to miss – in the prison cells you can still read the carvings left from past prisoners. Some of the carvings are from King Henry VIII’s day like this one,“To whom you give the secret you give liberty” by Richard Blount in 1553. I was suprised how easy they are to read and how long it must have taken to carve them, definetly check it out.
We walked across Tower Bridge, into Charles Dicken’s neighborhood, past Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Having Tracy tour us around helped to make sure we saw a ton in one afternoon. We were totally exhausted and spent the evening eating pizza and watched some British tele while recovering from jet lag.
Day 3: London & Sheffield
So sad to say goodbye to Tracy. After a yummy breakfast at Zaf’s and lots of coffee we made our way out of town to Hampton Court mid morning, it took about 30 minutes to get there and find parking.
Hampton Court is known as King Henry VIII’s 500 year old party palace, whahoo! We spent a good 3 hours exploring the house and grounds which included the great hall where Shakespeare’s men performed, King Henry VIII’s private chapel, his royal toliet (yep!), the royal hedge maze, and so much beautiful art. Three hours gave us just enough time to stay interested and see almost everything. After checking out all the highlights we sat on the lawn eating trail mix outside of King Henry VIII’s tennis court, pretty awesome.
One of our favorite parts was the kitchens where we “helped” roast chickens in the 500 year old wood cooking oven. The staff is so knowledgable and will tell you all about the ammount of food that was cooked everyday and some with the purpose to be thrown away to show the abundance of wealth the king held. After that we had a long drive North to Sheffield. We planned it this way so that we could really see the North of England on the rest of our trip where all of the romantic scenery of rolling green hills is. The drive took about 4.5 hours. We were both slightly terrified but made it after a few wrong turns. We grabbed a couple of sandwich meal combos at a Tesco and spent the night in our Air B & B Garden Cabin drinking tea and watching Secrets of Hampton Court on youtube, how fitting 🙂
Such a great sleep being in the quiet countryside. We woke up in our garden cottage in Sheffield, made some JJ Bean coffee and porridge and drove 8 miles to Chatsworth house to search for Mr. Darcy!
One of the last stately homes in England to be owned by the original family, Chatsworth is basically a relatively untouched estate from the 1600s. It’s also the site of many movies like Pride & Prejudice (hello Mr. Darcy!), The Duchess, Death Comes to Pemberly etc. It is a total compound that Jane Austen lovers (and also normal people like Jay) will love.
The family’s home is so amazing that their normal decor includes Rembrandt paintings and the famous sculpture gallery. We explored Chatsworth for the afternoon. I would recommend giving yourself about 4 hours for the house and grounds and definetly have lunch there!
Splurge on the Ploughman’s Lunch of local ham, cheese, fruit, and bread (all produced on the Chatsworth estate) at their Cavendish restaurant. We were both really impressed with the quality of food. The coffee and lemonade there is also really great.
After a full day at Chatsworth we drove further North to Haworth (where the Bronte’s house is). When my dad first gave me the reader’s digest condensed edition of Jane Eyre when I was 13 I gobbled it up. I was hooked, and I wanted to write like that. Seeing the house, the moors, and the area that inspired these women is one of things I thought would never be possible for me. It is something I feel so honored to have done.
The drive to Haworth takes about 1.5 hours and is pretty easy going. We spent the night at the historic White Lion Hotel and had the best and biggest three course dinner at their amazing restaurant. All we can say is the people in the North know how to eat! We felt right at home. The menu features local farmers and everything was absolutely delicious. My main meal was a chicken dish bathed in a sauce of local cheese and butter, it was to die for. A great bargain too, it was about 20 pounds each for a fine dinning quality three course meal.
You also get a free full English breakfast included in your stay which will keep you going until well into the afternoon. Rooms are cute and you can view the rolling hills past Haworth from your window.
Day 5: Haworth & Masham
We explored the quaint village of Haworth, the Bronte Parsonage (museum) and the moors. You can really tell that there’s a theme going in this town (aka every street name and restaurant is somehow Bronte related) but it really hasn’t lost it’s charm or authenticity. The village is very cute, and the original Bronte house still stands, as does the cemetary. I think I was suprised that the moors were pretty much just behind the house, it makes sense why they were always exploring around there. Don’t forget to save 1.5 hours to do a little hike around the moors. There are longer hikes that you can do too which sounded interesting but be prepared it can be really chilly and windy (hence the landscape explained in the Bronte’s writing).
Walking around the heather you can tell not much has changed since the sisters walked around this area. After our windy hike that included snow (yep! I told you, it’s cold!) we warmed up with a coffee and yorkshire cheese tart at a nearby cafe. We left mid afternoon and felt like we had seen Haworth (it is pretty teeny).
From Haworth we drove further North to Masham, a cute historic village, about 1.5 hours away. Leave yourself some time to explore the scenery too, Yorkshire is beautiful and if you are lucky enough to be there in April like us you can see all the Spring lambs running around the green hills as you drive.
Day 6: Masham
Now in Masham it is pretty easy (and quick) to explore this little town. There isn’t a lot here which is part of the charm. A walk around this quaint village will take you about a half hour. The reason that we came to Masham was to do the Hackfall Woods hike, a couple miles away and to relax. Hackfall woods is a lovely wildnerness full of ancient ruins created in the 1700s. It’s basically a gorge with a river through the middle and trees and paths along each side of the banks and hills. You basically go in a skinny circle. This is a tourist spot William Wordsworth himself recommend in his writings to tourists visiting Yorkshire. Hackfall is beautiful and will make you feel like you are in Narnia which is the reason why I wanted to come.
I stumbeled upon the hike when I was googling interesting spots in Yorkshire. The comments people had left convinced me it was right up our alley – an easy hike that had mini castles everywhere, sounds like paradise to me! Around almost every corner you will find a “folly” or beautiful ruin to explore. The ruins were built in the 1700s and were originally built to look like ancient ruins, age has been good to them as they are all still intact and you can climb in and out of them too. You can even rent one to stay in! The hike is pretty easy and takes you around the little river in the middle of the gorge.
You’ll get great views along the way and there are lots of little waterfalls and streams too (do not attempt this hike in sandals as there can be lots of mud and there are also some cliffsides you walk around with a hair raising drop beside you). Don’t let the rain detour you, we did the hike wearing rain coats and got soaked, we had a great time and felt like it was very “English” weather.
After your hike reward yourself with a meal in town. Try the Sunday Roast and a pint at the Black Sheep Brewery – delicious. I highly recommend their Blonde ale and their homemade rice pudding with jam.
Day 7: Masham & Leeds
Enjoy a morning in Masham, the short 5 minute walk to the river is really pretty. Take your time driving to the Leeds Airport (50 minutes) to fly away. The drive is really pretty and you wont have to deal with big crowds at this tiny airport. We were sad to leave this country and as I write this I wish we had so much more time to explore. But I think that’s how it always feels after a great trip dreaming of going back soon…
Must dos in England:
– rent a car if you want to see a lot
– try yorkshire pudding and the yorkshire tarts in Yorkshire
– eat a traditional English breakfast
– get out into the countryside to see rolling hills and sheep
– visit Hampton Court, even if you aren’t a history buff
Thanks for reading, I hope this inspires you to go on your own adventure in the English countryside! xo