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…..😂
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?
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 £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:
- Things to do in Cambridge
- A 48 hour Cambridge Itinerary
- Cambridgeshire walks
- Prettiest Cambridgeshire villages
- Things to do in Peterborough
- A day in Ely
- St Ives, Houghton & The Hemingfords (post coming soon)
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:
- A day in Bury St Edmunds (incl. Ickworth Hall)
- 12 hours in Long Melford
- Woodbridge and Framlingham
- Suffolk Coast Itinerary
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
- A Windermere 2 day itinerary
- Hiking Old Man Coniston
- Things to do in Ullswater
- Hiking Loughrigg Fell
- A review of Linthwaite House
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:
- A 2 day London Itinerary
- A day in Greenwich
- A day in Kensington
- A guide to St Paul’s Cathedral
- Visiting Highgate Cemetery
- London Christmas Lights
- A guide to The British Museum (post coming soon)
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:
- A day trip to Wells-next-the-sea
- A 2 day North Norfolk coast Itinerary
- Blickling Hall
- Staying in Cley Windmill
- Thetford Forest (post coming soon)
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:
- Stonehenge – the Stone Circle Experience
- Bradford on Avon & Lacock
- Things to do in Salisbury
- A weekend in Castle Combe
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:
- Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase
- Mottisfont (post coming soon)
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:
- A day in Stratford upon Avon
- A weekend in Warwick (post coming soon)
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.
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.