South and South East comprises of tranquil villages, dramatic coastlines and cosmopolitian towns and cities steeped in history and heritage. The region stretches from Cliftonville in Kent, round the heel of Britain and down the South coast to Weymouth in Dorset.
Landscape of the South East is a mixture of stunning coastlines and enchanting countryside. The south eastern seaside is flat with miles of golden sands that stretch along the majestic, garden lined promenades at Bognor Regis, Eastbourne and Worthing. This stretch of coastline is also home to one of Britain’s oldest and most unconventional resorts, Brighton, which combines traditional charm with Bohemian raffishness and boasts one of the most eclectic arts scenes in the country. Further west, however, the Dorset coastline, particularly Chesil Beach, recently made a World Heritage Site, is marked by its Jurassic rock forms and is inhabited by fascinating wildlife.
Inland lies the expanse of the South Downs with their patchwork fields, sleepy villages and historic market towns, including the bustling town of Sherborne which lies on the border with Somerset and further east, Wallingford, in a superb setting in the heart of the Thames Valley. Such a varied landscape seems to be brought together in the Isle of Wight, which is just a short ferry hop across the Solent. Its resorts of Sandown and Shanklin offer ever changing vistas ranging from woodland, farmland and wetland to tall cliffs, deep chines and sandy beaches.
History of this region is a rich mixture of ancient myth, religious devotion and centuries of stirring battles. Its hinterland is dominated by Salisbury Plain, home to the enigmatic Stonehenge, the ancient ring of bluestones believed to date well before 1000BC, as well as to the imposing cathedrals of Winchester and Salisbury.
The capital, London, has an intriguing history all of its own; established over 2,000 years ago the Roman settlement of ‘Londinium’ has evolved through the ages to become the buzzing metropolis visitors see today, with many world-famous sights which have survived through the centuries.
The south eastern coast from Folkestone round to Bournemouth has borne witness to the landings of Julius Caesar, St Augustine and William the Conqueror. See the battlefield at Hastings, or visit the spectacular Leeds Castle, which is probably one of the most romantically situated castles in England, set upon two islands. Further west, discover Britain’s maritime history at Southsea and Portsmouth. The Historic Dockyard is home to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 and Henry VIII’s Mary Rose.
Towns and Cities
Crawley is situated in the far north of West Sussex and provides a superb base from which to explore some of the country’s finest gardens, such as Kew and RHS Wisley.
Canterbury Tourist Information Tel:01227 378100
With its famous cathedral, beautiful St Augustine’s Abbey, charming narrow streets, period architecture and shops of every description – today’s Canterbury offers a wealth of things to see and do.
Poole Tourist Information Tel:01202 253253
With its spectacular natural harbour and some of the finest Blue Flag beaches the country has to offer, plus Dorset’s largest shopping centre, the Dolphin, Poole provides all the ingredients for an enthralling day out.
Lyme Regis Tourist Information Tel:01297 442138
Dorset’s most attractive town, Lyme Regis is a narrow tangle of charming streets and shops that tumble down to the pretty harbour and the Cobb, which was immortalised in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.
Oxford Tourist Information Tel:01865 252200
With its magnificent architecture, impressive yet intimate colleges, museums and galleries, romantic rivers and hidden nooks and crannies as well as an impressive array of shops the ‘City of Spires’ is a wonderful place to visit.
Pick of the Attractions
British Museum Tel:0207 323 8299
Housed in one of Britain’s architectural landmarks, the museum’s collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of history. Entrance to the museum is free, although there may be a charge for special events and exhibitions.
St James Park is one of London’s most beautiful parks and backs onto one of the world’s most famous buildings – Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence.www.royalparks.org.uk
Royal Pavilion Tel:01273 603005
Brighton’s Indian style architectural masterpiece was first commissioned by the Prince Regent in the 18th Century. The interiors are adorned with gilded dragons, carved palm trees, ornate ceilings and imitation bamboo staircases. The Palace’s unique style mixes Asian exoticism with English eccentricity.
Alum Bay is renowned for its unique coloured sand cliffs and the majestic chalk Needles, the Isle of Wight’s most famous landmark. Enjoy a chair lift ride over Needles Park for fantastic views of the cliffs.www.theneedles.co.uk
Arundel Castle Tel:01903 882268
The castle overlooks the picturesque town of Arundel. An imposing structure, the castle contains extensive collections of furniture and superb paintings.
Herne Bay Tel:01227 361911
With its brightly coloured beach huts, seafront gardens and atmospheric bandstand, Herne Bay is a fine example of a typically English seaside resort.
Kew Gardens Tel:020 8332 5655 (24hr information line)
Probably the world’s most famous Botanical Garden, Kew covers over 300 acres divided into seven zones, each containing hundreds of plant, shrub and tree species.
Highclere Castle Tel:01635 253210
The finest occupied Victorian castle in England has recently become famous as the setting for the popular television drama ‘Downton Abbey‘. It was the home of Lord Carnarvon, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, and there is an exhibition of Egyptian objects throughout the cellars. Visitors can tour the castle’s state rooms, including the richly decorated Saloon with its remarkable leather wall coverings and the music room with a Baroque ceiling and walls adorned with Italian embroideries, as well as the staircases and some of the first floor bedrooms.