A Toast to Good Old England

A Toast to Good Old England

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

As a property writer I am fascinated with property in general and a recent visit to the UK bolstered this love affair. I spent my time oohing and aahing over little cottages that dated back to who knows when. These delightful homes with their low ceilings, out of kilter walls and lead-paned windows are a property lover’s dream - although the prices for these little bits of heaven may be a wee bit out of the average South African buyer’s league.

I landed in the UK shortly after the country’s wettest summer since records of such things began. Luckily, although the weather was overcast for much of my visit, there was very little rain.

After landing at Manchester Airport I boarded a train bound for Sheffield, from where I drove through to the small village where my parents stay. Although many British folk may disagree, the transport services in the UK are very efficient and the staff both friendly and extremely helpful. After travelling for some 20 odd hours, it was extremely touching to be told by a man in the train ticket office that I looked as though I needed a cup of tea to help me recover from the flight and could he show me where to find the closest coffee shop?

After the inevitable – and pleasurable - visits with family members I began to explore the Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire countryside and what a treat it was. One of the main attractions that keeps luring me back to Britain is the wealth of stately homes, museums and ancient churches that dot the countryside. I wandered around Lord Byron’s family home and spent a good couple of hours touring the Old Hall in Gainsborough that once hosted King Henry the VIII and his wife Catherine Howard. It was to prove to be a disastrous visit for the queen, who was accused of practising adultery while staying at the Hall and was later beheaded.


The Old Hall in Gainsborough offers a great insight into what life was like during the reign of King Henry VII.

Highclere Castle also featured on my ‘to do’ list. This beautiful country estate is home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and is where the exterior shots of the award winning TV series Downton Abbey are filmed. However, and perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, due to the popularity of the series, the spectacular castle was incredibly crowded. Trying to push through the throng to get a peek into the many rooms on display was a little tiresome, but overall, the impressive home was well worth a visit.


Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey is a popular tourist spot.

I don’t particularly enjoy visiting large cities and tend to avoid the rat race as much as possible. Newark-on-Trent, a small town in Nottinghamshire, proved that you don’t have to visit the major centres in order to see the best that England has to offer. This ancient market town features the ruins of a castle that was destroyed in 1646. As the name implies, the town is situated on the banks of the River Trent and the canal that runs through it remains a popular waterway with visitors who spend their time meandering the country’s many scenic rivers and canals.


Opting to utilise a canal boat as a means of transportation is a great way to see what Britain has to offer.

There is something immensely gratifying about watching people on boats working the canal lock systems and although it is certainly not the fastest way to get around, it is definitely one of the best ways of seeing the more picturesque parts of the country.

I visit Great Britain once a year and every time I go across, manage to find yet another aspect of this amazing country that I have never seen before. Even though the weather isn’t the best, it remains a fantastic place to visit and should be on everyone’s bucket list.


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