SOUTHEAST ENGLAND travel guide
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
In February of 2020, just before the pandemic put an abrupt stop on all our travel plans, I went on one last road trip around South East England. Not being very familiar with Great Britain, I was excited but did not really know what to expect.
To say that our expectations were exceeded is an understatement: We LOVED our time on the island. It was filled with the most picturesque little towns, tea-time all-the-time and great accommodations. Yes, it rained a little bit, and we almost got blown off the cliff by the wind in Eastbourne but it was so worth it. The only thing I truly dislike about the UK is having to drive on the left side of the road through roundabouts - that is just wrong.
Where to stay: Pilgrims Hotel
Where to eat: Zizzi, ASK
What to see: Canterbury Cathedral and its gardens
On our way to Oxford we stopped at Leeds Castle, southeast of Maidstone, Kent. It dates back to the early 12th century and is a great place to learn about english history and about Henry VIIIs six wives.
Entry: £28 (grants repeat entry for 15 months)
Where to stay: We did not choose well in Oxford so I won't recommend that. But I'd recommend looking into Airbnbs or hotels close to the city center.
What to see: Christ Church College, Carfax Tower (great views of the city), The Divinity School
Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a dream and I wished we would have had more time there. They are known for its charming small villages and honey-coloured stone houses in the midst of rolling hills and meadows. I recommend taking at least two full days here to just slow down, indulge in tea-time and go on a hike.
Where to stay: The Lime Guesthouse (very cute rooms and nice hosts)
Where to eat: Sheep on Sheep Street (Dinner & Bar), Huffkins Stow (Tea Time), Lucy's Tearoom (Tea Time)
(the Downton Abbey Castle)
Our trip to England was inspired by this castle. When I started watching Downton Abbey with my friends in 2019, we started making plans to go see it. The entire road-trip was planned around it. Since it was February, we knew we would not be able to go in but according to the internet, there were several ways to at least see it from the outside. I'm sorry to break the news to you but there is not. I took the picture below from a little hilltop way too far away from the castle - with my very good camera lens.
Maybe you can tell, I'm still a little bitter about it. At least I have a reason to return one day.
As disappointing as our experience at Highclere Castle was, as happy was our time at historical Stonehenge. This place is breathtaking. You can see it from the road but it is not the same experience. Spend the money, go to the museum and walk around the mysterious part of the Worlds Heritage that is said to date back to 2000 to 3000 years BC. You will not regret it.
We randomly picked this town to be our last stop before going down to the coast. We are glad we did, our night at the Norfolk Arms hotel was by far the best. It was very affordable but the interior in both rooms and common areas is beautiful. Upon check-in, we decided to add the breakfast and are so glad we did - it was not buffet-style but British breakfast à la carte and so delicious!
Where to stay: The Norfolk Arms
Where to eat: The Black Rabbit (Fish & Chips and one original Harry Potter boat)
What to see: The Castle
Last stop on our road-trip was Eastbourne. In the summers, it invites for lazy beach days and ice-cream strolls down the boardwalk. When we arrived, it was pouring down rain. We still decided to walk around and drive up to Beachy Head with views over the Seven Sisters cliffs. It was extremely windy and I have never seen higher waves in my life but I really loved witnessing these elements of nature - it made us feel alive. Early the next morning, the sun came through and we went a second time to see the cliffs in a different light.
Where to stay: The Pier Hotel
Where to eat: The Ship (Burgers and Fish & Chips), Black Cat Tearooms (breakfast), Patisserie Valerie (Tea Time)
What to see: Beachy Head, The Seven Sisters, Eastbourne Pier
Cliffs of Dover
On the ferry ride back from Dover to Calais, we got spoiled with beautiful sunshine and spectacular views of the famous cliffs of Dover and its castle on the hill. I remember standing on the ferry and just feeling so peaceful. We knew that Covid-19 had already arrived in Italy and that it was only a matter of time until it reached Germany. I guess part of me knew that I should enjoy the moment while it lasted because I might not feel this free and alive for a long time.