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England may be densely populated but it is also crisscrossed by footpaths and rights of way, which provide access to just about every nook and cranny of the country if you want to take a short stroll. The more energetic should tackle at least one long-distance walk. The best of the hikes include the South-West Coast Path around the dramatic shores of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset (up to 14 days); the picturesque Cotswold Way (five days); and the dramatic moorland and coastal scenery of the Cleveland Way (up to a week). Cycling is another great way to get off the beaten track and down some unexplored country lanes; the main roads are best avoided. The best beaches for swimming are in Devon and Cornwall; the best surf is on Cornwall's west coast, notably at Newquay.


For the sporty, the traditional Oxford/Cambridge University Boat Race is held in London on the River Thames in late March; the famous but gruelling Grand National steeplechase takes place at Aintree, Liverpool, on the first Saturday in April; the FA Cup final takes place in May; Lawn Tennis Championships, complete with strawberries & cream and tantrums by major players, take place at Wimbledon in late June; the champagne-quaffing set head for the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames also in June; and the Cowes Week yachting extravaganza pushes off on the Isle of Wight in late July.

Those uninterested in ball games and fast-moving animals should check out the Chelsea Flower Show at London's Royal Hospital in May; the Trooping of the Colour pageantry on the Queen's birthday in London in mid-June; the bacchanalian Glastonbury Festival music extravaganza which swamps Glastonbury's paddocks in June; and the riotous (in the best possible sense) Caribbean carnival in London's Notting Hill in late August.

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