12 English Counties in 12 months – A review of 2021

To look back on 2021, I’m going to start by rewinding back to New Year’s Eve 2020. I’m sat in my living room working because we’re in lockdown and can’t see anyone, and I might as well get through some work. I start moaning to my husband about there being no point in resolutions because the whole world has gone to **** and what’s the point. I can’t even hug my Mum so why should I set some ambitious goal. Just getting through the year seems resolution enough. Little did I know…..πŸ˜‚

Pull yourself together woman, he says. So together we planned some resolutions and set some goals for the year ahead. The travel goal I set myself, given international travel was unlikely, was to get to 12 English counties in 12 months and make the year of the staycation an adventure regardless. There are 48 counties in England (like US states but much, much smaller), so visiting 12 meant 25% of the country which seemed a lot but manageable given England is pretty small (about 1.5% the size of the USA).

So here I am – looking back on the goals I set for 2021 and how they went. I’ve had some incredible adventures thanks to my English county visiting goal, and thank goodness I did, given how the year turned out!

So, 12 counties in 12 months….how did I get on?


1. Cambridgeshire

Well….my resolution didn’t get off to a great start. We were put in a ‘stay home’ lockdown from January to March. So that meant exploration was limited to my home county, Cambridgeshire, for the first 3 months of the year.

Not to be deterred I set off exploring new corners of it. In the depths of winter I discovered Anglesey Abbey with a beautifully atmospheric winter walk, I found a Tudor ‘Palace’ in Buckden, we got lost in a field of corn at Grafham Water and I launched a charity event for my team at work to walk 300km between us in February – and we did it! We raised almost Β£2,000 for the NHS (the UK hospital service).

As lockdown eased, we were tourists on our own doorstep and took a punting tour in Cambridge itself on a beautiful early April day. In mid-May, I visited Peterborough for the day on a solo trip and explored the glorious cathedral, and then in July we decided to try a new rooftop bar overlooking Cambridge’s beautiful skyline, as well as a King’s College Chapel tour in August.

You can find my Cambridgeshire posts here:


2. Suffolk

Early April was my first out of county trip in 2021, and it was to Suffolk; a short hour long drive away for a day trip once the guidelines had eased to ‘travel local’ and explored the picturesque village of Long Melford. We parked at Melford Hall and walked a 10km route taking in Kentwell Hall and lots of English countryside.

In early May we returned for a walk around Ickworth House, a picturesque National Trust property. We did another 10km walk, with a picnic in the meadows on our route; luckily it was a beautifully sunny day and the whole time was completely idyllic.

Later in the year in June, I went back when overnight hotel stays were allowed, and stayed for a night with one of my best friends in Woodbridge. I then did a night solo in the coastal town of Southwold and explored more of the county’s incredible coastline.

You can find my Suffolk posts here:


3. Lincolnshire

Another county bordering home, Lincolnshire is an easy county to access some beautiful walks. In early April, I went to the historic Burghley House for a walk with a friend, in mid-April I went for a walk around Easton Walled Gardens, and in the autumn I visited the town of Stamford. I also had a night in Lincoln in December to get in the festive spirit and enjoy the Lincoln Castle lights.

You can find my Lincolnshire posts here:


4. Rutland

From mid-April, overnight stays were allowed in self catering cottages. On the very day they were allowed I headed for a solo weekend away in Rutland. I hired a little cottage and stayed for 2 nights. I explored the beautiful shores of Rutland Water, as well as the pretty local villages and market town of Oakham. It was pure bliss to have a weekend away and I loved every minute.

You can find my Rutland posts here:


5. Leicestershire

Mid-April also saw my first visit of the year to Leicestershire, because on the way to Rutland, I called in at Belvoir Castle. Leicestershire is also where my parents live so from mid-May when overnight stays were allowed, it was the first place on the list and I was back again! I also visited again in December when recovering from my operation and during this visit I had a stroll around the picturesque town of Market Bosworth.

You can find my Leicestershire posts here:


6. Derbyshire

Also from my parents’ house during that visit in mid-May we decided to go for a walk, and to do this we headed north and in to Derbyshire to visit the town of Melbourne. We walked a long route taking in historic Swarkestone and Stanton by Bridge; dodging the spring showers and enjoying the wisteria in bloom.

Then, at the end of May, I was back in Derbyshire again – I was almost popping with excitement as hotels were open again and my husband and I had our first weekend away in a hotel since August 2020, staying in the Peak District. We visited the towns of Bakewell and Castleton, as well as hiked Mam Tor and the Monsal Trail, and got cultured at Chatsworth House. It was a perfect long weekend break.

You can read my Derbyshire posts here:


7. Hertfordshire

Also at the end of May, between the two Derbyshire visits, I met up with two of my best friends from University in the city of St Albans, Hertfordshire. On my way I decided to stop at Knebworth House, a stunning historic home which has been in the same family for over 500 years!

You can read my Hertfordshire posts here:


8. Cumbria

Wohoo, mid-June brought me my first week long holiday away from home since January 2020 when I visited Athens. I decided to make the most of it and head 5 hours away from home and drive to the north of England to visit The Lake District, a National Park which covers most of the area of the county of Cumbria. Without a doubt this is one of the most beautiful areas of England and it was a joy to explore. It was a really active week away which meant I came home more tired than I went, but it was so beautiful it was worth it.

You can read my Cumbria posts here:


9. Buckinghamshire

The rest of June was spent at home after my husband managed to end up in a cast after a nasty accident. Then, in early July, we decided to educate ourselves and visit a museum we’d always wanted to see – Bletchley Park. Around a 1hr drive from home, Bletchley Park is where the operation to crack WW2 coded messages was run from, and we spent a day exploring the stories of the amazing code-breakers and the work they did.

You can read my Buckinghamshire posts here:


10 & 11. Greater London & The City of London

London is made up of two counties – Greater London and The City of London – both of which I’ve been able to visit on my trips to the capital this year. In early July, we were SO fortunate to bag some Euro ‘2020’ tickets for England’s semi final at Wembley. We won the match, but lost the final. Later in that same week, I paid a visit to the wonderful St Paul’s cathedral.

I then visited London again in mid-August for a tour of the unique Highgate Cemetery, where one of my ancestors is buried. My final visit of the year was in December to see the Christmas lights and visit The British Museum with my parents.

You can read my London posts here:


12. Norfolk

At the end of July, I hit 12 counties – I couldn’t believe I’d managed it in only 5 months of travel within England being possible. My 12th county was Norfolk, where my husband and I headed to the coast for a long weekend, staying in the incredibly unique Cley Windmill. From there we went on a seal boat trip, took a nice walk along some of the beaches and visited Blickling Hall. It was a perfect weekend away, right before I started a new job so was a bit of calm before the storm!

You can read my Norfolk posts here:


13. Wiltshire

I’m glad I hit 12 counties fairly early in the year as the second half was much slower for travel. In August I took some time out from trips away to focus on IVF and starting a new job which needed to be my priority. Then in mid-September, I took a week long trip with my parents to Wiltshire where we visited historic Stonehenge, as well as some picture perfect towns, villages and castles.

I then returned to Wiltshire in late October for a girls’ weekend away in the wonderful village of Castle Combe, one of the most picturesque in England, where we mainly ate, drank and caught up after months apart.

You can read my Wiltshire posts here:


14, 15 & 16. Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire

Whilst visiting Wiltshire, we crossed the border in to neighbouring counties Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire to explore Farleigh Hungerford castle, Shaftesbury Abbey, the picturesque Hovis Hill, and beautiful Mottisfont, a great National Trust Property with a really interesting history.

You can read my Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire posts here:


17. Warwickshire

After another month of focusing on IVF and work, it was time for a quick weekend getaway in mid-October. We visited the county of Warwickshire, mainly to see Warwick castle; one of the most beautiful in England. Whilst there we also visited some other famous Tudor locations like Baddesley Clinton; as well as the ancient Kenilworth castle ruins.

You can read my Warwickshire posts here:

After hitting 17 counties, my world changed the week after my Warwick trip, being hospitalised and nearly dying from an ovarian ectopic pregnancy. I’ve written about my infertility struggles HERE, but I’m glad to say I’ve recovered physically and emotionally I’m also feeling a lot better.


18. Staffordshire

To cheer myself up post surgery in December, I went to stay at my parents in Leicestershire and visited another new county, Staffordshire, to get in the festive spirit (and thank goodness, I couldn’t have ended on an odd number!). Whilst there we got Christmassy by visiting Tamworth Castle and Shugborough Hall to enjoy the decorations in these historic places.

You can read my Staffordshire posts here:


So there you have it, I actually managed to visit 18 counties in 2021.

Reflecting on what I’ve labelled as being a terrible year – my husband’s accident, a bee infestation, nearly dying from an ectopic pregnancy requiring major surgery, losing 2 babies, multiple failed IUIs, failed IVF and biological children no longer being an option for us, then a mice infestation and finishing with a flourish spending New Year’s Eve in A&E with a blood clot formed as a result of the surgery – I realise that actually there have been a lot of happy moments. And even at the worst of times, there is still a lot to be thankful for.

Have you enjoyed my little tour around England on the blog this year? I’m hoping that next year I get to spend a bit more time abroad and explore some more far flung places around the globe – but I’ve decided I’m pretty lucky to call this small piece of it home.

Happy New Year everyone – here’s to a happy, healthy and travel filled 2022.

51 Comments

  1. Wonderful tour of the beautiful areas of England that you have visited this year! What a great idea to visit the counties when travel is so complicated right now. I have looked at your pictures again and again today as I wistfully daydream of going to England. Wishing you all the best in the new year! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an amazing list! When I’m back in the uk more permanently over the summer I’m planning to travel more locally too! (If you ever find yourself further southwest in Devon, I can give you lots of tips of things to do in my home county 😜)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Despite your horrendous year you certainly managed to get yourself out and about! 18 counties is very impressive – ashamed to admit though that I don’t even know how many counties you have!!πŸ˜–. I’m glad you were able to enjoy some happy times. XXXMarie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Marie – and we have 48 counties, so 18 was a decent start! It’s only really when you review things and reflect you realise how many happy memories and moments there have been in what has been a pretty awful year – let’s hope 2022 is a much better one though! πŸ™‚

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  4. I loved reading through this. I’ve been travelling locally since the pandemic, so thanks for sharing this I have a few more ideas now. Its great you got to visit all these beautiful places and turned the year into a positive one x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw I’m so glad you enjoyed it, thanks so much for reading. And I’m really glad if it’s given you a few more ideas for some trips! I’ve definitely enjoyed exploring more of England, and am looking forward to going a bit further afield in 2022! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a year it has been for you! I am glad to read that you manage to go on so many adventures despite the world and your personal situation! The goal of visiting 12 counties in 12 months is amazing and I’ll definitely try something along those lines to go on more local adventures! Thanks for sharing and I wish you all the best for 2022!

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    1. It’s been really nice to explore more of England, that’s for sure πŸ™‚ Though I’m sure Canada has some amazing sights too – just harder to get around as everything is so far apart!

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  6. Wow, you managed to smash your initial goal and visit 18 Counties within a year – that’s very impressive! I love your photos and all the perfect English Cottages with thatched roofs, pretty gardens and most likely, if you get a peek inside – snug, stylish interiors. I am glad to see that despite having a terrible year you had moments of happiness by exploring your country. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you and all of your loved one’s health and happiness in the new year. Aiva πŸ™‚ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aiva, I’m really pleased with it especially with what a tough year it’s been. It’s been really lovely to have lots of happy moments to look back on despite that, and I can’t wait for an adventurous 2022 (I hope!!) Thanks so much for reading πŸ™‚ xx

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  7. You actually saw a LOT of your country this year! I think you had the advantage of the country being small and that most places are just a train ride away…I was especially enamored with your visits to Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, and Lincolnshire (especially Cumbria, as the Lake District has been on my list of places to visit in the UK since forever). So many “‘shires” you’ve visited, and I hope your health improves so that you can continue exploring this new year. Stay safe, Han!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must admit that when I wrote it I was like oh wow – I thought I’d done nothing this year but I actually did loads! You’re right we’re so lucky here in England that the country is so small so it’s easy to get around and see something new in weekends alone. And thank you, I’m really looking forward to a hopefully healthy and happy 2022!!! You stay safe too Rebecca and thanks as always for reading πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A wonderfully ambitious goal set as a resolution, planned and implemented. All appear to have been extraordinary visits, and well-organized for readers to enjoy. Would love to visit Peterborough Cathedral, The Lake District and Warwickshire, especially. Thanks for sharing, dear Hannah ~ may your 2022 travels be many and marvelous! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congrats on exceeding your goal for 2021 despite all the hurdles, obstacles and challenges along the way. The one benefit of this pandemic is that it’s given all of us a good excuse to explore more of what’s in our own backyard. You’ve certainly made the most of that. Wishing you lots of love, laughter and more adventures in 2022. Cheers. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much that’s kind to say – I’ve definitely enjoyed exploring more of England and appreciating where I live a bit more. Here’s to a great 2022 for all of us – full of adventures we can all share πŸ™‚

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  10. What an excellent idea to aim to visit so many counties during the year and great that you exceeded your expectations. I do hope that 2022 will be so much better for us all (and especially you) with all the health issues you endured. Fingers crossed that your blood clot issue is resolved soon too and you can put all this behind you. Marion

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  11. You really covered a lot of ground! Would like to cross off at least a few of these during our six months. I have actually driven past and stopped outside Bletchley Park, some fascinating history there. Great photos throughout that show some quintessential corners of England. Love the duck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah when I looked back I was surprised by how much I actually did!!! Hopefully you get to some of these places in the next few months, I’ve actually felt more connected to England this past year than I ever have before which has been nice πŸ™‚

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  12. Happy New Year! I’m so happy you made this goal because I loved reading about all the quaint and beautiful places you’ve visited. Every pictures is absolutely gorgeous! I hope 2022 is filled with fun travels and abundant happy memories πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thanks Lyssy and so glad you’ve enjoyed following along. I’m sure there will be lots more quaint Englishness in 2022, and perhaps some more adventurous places too! We have just booked a road trip through the Baltics for a couple of weeks, so that could be interesting!

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  13. Wow…how fun to be able to enjoy so many different areas that are so close together. Nice that after a slow start you were able to get a lot of local travel in and see some beautiful areas! Happy New Year and all the best in 2022!

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  14. Wow sounds like you were able to get a fair bit of travel in and see some wonderful areas of England. After a slow start looks like you took advantage of the rest of the year and visit some beautiful counties! All the best in 2022…a very Happy New Year to you!

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  15. What a great post! I’ve been to many of those places, even Belvoir castle! (Do you pronounce it bee-ver – like the animal – they way my in-laws do?) You’ve had some serious trials and tribulations this year. I’m impressed with your positive outlook going forward (and your goal-reaching looking back). Also, I’m glad you’re feeling better. Here’s to a great 2022.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yes I pronounce it ‘beaver’ – apparently it’s because many of the common folk couldn’t pronounce ‘belle voir’ at the time, so it just stuck!! It’s been a stressful 2021, but super excited for 2022 and lots of adventures booked. I hope you guys are OK too, what a nightmare on your flight home – sounds like something out of a science fiction movie!

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  16. Hannah, this is an absolutely fabulous guide to 18 amazing counties. Gorgeous photos and great write-ups combine to make your posts truly engaging. When I lived in London I worked all over the UK, consulting with museums, and I was fortunate to visit several of the places you’ve highlighted. And now you’ve given me so many more destinations to check out the next time I’m there. Thanks much!

    On a personal note, I’m so sorry for all the personal challenges you faced last year. I’m hoping that 2022 brings you peace, joy, and good health. All the best, Terri

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh thank you so much Terri, really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. That sounds amazing, to have lived in London and also museum consultancy; I love museums and I can only imagine how interesting your role was! Thanks so much, I am hoping that 2022 is a good year for all of us – for me, I’m making it a year of fun – lots of time with friends & family, lots of trips…and of course lots of blog write ups as a result πŸ™‚ Have a great week ahead.

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  17. Wow, you covered quite a lot of ground in the UK! And so many lovely pictures … and still Cumbria is my favourite (but oh, all those amazing castles …).
    It’s true, 2021 wasn’t the best year ever – but to just survived a year like the one you had, is an absolute miracle! Looking forward to more wonderful travels with you, take care πŸ’Œ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Corna, really appreciate that. 2021 was rough, but I’m taking the positives in to 2022 and I can’t wait for this year’s adventures πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading and hope you’re having a lovely day.

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