This summer, many of us are planning holidays and “staycations” a little closer to home. I’ve always been a big advocate for travel at home as well as overseas, so I couldn’t be happier! If you want to explore a few new places in England, this guide to the best places to visit in the Midlands is a good place to start.
I’ve rounded up recommendations from a bunch of great bloggers, many of them local to the area. Plus I’ve also included a few of my own suggestions, to create a bumper list of all the most spectacular places to explore in the East and West Midlands. As well as the famous Peak District, of course! Enjoy…
Peak District National Park
Recommended by: Maja, Away with Maja
The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in the UK, and one of the best places to visit in the Midlands. This is a great destination for outdoor adventures: hiking, camping, cycling, rock climbing, and more!
The Peak District is home to some picturesque and charming villages like Castleton, Bakewell, and Eyam. There’s also stunning scenery like Curbar Edge, the Roaches, and the Dragon’s Back (Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill).
Chatsworth Hall and Haddon Hall are two magnificent stately homes if you’d prefer history to outdoor adventures. Having a car is the best way to get around, although there are some train connections and a local bus network should you be visiting by public transportation.
Recommended by: Roshni, The Wanderlust Within
The small chocolate-box village of Castleton is one of the best places to visit in the Midlands. Situated in Hope Valley in Derbyshire, this quaint spot is a favourite for walks in the Peak District as it is home to Mam Tor and Winnats Pass, two popular hikes in the area.
Castleton is also home to the 11th-century ruins of Peveril Castle, one of England’s first Norman fortresses. Castleton village is particularly known for its show caves. There are three in close proximity that are rated some of the best in the country. A visit to Castleton isn’t complete without visiting the quaint village centre and enjoying a traditional afternoon tea at one of the tea rooms.
Recommended by: Tracy, Tracy’s Travels in Time
The popular market town of Bakewell is located in the beautiful Peak District in Derbyshire. Bakewell is perfect for a day out or for a longer break if you wish to explore the area. Chatsworth House estate is only a few miles from the town and there are lots of hiking trails and walks across the local area.
Monday is market day in Bakewell. Visit on the third Saturday of the month for the popular farmer’s market where you will find a large variety of local produce for sale.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sample a Bakewell Pudding when in the town. I recommend the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. There is a café upstairs which is great for lunch or afternoon tea.
Ashford in the Water
Recommended by: Stacy, What Stacy Did
Nestled on the banks of the River Wye, Ashford-in-the-Water is one of the most picturesque villages in the Peak District. Just 2 miles out of Bakewell, it is a wonder that this idyllic village is still relatively hidden from the tourist radar.
The village is made up of beautiful stone cottages around a green space at its centre. My favourite time of year to visit is in late spring, when the cottages are adorned with roses and flower baskets.
The main attraction for most visitors though is the old sheep wash bridge crossing the River Wye. This was named the best place in England for a game of Poohsticks by Visit England! Whatever your preference, you won’t be able to deny the charm of Ashford-in-the-Water. I’m sure it will leave you wanting to explore more of the Peak District.
Pilsley and Chatsworth
Recommended by: Izzy & Phil, The Gap Decaders
Pilsley is a charming and quaint village on the Chatsworth estate just a mile from Chatsworth Park itself. It’s a great place to visit if you’re holidaying nearby. Chatsworth is one of the best-known historic houses in the Midlands and a must-see in the Peak District! Several well-known movies, including Pride and Prejudice, have been filmed at the estate.
The honeyed stone cottages of Pilsley, many of which are lived in by estate workers at Chatsworth, are set around a traditional green in the centre of the village and boast the most colourful and well cared for gardens.
Head fo the Devonshire Arms, a traditional pub serving great food. The Chatsworth House Farm Shop is a great place to buy local and homegrown treats. There are some superb views from the village, to Chatsworth Park and the Derwent Valley.
Stratford Upon Avon
Recommended by: Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Located in the heart of England along River Avon, Stratford Upon Avon is a perfect place to visit if you are an ardent fan of Shakespeare and English literature. After all, this was the birth-place of the eternal poet! Naturally, the town has been attracting art and theatre fanatics for more than 250 years.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is a registered charity that manages all the houses relating to Shakespeare in and around Stratford Upon Avon. It includes Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathway Cottage & Gardens, Nash’s House & New Place, Mary Arden’s Farm and Hall’s Croft. Spend the rest of the day along River Avon. You could even hire a traditional canal boat to really make the most of this picturesque river.
Recommended by: Samantha, The Wandering Wanderluster
Birmingham is England’s second-biggest city and one of the best places to visit in the Midlands if you’re looking for a fun and cultured day out for all the family. The city wins no prizes for its looks, but there’s much to see, do and explore.
Dine at one of Birmingham’s 5 Michelin star restaurants, break the bank by visiting the biggest shopping centre in Europe, or head to the popular family attraction of Cadbury World that sits just outside the city for a fun family trip. For those interested in Birmingham’s industrial history, a boat ride along the city’s huge canal system or a stroll through the historic Jewellery quarter is an insightful reminder of the city’s Victorian past.
Recommended by: Faith, XYU and Beyond
Kenilworth is one of those lovely English villages that dates back to the Domesday book. The Town itself makes for a perfect day out, with its fabulous boutique shops and perfect cafes to have an afternoon tea break. There’s also the Michelin starred restaurant The Cross, as well as Kenilworth Castle to visit.
Kenilworth Castle is an imposing red sandstone ruin just on the edge of Kenilworth Town. It’s famous for being the home of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester who was in love with Queen Elizabeth. Kenilworth is a stunningly beautiful castle, even though much of it has gone to ruin. There’s walking trails, grand manor houses and exquisite gardens to visit all within easy reach of the town.
Recommended by: Sally Akins
With beautiful landscapes and fascinating history, the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire is a fabulous destination for a day trip or longer visit. This UNESCO World Heritage site is known as ‘the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution’.
There’s something for everyone in Ironbridge. The 10 museums in the Ironbridge Gorge explain the area’s history, and some of them are particularly fun to visit with children. For a more active break, the Shropshire countryside is perfect for exploring by foot or on bike, or get a different perspective of the area from the River Severn on a raft tour or in a hired kayak.
You’ll also find plenty of quirky shops to browse, and excellent independent bars and restaurants.
Royal Leamington Spa
Recommended by: Vikki, Family Travel with Ellie
I discovered the beautiful town of Royal Leamington Spa way back when I was a student at Warwickshire College. When my parents came to visit, we would enjoy browsing the lovely array of quality shops, and dining in the gorgeous cafes.
Interestingly, Leamington achieved its “Royal “status from Queen Victoria in 1838. A key attraction is the “Royal Pump Room and Baths”.
Fascinatingly, the spa waters were historically known for helping preserve meat and were also believed to cure rabies. A path leading into the River Leam was used by circus people to bathe their animals, including elephants, and much to my daughter’s delight, the Elephant Wash path is still there today.
Recommended by: Karen, Marvellous Middle England
Cannock Chase, located between Stafford and Cannock, is the UK’s smallest mainland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This makes it the perfect “off the beaten path” outdoor space to explore, as the crowds flock to its famous neighbours. Don’t let its title fool you, Cannock Chase is home to miles of hiking, biking and running trails, there always seems to be somewhere new to explore.
Thrill-seekers must try the Go Ape high ropes adventure located at Birches Valley Forest Centre, while history fans will love a hike around the many war memorials.
I highly recommend ending your visit with a stay at one of their Forest campsites – the Safari pods offer the perfect opportunity to sleep under the stars.
Recommended by: Kat, Wandering Bird
If you’re looking for places to visit in the Midlands, add Warwick to your list. This beautiful town sits on the banks of the River Avon and is overshadowed by the famous Warwick Castle- founded by William the Conqueror.
The history in the entire area is incredible and Warwick is full of cute cobbled streets and timber-framed buildings which give the entire town a fantastic atmosphere. There are also some brilliant cafes, pubs and restaurants as well as lots of modern and unique shops to explore.
Warwick is also famous for its racecourse. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a motorhome trip, there is a campsite right in the centre with great views of the racing!
Recommended by: Ania, The Travelling Twins
Shrewsbury is an ancient shire town in the West Midlands. My favourite place in England, with its higgledy-piggledy medieval street plan, narrow passages, and quirky timber frame buildings. They house a variety of pubs, local shops, restaurants and charity shops – those always have a great selection of books.
Shrewsbury is almost completely surrounded by a meander of the River Severn – the longest river in the UK. It wraps around the Old Town and the Quarry – a beautiful 29-acre park. This is the perfect place to unwind after sightseeing and shopping. Talking of the river, you can go for a boat ride or rent a kayak and admire Shrewsbury’s skyline and the magnificent Shropshire scenery from the water.
Recommended by: Dagney from Cultura Obscura
Despite being a major city, Coventry remains off the beaten path for tourists. Which is a real shame because Coventry has much to offer! After all, it was voted the UK City of Culture for 2021, a title it most certainly deserves! And you can learn all about why at the city’s numerous museums, including the Coventry Transport Museum and Herbert Art Museum.
For history enthusiasts, one of the top Coventry attractions is the Old Coventry Cathedral, which was completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) during the Blitz in 1940. It was never restored, but today visitors can explore the ruins and learn more about the Blitz’s effect on the city.
Although the Peak District is the best-known countryside area in the Midlands, it’s far from the only one! Over in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, the Malvern Hills are an AONB where the numerous hills provide some of the most impressive views in the country.
As well as beautiful landscapes and the quaint English countryside, the Malverns are also known for their idyllic towns and villages. Among them is Malvern itself, a Victorian spa town known for its supposedly healing well waters. While the countryside of the Hills is the perfect place to enjoy walking – whether its a gentle stroll or a hardcore hike!
The City of Hereford straddles the banks of the River Wye and amidst the stunning countryside of Herefordshire. It might be a city, but there’s certainly a slower pace of life to enjoy here. Take a stroll along the river, immerse yourself in the historic architecture, or pay a visit to the nearby cattle market for a taste of traditional country life.
Herefordshire is well known for its farm produce, so be sure to try some of the local food – such as Hereford beef, cider, perry, and potatoes. Don’t miss a trip to the Cide Museum to find out how the county’s famous “golden amber” is made!
Recommended by: Mark at Wyld Family Travel
Leicester lies in the east midlands, home to a little over 350,000 people. Leicester is most well known in recent years for its football team The Foxes, who pulled off a miracle when winning the Premier League title in 2016.
Today Leicester draws tourists to multiple attraction in the city centre. You can visit the National Space Museum which is full of rackets and spaceships. You can visit the site Richard 111 was found. Richard was found buried under a car park in Leicester city centre. Leicester Cathedral today houses the remains of Richard.
Leicester has a long history dating back to Roman times. The remains of the baths of Roman Leicester can be seen at the Jewry Wall. Roman Leicester was an important point on the road north to Lincoln for the armies of Rome.
Recommended by: Suzy – Yorkshire to do with Kids
Mablethorpe is a seaside resort on the Lincolnshire coastline in the East Midlands. We love that all the main attractions are close together. There’s so much to do in Mablethorpe!
One of our favourites is the sand train – which also goes in the sea for part of the return journey! The beach stretches for miles and it is golden and clean. There are
fish and chips to be munched on and donkey rides to be found. Plus there’s a great mini theme park with rides for all, crazy golf galore and a boating lake.
Recommended by: Steph & Lewis from Book it Let’s Go!
Nottingham is a vibrant city full of history, culture, and legends. There are many things to do in Nottingham that make it worth visiting. From the hand-carved caves under the city that have had many uses over the years, and some are still used today. To Nottingham castle and Sherwood Forest for the legend of Robin Hood.
Nottingham is great for couples or families and there are ample green spaces to enjoy. The most famous is Wollaton Hall, which has free-roaming red and fallow deer. This stunning property was also featured in the 2012 movie Batman Begins.
Nottingham has many cultural events throughout the year including Nottingham Pride, Nottingham Mela and Nottingham Carnival which celebrate traditional Indian and Caribbean cultures, respectively.
No trip to the Midlands is complete without visiting the famous Sherwood Forest. Known for being the home of Robin Hood, this protected forest has been a “legend in the making for over 1000 years”. The forest is filled with giant ancient oaks, such as the celebrated Major Oak. This gnarled old tree has been standing for around 800-1100 so it’s seen a lot of English history!
There are miles of walks and trails around the forest to suit all ages and abilities. They also host many events and guided walks throughout the year.
Recommended by: Allison, Urbanite Diary
Chesterfield is a historic market town in Derbyshire, renowned for one of the largest open-air markets in England. Chesterfield Market has been trading for over 800 years – since the town received its market charter in 1204 from King John.
The most iconic landmark of Chesterfield is The Church of St Mary and All Saints, also known as the Crooked Spire, made famous for its twisted and leaning spire, an architectural phenomenon built over 657 years ago in 1362. Although science had since explained the twisting of the spire, until today some folklores still believe that the devil might have caused it instead.
Other interesting things to do include visits to Chesterfield Canal, Hardwick Hall and Bolsover Castle.
Recommended by: Darek, Darek and Gosia
One of the most unique places to visit in the Midlands is the Silverstone Circuit. The track is located 30 miles northeast of Oxford, near the town of Silverstone.
As home to the iconic British Grand Prix, the circuit has to be visited by any Formula 1 fan. Watch F1 race, visit the Silverstone Experience or try your driving skills in a single-seater.
The Silverstone circuit is one of the oldest racing facilities not only in Europe but also in the world. Many drivers call it the “Temple of Motorsport” so this really must be one of the best places to visit in the Midlands!
Although not as well known as some of the other cities in the Midlands, Lincoln is one of the best places to visit in the area. This historic city is known for its medieval cathedral, which towers over the red brick houses of the surrounding historic quarter. From 1311-1549 this was the tallest building in the world!
During the Second World War, Lincoln was the heart of “bomber country”. The city was home to numerous air bases and Lincoln Cathedral was a popular navigational beacon. You can explore this history at various museums, as well as the new International Bomber Command Centre which opened in 2018.
Recommended by: Angharad, This Bristol Brood
Visiting the eye-popping-ly picturesque market town of Stamford in Lincolnshire is a bit like walking into a Pride and Prejudice movie (incidentally the Keira Knightley version was filmed here). Cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, a meandering river, 600 listed buildings and a spire-filled skyline (there are a total of 11 churches) imbue the town with an olde worlde charm that has remained unchanged for centuries.
No first-time visit is complete without a visit to Burghley House, which hosts the annual Burghley Horse Trials. Vast grounds surround the mansion, however the magical Sculpture Garden is well worth paying to explore. You should also make sure to pay a visit to The George Hotel – an atmospheric old coaching inn – for afternoon tea, grand ice creams or impossibly festive decorations and roaring log fires at Christmas.
Recommended by: Helen on her Holidays
Cromford is a small village in Derbyshire, only a few miles from the Peak District. These days it’s a tranquil place, but 250 years ago it was a busy hub of innovation. The inventor and entrepreneur Richard Arkwright chose Cromford for his revolutionary spinning mill – the first water-powered mill anywhere in the world.
Today Arkwright’s Cromford Mills form part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mills are open for visitors and you can also take a guided tour.
When you visit Cromford Mills, don’t miss visiting the village centre. The old mill pond in the middle of the village is really pretty – you might even see a kingfisher.
Last, but by no means least, the Lincolnshire Wolds AONB is definitely one of the best places to visit in the East Midlands. This sprawling area of quaint English countryside boasts some of the most beautiful and unspoilt scenery in the East Midlands.
With rolling hills, hidden valleys, gentle streams and picturesque villages, there’s a lot of beauty to explore. This is also the highest land in eastern England between Kent and Yorkshire, so there are some fabulous views towards the coast in the east and the Pennines in the west! Perfect for hiking, rambling, cycling, horse riding, or simply village-hopping… don’t miss this gorgeous AONB in the East Midlands.
Are there any more places to visit in the Midlands of England that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments!