• Countryside: Market towns and stately manors
  • Country life: Forests, fields and fast cars

Northamptonshire’s sprawling country estates and wildflower-carpeted ancient forests make it easy to see how the Rose of the Shires got its nickname. Hike the rural back roads to see this most typically English of counties in full bloom.

It’s not all sleepy-country-village (though if you are looking for traditional country pursuits, you’re certainly in the right place): the historic market towns still have bustling shopping streets, and the roar of the racing cars circling Silverstone’s track is a siren’s call to action addicts. If you prefer a slower pace, take to the water and survey the scenery from a narrowboat on the Nene. There are plenty of pleasingly unexpected sites to discover, too, from the puzzling Rushton Triangular Lodge and the elaborate ‘English Versailles’, Boughton House, to the world’s largest collection of shoes and England’s very first garden gnome.

Do go/Don’t go

Like most of England, Northamptonshire winters are chilly and summers usually warm. However, rainfall is fairly steady all year (it’s wettest in October, but July isn’t much drier), so pack your umbrella.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Northamptonshire doesn’t have an international airport of its own, but there are six within 70 miles: Birmingham International, Coventry, Nottingham East Midlands and London’s Heathrow, Luton and Stansted.
  • Trains Major stations in Northamptonshire include Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby (all served by trains from London St Pancras) as well as Northampton, served by trains from London Euston and Birmingham International. Most journeys into the country from London or Birmingham take less than an hour (www.nationalrail.co.uk).
  • Automobiles Thanks to its central location, Northamptonshire is easily accessible from around the UK. The main routes to the region are the M1, A5 and A14. The drive from London, less than 60 miles to the south, takes about an hour and a half.
  • Taxis You’ll find taxi rank at larger railway stations as well as in busy streets, such as The Drapery and George Row in Northampton – or, call Bounds Taxis (+44 (0)1604 626262) or Phoenix Class (+44 (0)1604 222222) to arrange a pick up. In Wellingborough, ranks are outside the station, on Commercial Way and next to the market; in Kettering, there’s a rank at the station, or call Kettering Taxis (+44 (0)1536 540005) or Premier Taxis (+44 (0)1536 417858). You can also hail passing taxis in the street.