Britain’s Most Underrated Cities
London has such international stardom that it is quite often used interchangeably to refer to England. Over 30 million people visit London every year, hoping to soak up some quintessentially British culture, and often by-pass many of the country’s fantastic cities. If you’re looking for a piece of the action but are someone who enjoys getting away from the crowds, have a read of these underrated cities filled with culture which rival London for beautiful sights.
Rich in Roman history and surrounded by picturesque countryside, there is no better place to learn about England’s rich heritage than in Chester. Unfortunately, as it’s located just south of lively Liverpool, this fascinating city seldom registers on a traveller’s itinerary. The city itself is over 2,000 years old, home to a Roman amphitheatre, a historic old quarter and the grand Chester Cathedral. Even if you’re not particularly interested in history, it makes for a beautiful spot to enjoy a cream tea at one of the boutique bakeries that line the River Dee.
An 11th-century cathedral stands proudly at the centre of Hereford, the main reason why this former agricultural town was upgraded to city status in the new millennium. Along with the spectacular cathedral on the banks of the River Wye, Hereford has an abundance of pre-industrialisation traditional black and white houses and unique Norman churches. Setting Hereford apart is its reputation for brewing world-class cider and beer and rearing top-notch cattle. No visit to Hereford would be complete without a visit to the famous Scrumpy Jack Cider Mill and a sample of the city’s best beef!
Although one of the better-known cities on this list, Sheffield is often considered more of a university city rather than a tourist destination. Sitting on the cusp of the Peak District National Park, Sheffield found its place on the map during the industrial revolution when it became a big player in the steelworks industry.
Nowadays, much of this industrial architecture remains and has been carefully woven into everyday living: old factories have been made into stunning apartment blocks and co-working spaces and chic cafes sit in old industrial units. Once you’ve grabbed a perfectly brewed flat white, head over to the Winter Garden, Anglican Cathedral or one of the city’s many museums.
Often overlooked as a holiday destination due to its popular neighbours, The Cotswolds and Glastonbury, Wells is a southeastern gem not to be missed. Wells is the smallest city in England, meaning that everything can be seen in an afternoon. After exploring the stunning cathedral that dominates the skyline, visitors will have plenty of time to discover the quaint side streets and cobbled lanes that are characteristic of this Somerset city. Make sure to pop to Vicars’ Close which is one of the few remaining streets in the UK to have original cobbled streets from medieval times.
The Scottish city of Stirling is teeming with history just waiting to be uncovered. Conveniently located equidistant from Glasgow and Edinburgh, this small city can easily be explored as a day trip from either of the two. Stirling is best known as the place where the Wars of Independence occurred and, as a result, the town was one of the major strongholds of the Kingdom of Scotland. Spend the afternoon exploring the picturesque Stirling castle atop the appropriately named Castle Hill which offers beautiful vistas over the Scottish countryside, before ending your day with a stunning sunset over Loch Rusky.
Too often dubbed as another industrial city in the west Midlands, Nottingham boasts heaps of old English charm. Not only is the city known for its connections to the legend of Robin Hood, but it’s home to age-old castles, proper-ale pubs and traditional markets. One of Nottingham’s most unique attractions is the City of Caves, an underground network of over 500 sandstone caves. Consider joining a tour around the caves to learn more about how they have been a place of refuge for the people of Nottingham since the dark ages. You can end your trip with a few pints in one of England’s oldest pubs, the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, built into a cliff face.
This article was originally published in November 2019 . It was last updated in January 2020