With summer almost here, it's time to start planning some relaxing days out – or even a short break. Here are our top places to escape to in the summer, from hill-top castles and amazing coastal views, to cosy cottages in the country.
Top Five Summer Views
1. Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. The birthplace of the legend of King Arthur, Tintagel is set high on the North Cornwall coast, offering dramatic views of the sea and surrounding coastline. Explore the fascinating ruins, climb the rugged trail to the ‘island’, then descend into nearby Merlin’s Cave.
2. Peveril Castle, Derbyshire. The imposing ruins of Peveril Castle stand high above the pretty village of Castleton. Climb to the castle at the top of the hill and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Peak District and Hope Valley.
3. Dover Castle, Kent. Spectacularly situated above the White Cliffs of Dover, this magnificent castle has guarded our shores for 20 centuries. Enjoy breathtaking views of the English Channel before descending to the Secret Wartime Tunnels, and exploring the Medieval Great Tower.
4. Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire. Dramatically set on a wooded hill over the River Wye, Goodrich Castle offers stunning views of the Wye Valley. Climb to the top of the tower for the best views, but don’t miss hearing about castle’s history, its intriguing ‘murder holes’ and the famous Civil War siege.
5. Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire. Climb the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the popular seaside town and the Yorkshire coast. Explore the ancient ruins in all their gothic splendour – its not surprising that the abbey was the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Top Five Picnic Spots
1. Witley Court, Worcestershire. The spectacular ruins of Witley Court are surrounded by magnificent landscaped gardens. Discover impressive fountains, elegant parterres and wild woodland walks, before settling down for a spot of al fresco dining.
2. Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire. Set in a remote valley in the North York Moors National Park, Rievaulx is one of the most complete, and atmospheric of our abbey ruins. The peaceful grounds make for a perfect picnic spot, but if you feel like taking it easy there’s also a café on-site selling delicious Yorkshire fare!
3. Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire. Set in peaceful Wiltshire countryside beside a lake, Old Wardour castle is a hidden jewel. Built in the 14th century as a luxury residence, today it is a delightful ruin with turrets, a grotto and beautiful landscaped grounds.
4. Wrest Park, Bedfordshire. One of Britain’s finest, yet most secret landscape gardens, Wrest Park is the perfect setting for a summer picnic. From 1 August 2011 there’ll be even more to enjoy with restored Italian and Rose Gardens, plus new visitor centre and children’s play area.
5. Eltham Place, Greenwich. Created by society millionaires, this stylish art deco mansion features a stunning interior with an iconic Art Deco entrance hall and a magnificent medieval great hall. Outside, 19 acres of gardens are another delight and ideal for a summer picnic or leisurely wander.
More summer picnic spot tips
Top Summer Hideaways
1. Refectory Cottage – Rievaulx Abbey. Built for the custodian of the Abbey using reclaimed abbey stone, this cottage is a reminder of the original medieval masons who built the Abbey. Set within the North York Moors National Park there’s plenty to explore nearby – including other English Heritage sites – but if you’re looking for peace and tranquillity, Rievaulx, set within a remote valley, is the perfect choice.
2. Peacock Cottage – Kirby Hall. Through an avenue of horse chestnut trees, beneath two fine entrance arches, overlooking lawns and the classic ruins of Kirby Hall is Peacock Cottage. After a day exploring the vast Elizabethan mansion, you can take advantage of after hours access to the extensive grounds with a peaceful walk through the restored gardens or a relaxing picnic.
3. South Lodge - Battle Abbey. Set on the site of the battle that changed the course of English history, this former gatehouse has something of a Hansel and Gretel feel about it with partly leaded glass windows, and an enclosed and secluded garden, offering great views over the battlefield.
4. Pool House - Witley Court. A short walk away from the romantic ruins of Witley Court in the Worcestershire countryside stands Pool House. The house is perfect for relaxing in peace and quiet, with the extensive gardens of Witley Court just waiting to be explored.
5. East Lodge - Hardwick Old Hall. The charming East Lodge is built into the walls of Hardwick Old Hall. Explore the ruins of the once luxurious Elizabethan mansion, and relax in the peaceful Derbyshire countryside.
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