Things to Do in South East England
Highclere Castle is best known as the filming location of the popular British TV drama Downton Abbey and home to the fictional Crawley family. In reality, the estate is owned by George Herbert, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, and his wife Lady Carnarvon. The castle has been in the Carnarvon family for centuries, but it was remodeled from a simple mansion to its current grandeur between 1839 and 1842 by Sir Charles Barry, an architect known for his contributions to a Renaissance-revival movement.
Located in the rolling green hills of Hampshire, the estate covers over 5,000 acres of mostly parkland. It includes forests, lakes and decorative gardens planted with a wide array of plants ranging from climbing roses, lavender and geraniums to fruit trees and meticulously sculpted hedges. In the center of it all sits the great Victorian castle with its pinnacles and towers jutting into the air.
As the oldest base in the British Royal Navy (established in 1495) and once the largest industrial site in the world, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is part of Her Majesty’s Naval Base and acts as headquarters to two-thirds of the Royal Navy's surface fleet. It therefore played a significant in not only Britain’s military history (having taken part in the war against the Spanish Armada, the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars) but also overall history; this is precisely why a large part of it became the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and was transformed into museums.
There are eight different attractions open to the public: Mary Rose Museum (a Tudor carrack and Henry VIII’s flagship), HMS Victory (from which Admiral Nelson commanded the victory at Trafalgar), HMS Warrior, HMS Alliance, National Museum Royal Navy, Explosion! Museum, Royal Marines Museum, Action Stations as well as harbor tours.
Burford is a small town in England along the River Windrush and is often referred to as the Gateway to the Cotswolds. The picturesque town is detailed with a medieval bridge, Tudor and Georgian buildings, and old stone houses. A former meeting place for merchants, the 16th century Tolsey building now houses the Tolsey Museum where visitors can learn about the town's social and industrial history. The town's church is another interesting place to look for signs of Burford's past by way of the memorials charting some of the greatest families that once lived there.
The town of Burford has in many ways remained unchanged over the centuries. It is a popular place for tourists looking to explore small town beauty and history. However, more modern appeals can be found as well. Burford is an interesting town for shopping and antiques, and there are plenty of restaurants, pubs, and tea shops to choose from.
Bibury is a village in the Cotswolds of England and the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of Gloucestershire. It lies along the River Coln, which is a tributary of the River Thames. Visitors can stroll down Arlington Row to admire cottages that were built in the late 1300s as monastic wool stores. In the 17th century, they were covered into the weavers' cottages you see today. Many of the ornate buildings have protection status, and this row of cottages is featured on the inside cover of all United Kingdom passports. It has also been used in television and movie filming, such as Bridget Jones Diary.
Bibury is also rich in natural and wildlife attractions. Rack Isle, which is named for where wool was once hung to dry on racks, is a water meadow that provides an important home for many plants and birds. Here you can see mallards, coots, moorhens, water voles, marsh orchids, flag irises, and marsh marigolds.
Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, is one of the largest country houses in England and known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The Palace has been in the Churchill family since it was constructed as a gift from the English nation to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, in 1704 for a significant military triumph against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
The house was completed in the short-lived English-Baroque style, and its reception rooms, devoid of any unnecessary comfort, reflect the palace’s present role as a national monument rather than a family home. The imposing main hall leads to a frescoed saloon, which looks out over the Column of Victory in the adjacent castle park, with the surrounding trees symbolizing Marlborough’s soldiers. The saloon is highly decorated, complete with a bust of the vanquished Louis XIV at its back.
An imposing fortress looming above the famous White Cliffs of Dover, Dover Castle is not only one of England’s largest and oldest medieval castles, but one of its most strategically important, standing guard over the narrowest point of the English Channel and the first line of defense against mainland Europe.
Although built by William the Conqueror in 1066, Dover Castle actually has a much longer legacy, preceded by an Anglo-Saxon fort and a Roman lighthouse, and seeing battle several times throughout its reign. Visitors can climb the 12th-century Great Tower, walk the battlements, view the ruins of the ancient Roman lighthouse, and even explore the warren of secret wartime tunnels that burrow beneath the castle. There’s also the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment Museum and a series of exhibitions, where you’ll discover life in the royal court of King Henry II, learn about how the castle was used as a hospital during WWII and relive the horrors of the Siege of 1216.
More Things to Do in South East England
Bicester Village is a luxury outlet shopping center just outside of London – the perfect destination for anyone looking to shop until they drop! Located midway between London and Birmingham, Bicester Village is hope to more than 30 luxury retailers, as well as cafes and restaurants such as Farmshop and the Villandry Grand Café. Shoppers can enjoy discounts up to 60% off retail price on brands such as MaxMara, Hugo Boss, DKNY and more. While shops do not accept foreign currency, a currency exchange is available that changes more than 40 currencies. The mall also features a children’s play area, free wi-fi, valet parking, worldwide courier service and a hands free shopping service.
Just a 15-minute walk from Bicester Village is the town of Bicester, where visitors can check out St. Edburg’s Church, the Market Square and the pedestrianized Sheep Street.
Cogges was once a small village in the Cotswalds area of England but is now considered part of the town of Witney along the River Windrush. It consists of a group of stone cottages and farm buildings surrounding Cogges Manor Farm in a peaceful setting that makes you forget how close you are to a bustling town. Today the 15 acre farm is a museum where visitors can explore the house and grounds. There is a walled garden, a picnic orchard, a moated island, and walking trails along the river. Activities that entertain children include feeding the farm animals, exploring the adventure playground, and dressing up in vintage clothing.
Cogges is also one of the filming locations on the popular television show Downton Abbey. The Cogges Manor Farm becomes the Yew Tree Farm and home of Mr Drewe, the tenant farmer, on the show. The farm buildings and their interiors were also used as the setting for where Marigold, Lady Edith's illegitimate daughter, was brought up.
Dover is famous for its white cliffs and when approaching England by ship they are a lovely, iconic greeting to the United Kingdom. While a busy ferry port connecting England with France, Dover is a relatively quiet cruise ship port, used for embarkation and disembarkation.
Once a chic seaside resort, Dover has never really recovered from being bombed during World War II and these days most people choose to stay further along the lovely south-east coast in the pretty Georgian town of Brighton or in medieval Rye or in Canterbury with its famous cathedral, or to head up to London which is a couple of hours travel north.
Within Dover the main attraction is the castle built by Henry II in the 12th century, one of the oldest in England. In 1539, Henry VIII built nearby moated Walmer Castle, also worth a visit.
Things to do near South East England
- Things to do in Oxford
- Things to do in Horley
- Things to do in Brighton
- Things to do in Chatham
- Things to do in Southampton
- Things to do in Canterbury
- Things to do in Dover
- Things to do in East of England
- Things to do in Normandy
- Things to do in South West England
- Things to do in London
- Things to do in Stansted Mountfitchet
- Things to do in Picardy
- Things to do in Nord-Pas de Calais
- Things to do in Flanders