Since modern tourism began in the C19th, guide books and maps have been essential for planning visits and exploring destinations.
The digital revolution has had a major impact upon the production and use of guides, but there’s still a role for imaginative and stimulating books such as Maps of the United Kingdom.
In reality that’s probably not quite the right title for the book. The regional maps are merely a backcloth to 1,000 highlights of culture, heritage, transport, wildlife, archaeological sites, sport, and industrial history from all over the British Isles! The book uses beautiful illustrations to help you discover unique places to enjoy all over the country, many of them to be found in the towns we cover on this website.
One of the most engaging features of this book are the dozens of cameo portraits of famous people from both the past and present, ranging from writers the Bronté sisters and composer Edward Elgar, to Ant and Dec, and chef Gordon Ramsey, all of them linked to their places of origin.
The maps cover the individual counties from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, picking out famous people who were born there, or have a unique local connection. The history of each county is likewise revealed with quirky facts about different areas and highlights of natural and man-made attractions.
The maps and their featured people and places focus on plenty of towns all over the United Kingdom that also appear here on Discover Britain’s Delightful Towns.
Below we pick out segments from the maps that highlight the interesting and unique history and culture of particular British towns. There’re much more in the book itself, which is a delight to browse through.
Sussex is home to many historic and unique towns. Brighton, Lewes, Hastings, Bognor Regis and Battle are just a few. Lewes enjoys the largest bonfire night celebrations in Britain. William the Conqueror built his first castle in Hastings. and the 1066 Battle took place in the town of Battle!
Featured in the book is Chichester; the county town of West Sussex famous for its impressive cathedral. The Pallant House Gallery features C20th British art. The Gallery re-opened following a re-build in 2006 which incorporated the Grade I listed Queen Anne Town House. It has won many awards, and has a renowned learning and community programme.
Brighton gained city status in 2000. It holds Britains largest pride event, and it includes a dog show! Brighton Palace Pier opened in 1899 and today continues to attract families to a wide range of sea-side entertainments and activities. The crowning glory of the town is the Royal Pavilion. The distinctive onion domes and slender minaretes announce the exotic and opulent style which ranges from Indian to Oriental.
Anita Roddick was born in the seaside town of Littlehampton. She is best known as the founder of the Body Shop. It it the first beauty company to ban animal testing and promote fair trade. The town has a pleasure harbour where visitors can experience the rides and attractions.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born near Horsham. The notorious poet was the husband of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. Poems include Prometheus Unbound.
Edinburgh has been the capital of Scotland since the C15th. The city has two main areas; the old town including the medieval castle and the New Town. Together they have world heritage status. The book covers the Scottish capital and a close-up of Edinburgh city centre provides interesting highlights.
Edinburgh Festival which began in 1947 is an international festival held in the city each summer and its renowned fringe brings together aspiring comedians and other performers from around the world! The city now confidently claims to be the festival capital of the world.
David Tennant, the 10th Doctor Who, was born in Bathgate. He also played Barty Crouch Jr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Alec Hardy in Broadchurch!
Marie Stopes (1880-1958)
The campaigner for women’s rights was born in Edinburgh – she became a pioneer in the field of family planning, which was very controversial at the time.
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)
The scientist was born in Edinburgh and emigrated to Canada and then the US – he invented the telephone in 1876, which led to the mobile phones we use today.
England’s Northern Capital
Yorkshire is home to historical towns and cities such as York and Harrogate. The Romans founded York in 71AD. The city was recently awarded Britain’s most liked city in a YouGov poll! The book brings together these two cities to highlight their haunted towns and spooky stories!
Harrogate, the English Spa, in North Yorkshire, is famous for its mineral water that contains iron, sulphur and salt. The town grew as a tourist destination in the Georgian era.
Guy Fawkes hails from York and in 1605 was part of the gunpowder plot to assassinate King James I. Still, his effigy is burnt on bonfire night throughout Britain followed by fireworks.
Amy Johnson was born in the city of Hull. She was the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia. You can find out more at the museum at Sewerby Hall.
The West Midlands is home to the second largest city in Britain, Birmingham. Warwickshire also has many historic towns and villages. These include Royal Leamington Spa, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Coventry, Atherstone and Nuneaton to name only a few.
The most famous person from this region is surely William Shakespeare. He lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon and is considered the greatest writer in the English Language. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more than those of any other playwright. The town of Stratford upon Avon is a full of picturesque cottages, visitors can visit Shakespeare’s home and school.
Warwick also sits on the river Avon, and it’s the county town of Warwickshire. William the Conqueror built its castle. The C12th St Mary’s church offers views of the town from the C15th tower.
Cornwall, is in the far South West of England, has its own language and culture. The county is famous for its hundreds of beaches as well as Britain’s best waves for surfing at beaches such as Newquay and Bude.
The county town Truro is the most southerly city in mainland Britain. Cornwall has many villages and towns set in the coves of the rugged coastline. St Austell brewery produces one of Cornwall’s most famous beers.
Barbara Hepworth was an artist and sculptor. She lived in the town of St Ives. The town has stunning natural beauty with golden sandy beaches and lush vegetation plus a beautifully located Tate gallery. The town is renowned for its number of artists.
The fishing village of Mousehole has kept its original charm. Its narrow streets are full of small shops, galleries and restaurants. Dolly Pentreath was a fish seller from Paul near Mousehole and is believed to be the last fluent speaker of the original Cornish language.
Soaked in history
Wiltshire and Somerset are counties full of quintessential English towns. Wiltshire is home to Salisbury, Lacock, Corsham, Castle Combe, Mere, and the regional capital Somerset also boasts some characterful towns such as Glastonbury, Taunton, Frome and Dunster. Bristol is rich in industrial and commercial history, and is home to Brunel’s magnificent SS Great Britain Steamship.
Banksy, the undercover graffiti artist is thought to have been born in Bristol. The city is now quite a bohemian centre. It is full of creative spaces and home to Europe’s largest hot air balloon festival. Edward Teach was also born in Bristol. Also known as Blackbeard he was a feared pirate in his day, and one of the most famous pirates in history.
Christopher Wren, one of Britain’s most famous Architects, comes from East Knoyle in Wiltshire. Wren built St Pauls Cathedral in London and many other famous landmarks.
Wells in Somerset is known as Britain’s smallest city! Due to the cathedral dating from medieval times the city has preserved its city status.
The counties of Cheshire and Staffordshire are in the north west of England. Chester is the county town of Cheshire and is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. The town boasts white and black medieval buildings in Chester Rows. There are a number of significant attractions in Cheshire, many with industrial history.
Staffordshire is home to Burton Upon Trent, the brewing capital of Britain. Marmite was first made in Burton. Stoke-on-Trent is another Staffordshire town where the singer Robbie Williams was born. Stoke has been famous for its pottery production since the C17th.
In the heart of Staffordshire sits Litchfield, a vibrant town notable for its Grade I Listed medieval cathedral with three spires. The city was also the birthplace of Samuel Johnson most famous for his dictionary that took him 9 years to write.
Macclesfield is a market town in Cheshire. The artist Helen Marten was born here. She won the Turner Prize and Hepworth Prize.
The county of Suffolk in East Anglia has plenty of historical and picturesque towns. The largest include Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmonds, Haverhill, Felixstowe and Newmarket.
Lavenham is one of its many wool towns, noted for its guildhall that dates back to the late C15th. The town has preserved many of its medieval buildings and houses and even featured in the Harry Potter films.
Ipswich is the county’s largest town. Dating back to Roman Empire it claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited town in Britain. Today the town boasts a regenerated waterfront where people can enjoy food, drink and live music, and also take a trip on a veteran Wherry sailboat to explore the River Orwell estuary.