Following my last post of SW England (Somerset and Cornwall), and through the encouragement of MRI's, I'm continuing this English travelogue. This time I'm focusing on perhaps these not-quite-as-popular areas of Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire and Worcestershire and into northern Wales. I've not traveled in the southern part of Wales, around Cardiff, so perhaps others could contribute to this via their own experiences.
As I've said before, each section of England (UK) affords its own distinctive flavor, and this area is no exception. It's difficult to know when you leave England and enter Wales, except difficult-to-pronounce road signs and towns. You could fly into Birmingham, Manchester, or Bristol. If the latter, you could take the Severn Beach Causeway to Newport, or the M-4 to Chepstow, assuming you're driving and want to visit the south countryside. Otherwise, I'd suggest driving from Oxford on A-40 (as before toward Cheltenham) and then north on the M-5 toward Worcester, for the quickest route. However, a little side trip oin the B4632 from Cheltenham through Winchcombe, location of Sudeley Castle, toward Buckland, where you can visit the Broadway Tower (Photo), and intersect with A44 to Evesham (pronounced "eevsham") - For you English china lovers, the city name bears the location of the same, as does Worcester (pronounced "wooster"). It's a treat to tour the old pottery factories. Caution: You've got to appreciate the pastoral countryside - and many sheep farms (photo) to venture into Wales.
The route I've also taken from Cheltenham and Gloucester is the A40 toward Ross-on-Wye and then the B4348, known as "The Golden Valley", to Hay-on-Wye, in the Black Mountains. I took this route to peruse the extensive book shops here.We continued on the A5 and A470 to Conwy, stopping by the well-maintained castle here (photo) and we stayed overnight in the Ambassador Hotel in the seaport town of LLandudno. Drive up to hillside behind the hotel and experience the panoramic view of Conwy Bay and the city below (photo). http://www.llandudno.com
Driving along the coastal road, A55 to Colwlyn Bay, you can see a number of castles along the way, toward Chester, another walled city, and one worth the visit before heading to Manchester to fly out,or travel north.
I've stayed at the Manchester Airport Marriott, particularly if I'm flying in/out of Manchester, but we have an English couple, who has offered their country home in Allostock, south of the airport and Knutsford,off the M6, as B&B stay. I've stayed in their lovely home on business and my wife and I spent the week end with them one time. From here, you can also visit the many pottery shops in Stoke-on-Trent, or take a trip into the Peak District - http://visitpeakdistrict.com , or Derbyshire (pronounced "darbyshire"), especially the beautiful little towns of Ashford-on-the-Water and Bakewell. It's an hour drive from Congleton to Bakewell, unless you stop off in Buxton to buy some of their refreshing bottled water. We stayed overnight in the Ashford Hotel-B&B. One morning, upon leaving Ashford, a mother duck and here 8-10 ducklings crossed the road in front us and we had to wait until they finished the morning walk - I took a video of the same and will always treasure this little special moment in the English countryside! From there you can drive to Baslow and visit the famous, 35,000 acre Chatsworth Estate (National Trust), a treat for the entire family - http://chatsworth.org