Of the many Midland counties teeming with theme parks, renowned ancient monuments and Royal retreats, Northamptonshire in the East is by far the most overlooked. Comprising an area of over 900 square miles, Northamptonshire is larger than many give it credit - it's municipal market town of Northampton alone inhabited by over 200,000 people. The county town is famed for it's abundance of historical architecture, including protected sites such as the Northampton Medieval Synagogue and the rotund Church of the Holy Sepulchre, yet also for it's market plaza - one of the largest in England. For the culture vulture, there's plenty more just waiting to be discovered! For a great selection of holiday cottages in Northamptonshire.
Holdenby House, Northampton
Built by the 16th Century Lord Chancellor (and 'eyes' of Elizabeth I) Sir Christopher Hatton, Holdenby House stands as a testament of one man's undying love for his queen - also the largest Elizabethan house of it's time. Sadly Hatton passed just after the house was completed, however it retained it's intended purpose as a retreat for Royalty for both James and Charles I - the latter of whom was also imprisoned at Holdenby in 1647 prior to his trial and execution. Holdenby is still very much a lively house bristling with secrets and although is now the private residence of the Lowther family, may still be enjoyed by guests itching to glimpse interiors that were fit for a queen. www.holdenby.com
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Northampton
Home to the world's largest and most famous collection of shoes, Northampton Museum tracks the social history of the region through a vibrant array of textile and clothing exhibits - some of which date back to the 1600's. The wares of local shoe manufacturers such as those of Barkers (based in Earls Barton) sit alongside skyscraper Jimmy Choos and juicy patents made by Penneys. Much like it's shoe gallery, the art exhibition is equally fascinating to behold, since it houses over 5,000 works of art ranging from historical local artisans, to celebrated masters, including Berlucci, Hockney and Guardi. www.northampton.gov.uk
West Lodge Farm Park, Desborough
A fully functioning agricultural farm for over three generations, it was only recently the owners decided to once more fling forth their doors for family enjoyment. From frolicking lambs and cheerful chicks, to pygmy goats and guinea pigs, the sheer diversity of mammals and poultry are certain to keep kids entertained for the whole day. A nature trail walk will have kids talking for weeks, such is the abundance of eagles and raptors in the region. Pony rides, small animal petting and piglet racing are just some of intriguing additional activities, all guaranteed to wear out those wee ones for the drive home! www.westlodgeruralcentre.co.uk
Rockingham Castle, Market Harborough
Over 1,000 years of history lie buried behind the great walls of Rockingham - a former Royal retreat, built upon the order of William the Conqueror during the 11th Century. Standing upon a modest elevation, Rockingham commands spectacular views across the verdant Welland Valley. The neatly manicured gardens - notably the Cross Garden, have little changed since the 15th Century, when fashions steered toward symmetry and clean lines. As expected of a house nearing it's first Millennium, the fortress itself is full of character and teeming with ancient artwork - the Great Hall being one of the last areas of the house in which it's Norman character has been preserved. Highlights include the Long Gallery, as well as the room within which Charles Dickens resided during a brief stay. www.rockinghamcastle.com
What are your favourite attractions in Northamptonshire?