For the 31 January issue of Country Life, we asked several high-profile invidiuals and Country Life contributors, including the Bishop of London, Jodie Kidd, Hilary Benn, Frederick Forsyth, Julian Fellowes, Simon Jenkins and Alex James – to name but a few – to choose their favourite places in Britain. The results are varied and fascinating, with coastal towns, pubs and even entire counties being named.
Now, in an exlusively online feature, it’s the turn of the Country Life staff to declare where they are happiest – and who could have guessed that a road and a surfer’s campsite would feature alongside National Trust properties and fishing villages?
Mark Hedges, Editor
The River Itchen
It is totally enchanting. Abuzz with insects and birds, together with gleaming trout below the crystal-clear water, there is not a more magical spot in Britain for either a fisherman or a naturalist. In 1910 President Roosevelt visited the Itchen with Edward Grey, simply to listen to the birdsong. He was particularly taken with the blackbird. Later, he wrote: ‘I passed no pleasanter 24 hours during my entire European trip’. The wonderful river is just as magical today.
Flora Birtles, Editor’s PA
Pentle Bay, Tresco, Isles of Scilly
Like getting to a desert Island, Tresco can only be reached by helicopter or boat. Twenty-nine miles off the south-west coast of Cornwall, Tresco has an almost tropical climate. It is easy to forget that one is still in the bounds of the UK, as no cars are allowed and the island is still privately owned by The Duchy of Cornwall, although the Dorrien-Smith Family have a long lease.
Jessica Fellowes, Deputy Editor
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
As a student at Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat was a haven in the city – a place for picnics in the summer, and long, wild, wind-whipped walks in the winter. I can never get over how it appears to sit smack bang in the city centre and yet has the mood of a bleak moor with views stretching for miles around once you make it to the top. Despite its fame, it’s a place unto itself – at once welcoming and impenetrable. A Lady Bracknell of landscapes. I can’t think of a better, more romantic and splendid British combination.
Rupert Uloth, Features and Travel Editor
Clawson Thorns, Leicestershire
This is one of the iconic hunting coverts of high Leicestershire carefully nurtured over the centuries by the Duke of Rutland’s hounds (Belvoir). A visit always sets my heart racing as I imagine all the different hunts that must have occurred there. It is also a reminder of the subtly beautiful landscape amongst charming villages such as Colston Bassett, the home of Stilton cheese.
John Goodall, Architectural Editor
A medieval abbey in a secluded valley that has improbably developed into a village. The plan of the monastery is clearly apparent: the church still serves as the parish church and the abbot’s lodging is a pub.
Kathryn Bradley-Hole, Gardens Editor
The A303 near Stonehenge
It never ceases to thrill me when Stonehenge comes into view, from either direction. We have already been banned from wandering among the monumental stones at leisure, as we used to be able to do; soon the free pleasure of sighting Stonehenge from the A303 (which itself is an ancient thoroughfare) will also be taken away from us all, just to make sure that everyone has the same joyless and sanitised experience of paying to look at the fenced-off stones, via a turnstile and visitor centre. Enjoy it while you can!
Kate Green, News Editor
Porlock Bay, Somerset
The view from across Porlock Bay, Exmoor, Somerset, from Lee Hill, for happy hunting memories and because it has everything—sea, hills, purple moorland, villages, the little white church in the dark trees at Selworthy and an incredible sense of distance (you can see Wales).
Mary Miers, Architectural Writer
I’m afraid the owner won’t let me disclose the name of my favourite house, which is in Inverness-shire and reached only by walking or taking a boat down a six-mile loch. It has no electricity, though an oil-fuelled aga provides plenty of hot water and wonderful meals, and the main rooms, though small, are as elegantly furnished as any country house. They have Victorian oil lamps and old books and paintings, vases of fresh flowers (transported here, along with everything else, by boat), cream painted panelling and open fires. The kitchen is lit by gas lamps and has a gas-fired fridge, and it’s lined with tongue and groove pitch pine, as are the smaller bedrooms and bathrooms, which are all lit by candles. The front bedrooms have old-fashione wallpaper and furniture, and the only sound is of water tumbling down the burn into the loch beside the house and, in autumn, the roaring of stags. A mossy garden sheltered by ancient pines surrounds the house, which is quite cottagey in appearance, with a verandah-like porch and jauntily painted corrugated iron extensions. Beyond this haven roll mountains in every direction, from the tops of which, on a clear day, you can see as far as the islands off the west coast. It is a place of peace and awe-inspiring beauty, where I have always been happy.
Rebecca Pearson, Features Assistant
Blickling Hall, Norfolk
My favourite place is Blickling Hall and its grounds. I have visited it many times with my family, and have wonderful memories of strolling by the lake with my father, having my brother-in-law’s father identify some rare plants, and eating soup in the baking sunshine in the pub over the road with my brother and grandmother. The perfect day out.
Milly Cumming, Editorial Assistant
Surfer’s Paradise Campsite, Devon
I love shaking off London, dusting down the camping gear and heading to the aptly named Surfer’s Paradise Campsite for a long weekend. It sits just behind the sand dunes of Croyde Bay, an enormous beach, perfect for surfing and kite flying. And when the deep chill sets in from surfing, and rain threatens to ruin our camping efforts, you’ll find me in The Thatch, a gorgeous, cosy little pub found at the end of a narrow, winding path from the campsite to the village.
Phil Crewdson, Deputy Art Editor
Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire
The Cotswolds, particularly the market town of Moreton in Marsh, a great base for enjoying all the area has to offer. The perfect ‘base camp’ being the 16th-century Manor House Hotel, currently undergoing refurbishment due to last year’s floods, it promises to provide even better opportunities for rest and relaxation for the weary explorer.
Dominic Walters, Country Life’s Picture Editor, has named the Pennine Way as his favourite place in Britain. CREDIT: Alamy
Dominic Walters, Picture Editor
The Pennine Way (pictured)
I have walked the Pennine way twice now and, on both occasions, my breath has been taken away by this perfectly formed, U-shaped glacial valley. The real beauty of this wonder is the way it takes you completely by surprise when walking the Pennine Way from south to north: you know it’s coming from looking at your map but, when it arrives, it still catches you off guard. One leaves the River Tees and spends a good few miles trudging along anonymous moorland bogs when suddenly you are confronted by a view that stretches uninterrupted to the Lake District. It is one of those natural features that looks unreal, like a film set. Incidentally, it was enormous fun running all the way down to the bottom of the valley from the top – though not to be recommended for the faint hearted, weak of ankle or the plain sensible!
Heather Lock, Designer
The Pheasant Pub, Jedburgh
My favourite place is The Pheasant Pub, in the Borders of Scotland, by the open fire, where all the local accents remind me of my Nan.
Jane Watkins, Chief Sub-Editor
My current favourite place is Cardiff, particularly by the Bay. I went for the first time in 2007 and keep going back for more. The new architecture is bold, vibrant and a little crazy (in a good way) and blends well with all the older buildings (and just outside the city is St Fagans), a sort of safari park for the traditional buildings of Wales). Just turning the corner in Cardiff can be a surprise as there’s street sculpture all over the city. Lots of tempting shops and every cuisine you could name, plus world-class arts and sports venues. And if you find yourself bored with all that, the wonderful public transport can whisk you away along the scenic coastline or into the mountains in a surprisingly short time.
Octavia Pollock, Deputy Chief Sub-Editor
Brea Hill, North Cornwall
The seaward side of Brea Hill in Rock, North Cornwall, overlooking Trebetherick, listening to John Betjeman poetry with a glass of wine as the sun goes down. It is the most peaceful, beautiful, timeless spot on a summer’s evening, and, despite its poor modern reputation, is still the place with which Betjeman fell in love.
Marianka Swain, Sub-Editor
Christ Church meadows, Oxford
I have very fond memories of walking along the wide, tree-lined avenue leading from the back of Christ Church college down to the Isis at 6am for rowing practice. The mist rising over the meadows and the distant splashing of oars, growing louder as one neared the river, was utterly spellbinding, and, bar the ungodly hour, such mornings were pure, serene and close to perfect.
Helen Carey, Picture Researcher
I like to walk along the River Thames from Twickenham, where I live, to Richmond for a refreshing beer in a pub looking out over the green – watching the frisbee players in the summer and keeping warm in the winter. It’s a nice walk, fairly peaceful, I feel relaxed and the drink tastes good after.
Arabella Youens, Website Editor
Achiltibuie is a small fishing village opposite the Summer Isles on the north west coast of Scotland. In the summer, the sun doesn’t quite set; around 11pm the sky darkens but an orange glow sits on the horizon until a few hours later when the sun comes up. The beaches are vast and empty. And while it’s incredibly remote the residents come from all over the globe, which makes for above-average chats in the village pub.
Holly Kirkwood, Deputy Site Editor
Kilmory Beach, Isle of Arran
Kilmory beach on Arran is a wonderfully well kept secret. It’s pure white sand for half a mile, and blows the cobwebs away with stunning views out to sea regardless of the weather or the time of year.
Where is your favourite place?
Country Life would like you to nominate your favourite places in Britain. Please send a postcard nominating your favourite place, and the reasons behind your choice, to Rebecca Pearson, Country Life, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU; or tell us by filling in the form on the special Favourite Place web page.