Stay in Hertfordshire
Berkhampsted is a thriving town steeped in history and close by are the romantic ruins of the former 11th C. castle. Bishops Stortford is an ancient market town set on the River Stort with many fine 16/17th C. buildings and the remains of a Norman Castle. Nearby Hatfield House was one of the Tudor monarchs' great houses and was a favourite of Elizabeth I. Though part of the house has been destroyed, sufficient remains to impress the visitor and the knot garden and scented garden are really special. Hemel Hempstead developed around a charming old settlement, centred on St. Mary's Church. The preserved High Street has 17/18th C. houses specialist shops and an Arts Centre. The New Town has an undercover shopping centre.
Hertford has become famed as an antiques centre and the former castle with its Norman mound, impressive walls and 15th C. gatehouse stand in attractive grounds. Hitchin is an ancient market town dating back to Saxon times and prospered from the wool trade. It retains its narrow streets and lanes. Letchworth was the world's first Garden City, founded in 1903, and its rather unique design was based on the ideas of Ebenezer Howard, with wide tree-lined avenues, parks & gardens to add to the appeal. St Albans was once the capital of Roman Britannia, and the ruins of the Roman town of Verulamium can still be seen just outside the modern town, the centre of which is dominated by its fine cathedral.
Stevenage was a small market town until 1946 when it was designated Britain's first New Town and is noted for its parks, leisure facilities and Britain's first pedestrianised shopping centre. Not far away is Knebworth House with adventure playground, miniature railway and 250 acres of deer park.
Ware is set on the navigable section of the River Lea and has some lovely old coaching inns to explore. Just south of Ware is the Lea Valley White Water Centre which is hosting the Canoe Slalom for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Welwyn Garden City was developed from 1920 as England's second Garden City (after Letchworth). The neo-Georgian town centre has shopping areas set around a fountain and lawns.
On Dunstable Downs Whipsnade Zoo is another of the country's best known zoos. While you are there why not take a look at the gigantic Chalk Lion and watch the gliders too? The Ridgeway Path, the Stone Age path which is probably the oldest footpath in Britain, ends on the Downs south-west of Dunstable. It can be followed past Berkhamstead and Tring all the way to Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire.