15 Best Places to Visit in Hertfordshire (England)

Hertfordshire is one of the British mainland, bordering London to the north and its recent history adjacent to the capital.

The emergence of “new cities” such as Stevenage in the 20th century and pioneering garden cities such as Welwyn and Letchworth are all providing people with the advantages of combining urban and rural areas.

But the most uplifting part of Hertfordshire is its abundance of oddities: medieval caves with illegible carvings, huge taxidermy hoards owned by Victorian eccentrics, and giant fairy-tale grottoes by Quaker poets .

For a more mainstream history, St Albans and its Roman heritage is an essential first step in the southern part of the county.

1. St Albans

Cathedral, St Albans

St Albans, known to the Romans as Verulamium, was the second city in the UK after London 2000 years ago.

Today, this market town is home to many ancient ruins and artifacts.

Head straight to Verulamium Park, where traces of a spa excavated in the 1930s reveal marvelous mosaics and fires.

Next to the park is the Verulamium Museum, with more mosaics and display cases filled with coins, ceramics, and even soldier helmets and masks found in the theater that make up the museum’s exterior.

Elsewhere, think of the 15th century bell tower, a symbol of St Albans, unusual in England because it is a bell tower independent of any church.

2. Three Rings

Natural History Museum, Trane

In Chilterns Gorge is the lovely little market town of Trane, with its gorgeous 19th century architecture and a branch of the Natural History Museum.

Lionel Walter Rothschild is the man in charge because he is obsessed with zoology and even drives around town in a zebra hybrid wagon.

So now, in one of the delightful Victorian halls he has built for his many taxidermy works, there is a creepy, if informative mosaic of animals that includes extinct species like thylacines and Quagga.

The Ridgeway National Walk ends at the wonderful Avon Hobiken Hills a few miles from Trane and runs from Avebury, Wissex, along the Celtic Iknilde Way through North Wessex Hills and Chilterns.

3. Hatfield

Hatfield House

If you were a student of Elizabeth I, Hatfield House would be a treasure trove as it has all sorts of things to do with the Queen.

Although the building has changed over the ensuing century, Hatfield House was where Elizabeth spent much of her childhood and was her favorite place to live as an adult.

There are gloves and stockings that belonged to her, as well as the originals of the famous rainbow portrait from the early 17th century.

Another British icon associated with Hatfield is the defunct de Havilland aircraft maker, where the company worked most of its time.

A ten-minute drive will take you to the great De Havilland Museum in London Colney, which houses some of the first jets ever built.

4. Welwyn Garden City

Welwyn Garden City

Urban planner Sir Ebenezer Howard came up with his utopian vision of the Garden City in the early 20th century, a city well-connected to London, yet boasting the tranquility and greenness of the countryside.

Nearly a century after it was built, Welwyn Garden City is still a very good place to live.

If you like urban planning and urban design, you can spend a few hours hanging out in Stamborough Park or spending some time by the water for your own entertainment.

5. Hitchin

Hitchin Town Square

In north Hertfordshire, Hitchin is a delightful town to see on foot.

Particularly beautiful are the cobblestone streets around the market, which are surrounded by characteristic old houses and St. Mary’s Church.

The building is a typical wool church, too large for a medieval town but financed by wealthy wool traders.

St Mary’s Church was built on top of an early Christian cathedral in England in the 7th century.

Around July and August, the rolling lavender fields outside the town are at their most vibrant.

Hitchin Lavender is a farm where you can pick your own lavender for a small fee and sell a wonderful range of soaps and candles in its store.

6. Letchworth

Letchworth

As the world’s first garden city, all the buildings you see in Letchworth Centre are older than the 20th century.

You might be fascinated by the historic design of most of the buildings, thanks to the Arts and Crafts movement.

Like Welwyn, Letchworth is a pre-planned town designed by Ebenezer Howard, with plenty of green space, easy access to the countryside, and separation of industry from residential.

The perfect embodiment of Arts and Crafts style, the Spirella Building is a pre-market corset factory in the spirit of a small town, offering workers a library, gym, bathroom and even a bike repair center.

7. Hertford

Gatehouse to Hertford Castle

The county town of Hertfordshire is small but rich in history, and strolling around these old streets has some low-key attractions to choose from.

The Grade I listed Shire Hall is a magistrate’s court, built in 1789 and conceived by Robert Adam, one of the most important architects of his era, active across the UK.

The wonderful Gothic house of Hertford Castle replaced the Norman fort in the 15th century and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century.

You can delve into the stories behind these buildings at the Hertford Museum, which itself is housed in a 17th-century house.

The first floor is dedicated to the town, while the rest of the museum has anything from samurai armor to fossils.

8. Berhamstead

Berkhamstead Castle Cottage

Berkhamstead’s history begins in 1066, the year the Norman conquered England. Not only that, but Robert of Mortain, half-brother of William the Conqueror, was likely responsible for building Berhamstead Castle and most certainly lived there in the 11th century.

The castle is now an atmospheric ruin, complete with earthworks and massive curtain walls still standing, making it easy to see where the fort is.

On a sunny day, the green towpath of the Grand Junction Canal is perfect for strolling along the water.

9. Watford

Cassbury Park

Visually, Watford may not be as charming as the more remote towns and villages in Hertfordshire.

But nonetheless, this is a clean and wealthy town with something to keep you busy.

Once the site of a country estate, peaceful Cassbury Park is now a sizable nature reserve just a short distance from the city centre.

There are two country houses nearby to visit, one of which is the Bhaktivedanta Manor, a half-timbered Tudor building converted into the Gaudiya Vaishnavism temple.

Cheslyn House and Gardens is a bit more traditional, a haven of tranquility with colourful gardens in spring.

Watford also have a Premier League team, nicknamed the Hornets, that play home games at Priest Road from August to May.

10. Stevenage

Kniworth House

Another urban planning historian believes that Stevenage was England’s first “new town”, built in the years following World War II.

The population has exploded from a few thousand in the early 1900s to more than 80,000 today.

The old town is still intact, with typical country streets with pubs and half-timbered houses, and the Church of St. Nicholas dating back to the 12th century.

Pop historians, on the other hand, will have heard of Knebworth House, where bands such as Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin played for large crowds pass.

The Gothic Revival house and grounds are open to the public, and the park’s woodlands include a dinosaur park for kids to play.

11. Bishop’s Stortford

Bishop of Storford

A short distance from Stansted Airport, Bishop’s Stortford is a quintessential rural market town dominated by a late 18th century neoclassical corn exchange.

Friday and Saturday nights in the summer are a great time to be in town, when working London residents return to the city, crammed with bars and restaurants.

Immediately in the center of the town is a park with visible earthworks of a Norman fort.

At the top of this mound are the remains of Wetmore Castle dating back to the 1100s, which later became a prison but was demolished in the 1700s.

12. Royston

Royston

There is a man-made cave just below the town centre in the far north of Hertfordshire.

Royston Cave may not be well known, but if you are in the area you must register to visit.

The eight-meter-tall room has grotesque carvings on the walls, likely from the late Middle Ages.

The cave was sealed and rediscovered in 1742, and despite more than 250 years of research, no one has determined the exact date of the sculptures.

Continue on to Norfolk through Iknir Road in Tring and pass Royston.

You don’t need to go that far, but in an hour or two you can navigate the local chalk hills on trails beaten by pre-Roman tribes.

13. Sanitary ware

sanitary ware

One of the many great things about Ware is River Lea.

The banks of the river are quaint and picturesque due to the old buildings by the water.

These include what was formerly “malt”, which is part of the beer brewing process in which grains are steeped in river water to produce malt.

You’ll also find two ancient gazebos, as well as a small dock where boats can be moored.

A stunning monument in the Ware is Scott’s Grotto, built by gardener John Scott, and the Quake port: part of the building was dug into the hillside and has six different rooms, each with its walls covered in Glass, Fossils and Glass.

The structure is from the 18th century and we’re sure you won’t see anything like it!

14. Doha Dam

doha dam

20th century sculptor Henry Moore is a prominent former resident of Marchhadham.

His old house is home to the Henry Moore Foundation, a unique opportunity to see many of his works in one place.

While there are no shops, the parish village of Marchhadham is packed with majestic old buildings, in part because it’s also a stop on the road between Cambridge and London.

There are four Grade I listed buildings on this site, including two spectacular Georgian country houses.

After warming up in the village, stop by the Old Bull Inn for a pint or meal.

15. Whithampstead

whithampstead

For traditional fun in an English country town, Wheathampstead on the River Lea is worth a detour for a pub lunch and stroll.

With Georgian townhouses and older fenced and daubed buildings on the high street, Lea’s tree-lined riverbanks are gorgeous, with benches to stop you for a minute or two.

Wheathampstead and its surrounding attractions are average, but it’s the scene and atmosphere of the place that makes it worth it.

Nomansland Common is just southwest of the town, and in the past it was a place where sports, such as bare-handed fisting, were prohibited, far from the control of the authorities.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Hertfordshire, England
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