England's most romantic destinations

England's most romantic destinations

Alexandra Gregg rounds up the prettiest, most romantic and secluded spots in Old Blighty

Think of England and most people conjure up bad teeth paired with brollies and bulldogs. But there's much more to this European isle: we're talking wild heaths, fairytale strongholds and secret lovers' lanes. Read on to discover where to find the very best of British romance…

Stratford-upon-Avon

If you're looking for highly charged, emotive words to help woo your partner, then turning to the works of Shakespeare is a pretty wise idea. Want to go one step better? Speak tender sonnets in the playwright's birthplace: Stratford-upon-Avon.

You can rent a boat (£5p/h with www.avon-boating.co.uk) and row beneath weeping willows on a lazy spring afternoon as you spout poetry, or spoil your loved one with a picnic of roses and champagne on the Avon riverbank. If you're feeling more active, why not explore Shakespere's many houses, scattered throughout this charming destination? A ticket to see five of the properties is just £22.50pp. With its restful walks along cobbled pathways, abundant candlelit eateries and thatched cottages steeped in history, this riverside delight - Shakespeare's home 450 years ago - is the perfect place for a romantic break.

Travelling by car? Drive just a few miles north-east to the undeniably beautiful Warwick Castle (£25.80pp), which bursts with spellbinding sagas of love, treachery, passion and power.

Where to stay? For an awe-inspiring trip, try the Arden Hotel - right in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. Recently refurbished, it sits opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company and offers bed and breakfast for two from £119p/n.

Windsor

Is pomp and pageantry with a dash of the quirky your bag? Then Royal Windsor is the destination for you. Its seemingly normal high street is dominated by the looming turrets of Windsor Castle - one of The Queen's favourite residences. Head inside for just £18.50 per adult and you'll instantly feel like Lord and Lady of the manor: the fortress's opulent rooms and grand furniture are just full to the brim with romantic inspiration. Outside, you'll see brightly painted telephone boxes and clocks built into the ground - quite the contrast.

There's plenty to do for free in Windsor too. When the banks of the River Thames aren't bursting take a gentle stroll along the water, feeding the ducks and geese as you go - it's only £1 for a bag of bird grub! Alternatively, just outside the town - and considerably less packed - is the Great Park, a Crown Estate-owned parkland that stretches for miles. Sit by ponds, navigate fields on two wheels or on horseback or fly a kite: the choices are endless…

Where to stay? Step outside the Harte & Garter Hotel, in Windsor High Street, and you'll be greeted by the gargantuan castle itself. You can't argue with that view. Doubles from £116p/n.

London

London has got romance down to a T, which is why so many couples flock there. Avoid well-trodden hotspots like the London Eye, Tower Bridge and The Statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus. They've all got their plus points, but you can guarantee if it's solitude you're looking for, you're not going to get it at any of these locations.

Head to Keats House in Hampstead instead. John Keats, a second-generation romantic poet in the same category as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, resided in the property for his entire life. His tale is a sad one of young love lost, but at the same time his devotion to the girl next door - Fanny Brawne - is hopelessly passionate. This house is where Keats wroteOde to a Nightingale and many of his other works before dying of tuberculosis at just 25. Memorabilia on display at the now-museum includes books, paintings, keepsakes and even the engagement ring Keats offered to his beloved. Tickets are just £5p/p and opening times vary throughout the year.

Where to stay? Just outside the city centre is Richmond's Bingham Hotel, nestled on the waterfront and just a stone's throw away from the delightful Richmond Park. It oozes London's typical opulence, yet is hidden from the hustle and bustle of the tourist spots. Doubles from £208p/n.

Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are unarguably dreamy, with more natural beauty and rich heritage than you can shake an engagement ring at. But there's more to it than sweeping views. This region goes far beyond the superficial, offering Roman ruins, myriad wildlife and vast caves aplenty. Take in the grace of your partner - and birds of prey - at the Cotswold Falconry Centre, in Moreton-in-Marsh, or visit the Corinium Museum, in Roman Britain's second largest town: Cirencester. For a romantic ride on the rails, climb aboard the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, in Toddington. And this is just the tip of a very big iceberg…

Where to stay? Look out across five counties and the idyllic Gloucestershire countryside at Charingworth Manor. Rooms are from £149p/n and each stay includes a bottle of bubbly.

York

There's no disputing the romance of railways and with York's Victorian stations and routes into the North Yorkshire moors, it's one of the best places for an overland journey. And the loved-up choices don't end there either. The city's Castle Museum is home to one of the biggest collections of Valentine's cards in the UK, with more than a thousand declarations of love in the archives - including the earliest dated and printed card in existence.

York is an unashamedly greedy place too, with dozens of picturesque churches to choose from (St Martin-le-Grand in particular is glorious), and not one, but TWO Love Lanes. The first is found behind The Mount, the other alongside the Ouse in Fulford.

Where to stay? For a touch of the sublime, try Middlethorpe Hall & Spa. Last-minute breaks start from £99p/p/n for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Cornwall

Prepare to fall hook, line and sinker for Cornwall. With hidden coves, stories of near-forgotten shipwrecks and bracing coastal walks, it is the epitome of British romance. Journey to this English haven and you and your spouse will be rewarded with long, dreamy days set against idyllic backdrops - like that of Kynance Cove. It offers a beautiful two-mile stroll with a small café at the end, where you can gorge yourself on true Cornish pasties.

Atop the windswept cliffs to the north you can discover Tintagel Castle - believed to be the legendary home of King Arthur. Located on its own island, the ruins offer dramatic views out to sea, allowing you to gaze in awe, hand-in-hand with your partner, as the waves crash against the rocks…

Where to stay? With a Michelin-starred restaurant and just one-mile from a quaint fishing village, Driftwood<embed: http://www.driftwoodhotel.co.uk/> really can help you drift into your own world. Bed, breakfast and dinner from £235p/n.

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