When you think northern England you think quaint cottages, cosy pubs, some of the kindest hospitality you’ll ever experience – and yes, those moody grey skies.
Hip Manchester with its vintage shops and cool cafes contrasts against the rolling mountains, peaceful vibes and fresh air of the Lake District National Park. Then those heavy-set accents and mad football fever take over in Liverpool.
No matter where you are, there are traditional cream teas to be had, humble locals to meet, age-old sites to photograph and many eclectic museums to visit.
On a self-drive tour of the region with Tempo Holidays, travel consultant Stacey Wagner, from Flight Centre North Essendon in Victoria, experienced all this and more.
Visiting regions and cities including the Lake District, Manchester and Liverpool, the tour uncovered the very best bits of northern England. One month after her return home, we caught up with Stacey to get the inside scoop on her trip.
"Tell us about the sensory experience of a visit to Hadrian’s Wall."
Hadrian’s Wall was an incredible display of what the Romans were able to achieve. We visited Vindolanda, a Roman frontier fort and settlement, at a point along the wall.
The ruins are constantly being excavated and it was amazing to see how well they have preserved the history for everyone to enjoy. It was very emotive wandering among the ruins, with the rolling hills in the background and the sun shining above, picturing the lives of those who lived here 2,000 years ago.
"What was your favourite part of the Lake District?"
My favourite part, aside from staying at the spectacular and historic Lakeside Hotel & Spa, was taking the ferry across the lake on a perfect sunny afternoon to the lakeside town of Bowness-on-Windermere.
Here we enjoyed wandering around the winding cobbled streets before taking the half-hour cruise back to the hotel for a classic English Pimm’s by the fireplace.
The following day, we drove through the heart of the Lake District with amazing views across the hills and lakes.
"How did you find Liverpool?"
Liverpool was thriving with history, culture and beautiful architecture. I loved spending the afternoon exploring Albert Dock, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Aside from seeing the old docks from which the city grew, there were several free museums to explore, particularly the International Slavery Museum and the Titanic exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
"Why would a visit to Liverpool be great for a fan of The Beatles?"
Liverpool is the perfect destination for those who have been hit with Beatlemania. We took a Magical Mystery Tour seeing the houses and neighbourhoods where ‘the fab four’ grew up, as well as the places that inspired some of their hit songs, such as Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane.
Any Beatles fan will love a visit to the Cavern Club, the very site where The Beatles rose to star-studded fame and played almost 300 times over the years.
If you are lucky enough to visit on a Friday or a Saturday night, be sure to book a ticket to the resident band, The Cavern Club Beatles, to dance and sing along to all your favourite Beatles hits.
"What was your most surprising moment in Manchester?"
Visiting the Old Trafford Stadium, home to Manchester United Football Club. To see the ground in all its glory, as well as going behind the scenes to see the change rooms, was a treat for even a football novice such as myself.
"What was your foodie highlight on the tour?"
Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle is located in a 13th-century friary, offering a unique and memorable dining experience.
The building teems with history and stories, which the wait staff are only too happy to share. The setting is enchanting and the produce is all locally sourced with wine to match.
We enjoyed Northumbrian rib-eye steak, North Sea fish and poached Scottish salmon, all paired with classic English sides. It was simple, fresh and delicious.
"Where was the best place you stayed?"
The Lakeside Hotel & Spa. After driving through winding country lanes we arrived at the hotel, set right on Lake Windermere in the Lake District.
We enjoyed tea and cake with the owners of the hotel on arrival. Sitting in the sunny conservatory with views across the lake, our waiter had a distinct likeness to Thomas Barrow from Downton Abbey.
The rooms were all decorated with a country feel, with views over the lovely gardens or lake. The day spa offered many tempting treatments, but we settled on a spa and sauna after a busy day exploring the Lake District.
"How did your Tempo Holidays’ tour differ from others you’ve been on?"
The biggest difference was the quality, character and charm of the hotels we stayed in. They allowed us to really feel as if we were in England. Our local guides knew the areas inside and out and never got tired of my thousands of questions.
"What age group would best benefit from a tour like this?"
This tour would suit any age group really as it can be tailored to meet your interests. So no matter what you fancy, whether it’s the amazing architecture of Manchester, music of Liverpool or the grand castles and spectacular scenery of northern England, you’re bound to love it.
Stacey Wagner is a Team Leader at Flight Centre North Essendon, Victoria. You can contact her on 03 9299 5488 or via firstname.lastname@example.org for holiday advice.