13 of the best counties to visit in the UK

Updated on:

Ever wondered what the best counties to visit in the UK are? Based on accommodation, hospitality and food, the AA and Visit England recently revealed the most highly-rated holiday destinations in England. From strolling around the rolling hills of Dorset to fossil-hunting in North Yorkshire, our guide on these noteworthy counties is sure to help you plan your next getaway. 


Just 45 minutes from the capital, Berkshire’s quaint towns and rolling hills are the perfect way to escape the daily grind. The county is packed full of medieval history and is home to the vibrant city of Reading. Find the diverse landscape of the North Wessex Downs to the west, too.  

Best outdoor place to visit: Hop on a Thames Rivercruise Boat and take in the sights from the water.

Best activity: With the county’s close ties to the Royal Family, a visit to Windsor Castle is a must. 


If you’re craving a wholesome break of woodland walks and country pubs, Surrey shou be at the top of your list. Dotted throughout the county are charming market towns and historic villages that make for memorable day trips. 

Best outdoor place to visit: Visitors of all ages will love The Sculpture Park in Farnham. 

Best activity: Take of tour of Denbies Wine Estate, home to some of the finest wine in the country.


Nestled in the heart of the West Midlands, Staffordshire is famed for its links to the pottery industry. History buffs can visit a plethora of museums to uncover its Anglo-Saxon heritage. And for hikers and cyclists, it doesn’t get much better than the Peak District and the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty! 

Best outdoor place to visit: Discover 17,000 acres of woodland at the enchanting Cannock Chase Forest.

Best activity: Get your dose of adrenaline at Alton Towers.


Bedfordshire is a haven for all you outdoorsy types. Enjoy spotting the local flora and fauna as you walk or cycle around this beautiful countryside county. Discover the history behind its huge stately homes and castle ruins. 

Best outdoor place to visit: Get up close and personal with the animals as ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Best activity: Pop by Gunns Bakery to try a Bedfordshire Clanger – a traditional farmer’s snack. 


One of the best counties to visit in the UK, Northamptonshire’s unspoiled countryside makes for the perfect rural escape. Explore canal villages, historic houses and beautiful gardens. And to satisfy the thrill-seekers, there’s always cross-country horse riding and the iconic Silverstone race track. 

Best outdoor place to visit: Coton Manor Garden was recently voted as the Nation’s Favourite Garden.

Best activity: Take a tour of Warner’s Distillery and sample their incredible gins.


Whether you’re coming for a day trip or a long weekend, Nottinghamshire’s vibrant culture means you’ll never be short of things to do. Unwind with a little retail therapy in thriving Nottingham or discover quaint stalls in market towns. Walk in the footsteps of Robin Hood at Sherwood Forest.

Best outdoor place to visit: The Attenborough Nature Centre is an award-winning National Nature Reserve.

Best activity: Take a tour of the renowned underground caves at the National Justice Museum.


With medieval market towns and foodie hotspots dotted all over the county, Shropshire truly offers something for everyone. Visit the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, wander through the gorgeous Shropshire countryside, or absorb the charming atmosphere of the county’s picture-postcard villages.

Best outdoor place to visit: Ramble through the rolling Shropshire Hills

Best activity: Drive a real-life steam train at Telford Steam Railway


Escape the stresses of your day job on a break to Buckinghamshire. Probably most famous for being the homeplace of novelist Roald Dahl, the county’s beautiful landscapes have inspired creatives for centuries. It’s also known for its impressive country houses and enchanting waterways. 

Best outdoor place to visit: Chiltern Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boasting panoramic English countryside. 

Best activity: Discover all your favourite characters at The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre.


City break or rural escape? Whichever one you’re craving, Cheshire ticks all the boxes. Uncover the county’s Viking heritage or sample local produce in world-class, Michelin-starred restaurants. If you love hiking, Cheshire is home to a generous portion of the Peak District National Park. And the Lake District is only a 90-minute drive away, too!

Best outdoor place to visit: Visit Lyme Park, it has an impressive country house and is home to around 500 deer, too.

Best activity: Snap up designer brands at bargain prices at the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet.

West Sussex

Because of its coastal and countryside location, West Sussex is undoubtedly one of the best counties to visit in the UK. Enjoy sandy beaches, family-favourite seaside towns and of course the panoramic South Downs National Park. For foodies & culture-lovers, there’s also the county town of Chichester. 

Best outdoor place to visit: Explore the wildlife, vineyards, and walking trails at the South Downs National Park.

Best activity: Visit one of the most historic sites in England at the Battle of Hastings Battlefield

County Durham

County Durham is the perfect destination for city dwellers, nature fanatics and beach lovers. Explore the vibrant Durham city or take in breathtaking views on walking trails. Its location also offers visitors a tranquil break along the coast of the North Sea.  

Best outdoor place to visit: Explore the hills, valleys and rivers of the Durham Dales

Best activity: Durham Cathedral has a history dating back to the 11th-century.

North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire is a strong contender for being one of the best counties in the UK. Located on the North Coast, there are family-friendly beaches a-plenty, and some spectacular views to be seen. Visit bustling market towns and picturesque fishing villages and sample some of the local Yorkshire produce. 

Best outdoor place to visit: The North York Moors National Park has over 1,400 miles of unspoiled countryside to explore.

Best activity: Fossil hunting – it’s the next best location from the Jurassic Coast!


Nestled on the Welsh border and surrounded by beautiful countryside, Herefordshire is known for its diverse landscapes. In the neighbouring Malvern Hills and Brecon Beacons National Park you’ll find plenty of walking and cycling routes too.

Best outdoor place to visit: Visit the enchanting Croft Castle hugged by ancient woodland.

Best activity: Embark on a heritage-uncovering adventure on The Watkins Way