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Nine medieval towns in England to visit

From its Norman rule and Royal upheavals to one of the country’s most prominent battles, the War of the Roses, England has a long and exciting medieval history, perhaps most visible in its distinguished architecture. So many towns bear the stories of this remarkable age so we’ve looked at some of the best spots to visit if you want to learn more.

1. Ludlow

Location: Shropshire

Best for: Its variety of events and festivals throughout the year

Located in the beautiful region of Shropshire, Ludlow is a vibrant market town with over 900 years of medieval history. Wandering the streets of Ludlow gives you an insight into how entwined its heritage is. There are over 500 listed buildings with elements of the Norman, Medieval and Tudor periods throughout. Plus, sitting proudly above the River Teme is Ludlow Castle - an 11th century (now ruined) stronghold that played a significant role in England’s turbulent history.

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2. Knaresborough

Location: Yorkshire

Best for: Scenic walks along the River Nidd

The 12th century market town of Knaresborough is a charming and picturesque spot to experience medieval history. Its quaint cobbled streets and ancient passageways are bursting with character, and alongside the town are the ruins of its Norman past, Knaresborough Castle. Other heritage sites worth a visit include the Petrifying Well – legend has it, the well turns water into stone! 

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3. Stratford-upon-Avon

Location: Warwickshire

Best for: Experiencing the life and times of Shakespeare 

Synonymous with English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a must-visit for literacy and theatre lovers. Explore Holy Trinity Church, Falstaff’s Experience or spend the day on a river cruise on the tranquil River Avon. Wandering this medieval town, you’ll feel the scribe’s influence first-hand. So, why not raise a glass and relax with a fine tipple from the town’s artisan gin distillery.

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4. Berwick-upon-Tweed

Location: Northumberland 

Best for: Exploring the town’s history by boat

With a turbulent history and occupation from English and Scottish rulers, Berwick-upon-Tweed now sits as England’s most northerly town. Wander the atmospheric cobbled streets, admire the grandeur of its town walls and soak up the magical setting of its ruined medieval castle. Or why not hop aboard a boat to Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island or enjoy a peaceful cruise beneath the magnificent Royal Border Bridge.

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5. Lavenham  

Location: Suffolk 

Best for: Harry Potter fans and the Lavenham Literary Festival

Rich in historic charm, Lavenham is said to be one of England’s best-preserved medieval villages. From its prominent Tudor history and enchanting architectural gems such as The Guildhalll, and St Peter and St Paul Church, this spot is bursting with stories of times gone by. Harry Potter fans might also recognise some of the locations here. For example, De Vere House appears as the birthplace of Potter. Plus, Lavenham Guildhall features as his parent’s abandoned home. 

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6. Rye

Location: East Sussex

Best for: Sampling local catch at its charming restaurants and bars

Once an important port in England, Rye is awash with medieval heritage. Half-timber houses and distinctive architecture sit beautifully on its cobbled streets. So, grab a tourist trail map and spend a few hours discovering the stories it has to tell. Ypres Tower at Rye Castle is a must-visit and climb the bell tower at St Mary’s Church for incredible views over the rooftops. Rye is also part of the 1066 Country Walk, so you can tread in the footsteps of William the Conqueror while admiring sculptures based on the Bayeux Tapestry.

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7. Shrewsbury

Location: Shropshire

Best for: Spectacular medieval architecture

Home to hundreds of architectural gems from higgledy-piggledy Tudor houses to exquisite Georgian structures, Shrewsbury is a shrine to its medieval past. Sitting proudly above the town sits Shrewsbury Castle. This location and the ruins of Wroxeter, Britain’s fourth-largest Roman city, offer a glimpse into its haunting history.

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8. Corfe Castle

Location: Dorset

Best for: Breathtaking views across Purbeck

Corfe Castle is uniquely a castle and a village and is one of the most iconic surviving locations of the English Civil War. This spot has over 1000 years of history, making it a spectacular location to discover all its ancient stories. Even better - if you want a real taste of Saxon and Viking life, re-enactments and fun-filled activities uncover the legends of a bygone era.

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9. Clitheroe

Location: Lancashire

Best for: Clitheroe Castle Labyrinth and its landscaped gardens 

Dating back to Saxon times, the ancient town of Clitheroe is home to an early medieval castle, said to be the smallest Norman Castle in England. Beautifully preserved, it’s now a museum with acres of spectacular landscaped gardens and various circular walks from the grounds. Also, don’t forget to sample the local produce on your travels. Award-winning wines, sausages and speciality coffee are just some of the delights on offer.

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