Practical Caravan’s travel guide to this large chunk of the country will help you get the best from caravan holidays in Central England

Central England covers a vast swathe of country with massive variation from high peaks and moorland to industrial heartlands, from quaint stone cottages and half-timbered houses to 'new' towns.

This area includes England's smallest county, longest river and oldest continuously inhabited castle, and is home to the world's most famous playwright, all of which provides a wealth of choice when planning caravan holidays in England.

Let's start with caravan holidays in Cheshire. It is renowned for its textile industry with many mills, factories and weaver's cottages from a bygone age. The county is also home to the Jodrell Bank Observatory and the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world and a major piece of engineering.

Crossing the border, visit Derbyshire where much of the county is covered by the Peak District National Park. This is Britain's oldest national park, filled with rugged moorland in the High Peak area to the north and more gentle rolling hills and river valleys in the White Peak area to the south. The pretty town of Bakewell, synonymous with Bakewell Pudding, and the impressive Chatsworth Estate lie towards the eastern edge of the park.

Then we visit Nottinghamshire. Of course, it is the home of Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest and traditional mining communities, where DH Lawrence wrote his gritty novels that once shocked a nation.

Multicultural Leicester sits in the centre of the county of Leicestershire, while Melton Mowbray, home of the traditional pork pie, covers the north east of the county. Market Bosworth and Bosworth Battlefield, where King Richard III was slain in 1485, are close to the south west border.

Next we come to Rutland, England's smallest county, but with plenty of beauty. In the centre is Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England. Expect to be surprised by Rutland's tranquil countryside.

When you're choosing where to book caravan holidays in Central England you might want to visit Shropshire. A border post alongside North Wales, Shropshire is one of England's most rural counties and best-kept secrets. Absolutely stunning scenery in Shropshire makes it popular for outdoor activities, such as walks along Wenlock Edge and The Long Mynd. The towns are attractive, too, so visit Shrewsbury, Ludlow and Church Stretton. There are many good caravan parks in Shropshire.

In the next county, visit Staffordshire, renowned historically for its pottery, and Stoke-on-Trent which is the world capital for ceramics, with many associated places to visit including heritage centres, factory shopping outlets and museums. Look out for big names in ceramics such as Wedgwood, Spode, Denby, Gladstone, Moorcroft and Emma Bridgwater.

Like Shropshire, Herefordshire sums up 'old England' and if you're looking for caravan holidays in Herefordshire you'll find quiet country lanes and beautiful undulating countryside. There's a territorial history, summed up by the Offa's Dyke Path that runs through Herefordshire on the ancient dyke used to separate England and Wales when Saxon King Offa ruled Mercia in the 8th Century AD.

Now we come to the West Midlands. Bringing together the large conurbation around Birmingham and the Black Country, the West Midlands is very much an industrial heartland where thousands of iron foundries and forges filled the area, helped by the prolific seams of coal abundant in the mid-nineteenth century. Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is also home to two of the UK's largest caravan shows.

The West Midlands borders Worcestershire. With the mighty River Severn flowing through the heart of the county, the river valley dominates much of Worcestershire's landscape. Also dominating the skyline are the Malvern Hills, a long ridge to the west of the Severn Valley. Much of the countryside is depicted in music, composed by the county's most famous son, Sir Edward Elgar.

Neighbouring Warwickshire also has a famous son – William Shakespeare was born, raised, married and died in Stratford-upon-Avon. His birthplace, the houses associated with his family and the church with his grave are open to the public. Nearby Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle are notable visitor attractions too.

Also in this region is Northamptonshire, a rural county with a plethora of charming stone villages like Moreton Pinkney, Canons Ashby and Sulgrave. The Grand Union Canal runs through the county, with The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne.

And don't forget Bedfordshire, one of England's smaller counties. Bedford's best-loved attractions include the magnificent English Heritage property Houghton House and the Shuttleworth Collection, an important addition to aviation history. To the south of the county are the Dunstable Downs where Whipsnade Zoo, the UK's largest zoo, is situated.

Next door is Buckinghamshire. To the north is the 'new' town of Milton Keynes, renowned for shopping and modern entertainment complexes, although Buckinghamshire's best known area is The Chilterns, a long line of chalk-based hills on which beech trees grow prolifically, creating wondrous colourful autumn walks. Look out for red kites soaring overhead, thriving since their reintroduction to the area.

Moving onto Oxfordshire, and much of north and west Oxfordshire lies within The Cotswolds, yet has a very different character to that of the Cotswolds' western area (see our page on South West England). Central to the county are the 'dreaming spires' of Oxford, a traditional university town with sumptuous architecture in the grand college buildings and courtyards, and rambling walks along the River Thames, actually known as the Isis while it flows through the city.

Next we look at Hertfordshire, a county perhaps better known for its 'new' towns like Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City that sprung up in the second half of the 20th century. but St Albans has Roman routes (once known as Verulamium) built alongside Watling Street, the Roman road from London to the north of England. Look out also for not so Roman historic houses like Knebworth and Hatfield House.

Visit Berkshire, which is dominated by the River Thames flowing through much of the county. The largest tourist attractions in Berkshire are the connected towns of Windsor and Eton, thanks to their royal connections. To the west of the county, it's the River Kennet that shines, while in north Berkshire are the Lambourn Downs, where many of the country's racehorses are trained.

Top five things to do in Central England

  1. Go cycling in the Peak District to enjoy fabulous views during your caravan holidays. Go off-road on the many off-road cycle tracks, especially around the Upper Derwent Valley reservoirs. Bicycle hire is available in the Upper Derwent Valley, too.

  2. Visit Hereford to see the Norman Hereford Cathedral, where the famous Mappa Mundi – the largest surviving known medieval map of the world – is housed. The cathedral's Chained Library also houses the oldest book (the Anglo Saxon Gospels) dating from the 8th Century.

  3. Visit Stratford-upon-Avon and see a Shakespeare play put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre or the neighbouring Swan Theatre

  4. Visit Windsor Castle and look up to see if the Royal Standard is flying. If it is, then Her Majesty is 'at home'; if the Union Jack flag is flying then the Queen is not there. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Windsor, the world's largest and oldest, continuously inhabited castle in the world.

  5. Go canoeing while taking in the beauty of Herefordshire's Wye Valley, a densely tree-covered gorge. There's a choice of gentle paddles or hair-raising white water.

When to visit Central England

For such a large region as Central England, it's impossible to mention every big event, but to whet the appetite and help you plan your next caravan holiday in Central England, here are some good events.

Theatre goers must visit Stratford-upon-Avon when it celebrates one-time resident William Shakespeare's birthday every 23 April.

April and May are good months to visit Derbyshire for the Peak District Walking Festival.

Every summer, don't forget that you can take in some major sporting events during your caravan holidays in Central England. In June go to the Henley Royal Regatta in Oxfordshire, and in July visit Northamptonshire to see the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Major summer festivals include the Cornbury Festival in Oxfordshire, in July, and the Robin Hood Festival in Nottinghamshire in August.

How to get to Central England

The M1 runs north-south like a spine through the middle of this Central England area from north London to North Yorkshire, while the M40 is a fast route from west London to the Midlands. The M5 (and M50 spur) helps to connect to Herefordshire and Worcestershire, linking to the M6 to reach the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Cheshire. 

The east and west extremities of this large region can also be accessed using the cross-country section of the M6 – from junction 19 of the M1, through Birmingham to the M5/M6 intersection. To avoid congestion through the city, an alternative is to take the M6 Toll road. Prices vary depending on whether you are travelling in the day (6.00-23.00), the night (23.00-6.00) or at the weekend, although the fee is significantly more expensive (averaging £4-5 more) when towing a caravan than the price paid by standalone cars.

Care should be taken on unclassified roads throughout the region as what appears perfectly wide for two-way traffic can suddenly become uncomfortably narrow when towing a caravan if travelling too fast. Even main routes through Herefordshire and Shropshire can be twisty, so extra time should be allowed for journeys through these counties.

Few routes within the region are inadvisable when towing caravans except a handful in Derbyshire's Peak District, most notably Winnats Pass between Sparrowpit and Castleton, and Mam Tor to Edale (approach the Edale Valley carefully via Hope). Snake Pass (the A57) and Woodhead Pass (A628), also in the Peak District, are usable when towing during the summer, although care should be taken – during the winter months they are often closed in bad weather and would be worth avoiding.


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