is the place to start. Nowhere in the country can match the scope and innovation of the metropolis, a colossal, frenetic city, perhaps not as immediately attractive as its European counterparts, but with so much variety that the only obstacle to a great time is the shockingly high cost of everything. It's here that you'll find Britain's best spread of nightlife, cultural events, museums, galleries, pubs and restaurants. The other large cities, such as
Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds
each have their strengths: Birmingham has a resurgent arts scene, for example, while people travel for miles to sample Newcastle's nightlife. These days
can match the capital for glamour in cafés and clubs, and also boasts the inimitable draw of the world's best-known football team.
England's ancient cathedral cities, such as
Lincoln, York, Salisbury, Durham
, cannot be equalled for sheer physical beauty. Wherever you're based, you're never more than a few miles from a ruined castle, a majestic country house, a secluded chapel or a monastery. In the southwest there are remnants of a Celtic culture that was all but eradicated elsewhere by the Romans, and everywhere you can find traces of prehistoric settlers - most famously the megalithic circles of
Most beguiling of all are the long-established villages of England, hundreds of which amount to nothing more than a pub, a shop, a gaggle of cottages and a farmhouse offering bed and breakfast.
harbour some especially picturesque specimens, but every county can boast a decent showing. Then, of course, there's the English countryside, an extraordinarily diverse terrain from which Constable, Turner, Wordsworth, Emily Brontë and a host of other writers and artists took inspiration.
Exmoor, Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor
North York Moors
are the most dramatic and best known of the national parks, each offering an array of landscapes crisscrossed with walking routes.