Find out more about my time so far as a Visit England ambassador, including my top destinations, a few new passions and where I’m heading next!
Last summer I received one of those emails that made me leap out of my chair, grab my phone and errr… call my Mum!
“I’ve been offered a really exciting opportunity – Visit England want me to be an ambassador,” I squealed!
It was such a perfect fit. Since I started blogging I’ve been quietly flying the flag for different areas around my home country. I’d explored Nottingham’s underground caves (not as spooky as it sounds), eaten my way around Canterbury in Kent (mmmm), looked for the perfect brunches in London (double mmmm), enjoyed a crisp spring break in the New Forest (chilly but worth it), enjoyed a retro holiday on the Isle of Wight (hilarious and very pretty), got lost in Oxford‘s charm (hello dream hometown), and discovered Hastings’ independent spirit (did somebody say gift shop?)
While I absolutely adore England, I was also aware that a lot of people my age skipped breaks on home turf for more exotic destinations. Yep, I know that weather plays a huge part in that decision, but I also think there’s another element. People don’t realise what’s right here, how accessible it is, and how much pleasure it can actually bring!
I recently wrote a blog about this exact topic – showing how there are plenty of places right here in England that compare to those abroad. Skip visiting the lavender fields of Provence and head to Norfolk instead! Swap the beaches of St Lucia for those in the Scilly Isles!
So what have I done as a Visit England Ambassador?
As we head towards English Tourism Week, a big week to celebrate local heroes, businesses and great destinations, it felt like the perfect time to reflect. As part of the ambassadorship I’ve been on a few lovely micro-adventures – short trips to destinations not too far from home. I’ve packed them full with things to do, and it’s been amazing to hear you guys have started to consider breaks closer to home as a result! In early autumn I enjoyed a wonderfully nostalgic trip to Brighton. As a kid I’d visited numerous times with my Dad, but this time I learned there was more to this seaside town than the pier. There’s a buzzing food scene, which I really got to grips with on a food tour. I also checked out the hippie shopping in The Lanes, took to the skies in the i360 and visited a nearby vineyard for a tasting of English wines.
Just before Christmas was my second official trip (and another for the nostalgia list) as I returned to my university city of Birmingham, 10 years after leaving (when did I get SO old?!) I soaked up the festive atmosphere and feasted on German food at the Frankfurt Christmas Market. I also checked out the stunning new library, and even played Ghetto Golf! It had changed a lot (as had I!) so it was refreshing to return!
Both of these trips showed me HOW much there is going on in England. It’s all too easy to forget this, and say ‘I’m bored’ or ‘there’s nothing to do.’ I was really pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too.
So, as we shimmy our way into spring, I’m busy preparing for a few more great English adventures…
The New Forest is next! While I’ve visited briefly before, I’m really excited to spend more time there later in the month. I remember just how pretty it was, with rugged moorland, woods and wild ponies. It’s also a top foodie part of the country, with great chefs working in the hotels, foraging and locally sourced ingredients at The Pig, the cookery school at Chewton Glen and several gourmet pubs.
I’m also planning a trip to Cornwall in late spring. I’ve been keen to show you some awesome micro-adventures, but as I’m based in London, how on earth can Cornwall fit into that category? If you fly of course! The one-hour flight costs under £100 and gets you right to the heart of one of England’s prettiest counties.
I think Cornwall is one of the dreamiest, postcard-worthy parts of England. The coastline is absolutely stunning! Watergate Bay in Newquay has two miles of golden sand backed by cliffs and caves and is often mentioned as one of the best beaches in the country. Then there’s Porthminster Beach in St Ives, which has amazing views over the bay to Godrevy lighthouse.
It’s also a region that really encompasses my passion for food. Padstow is the place to go for Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth’s restaurants, along with a handful of others serving up flavours of the ocean. I’m looking forward to lots of seafood, fresh sea air and seeing some of England’s finest landscapes for the first time. Plus I’m keen to learn more about the people who live and breathe the Cornish way of life! Hey, I might even have a few pasties too!
Feeling inspired? Here are a few things I’ve loved about my English adventures so far…
The things to do. From food tours and hiking, to adventure activities, shopping and festivals, I’ve been surprised by just how much there is to do even in the smallest of villages!
The food. People chuckle at the thought of ‘English’ cuisine thinking it’s all about greasy fry ups and fish and chips. Nope. Nope. And nope. If you don’t believe me, come and explore these foodie blogs from this fair land!
Top Restaurants In The Lake District
London’s Best Food Markets
Best Restaurants For Real Foodies On The Isle of Wight
Guide To Nottingham’s Best Restaurants
Tasting The Best Of British On A London Food Tour
24 Hours In Brighton
A Weekend Break From London: Amersham, Buckinghamshire
The people. I’ve encountered so many wonderful, passionate people, who specialise in everything from arts, crafts, food and wine to architecture, music, history and more. They say it’s often the people that really ‘make’ the place… and it’s something I believe more and more as I continue this journey.
The beauty. From the Lake District to the New Forest, Cornwall’s beaches to Norfolk’s lavender fields, how damn lucky are we to live in a country with such stunning, varied landscapes?
This blog was produced in association with Visit England. Come and find out more about English Tourism Week and start planning your next adventure!
I hope you’re now thinking about heading off on your own micro-adventure! Where would you like to explore in England this year? Let me know!