Bustling market towns provide plenty of places to shop from designer boutiques to High Street names and café-bars, traditional pubs and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. And, for a day’s retail therapy or an evening in the West End, Hertfordshire’s location mean you’ll soon be in London by rail or road.
Hertfordshire is a great county to retire to – there’s always something to see or do from visiting stately homes set in beautiful parkland to spending time at wildlife parks, shopping, browsing round galleries or relaxing in the theatre or cinema.
Much of Hertfordshire is designated Green Belt so, living here, you’ll discover miles of unspoilt countryside, ancient woodland and hills where you’ll be able to walk, ride or cycle.
On the borders of Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, about 2 miles north of Berkhamsted, you’ll find the Chiltern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Extending over 324 square miles, this area offers breath-taking views over sweeping chalk hills, rivers and streams, grassland, heath and ancient woodland accessed by a network of footpaths and bridleways.
Ashridge Estate is surely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Hertfordshire, set amidst the Chiltern Hills, the estate comprises 5,000 acres of beech and oak woodland known as the Ashridge Forest. Here the woodland along with the commons and chalk downland, support a rich variety of wildlife. Visit the Bridgewater Monument for the best view of the estate – open weekends in the summer months – or Ivinghoe Beacon - a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Pitstone Windmill is also worth a visit. Open on Sundays during the summer months, it’s a rare example of an early form of post mill. There’s also a visitor centre, a shop selling gifts and local produce and the Monument Café at the Ashridge Estate.
Near St Albans, the 858-acre Heartwood Forest provides miles of beautiful woodland to explore on foot or by bike. Owned and managed by the Woodland Trust, it is famed for its pockets of ancient bluebell woodland, old hedgerows, wildflower meadows and open grassland as well as wonderful bird life. A network of paths, including a public footpath and two bridleways, provide access to the forest for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.
If you enjoy sports – including white-water rafting, golf or cycling, the 10,000-acre Lea Valley Park follows the River Lea through Hertfordshire close to Cheshunt, Broxbourne and Hoddesdon.
Image above: St Albans Museum & Gallery.
Hertfordshire has a wealth of beautiful towns, stately homes, gardens and museums to visit - far more than we could possibly include here. Should you move to a Hertfordshire town, you will want to make the most of the fantastic days out that surround you. The following are just a few suggestions you may enjoy by yourself, or with family and friends:
If you visit St Albans, you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of what to do and see.
This city, dating back 2,000 years, is home to the ruins of the Roman town of Verulamium, a Norman-built Cathedral and Abbey Church, a fabulous museum and gallery and the Verulamium Museum with some amazing mosaics. For a peaceful stroll, Verulamium Park has wide open spaces, a lake and a wealth of wildlife.
Of course, there are all the shops you’d expect to find in a city – and some more unusual independents along with cosy cafes, traditional pubs, some excellent restaurants, theatre and cinema.
Built by Robert Cecil in the grounds where Queen Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood, Hatfield House is steeped in more than 400 years of history.
During the summer season, you’re able to explore the house and view the fine collection of artworks and furniture. The Marble Hall, with extravagant oak carving, remains much as it was when it was built in 1611 and there’s a Long Gallery, which was lengthened to 170 feet in 1781.
The chapel with its fabulous stained-glass window, dating from 1610 is certainly worth a visit. The gardens and the parkland are a delight particularly the Old Palace Garden with its mini-maze and the East Garden with formal box beds and the 17th century new pond.
Set in 250 acres of Hertfordshire countryside, Knebworth is one of England’s most beautiful stately homes, home to the Lytton family for more than 500 years.
Famed for its rock concerts, during the visitor season Knebworth is a fascinating place to visit. The beautiful grounds include a 28-acre formal garden with a maze, an herb garden recreated from Gertrude Jekyll’s 1907 design, a wilderness area and a Dinosaur trail.
After walking the gardens, you’ll be more than ready for tea on the garden terrace.
From April to October, you can wander around Hoglands, the artist’s restored home, his studio, flower garden and more than 70 acres of informal gardens and fields where you’ll discover Moore’s monumental sculptures.
There are exhibitions to view in the Sheep Field Barn gallery and a display of tapestries based on Moore’s work in the medieval Aisled Barn.
This family-run wildlife park and charity is set against the backdrop of Broxbourne Woods.
The park is home to over 800 animals including white lions, snow leopards, European wolves, African penguins, red pandas and many other species.
The park also features a ‘World of Dinosaurs,’ a dinosaur adventure trail with over 30 life-sized, animated, creatures.
Located in Shenley, just off junction 22 of the M25, this is the UK’s first aviation museum.
Dedicated to the preservation of the de Havilland Aircraft heritage, this museum provides a unique opportunity to get close to some of the most iconic pre- and post- World War II aircraft.
A list of things to do in Hertfordshire wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Harry Potter Studios.
Situated within easy reach of Watford Junction and about 3 miles from the M1 and M25, the Warner Bros Studio allows visitors to go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter film franchise.
It’s a magical day out – whether you’re young or just a Potter fan.
One of the smaller Hertfordshire towns, Harpenden is a very popular place in which to live – in fact, it was listed as one of the ‘Six Best Places to Live in Hertfordshire’ by ‘Good Move’.
Located close to the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Harpenden offers the perfect balance of town and country.
Much of the town is set within a conservation area (one of the largest in the country) and it’s a pleasure to spend time in the leafy town centre, with its host of coffee shops and cafes.
Redclyffe Place is well located to make the most of the town, should you choose to retire to a Beechcroft development.
This cathedral city is home to world-class heritage attractions, delightful shopping streets, plenty of places to eat and drink from alfresco cafes to award-winning, fine dining restaurants.
There are acres of open green space in the town centre and the arts, culture and entertainment scene is thriving.
Three large shopping areas host well-known retail brands but you’ll find plenty of designer shops and boutiques – and regular farmers’ markets.
Known as the place where the Norman invasion ended in 1066, Berkhamsted is steeped in history and the ancient castle is just one of the reminders of the town’s rich heritage.
Modern day visitors are attracted by the town’s attractive conservation areas, the shops and boutiques and the charming ‘café-culture.’ It is also home to the beautiful Ashridge Estate, featuring a beautiful carpet of bluebells in the springtime.
Surrounded on almost all sides by the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Tring is a centre for arts, for nature lovers, for walkers, natural history fans and for supporters of small independent shops and restaurants because, whilst there are fewer popular chains in Tring than nearby Berkhamsted, the independents are thriving.
It’s impossible not to include the UK’s second ever garden city in our list of favourite towns in Hertfordshire.
This is a town planned to combine the best of town and country living – and it does just that. The town, surrounded by open space and greenery, boasts three golf courses, a sports centre with a 50-acre site, a dry ski slope and an Olympic style velodrome.
There’s a John Lewis in the town centre and the Howard Centre Shopping Mall is home to an array of familiar High Street names.
Hertfordshire’s transport links couldn’t be better. Depending on where you are in the county, trains run into King’s Cross, Euston, St Pancras, Moorgate or Liverpool Street and you’ll find the transition from city to country is a swift one.
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