Historic Counties Descriptions

The counties are listed along with their Historic Counties Standard (HCS) Number and their HCS Code. The figures for area and population are taken from the Demography of the Historic Counties report.

01  ABN  Aberdeenshire    Wikishire Map
Aberdeenshire is a Highland county: a county of wild mountains and wild seas. The county is traditionally divided into five districts: Buchan, Formartine, Garioch, Mar and Strathbogie.

In the far north-east of the shire, north of the Ythan, lies the traditional area of Buchan. Its coastline rounds the “Cold Shoulder” of the Highlands and on this northern coast are the fishing towns of Fraserburgh, the biggest shellfish port in Scotland, and Peterhead, known as The Blue Toun. Six miles south of Peterhead, are the Bullers of Buchan – a basin in which the sea, entering by a natural arch, boils up violently in stormy weather. The county’s coast then stretches round to face the open North Sea. The "nine castles of the Knuckle" are a group of ancient castles around the Buchan coast, the "north-eastern knuckle of Scotland". From west to east, the castles are Dundarg, Pitsligo, Pitullie, Kinnaird, Wine Tower, Cairnbulg, Inverallochy, Lonmay and Rattray. The town of Turriff lies inland on the River Deveron, close to the border with Banffshire. Fyvie Castle (NTS) near Turriff dates back to the 13th century. It's impressive Seton tower, which forms the entrance, was erected in 1599 by Alexander Seton.

South of the Ythan is the traditional district of Formartine. It has a sandy coast, which is succeeded inland by a clayey, fertile, tilled tract, and then by low hills, moors, mosses and tilled land. Ellon, on the Ythan, includes the ruins of the 16th century Ellon Castle. The Auld Brig is a category A listed bridge across the Ythan, built in 1793. A castle has stood on the site of nearby Delgatie Castle since 1030 although the earliest parts of the castle standing today date from the 16th century. Haddo House (NTS) is a stately home near Tarves. The Gordons, later the Earls of Aberdeen and Marquesses of Aberdeen, have lived on the site for over 500 years. Pitmedden Garden (NTS) is an historic garden noted for its geoemtric parterres which vary in shape from a thistle to Sir Alexander Seton's coat of arms.

The Garioch is the traditional area at the centre of the shire. The rural parts are centred on the market town of Inverurie whose foundation dates back to the 9th century with the establishment of Christianity at Polnar, "The Kirk of Rocharl" - now St Andrew's Parish Church. South lies the county town, Aberdeen and the River Dee, the lower reaches of which form its southern border with Kincardineshire.

The City of Aberdeen is the landward heart of the North Sea oil business, which has made Aberdeen one of Britain’s wealthiest towns and also a centre of engineering excellence. Aberdeen is home to one of the four ancient universities of Scotland.

The shire reaches far inland along the valley of the Don and up the Dee deep into the Grampian Mountains to the heart of the Cairngorms. These inland parts in the west of the county are the traditional area of Mar. Here is mountain and forest, cut with fertile valleys. The Mar Lodge Estate (NTS) covers over 70,000 acres of the Cairngorms and is regarded as one of the most important nature conservation landscapes in the British Isles. Mar is famed for its castles. Craigievar Castle (NTS) is a great seven story castle, completed in 1626, set among the scenic rolling foothills of the Grampian Mountains. Nearby Castle Fraser (NTS) is an elaborate z-plan castle, completed at a similar time. Drum Castle (NTS) near Drumoak was granted to William de Irwyn in 1325 by Robert the Bruce, and remained in the possession of Clan Irvine until 1975. This part of Aberdeenshire contains several Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet), of which the highest is Ben Macdhui (second only to Ben Nevis in the whole of the British Isles), standing at 4,296 feet on the Banffshire border.

The traditional area of Strathbogie extends over 120 square miles in the north of the county, stretching east and west of the Bogie, which discharges itself into the Deveron at Huntly. Huntly Castle is a beautiful castle, overlooking The Gordon Schools. Leith Hall (NTS) is a country house in Kennethmont, constructed in 1650 on the site of the medieval Peill Castle.

Main Towns:Aberdeen, Ballater, Braemar, Dyce, Fraserburgh, Huntly, Inverurie, Peterhead, Turriff
Main Rivers:Dee, Don, Ythan, Deveron, Ugie
Highlights:Balmoral Castle; Bullers of Buchan; Slains Castle, Peterhead; Provost Skene's House, Aberdeen; Loanhead of Daviot Stone Circle.
County Flower:Bearberry
Highest Point:Ben Macdhui, 4,269 feet
Area:1,950 sq miles
Pop (2011):380,495


02  AGL  Anglesey    Wikishire Map
Anglesey (Sir Fôn) is an island county, separated from Caernarfonshire on the mainland by the Menai Straits, spanned by the Britannia Bridge and the Menai Suspension Bridge. Anglesey is the only county in Wales that is not mountainous, the highest point being Holyhead Mountain (722 feet). There are two main islands: Anglesey itself and Holy Island to the west, joined to the main isle by a causeway.

The islands' entire rural coastline had been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and features many sandy beaches, especially along its eastern coast between the towns of Beaumaris and Amlwch and along the western coast from Ynys Llanddwyn through Rhosneigr to the little bays around Carmel Head. The northern coastline is characterised by dramatic cliffs interspersed with small bays, a haven for nesting seabirds, choughs and ravens.

Anglesey has several small towns. Beaumaris, in the east of the island, features Beaumaris Castle, built by Edward I as part of his campaign in North Wales. Beaumaris acts as a yachting centre for the region, with many boats moored in the bay or off Gallows Point. Llangefni, in the centre, is the principal commercial and farming town on the island. The fishing town of Amlwch lies at the north-east of the island. The town of Menai Bridge overlooks the Menai Strait by the bridge itself. Holyhead on Holy Island is the gateway of Ireland: the main ferry terminal between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, freight thundering back and forth along the A5 through the heart of the island.

Away from the port and the road, Anglesey remains a pretty, quiet and mainly Welsh-speaking island, whose most important industries are agriculture and tourism (one of the biggest drawing attractions being the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch).

There are many antiquities and historic sites. Bryn Celli Ddu is one of the finest passage tombs in Wales. Din Lligwy hut circle is an ancient village site near to Moelfre on the east coast. Near the village of Newborough, in the south-west, is the site of Llys Rhosyr, a court of the mediæval Welsh princes. Plas Newydd, the country seat of the Marquess of Anglesey, stands on the Menai Strait with splendid views of Snowdonia.

Main Towns:Amlwch, Beaumaris, Holyhead, Llanerchymedd, Llangefni, Menai Bridge, Newborough, Trearddur Bay
Main Rivers:Alaw, Braint, Cefni, Wygyr
Highlights:Beaumaris Castle; Britannia Bridge; Bryn Celli Ddu burial chamber; Din Lligwy Roman village
County Flower:Spotted Rock-rose
Highest Point:Holyhead Mountain, 722 feet
Area: 277 sq miles
Pop (2011):69,751


03  ANG  Angus    Wikishire Map
Angus is a maritime county on the east coast of Scotland.

Angus can be divided into four very distinctive districts; in the north the Grampians, in the south the Sidlaw Hills, between them Strathmore, and the coastlands in the east.

In the south and east the land is of rolling hills bordering the sea. The county's biggest towns lie in this area. At the western end of the county's coast lies the greatest of these, the City of Dundee. Dundee grew to wealth on jute manufacture, shipbuilding and whaling: all industries now lost to it. More diversified industry keeps it going. Along the coast, Monifieth was a textile town but is now mainly a dormitory town for Dundee. Carnoustie is a resort town famous for the Carnoustie Golf Links, one of the venues of the Open Championship. Barry Mill (NTS) is a working Category A listed watermill in Barry, near Carnoustie. Arbroath is a busy fishing port. Arbroath Abbey (HES) was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion. The distinctive red sandstone ruins stand at the top of the High Street. At the eastern end of the county's coastline lies Montrose, a resort town and a port for the oil and gas industry. Montrose Basin is a two square mile tidal lagoon and a nature reserve of international importance. The House of Dun (NTS) was home to the Erskine family from 1375 until 1980. The current house was designed by William Adam and was finished in 1743.

Between the coastal plain and the mountains lies Strathmore (Gaelic for "Great Valley") otherwise known as the Howe of Angus. Strathmore is a fertile valley between 6 and 8 miles broad, which is a continuation of the Howe of the Mearns. It runs from north-east to south-west between the Grampian mountains and the Sidlaws. This is a fertile agricultural area where are grown potatoes, soft fruit and the famed Angus cattle. Edzell Castle, close to the Kincardineshire border, is a ruined 16th-century castle with an early-17th-century walled garden. Brechin is well known for its cathedral with an 11th-century round tower. The Sculptured Stones at Aberlemno, between Brecin and Forfar, are 5 early mediæval standing stones with Pictish symbols. The shire is also known as Forfarshire from its county town, Forfar. Forfar was a royal residence for some centuries, and the place where Malcolm III granted new titles to his nobility (a scene Shakespeare portrayed, though he portrayed it on the bloody fields of Dunsinane in Perthshire). Kirriemuir was the birthpace of J M Barrie, the house being a National Trust of Scotland property. Inverquharity Castle is a 15th-century tower house just north of Kirriemuir. Glamis Castle has been the home of the Lyon family since the 14th century and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

To the north and west of Strathmore lie the Grampain Mountains, beautiful but with few inhabitants, the hillsides grazed by sheep. Here are found the Five Glens of Angus: Glen Isla, Glen Prosen, Glen Clova, Glen Lethnot and Glen Esk.

To the south-west of Strathmore, the Sidlaw Hills stretch from Perthshire into Angus but peak at Craigowl Hill at 1,493 feet. Auchterhouse Hill has an ancient hill fort. The ruined observatory on Kinpurnie Hill was built by James Stuart-Mackenzie who owned the Kinpurnie estate and can be seen for many miles in Strathmore.

Far out in the firth, the notorious Bell Rock (Inchcape), immortalised in poem by Robert Southey, belongs to the shire. The Bell Rock Lighthouse is the oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse in the world.

Angus is traditionally associated with the Pictish kingdom of Circinn, which is thought to have encompassed both Angus and Kincardineshire. Numerous Pictish sculptured stones that can be found throughout Angus. Besides those at Amberlemno, notable collections can be found at St Vigeans, Kirriemuir and Monifieth. Angus was made a hereditary sheriffdom by David II. The first Earl of Angus was George Douglas, so created in 1389.

Main Towns:Arbroath, Brechin, Carnoustie, Dundee, Forfar, Kirriemuir, Montrose
Main Rivers:Isla, North Esk, South Esk
Highlights:Glamis Castle; Championship Course, Carnoustie; Glen Esk; Glen Clova; J M Barrie birthplace, Kirriemuir
County Flower:Alpine Catchfly
Highest Point:Glas Maol, 3,504 feet
Area: 899 sq miles
Pop (2011):264,044


04  ANM  Antrim    Wikishire Map
Antrim is a maritime county of Ulster. Antrim is Ulster's most populous county.

On the north coast lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Giant's Causeway, a spectacular irruption of some 40,000 vertical, interlocking, geometrical basalt columns spread over cliffs and out into the sea.

The Giant's Causeway lies in the larger Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which stretches along the north coast of the county. At the western end is the resort of Portrush, well known for its three sandy beaches and the Royal Portrush Golf Club, the only golf club outside of Great Britain which has hosted the Open Championship. At the eastern end is the seaside town of Ballycastle, overlooking Rathin Island and, on a clear day, the Mull of Kintyre.

South from Ballycastle, encompassing 174,000 acres along the eastern side of County Antrim, is the Antrim Coasts and Glens AONB. The AONB is dominated by the Antrim Plateau, a broad band of hills which rises to 1,600 feet. This plateau is incised by rapidly flowing rivers into the famous Nine Glens of Antrim, which run eastwards and north-eastwards into the sea. The AONB includes dramatic headlands and bays, farmland and, in the uplands, open expanses of moorland. It includes the coast round from Ballycastle and down the east coast including the seaside villages of Cushendall, Cushendun, Carnlough and Glenarm, down to Larne, a major passenger and freight port.

Inland behind the hills, the valleys of the Maine, Bann and Lagan, with the intervening shores of Lough Neagh, form the county's fertile lowlands. In the north-west lies Ballymoney, one of the oldest towns in Ulster with many historic buildings including the town clock and Masonic hall. Close to the centre of the county is Ballymena, a successful manufacturing town and popular shopping hub with many historic buildings.

The historic town of Antrim stands on the banks of the Six Mile Water, close to Lough Neagh. The courthouse sits at the end of the street, near the Barbican Gate, the old gateway to Antrim Castle.

The south-east of the county, along the River Laggan and the Belfast Lough, is the most heavily populated part of the county. Belfast stands at the head of Belfast Lough. It is the county town of County Antrim and the capital and the largest city of Northern Ireland. Belfast stands on the county boundary, marked by the River Lagan and spreads over both banks. Thus although the city centre is in County Antrim, a great deal of it stands in County Down. Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the linen industry, tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding. Belfast remains a major centre for industry, arts, higher education and business.

South of Belfast, on the River Laggan, is the city of Lisburn. Lisburn is known as the birthplace of Ireland's linen industry, established in 1698 by Louis Crommelin and other Huguenots.

Carrickfergus stands on the north shore of the Belfast Lough. Carrickfergus Castle dates from the 12th century. It is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Ireland,

Main Towns:Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Larne, Lisburn, Portrush
Main Rivers:Bann, Lagan
Highlights:Glens of Antrim; Giant's Causeway; Carrickfergus Castle; Dunluce Castle
County Flower:Harebell
Highest Point:Trostan, 1,808 feet
Area:1,175 sq miles
Pop (2011):615,701


05  ARG  Argyllshire    Wikishire Map
Argyllshire is a maritime county, encompassing most of the Inner Hebrides and the entire western coast of Scotland between the Mull of Kintyre and the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Argyllshire is a large county of breathtaking scenery. It is deeply cut by sea lochs, and divided into peninsulas and scattered islands stretching into the Atlantic. The mainland part of Argyllshire is divided into several traditional districts.

The Ardnamurchan peninsula is noted for being unspoiled. Ardnamurchan Point has the 118ft Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Nearby Corrachadh Mòr is the most westerly point of Great Britain.

Morven or Morvern is bounded by Loch Sunart, Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull. The spectacular ruins of Ardtornish Castle lie on a promontory extending into the Sound. Kinlochaline Castle is a 15th-century Scottish tower house. The main village of Lochaline is a ferry port for the Isle of Mull.

Appin lies to the east of Loch Linnhe, between Loch Creran and Loch Leven. Ballachulish and Port Appin are the principal villages. Glencoe or Glen Coe, one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in the Highlands, has a bloody mark in history for the Glencoe massacre of 13 February 1692. Castle Stalker is a four-storey tower house or keep picturesquely set on a tidal islet on Loch Laich.

Benderloch lies between Loch Creran and Loch Etive. The name is derived from Beinn eadar dà loch, meaning "mountain between two lochs". The village of the same name grew up as the railway line from Ballachullish to Connel was completed in the early part of the 1900s. The Connel Bridge across Loch Etive connects Benderloch to Lorne.

Lorne includes the Atlantic coast surrounding Loch Etive. Its single town, standing on the Firth of Lorn, is Oban, the "Gateway to the Isles" from which ferries sail for the Hebrides. Dunollie Castle is a small, ruined castle located on a hill north of the town, the site enjoying fine view of the town, harbour, Kerrera and outlying isles. Dunstaffnage Castle (HES) lies 3 miles north of Oban, on a platform of conglomerate rock on a promontory at the south-west of the entrance to Loch Etive, surrounded on three sides by the sea. The castle is one of Scotland's oldest stone castles, dating back to the 13th century.

To the south of Lorne is Knapdale, between the Sound of Jura and Loch Fyne. Castle Sween (HES), on the eastern shore of Loch Sween, is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built at some time in the late 12th century.

South of Knapdale is Kintyre, a long narrow peninsula the southernmost point of which is known as the Mull. Skipness Castle, on the east side of the Kintyre Peninsula, was built in the early 13th century by the Clan MacSween with later fortifications and other additions made to the castle through the 13th, 14th and 16th centuries.

The district of Argyll lies in the middle of the shire, including the county town, Inverary, ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll. Inverary Castle is a classic Georgian mansion house on a grand scale. Dunderave Castle is an L-plan castle built in the 16th century as the seat of the MacNaughton clan. The castle lies on a small promontory on the northern shores of Loch Fyne. Kilchurn Castle (HES), lying on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe, was first constructed in the mid-15th century as the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy, who extended both the castle and their territory in the area over the next 150 years.

South of Argyll lies Cowall, between Loch Fyne, Loch Long and the Firth of Clyde. In its north is the mountainous Argyll Forest Park. In its south is the resort town of Dunoon. Castle Lachlan, or New Castle Lachlan, is an 18th-century baronial mansion or country house located at Strathlachlan. It was built in 1790 by Donald Maclachlan, 19th laird, to replace the 15th century Old Castle Lachlan, which stands nearby on the shores of Loch Fyne. Carrick Castle is a 15th-century tower house on the west shore of Loch Goil.

The county embraces most of the Inner Hebrides. Of the Small Isles, Canna, Rùm and Muck are part of Argyllshire. Rum, the largest, has a small population in Kinloch but is an important study site for ecology and the site of the successful reintroduction of the white-tailed sea eagle.

Col is a flat, peaceful island with one village, Arinagour. The isle is rich in wildlife. It forms a pair with Tiree, the most westerly inhabited island in the Inner Hebrides.

Mull is the largest of Argyllshire's islands, with 298 miles of coastline. The island has a mountainous core, the highest peak on the island being Ben More (3,169 feet). The capital, Tobermory, famous for the brightly painted assorted colours on its Main Street, lies near the northern entrance of the Sound of Mull. The island is rich in wildlife, a stronghold of the white-tailed sea eagle. Offshore are basking sharks, minke whales, porpoises and dolphins.

Iona, west of Mull, is world famous as the first centre of St Columba’s mission to bring Christianity to the Scots and Picts. The ruins of the Abbey were restored by the 8th Duke of Argyll in the 19th century. Iona today is renowned for its tranquillity and natural beauty. Fingal's Cave is a famous sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa.

South of Mull lies Colonsay, its single village Scalasaig on the east coast. The island abounds in historic sites, including the Dùn Cholla and Dùn Meadhonach ruined hill forts, the 8th-century Riasg Buidhe Cross and the 14th-century St Cathan's Chapel.

Jura is a large island dominated by three steep-sided conical quartzite mountains on its western side – the Paps of Jura - which rise to 2,575 feet. The village of Craighouse is home to the Isle of Jura distillery. South of Jura is Islay, "The Queen of the Hebrides". The capital is Bowmore, Port Ellen the main port. The island is sparsely populated and mainly agricultural. The island is rich in birdlife as well as grey seals, otters and red deer. There are 8 distilleries.

The name of Argyll is an ancient one; the Borderland of the Gael. It approximates to the first Kingdom of the Scots, Dalriada, which through later conquest and accretion spread to become Scotland. The sheriffdom of Argyll was created in 1326 to oversee the forfeited MacDougall territory of Lorne, though the southern parts of Argyllshire remained part of the Lordship of the Isles until the late 15th century.

Main Towns:Argyll, Bowmore, Campbeltown, Connel, Dunoon, Furnace, Kiloran, Kinlockleven, Lochgilphead, Lochgoilhead, Oban, Inveraray, Port Ellen, Tarbert, Tighnabruaich, Tobermory
Main Rivers:Orchy, Awe
Highlights:Glen Coe; Isle of Mull; Fleming's Cairn, Rannoch Moor; Iona; Kilchurn Castle; Staffa (Fingal's Cave); West Highland Line
County Flower:Foxglove
Highest Point:Bidean nam Bian, 3,773 feet
Area:3,110 sq miles
Pop (2011):64,819


06  ARH  Armagh    Wikishire Map
Armagh is an inland county of Ulster. It is largely agricultural and there are no major rivers apart from those which form its boundaries: the Blackwater separating County Armagh from Tyrone, and the Newry, separating it from County Down. Both rivers fall into Lough Neagh, Armagh’s northern border.

In the south of the county is a remarkable formation: the Ring of Gullion, consisting of a huge ring of rounded hills or Drumlins, in the centre of which stands Slieve Gullion, the county’s highest hill, topped with an ancient burial mound.

From Slieve Gullion, Armagh's land falls away from its rugged south with the Carrigatuke, Lislea and Camlough mountains, to rolling drumlin country in the middle and west of the county and finally flatlands in the north, where rolling flats and small hills reach sea level at Lough Neagh.

Newry lies in the south-east, crossing the border (the River Clanrye) into County Down. Newry Town Hall is notable for being built over the Clanrye and thus on the border itself. The town stands at the northernmost end of Carlingford Lough, allowing it to serve as a major port.

The City of Armagh sits in the centre of the shire. Armagh is the seat of the Primate of All Ireland; the Archbishop of Armagh. Armagh's two cathedrals, one Protestant and one Roman Catholic, are both on hills in the town and both named after Saint Patrick. The Armagh Observatory was founded in 1790. County Armagh is known as the "Orchard County" from the rich fruit growing country to the north-east of the City of Armagh.

The other towns in the county are in its north-east. Portadown sits on the River Bann. The town has its origins in the 17th century but became a major railway junction town, the "hub of the north", in the Victorian era. Craigavon is a New Town, begun in 1965. Lurgan lies near the southern shore of Lough Neagh. Its straight, wide planned streets and rows of cottages are characteristic of many Plantation settlements. It has a number of historic buildings including Brownlow House and the former town hall.

All across the county are the signs of ancient ages. Near to Armagh is Navan Fort, also known by the famous name Emaın Macha. The monument sits on a low hill and consists of a large circular enclosure, marked by a bank and ditch, within which are two monuments, a circular earthen mound and a ring barrow. It is believed that Navan was a pagan ceremonial site and was regarded as a sacred space. It features prominently in Irish mythology, especially in the tales of the Ulster Cycle. Navan Fort is the heart of the larger 'Navan complex', which also includes the ancient sites of Haughey's Fort (an earlier hilltop enclosure), the King's Stables (an artificial ritual pool) and Loughnashade (a natural lake that has yielded votive offerings).

Main Towns:Armagh, Craigavon, Crossmaglen, Lurgan, Newry, Portadown, Tandragee
Main Rivers:Blackwater, Bann, Callan, Newry.
Highlights:Armagh Planetarium; Armagh County Museum; Slieve Gullion Forest park; Palace Stables Heritage Centre
County Flower:Cowbane
Highest Point:Slieve Gullion, 1,880 feet
Area:512 sq miles
Pop (2011):178,598


07  AYS  Ayrshire    Wikishire Map
Ayrshire is a maritime county, lying along the east shore of the Firth of Clyde. Ayrshire is one of the most agriculturally fertile regions of Scotland, the main produce being potatoes and other root vegetables, summer fruits, pork and cattle. The county used to be heavily industrialised, with steel making, coal mining and in Kilmarnock numerous examples of production-line manufacturing, most famously Johnnie Walker whisky. Scotland's aviation industry has long been based in and around Prestwick and its international airport.

The county is traditionally divided into the districts of Cunninghame, Kyle and Carrick. The districts predate Ayrshire itself but became bailieries of the county in the Middle Ages. Ayrshire became a sheriffdom in 1221.

The district of Cunninghame lies north of the River Irvine. Largs is a popular seaside resort with a pier. In 1263 it was the site of the Battle of Largs between the Norwegian and the Scottish armies. Next to the sea at Portencross harbour lies the 14th-century Portencross Castle. The 15th-century Law Castle is situated on Law Hill on the edge of the village of West Kilbride. The resort town of Saltcoats has a long industrial history. Though its traditional industries have declined, its beautiful sandy beach makes it a popular destination for holiday makers and daytrippers.

The town of Irvine lies on the north bank of the River Irvine. Despite being classed as a new town, Irvine has a history stretching back many centuries and was classed as a Royal Burgh. To its north is the historic town of Kilwinning, on the banks of the River Garnock. Kilwinning has many buildings of architectural significance, including the mediæval Abbot Adam's Bridge. Dalgarven Mill, in the Garnock Valley near Kilwinning, is home to the Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume. The ancient seat of the Earls of Eglinton, Eglinton Castle is located just south of Kilwinning.

Kilmarnock is the largest town in Ayrshire. The core of the early town appears to have lain around what is now the Laigh Kirk (Low Church). Previously a modest settlement, Kimarnock grew with the textile industry after 1800, with formal planned developments. John Finnie Street is one of the finest Victorian planned streets in Scotland.

The ruins of Auchenharvie Castle stand in a prominent position near the village of Torranyard. A good deal remains of this typical tower castle, ruinous since the 1770s. The Thurgatstane or Ogrestane is a famous stone near Dunlop. It has long been associated with pagan ritual practices. The ancient Dunlop Carlin stone is on the other side of the village.

The district of Kyle lies in the centre of the shire, south of the River Irvine and north of the River Doon. The port town of Troon is famous for the Royal Troon Golf Club. Prestwick also has a golfing heritage, Prestwick Old Course being the first home of the Open Championship. Glasgow Prestwick International Airport is famed for Elvis Presley's two hour stopover in 1960.

The county town, Ayr, has been a popular tourist resort since the expansion of the railway in 1840 owing to the town's fine beach and its links to golf and Robert Burns. The village of Alloway is famous as the birthplace of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns. Burns Cottage (NTS) lies in the heart of the village. The late mediæval bridge, Brig o' Doon, celebrated in the climax of Burns' Tam o' Shanter, crosses the Doon in the south of the village. The Burns monument is nearby.

Inland is Cumnock, a former mining town with a strong socialist tradition. Keir Hardie's father lived here, and a statue of him sits outside the town hall.

The district of Carrick lies south of the River Doon. Maybole, its historic capital, has Middle Ages roots. For generations it remained under the suzerainty of the Kennedys, later the Marquesses of Ailsa, the most powerful family in Ayrshire. Culzean Castle (NTS), formerly the family seat, stands on the coast within a country park. It was constructed as an L-plan castle by order of the David Kennedy between 1777 to 1792. Turnberry Castle is a fragmentary ruin on the coast of Kirkoswald parish, near Maybole. Robert the Bruce spent his childhood at the castle and may have been born there.

Girvan, on the Carrick coast, originally a fishing port, is now also a seaside resort. The Galloway Hills intrude into Ayrshire, giving Carrick some wonderful rugged hill country. Out in the Firth, the conspicuous rock of Ailsa Craig provides a home for a huge numbers of gannets and other seabirds.

Main Towns:Ayr, Ardrossan, Girvan, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning, Largs, Prestwick, Saltcoats, Troon
Main Rivers:Ayr, Doon, Girvan, Garnock, Irvine, Stinchar
Highlights:Ailsa Craig bird reserve; Robert Burns' cottage, museum, monument, Alloway; Culzean Castle
County Flower:Green-winged Orchid
Highest Point:Kirriereoch Hill shoulder, 2,565 feet
Area:1,129 sq miles
Pop (2011):367,676


08  BNF  Banffshire    Wikishire Map
Banffshire is a maritime county on the Moray Firth and reaching from that green coastline, stretching inland up the valley of the River Spey into the Grampian and Cairngorm mountains. Banffshire's economy is largely pastoral. The county is almost entirely rural.

The south of the county is mountainous, but cut through with fertile glens watered by burns and rivers which allow extensive farms. Some of the mountains are thick with forests, some present a beautiful intermixture of rock and copse, while others are covered with brown heath. The greatest mountains are all in the south, where the Cairngorm range is found. Cairn Gorm itself (shared with Inverness-shire) is famous for the amber-coloured quartz crystals found there. The county top is Ben Macdhui (4,296 feet), shared with Aberdeenshire. The River Livet flows north-west across the county here. Glenlivet is known for the Glenlivet Estate and the whisky The Glenlivet.

The northern half of the county is mostly a fine, open, undulating country of rich, highly cultivated soil. Here are found most of the towns and the fishing villages.

Inland, on the River Fiddich, lies Dufftown. It produces more malt whisky than any other town in Scotland, including Glenfiddich, the world's best selling single-malt whisky. Balvenie Castle is a ruined 12th-century castle. On the border (the River Spey) with Morayshire, is Aberlour (fullname Charlestown of Aberlour), home of the famous Aberlour Distillery.

To the north, on the River Isla, is Keith. The town has three distilleries, including Strathisla Distillery, the oldest continuously operating distillery in the Highlands. The Keith and Dufftown Railway is an 11-mile heritage railway running to Dufftown.

Buckie, on the Moray Firth, is the largest town in Banffshire. Once a thriving fishing and shipbuilding port, these industries have declined, though Cluny Harbour remains the heart of the town.

On a headland east of Buckie is Portknockie. The village was founded in 1677 and it became a significant herring fishing port, although today only a handful of commercial inshore boats remain. Green Castle, located on a coastal promontory, is an ancient coastal fort believed to date from 1000 BC and inhabited until AD1000.

Along the coast to the east is the village of Cullen, noted for Cullen Skink, a traditional soup made from smoked haddock, milk, potato and onion. The village has an impressive beach and golf course, and the Crannoch Wood which offers good views of the area.

The Old Harbour at Portsoy dates to the 17th century and is the oldest on the Moray Firth. Portsoy is known for local jewellery made from "Portsoy marble".

The county town, Banff, stands on Banff Bay. The townscape has many historic buildings, including fragments of the former royal Banff Castle, a pre-Reformation market cross, a fine tolbooth and many vernacular townhouses. Close by is Duff House (HES), designed by William Adam in 1730, and one of Scotland's finest classical houses. On the estate lies the magnificent Bridge of Alvah. Built in 1772, it is a semicircular 'rubble arch' bridge over the Deveron.

Macduff also stands on Banff Bay, separated from Banff by the River Deveron. The town has an aquarium, a maritime heritage centre and a golf course (Royal Tarlair). At the base of a sea cliff just outside the town is the Tarlair Swimming Pool. Opened in 1931 and built in Art Deco style, it was closed in the 1990s.

Main Towns:Aberchirder, Banff, Buckie, Cullen, Gardenstown, Keith, Macduff, Tomintoul, Whitehills.
Main Rivers:Deveron, Spey, Avon.
Highlights:Auchindown Castle; Colleonard Sculpture Park; Duff House, Banff; Glenfarcas distillery.
County Flower:Dark-red Helleborine
Highest Point:Ben Macdhui, 4,296 feet.
Area:641 sq miles
Pop (2011):46,537


09  BED  Bedfordshire    Wikishire Map
Bedfordshire is an inland county in the south-eastern Midlands of England. The southern end of the county is swept by the chalk ridge of the Chiltern Hills. The rest of the shire is part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries. Luton and Bedford are the main towns. Outside of these, Bedfordshire is still primarily a rural county with rich agricultural land, rolling rural scenery and pretty villages.

The county's most famous son, John Bunyan was born in 1628 in the village of Elstow. Although now effectively a southern suburb of Bedford, the original village survives intact including the 15th-century Moot Hall on the village green. The hall is a remarkable survival – an early Tudor-style timber-framed building, built to provide both a courtroom and a market house.

Bedford itself sits in the centre of the shire on the banks of the Great Ouse. Bedford is a major residential and commercial town. The Embankment is the name given to the gardens lining the Great Ouse as it flows through the town centre. Bedford Castle Mound is the remnant of Bedford's mediæval castle. Bedford Park retains many of its original Victorian features. Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years in Bedford Gaol, where he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. The town of Kempston is adjacent to Bedford and serves to some extent as a commuter town for it.

The Cardington Airship Works were founded at Cardington south-east of Bedford by Short Brothers during the First World War. The works were nationalised in 1919 and the R101 was developed here. The 2 huge airship sheds still dominate the landscape. At Willington, to the east of Bedford, are the 16th-century Willington Dovecote and Stables.

Aside from Bedford itself, the main towns of Bedfordshire lie in its far south. Luton lies in a break in the Eastern part of the Chiltern Hills. The town was for many years famous for hat-making. It is still an industrial town with a major airport. Luton Hoo is a famous country house and estate, much used as a film set, to the south of the town. Nearby too is Someries Castle, a 15th-century fortified manor house.

North of Luton is Houghton Regis, a former village which was expanded as a London overspill estate in the 1950s and 1960s. West of Luton is the market town of Dunstable. Dunstable stands where two ancient routes cross: Watling Street and the Icknield Way. The oldest part of the town is along these routes.

South of the town are the Dunstable Downs, a chalk escarpment forming the north-eastern reaches of the Chiltern Hills. They form the county top. Whipsnade Zoo has cut an enormous lion shape into the chalk in the side of one of the hills. Whipsnade Tree Cathedral (NT) was planted in the 1930s by Edmond Blyth as an act of "Faith, hope and reconciliation" in response to his memories of the First World War.

Leighton Buzzard is a traditional market town on the River Ouzel (here the border with Buckinghamshire) at the edge of the Chiltern Hills. Although much developed, the town has managed to retain great charm and character. The Grand Union Canal passes through Leighton Buzzard, its towpaths providing popular walks out into the countryside. The Leighton Buzzard Light Railway is a narrow gauge heritage railway.

North of these towns, southern Bedfordshire is primarily rural. Woburn Abbey, the seat of the Duke of Bedford, is a grand mansion with historic landscaped gardens, a deer park by Humphry Repton and Woburn Safari Park. Wrest Park (EH), near Flitton, is the family seat of the de Grey family. It is a 19th-century country house with vast gardens from the early 18th century. The de Grey Mausoleum (EH) in Flitton is one of the largest sepulchral chapels in the country. Houghton House (EH), in the historic market town of Ampthill, was built in 1621 by Mary, Countess of Pembroke. It is said to be the model for House Beautiful in Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.

East of Bedford are the market towns of Biggleswade and Sandy. Both lie on the River Ivel. Both lie along the A1 road between London and the North. Sandy is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

North of Bedford, the county is almost entirely rural. The only exception is the far north-east. Here the village of Eaton Socon has been much grown by post-war housing developments. The village lies on the western bank of the Great Ouse, across from St Neots in Huntingdonshire. On Eaton Socon Hill are the remain of Eaton Socon Castle. Bushmead Priory (EH) was established in 1195 as an Augustinian house and, though a ruin, retains mediæval stained glass and wall paintings.

The first recorded use of the name in 1011 was "Bedanfordscir". Bedford itself means "Beda's ford". The Bedfordshire flag comprises red and gold quarters split horizontally by blue and white waves and vertically with a black band containing three white shells. The red and gold quarters are from the arms of the Beauchamps, the leading family in the county after the Norman Conquest. The waves signify the River Great Ouse, and the shells are from the arms of the Russell Family, commemorating their services to the state and to the county. Bedfordshire day is celebrated on 28th November, the birthday of John Bunyan.
Main Towns:Ampthill, Bedford, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Eaton Socon, Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Sandy
Main Rivers:Flit, Great Ouse, Ivel, Hiz, Lea
Highlights:Woburn Abbey & Safari Park; Bunyan Statue, Bedford; Luton Hoo; Whipsnade Zoo; Wrest Park
County Flower:Bee Orchid
County Day:28th November, birthday of John Bunyan
Highest Point:Dunstable Downs, 797 feet
Area:468 sq miles
Pop (2011):602,847


10  BER  Berkshire    Wikishire Map
Berkshire is a Royal County in southern England.

Berkshire lies entirely south of the River Thames, which forms the county's northern boundary uninterruptedly for over 100 miles from Inglesham to Old Windsor. The riverbank is marked with numerous pretty towns and villages.

In the west of the county lie the Berkshire Downs, a range of chalk downland hills. Geologically they are continuous with the Marlborough Downs to the west and the Chilterns to the east. They form part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The downs run east-west from the Wiltshire border, ending close to where the Thames flows south downstream from Wallingford. This south flowing section of the Thames occupies a gap between the Berkshire Downs and the Chilterns, known as the Goring Gap, after Goring on Thames in its centre. The Thames cut this course through the chalk half a million years ago.

Between the Berkshire Downs and the Thames lies the Vale of the White Horse. The Vale is the valley of the Ock, a stream which rises in the Berkshire Downs and flows westward to enter the Thames at Abingdon. The Vale is almost flat and well-wooded; its green meadows and foliage contrasting richly with the bald summits of the Berkshire Downs, which flank it on the south. To the north, a low ridge separates the Vale from the upper Thames Valley. The Vale is dotted with pleasant villages. Wantage, in the heart of the Vale, is famous as the birthplace of King Alfred the Great in 849. The small market town of Faringdon is found in The Vale's north-western rim. Near the town is Buscot Park, an 18th century country house. Great Coxwell Barn is a large 14th-century stone barn in nearby village of Great Coxwell.

The Vale takes its name from the White Horse of Uffington, a huge and mysterious hill figure carved into the chalk hillside above Uffington. The White Horse is 374 feet long and highly stylised. The figure has been dated to the Bronze Age. Many ancient remains occur in the vicinity of the Horse. On the summit of White Horse Hill is Uffington castle, an Iron Age hill fort. To the west lies a long barrow called Wayland's Smithy. A grassy track above the Vale represents the Ridgeway, perhaps five thousand years old. It travels along the crest of the hills, far above what would then have been marshy lowlands or dangerous forests.

The county town of Abingdon lies on the west bank of the Thames, where the Ock flows in the from Vale of the White Horse. The site has been occupied from the early to middle Iron Age and the remains of a late Iron Age defensive enclosure (or oppidum) lies below the town centre. Abingdon Abbey was founded around 676, giving its name to the emerging town. The County Hall, built in 1677–1680, has been hailed as the "grandest town hall in Britain". Abingdon Bridge, crossing the Thames into Oxfordshire, was built in 1416 but often widened and altered. The town of Didcot, five miles south of Abingdon, is noted for its railway heritage and is now a centre for science and technology. Milton Manor House, 3 miles west of Didcot, is a yellow and red brick manor house built for the Calton family in the 17th century.

Wallingford is a beautiful market town at the foot of the Berkshire Downs. The River Thames flows gracefully past, southward toward the Goring Gap. A 900-foot long mediæval stone bridge crosses the river and the adjacent flood plain on the Oxfordshire bank. Wallingford Castle was the last holdout of the Royalists in Berkshire, withstanding a 65-day siege. Oliver Cromwell subsequently ordered the destruction of the castle.

Several of Oxford's suburbs lie south of the Thames in Berkshire including Grandpont and New Hinksey. More distant suburbs in Berkshire include Cumnor Hill, Botley, Dean Court, Kennington and North Hinksey.

South of the Berkshire Downs runs the valley of the River Kennet. The Kennet has an extensive range of rare plants and animals, unique to chalk watercourses. Fairly steep slopes on each side delineate the river's flat floodplain. To the south, the land rises steeply to the boundary with Hampshire, and here are found the highest parts of the county, the county top is on Walbury Hill. Close by is Hungerford, the westernmost town in Berkshire.

The town of Newbury stands on the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal, and has a town centre containing many 17th-century buildings. Donnington Castle is a ruined mediæval castle situated in the village of Donnington just north of Newbury. The nearby small town of Thatcham also stands on the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal. The Old Bluecoat School was built in 1304 as the Chapel of St Thomas the Martyr. West of Thatcham, from near Aldmasteron Wharf the Kennet flows north-west across the county, flowing in to the Thames at Reading.

Basildon Park is a country house between the villages of Upper Basildon and Lower Basildon. The house and its magnificent garden are owned by the National Trust.

Reading is the largest town of Berkshire. It stands on the River Thames where the River Kennet enters it. Reading is well connected, by the M4 motorway and the Great Western Main Line railway. Reading was an important national centre in the mediæval period, the site of a monastery with strong royal connections. Today it remains a commercial centre, with links to information technology and insurance. It is also a university town with a large student population. Reading Abbey is a large, ruined abbey in the centre of the town. It was founded by Henry I in 1121. In its heyday the abbey was one of Europe's largest royal monasteries.

South and west of Reading is the Lodden Valley. The Lodden enters Berkshire near Swallowfield and flows south to north, entering the Thames near Wargrave. The small market town of Wokingham lies on the Emm Brook in the Lodden Valley. The town's formerly important industry, brick-making, has given way to software development, light engineering and service industries. The commuter village of Twyford sits beside the River Loddon as it enters the meadows running down to the River Thames.

Bracknall, in the south-east of the county, was designated a new town in 1949. The town is surrounded, on the east and south, by the vast expanse of Swinley Woods and Crowthorne Woods. South of Bracknall, close to the borders of Hampshire and Surrey, is the small town of Sandhurst, known worldwide as the location of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Ascot, close to the Surrey border, is famed as the location of Ascot Racecourse, home of the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting. The racecourse, which is owned by Her Majesty, has shaped the town around itself, as it stands at one end of the High Street and all around are gallops, training grounds, stud farms and shops catering to horsemen and visitors.

North of Ascot, on the Thames, is the suburban town of Windsor. Windsor is the Queen's main residence outside London. This jewel of a town is dominated by Windsor Castle, the largest castle in Britain and indeed the largest inhabited castle in the world. The village of Old Windsor lies on the Thames at the eastern edge of the county. Old Windsor was originally the site of an important palace of the Anglo-Saxon Kings. The Saxon palace was eventually superseded by the Norman Windsor Castle at 'New' Windsor. Windsor Great Park is largely within the bounds of Old Windsor, including both the Royal and Cumberland Lodges.

Maidenhead is a prosperous town standing on the River Thames, north-west of Windsor. Maidenhead is in England's 'Silicon Corridor' along the M4 motorway. The current Maidenhead Bridge, a local landmark, dates from 1777. King Charles I met his children for the last time before his execution in 1649 at the Greyhound Inn. Bisham Abbey is a 13th-century manor house at nearby Bisham.

Main Towns:Abingdon, Didcot, Harwell, Hungerford, Maidenhead, Newbury, Reading, Wantage, Windsor.
Main Rivers:Thames, Kennet, Blackwater, Lamborn, Ock, Lodden.
Highlights:White Horse and Maiden Castle, Uffington; Windsor Castle and Great Park; Warfield St Michael's church.
County Flower:Summer Snowflake
Highest Point:Walbury Hill shoulder, 965 feet (SU 374 618).
Area:722 sq miles
Pop (2011):842,804


11  BRW  Berwickshire    Wikishire Map
Berwickshire is a maritime county on the wild North Sea coast along the border of England and Scotland. The county is naturally divided into three districts.

In the far west of the county is Lauderdale, the long, narrow valley formed by the River Leader. The Roman Road known as Dere Street followed the Leader across the dale, as does the modern A68. There are many ancient camps and tumuli in Lauderdale. Formerly a forest and subsequently a royal hunting ground, today Lauderdale is almost completely agricultural. The royal burgh of Lauder stands in the centre of the dale. Notable buildings include the Tolbooth or Town Hall, which predates 1598. Thirlestane Castle, seat of the Earls of Lauderdale, is set in extensive parklands near the town.

In the north and west of the county is the bleak and beauteous landscape of the Lammermuir Hills. Here lies the county top, Meikle Says Law, on the East Lothian border. The small town of Greenlaw lies in the foothills with its impressive town hall, completed in 1831. Greenknowe Tower (HES) is a 16th-century tower house, located just west of the village of Gordon. Hume Castle is the heavily modified remnants of a late 12th or early 13th century castle of enceinte at the hamlet of Hume.

The Merse comprises the pastoral lands between the River Tweed to the south and the Lammermuirs to the north and west. It is a richly fertile land, of crops and well-fed livestock, the land level by the rivers and elsewhere undulating and wooded. It is in the Merse that the main towns of Berwickshire are found.

Coldstream stands on the north bank of the Tweed. The town is well known as the home of the Coldstream Guards. The Georgian Coldstream Bridge links Coldstream with Cornhill-on-Tweed in Northumberland. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Coldstream was a popular centre for runaway marriages. Notable buildings include the toll house where marriages were conducted, and The Hirsel, the family seat of the Earls of Home. Paxton House is an 18th century country house which stands overlooking the River Tweed south-west of Berwick.

The town of Duns lies at the centre of the shire. The town and its environs abound in historic buildings. Duns Law, the original site of the town of Duns, has the remains of an Iron Age hillfort. Duns Castle has a massive Norman Keep or Pele Tower which supposedly dates from 1320. Edin's Hall Broch (also Edinshall Broch; Odin's Hall Broch) is a 2nd-century broch near Duns, one of very few brochs found south of the Highlands. Blanerne House is an 18th-century mansion. In its grounds lie the remains of Blanerne Castle, a 16th-century fortified house. Nisbet House is a 17th century mansion based around a 12th-century pele tower. Wedderburn Castle is an 18th-century country house.

The Berwickshire coastline consists of high cliffs over deep clear water, with sandy coves and picturesque harbours. Eyemouth is a small fishing town and seaside resort. Notable buildings include Gunsgreen House and a cemetery watch house built to stand guard against the "resurrectionists". Nearby are the attractive small villages of Ayton, Reston, St Abbs, Coldingham, and Burnmouth. The coast offers opportunities for birdwatching, walking, fishing and diving.

The village of Cockburnspath lies at the north-east of the county, at the eastern end of the coast-to-coast Southern Uplands Way. Cockburnspath Tower is a ruined 15th-century castle standing above a steep-sided ravine. At the nearby village of Cove is a small fishing harbour and a memorial to the eleven men from Cove who lost their lives in the Eyemouth disaster of 1881.

In the far south-west of the county, standing in a loop in the Tweed, stand the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey. Founded in 1150, it was burned twice by the English (in 1322 and 1385), recovering to flourish in the 15th century before being finally destroyed in 1544 during the Rough Wooing. Sir Walter Scott and Field Marshall Douglas Haig are buried in its grounds.

Berwickshire was anciently part of the kingdom of Northumbria until the year 1020 when it was ceded to Malcolm II, King of Scotland, by the Earl of Northumberland. From its situation on the borders, the county was the scene of frequent hostilities and an object of continual dispute between the Scots and the English. The town of Berwick, from which the county is named, might be claimed by Berwickshire but the town was sundered by force from its shire in the mediæval wars, leaving Berwickshire without its natural county town.

Main Towns:Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth, Greenlaw, Lauder
Main Rivers:Tweed, Eye Water, Blackadder, Leader Water, Whiteadder
Highlights:Dryburgh Abbey; Eyemouth Museum; Mellerstain House; Thirlstane Castle
County Flower:Rock-rose
Highest Point:Meikle Says Law shoulder, 1746 feet
Area:457 sq miles
Pop (2011):26,458


12  BRN  Brecknockshire    Wikishire Map
Brecknockshire (Sir Frycheiniog), also known as Breconshire, is an inland county in Mid-Wales. The county is predominantly rural and mountainous.

Brecknockshire's southern border stands along the heads of the South Wales Valleys. Several towns and villages in this area lie in Brecknockshire. Cefn-Coed-y-Cymmer lies north of the Taf Fawr and Taf Fechan, the border with Glamorgan. Further east, above the Monmouthshire valleys, lie the villages of Rassau and Beaufort and the market town of Brynmawr.

Across the south of the county are three mountains ranges. All three ranges form part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. In the south-west, the Black Mountain range straddles into Brecknockshire from Carmarthenshire. The highest point is Fan Brycheiniog (2,631ft). South of the Black Mountain, on the River Tawe, lies the former mining town of Ystradgynlais.

To the east of the Black Mountain range is Fforest Fawr or the Great Forest of Brecknock, a former royal hunting area. There are several peaks over 2,000 ft including Fan Fawr (2,408 ft). Within Fforest Fawr are the spectacular Henrhyd Falls and the Dan-yr-Ogof showcaves. East of the Merthyr to Brecon road (A470), stretch the Brecon Beacons, including the county top Pen y Fan (2,900 feet).

The central part of the county is dominated by the valley of the great River Usk. The Usk rises in the Black Mountain range, forming the border with Cardiganshire before turning east into Brecknockshire. A great diversity of plants and animal life dwell in and along the Usk.

The Usk flows south of the village of Trecastle, named after its 11th-century Norman motte-and-bailey fortification. At the village of Sennybridge it is joined by the Afon Senni. Y Gaer is a Roman fort built around AD 75, sitting on a crossroads of Roman roads in the Usk valley.

The county town, Brecon, lies where the Usk is joined by the Honddu. The confluence of the rivers made for a valuable defensive position for the Norman castle which overlooks the town. The Brecknockshire Shire Hall is used as the county museum.

After Brecon, the Usk heads south-east to the small town of Crickhowell. The Usk is bridged here by an elegant 17th-century stone bridge. Also within the town are the 14th-century parish church of St Edmund, and the ruins of Crickhowell Castle.

Further south in the Usk valley lies the village of Gilwern, at one time an important industrial centre. To the west, the River Clydach rises on Llangattock Mountain and flows south-east through the spectacular Clydach Gorge before joining the Usk at Gilwern. The village of Clydach was the site of a major ironworks. The Usk leaves Brecknockshire and heads into Monmouthshire just south of Gilwern.

To the east of the Usk Valley lie the Black Mountains (not to be confused with the Black Mountain range). These cross over into Monmouthshire and Herefordshire.

North of the Usk Valley is an upland plateau known as the Mynydd Epynt. To the north of that, the valley of the River Irfon flows from west to east across the county, joining the Wye at Builth Wells . Llanwrtyd Wells was a spa town following the discovery in 1732, by the Rev Theophilus Evans, of waters claimed to have amazing healing properties.

In the north-west of the county lie the Cambrian Mountains. The River Wye forms the Radnorshire border from south of Rhayader. The ford of the Wye at Builth Wells was the main north-south route in Wales. The bridge over the A470 still performs this role. Builth Castle was built under Edward I. The only remains are huge earthworks. The town added "Wells" in the 19th century when its springs were promoted as a visitor attraction.

Just east of the town of Hay-on-Wye, the Dulas Brook flows into the Wye at the point where Brecknockshire, Radnorshire and Herefordshire meet. Hay-on-Wye is famous for its large number of second-hand bookshops, describing itself as "The Towns of Books". The Hay Festival has become a prominent festival in British culture.

The county's most important industries are agriculture, forestry and tourism.

Main Towns:Brecon, Brynmawr, Builth Wells, Cefn-Coed-y-Cymmer, Crickhowell, Hay-on-Wye, Llanwrtyd Wells, Talgarth, Ystradgynlais.
Main Rivers:Wye, Usk, Honddu, Irfon, Elan, Claerwen, Taf Fechan, Taf Fawr, Tawe.
Highlights:Brecon Beacons National Park; Brecon Gaer Roman Fort; Y Gaer museum (Brecknockshire shire hall); Bulwark and High Street, Brecon; Ffynnon Drewllyd (Stinking Spring), Llanwrtyd Wells; Bookshops & Castle, Hay-on-Wye.
County Flower:Cuckooflower
Highest Point:Pen-y-Fan, 2907 feet
Area:742 sq miles
Pop (2011):67,598


13  BUC  Buckinghamshire    Wikishire Map
Buckinghamshire is an inland county in the south of England.

The Thames forms Buckinghamshire's southern border with Surrey and Berkshire. On its banks are several pretty riverside villages, amongst them Datchet, Eton (home to the famous school) and Taplow. Cliveden is an Italianate mansion set on the banks of the River Thames at Taplow. As home of Nancy Astor, the house was the meeting place of the Cliveden set of the 1930s. The prosperous town of Marlow lies further upstream. Marlow Rowing Club, founded in 1871, is one of Britain's premier rowing clubs.

The town of Slough and its suburbs form a major urban area in the south-east of the county. Once a small village, the establishment of the Slough Trading Estate in the 1920s led to spectacular growth. Many of the original villages of the area are now urban districts of Slough. The villages of Chalvey, Langley and Upton have become suburbs. North of Slough lie Burnham Beeches, a 900 acre semi-ancient beech forest, much used a location by the film industry.

The town of Gerards Cross and the nearby village of Chalfont St Peter lie close to the Hertfordshire border. Bulstrode is an English country house and its large park. The estate spreads across Chalfont St Peter and Gerrard's Cross and predates the Norman conquest.

Beaconsfield is a prosperous market town with two centres; the historic heart on the old London road and the New Town built around the railway station.

To the north of Beaconsfield and Gerrard's Cross, the delightful Chiltern Hills sweep north-westward across the county. They give the shire much of its character; with beech woods in the west, rising to higher, more windswept landscape around Ivinghoe Beacon, and all full of pretty villages of flint and thatch. It provides fine walking country.

The market town of High Wycombe lies in the valley of the River Wye surrounded by the Chiltern Hills. Hughenden Manor, a red brick Victorian mansion near the town, was the country house of Benjamin Disraeli. West Wycombe Park is a grand country house near West Wycombe, conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th-century libertine and dilettante Sir Francis Dashwood.

The market towns of Amersham and Chesham lies amongst the Chiltern Hills. Amersham's broad High Street is lined with Georgian buildings and the Market Hall, built in 1682. The Chilterns village of Bradenham is renowned for its beauty in a beautiful setting, and to preserve it the whole village has been owned by the National Trust since 1956. Halton House is a country house built for Alfred Freiherr de Rothschild between 1880 and 1883. It is used as the officers' mess for RAF Halton.

The boundary of the Chiltern Hills is clearly defined on the north-west side by the scarp slope. The small market town of Wendover sits in a gap in this scarp. The Wendover Woods roll over the countryside. Haddington Hill is Buckinghamshire's county top.

Princes Risborough sits sheltered beneath the scarp slope of the Chilterns. Princes Risborough Manor House is an elegant 17th-century house. The town is overlooked by the Whiteleaf Cross, carved in the chalk of the hillside. North from here the land flattens out into the Vale of Aylesbury.

The Vale of Aylesbury is a large area of flat land in the midst of Buckinghamshire. The Vale is drained by the River Thame and its tributaries. The Vale has fine agricultural land.

The county town of Aylesbury had been a major market town since Anglo-Saxon times. The Buckinghamshire County Museum is housed in Ceely House. The Aylesbury Duck is a local speciality. The pioneering rehabilitation work carried by Sir Ludwig Guttmann at Stoke Mandeville Hospital led to the development of the Paralympic Games. Outside the town are Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence; the 17th-century Hartwell House; and Waddesdon Manor, a grand country house built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.

Winslow is a small market town in the Vale, 30 miles north-west of Aylesbury. Winslow Hall was built possibly from the designs of Sir Christopher Wren by William Lowndes, secretary to the Treasury. His name and the date 1700 can be seen over the door. Nearby is Claydon House, a 18th-century country house (NT).

Buckingham, in the north-west of the Vale, is a bustling small market town. Its heart is its historic market place. Buckingham Chantry Chapel is a 15th-century chapel. Nearby Stowe House is a grand country house which is now school. Stowe Landscape Gardens are a significant example of the English garden style (NT).

Brill Windmill, in the west of the Vale, is one of the most ancient post mills in the country. In the nearby village of Boarstall are Boarstall Tower, a 14th-century moated gatehouse, and the 17th century Boarstall Duck Decoy, one of the few working decoys in Britain.

The small town of Linslade lies on west bank of the River Ouzel, the border with Bedfordshire. Across the border is Leighton Buzzard. South of the town, Mentmore Towers has been described as one of the greatest houses of the Victorian era.

In the north-east of the county lies Milton Keynes, developed as a new town from the 1960s. Its area incorporated three existing towns, fifteen villages and the farmland in between. The villages have become districts within the town. The three towns have maintained a distinct identity. Bletchley is best known for Bletchley Park, the headquarters of Britain's Second World War codebreaking organisation, now a museum. Stony Stratford stands on Watling Street where the Great Ouse divides Buckinghamshire from Northamptonshire. Wolverton lies south of an earlier settlement, known as Old Wolverton which is a deserted village with a motte and bailey castle.

Newport Pagnell lies north of Milton Keynes. Tickford Bridge, over the River Ouzel, was built in 1810 and is the only iron bridge in Britain that still carries main road traffic. Nearby Chicheley Hall is an 18th-century country house built in the Baroque style.

The market town of Olney, in the county's far north-east, is famous for the Olney Pancake Race which dates to 1455. Every Shrove Tuesday, the women of Olney run from the market place to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, a distance of about 416 yards. The traditional prize is a kiss from the verger.

Main Towns:Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Buckingham, Chalfont St Giles, Eton, High Wycombe, Linslade, Marlow, Milton Keynes, Princes Risborough, Slough
Main Rivers:Great Ouse, Ray, Thames, Colne, Chess, Wye, Lyde
Highlights:Burnham Beeches; Cliveden Estate; Quaker Meeting House, Jordans; Waddesdon Manor
County Flower:Chiltern Gentian
County Day:29th July, first Paralympics held in Bucks
Highest Point:Haddington Hill, 976 feet
Area:746 sq miles
Pop (2011):916,903


14  BTE  Buteshire    Wikishire Map
Bute is a shire made of islands in the Firth of Clyde, only five of which are inhabited. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Atlantic Drift create a mild, damp oceanic climate.

The Isle of Bute stands just off the Cowal peninsula of Argyll. Its main town is the wee port of Rothesay on its east coast. The western side of Bute is known for its beaches, many of which enjoy fine views over the Sound of Bute towards the Isle of Arran. The northern part of the island is sparsely populated. The eccentric Mount Stuart House is often cited as one the world's most impressive neo-Gothic mansions. Rothesay Castle was built 800 years ago by the hereditary High Steward of Scotland. Scalpsie Bay has a colony of over 200 seals. The island also has many herds of deer, rich bird life and some large hares. Wild goats with large curled horns may be seen in the north of the island. Farming and tourism are the main industries, along with fishing and forestry.

The Isle of Arran lies southward of the Isle of Bute. Arran is a mountainous island, full of wild, beautiful scenery, but sparsely populated. The main industry is tourism. Arran's villages are mainly found around the shoreline. Brodick is the site of the ferry terminal, several hotels, and the majority of shops. Brodick Castle is a seat of the Dukes of Hamilton. Lamlash is the largest village on the island. Arran has a particular concentration of early Neolithic Clyde Cairns, a form of Gallery grave. There are numerous standing stones dating from prehistoric times, including six stone circles on Machrie Moor. Arran is a paradise for nature lovers. Over 200 species of bird have been recorded including black guillemot, eider duck and golden eagle. Red deer are numerous on the northern hills, and there are populations of red squirrel, badger, otter, adder and common lizard. Offshore there are harbour porpoises, basking sharks and various species of dolphin. The island has three endemic species of tree, the Arran Whitebeams.

Holy Isle is a small island lying inside Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran. The island has a long history as a sacred site, with a spring or Holy well held to have healing properties, the hermit cave of 6th-century monk St Molaise, and evidence of a 13th-century monastery. It is now a religious retreat and a nature reserve.

Great Cumbrae lies to its east of Arran, off the Ayrshire coast. Great Crumbrae is 2.4 miles long by 1.4 miles wide, rising to a height of 417 feet at "The Glaidstone" - a large, naturally occurring rock perched on the highest summit on the island. Millport, the island's only town, is spread around a bay which makes up the entire south coast of the island.

Little Cumbrae, half a mile south of Great Cumbrae, is a rough and rocky island. The island is privately owned. Cumbrae Lighthouse was built in 1793 and lies on a broad raised beach on the western shore of the island looking out into the Firth.

Main Towns:Brodick, Lochranza, Millport, Rothesay.
Main Rivers:St Colmac Burn, Ettrick Burn, Machrie Water.
Highlights:Brodick Castle, Arran; Rothesay Castle, Bute; Mount Stuart House, Bute; St Molaise's Cave, Holy Isle.
County Flower:Thrift
Highest Point:Goatfell, Arran, 2,867 feet.
Area:225 sq miles
Pop (2011):12,534


15  CRN  Caernarfonshire    Wikishire Map
Caernarfonshire (Sir Gaernarfon) is a maritime county in north Wales. A large proportion of the population is Welsh-speaking. The county may be reckoned to have three distinctive areas: the coastal lands (Arfon and the coast to the River Conwy), Snowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula.

The name of Arfon comes from its position opposite the Isle of Anglesey (Môn). Here the land is a flat, coastal plain. The county town, Caernarfon, is renowned for and dominated by Caernarfon Castle (Cadw). This great stone castle built by King Edward I stands on the shore, one of the most complete mediæval castles in Britain. Caernarfon has a small harbour, and a beach. Its location gives a lovely view across the Menai Strait to Anglesey.

The small city of Bangor lies near the eastern entrance to the Menai Strait, beneath the shadow of Bangor Mountain. In the nearby village of Llandegai stands Penrhyn Castle (NT), a Victorian idea of a Norman castle. Inland, the small town of Bethesda grew around the slate and stone quarrying industry. The town was named after the Bethesda Chapel and is noted for the number of its chapels, mostly dating from the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival.

At the north-east of the county lies the walled town on Conwy. Conwy Castle (Cadw) and the town walls were built on the instruction of King Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as part of his subjection of North Wales. The town's mediæval walls are a rare survival. Aberconwy House (NT) is Conwy's only surviving 14th-century merchant's house. Plas Mawr (Cadw) is an Elizabethan house refurbished extensively to its original 16th-century appearance.

Llandudno, on the flat land between the Great Orme peninsula and the mainland, was developed as a resort in the 19th century. The Great Orme is a limestone headland punching out into the Irish Sea. The Great Orme Tramway takes tourists to the summit. The Marine Drive runs around its edge.

The east of the county is part of Vale of Conwy with the River Conwy forming most of the Denbighshire border. The Roman fort of Canovium was built at an ancient crossing of the river. Its remains surround the 14th-century church of St Mary in the village of Caerhun. The village of Trefriw was a major port which became a fashionable Edwardian resort. The Fairy Falls are a popular beauty spot. South of Trefriw, Gwydir Castle is a c.1500 fortified manor house set within a Grade-I listed garden. The delightful village of Betws-y-Coed lies where the Conwy is joined by the rivers Llugwy and Lledr. The famous Swallow Falls cascade down the Llugwy. In the Wybrant Valley lies Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant, birthplace of Bishop William Morgan, the first translator of the Bible into Welsh.

Snowdonia ("Yr Eryri") is the name given to the massif spread across the heart of Caernarfonshire. It includes the ranges of Snowdon and its satellites, the Glyderau, the Carneddau and the Moel Siabod group. All of the mountains over 3,000 feet in Wales are in Caernarfonshire. Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and one of the traditional Seven Wonders of Wales. This is very popular walking country, none more so than Snowdon itself, both for popular visitors and for more serious hikers. The Snowdonia National Park includes a much wider mountain area of Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire.

Beyond Snowdonia westwards, the unspoilt Llŷn peninsula extends 30 miles into the Irish Sea. It is a place of timeless beauty of sea and land. Llŷn is dominated by numerous hills and mountains formed by ancient volcanoes. Large stretches of the northern coast consist of steep cliffs and rugged rocks with offshore islands and stacks. There are more extensive sandy beaches on the southern coast, such as Porth Neigwl and Castellmarch Beach. The landscape is divided into a patchwork of fields, with the traditional field boundaries, stone walls, hedgerows and cloddiau. Llŷn was immortalised by the poet and minister R S Thomas, who served for many years as the Vicar of Aberdaron, Llŷn's westernmost parish.

Pwllheli grew around the shipbuilding and fishing industries but, after the construction of the railway in 1867, it became a resort town. Butlin's established a holiday camp at nearby Penychain in 1947. Tourism is now a major industry across the Llŷn. Criccieth is a resort town famous for Criccieth Castle (Cadw), constructed by Llywelyn the Great but heavily modified following its capture by Edward I. Porthmadog developed in the 19th century as a port for slate, but has become a shopping centre and tourist destination.

Plas yn Rhiw (NT) is an early 17th-century manor house in Y Rhiw near the tip of the Llŷn Off the tip of the Llŷn, Bardsey Island is steeped in religion and holy traditions. The first monastery on the island was established before AD 542, and it became a major centre of pilgrimage during mediæval times.

The region was divided into three cantrefs (Arllechwedd, Arfon, and Llyn) in the early Middle Ages. The cantrefs then became part of the principality of Gwynedd, ruled by the prince of Aberffraw and lord of Snowdon. Following his conquest of Wales in 1282–83, Edward I annexed to the English crown the principality of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and divided it into Caernarfonshire, Merionethshire and Anglesey under the Statute of Rhuddlan 1284. The Caernarfonshire flag, three eagles arranged in fess on a green field, are the reputed arms of Owain ap Gruffudd (1100 – 1170) who was King of Gwynedd from 1137 until 1170. Known as Owain Mawr ("Owain the Great") he was the first to be styled "Prince of Wales". The Caernarfonshire units at Agincourt (1415) are reputed to have fought under a banner of three golden eagles on green in honour of Owain. Caernarfonshire Day is celebrated on 28th November, the date of Owain's death.
Main Towns:Bangor, Bethesda, Betws-y-Coed, Caernarfon, Conwy, Criccieth, LLandudno, Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr, Porthmadog, Pwllheli
Main Rivers:Conwy, Glaslyn, Gwyrfai, Seiont, Ogwen
Highlights:Caernarfon Castle & Old Town; Conwy Castle; Great Orme's Head; Llŷn Pensinsula; Snowdonia National Park
County Flower:Snowdon Lily
Highest Point:Snowdon, 3,560 feet
Area:563 sq miles
Pop (2011):139,065


16  CTN  Caithness    Wikishire Map
Caithness is a maritime county which lies in the very north eastern corner of Great Britain, bounded only by Sutherland and the sea. It is not a highland county but lies beyond the Highlands.

Caithness is a land of open, rolling farmland, moorland and scattered settlements. The county is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to large, internationally-important colonies of seabirds. The surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth and the North Sea hold a great diversity of marine life. Away from the coast, the landscape is dominated by open moorland and blanket bog known as the Flow Country which is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, extending into Sutherland. This is divided up along the straths (river valleys) by more fertile farm and croft land.

Wick, the county town, stands on the east coast. Wick Bay provides a capacious harbour, space for the grand buildings of the town and for its practical functions as a small port. The ruined Castle of Old Wick lies on the coast south of the town. Built in the 12th century when the Norse earldom of Orkney included Caithness, it is thought to have been the Earl of Orkney's stronghold on the mainland. The ruins of the 15th Century Castle Sinclair Girnigoe stand on the coast three miles north of Wick.

Thurso, on the north coast, was an important Norse port. Thurso has a fine harbour and beach and looks out over the Pentland Firth to the Orkney island of Hoy and the famous towering Old Man of Hoy. Thurso's port, Scrabster, is the main commercial and passenger port connecting Orkney to Great Britain.

The village of John o' Groats is famed as the north-eastern extremity of Great Britain, although Duncansby Head, to its east, is actually the most north-easterly point. The Duncansby Head Lighthouse was built in 1924. Six miles west of John O' Groats lies the Castle of Mey, former holiday home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Dunnet Head, 11 miles west of John O' Groats, is the most northerly point in Great Britain.

The county's wildlife includes the commonplace and the exotic, providing a safe home for beasts and birds once common but now become rare elsewhere. Amongst these are waders, water voles and flocks of over-wintering birds. Many rare mammals, birds and fish have been sighted or caught in and around Caithness waters. Harbour porpoises, Risso's dolphins, bottle-nosed dolphins, common dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, white-beaked dolphins, minke whales and long-finned pilot whales swim in its waters. Both grey seals and common seals come close to the shore to feed, rest and raise their pups, and otters can be seen close to river mouths.

The Caithness landscape is rich with the remains of pre-historic occupation. These include the Grey Cairns of Camster, the Stone Lud, the Hill O Many Stanes, a complex of sites around Loch Yarrows and over 100 brochs.

Isolated as it is, the county's historical heritage connects it as much with Orkney and the Norse as with Scotland. It is believed that when the Norsemen arrived, probably in the 10th century, the county was Pictish. Many of the place names of Caithness are Norse in origin. The Norse left numerous coastal castles, now mostly in ruins. Norway recognised Caithness as Scottish at the Treaty of Perth in 1266.

Main Towns:Dunbeath, Dunnet, John O'Groats, Scrabster, Thurso, Wick.
Main Rivers:Thurso, Wick, Forss Water, Berriedale Water, Langwell Water
Highlights:Gray Cairns of Camster; Dunnet Head; Duncansby Head; The Flow Country.
County Flower:Scots Primrose
Highest Point:Morven, 2,313 feet.
Area:618 sq miles
Pop (2011):28,486


17  CMB  Cambridgeshire    Wikishire Map
Cambridgeshire is an inland county of East Anglia. The county is famous for its county town and its ancient university. The county's dominant natural feature is the fenland, now drained but leaving a flat landscape from Cambridge northward.

The City of Cambridge sits in southern Cambridgeshire, at the southern edge of the fenland. The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209. The city's skyline is dominated by the university's buildings: particularly the towering Gothic triumph of King's College Chapel, St John's College Chapel and the more recent Cambridge University Library. The city's beautiful old colleges sit on mediæval streets and their delightful "backs" look out on the banks of the River Cam. Cambridge is also at the heart of the high-technology region known as Silicon Fen.

To the south-east of Cambridge rise the Gogmagog Hills. Wandlebury Ring is an Iron Age hillfort. Worsted Street is a rare example of a Roman road with Roman paving still in place. The county top lies at Castle Camps near the Essex border. The nearby village of Linton is known for Linton Zoo, opened in 1972.

South of Cambridge the countryside is dominated by the River Granta. The Granta enters Cambridgeshire at Ickleton and meanders past Hinxton to Duxford. The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is Britain's largest aviation museum. The Granta then flows through Whittlesford to Sawston. Sawston Hall is a Tudor manor house boasting a magnificent Great Hall complete with Elizabethan panelling and a large Tudor fireplace. After flowing between Great Shelford and Little Shelford, the Granta divides Grantchester from Trumpington, both pretty villages. Students often punt as far up as Grantchester with picnics to be spread on the meadows. The Granta here is a river which has often inspired poetry, and rightly so. The river wanders north between the Grantchester meadows, meeting the town at the village of Newnham. Below Silver Street Bridge the Granta becomes the Cam.

The south-west of the county is drained by the River Rhee. The Rhee enters Cambridgeshire at Hook's Mill and flows north-east through the farmland of southern Cambridgeshire, passing Little Green, Tadlow, Shingay, Wendy and Croydon. The river then passes through the Wimpole Estate. Wimpole Hall (NT) is a 17th-century country house with 3,000 acres of parkland and farmland. Below Wimpole, the Rhee passes north of Whaddon and Meldreth to reach Barrington. Below Barrington the Rhee turns north past Harston and Haslingfield to join the Granta just south of Grantchester.

In the south-west of the county, the Icknield Way forms a stretch of the border with Hertfordshire. The town of Royston lies along this border, the northern part of the town in Cambridgeshire, though the High Street and the heart of Royston lie in Hertfordshire.

West of Cambridge, close to the Huntingdonshire border, is Cambourne, a new settlement developed from 1994 based around three villages named Great Cambourne, Lower Cambourne and Upper Cambourne.

Denny Abbey is a former abbey near Waterbeach, six miles north of Cambridge. To the north-east of the town, in the village of Lode, lies Anglesey Abbey (NT). It was once the site of a priory, dissolved at the Reformation, and developed into a Jacobean house. Further east, close to the Norfolk border, lies the impressive Dark Age earthwork known as the Devil's Dyke. It consists of a long bank and ditch that runs in a straight line for 7.5 miles from the village of Reach to Woodditton.

The northern part of Cambridgeshire, known as the Isle of Ely, is a different world from the villages of the south. This is the Great Fen, now criss-crossed by canals and dykes, the fenland drained to create exceptionally fertile agricultural land. The main rivers are the Great Ouse, the Cam and two artificial rivers, the Old and New Bedford Rivers, dug for the drainage scheme. The one remaining place which gives a sense of the old landscape is Wicken Fen, a nature reserve between Wicken and Upware with 80 acres of reedbed.

The City of Ely sits on a low hill above the fens, dominated by its cathedral. Ely Cathedral is visible for many miles across the level fenland and is known as "the Ship of the Fens". From 1107 until 1837 the Isle of Ely was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely, who exercised temporal powers within the Liberty of Ely. Although no longer used for administrative purposes, the Isle retains a geographical and cultural identity within Cambridgeshire.

In the north of the county lie the Fenland market towns of Whittlesey, March and Chatteris. South of Whittlesey is Flag Fen, famous for its rich collection of archaeological finds. In the north-east is Wisbech, noted for its unspoilt Georgian architecture. The tidal River Nene runs through the centre of the town which was formerly a prosperous port, Peckover House (NT) is a grand merchant's house.

The first recorded mention of the county, as 'Grantanbrycgscir', is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which recorded its valiant resistance to the Danish invaders in 1010. The Cambridgeshire Flag was chosen by a public vote in 2015. The three gold crowns represent East Anglia. They are placed against a blue field which is the same shade used on the East Anglia flag. The wavy lines represent the River Cam and are in the colours of Cambridge University. The county flower is the striking, purple Pasqueflower, now restricted to a few chalk and limestone grasslands.

Main Towns:Burwell, Cambridge, Chatteris, Ely, Gamlingay, Melbourn, Sawston, Soham, Wisbech, Whittlesey.
Main Rivers:Cam, Great Ouse, Nene, Old Bedord River, New Bedford River.
Highlights:Cambridge; Ely Cathedral; Peckover House, Wisbech; Wicken Fen; Wandlebury hill fort.
County Flower:Pasqueflower
Highest Point:Near Camps Castle Deserted Village, 420 feet (TL 632 418).
Area:858 sq miles
Pop (2011):460,448


18  CRD  Cardiganshire    Wikishire Map
Cardiganshire (Ceredigion) is a maritime county in west Wales, bounded on the west by Cardigan Bay. Away from the narrow coastal strip, the county rises into gentle farming country, rising up to the dramatic west slopes of the Cambrian Mountains.

Cardiganshire is a pastoral county of scattered farms and small agricultural villages, with a few substantial towns. Tourism and agriculture, chiefly hill farming, are the most important industries. The county approximates to the ancient kingdom of Ceredigion, from which the English names derives. Cardiganshire is strongly Welsh-speaking.

Cardiganshire curves along the coast of Cardigan Bay, a coast marked by fine, sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. Cardiganshire's coast boasts some of the whitest beaches and clearest, turquoise seas in the United Kingdom. Off Cardiganshire is the only permanent summer residence of bottle-nosed dolphins in the United Kingdom.

The coast starts, at its southern end, at the mouth of the River Teifi. Just inland, on the Teifi, is the county town of Cardigan. Cardigan was an important seaport until the Teifi silted up. Cardigan Castle was built by Robert Montgomery in 1093 after the Norman army had conquered Ceredigion. In 1176 the Castle became the site of the first competitive Eisteddfod.

The small seaside town of Aberporth overlooks two sandy beaches and is one of Cardiganshire’s favourite holiday destinations. Bottlenose dolphins are seen frequently close to shore. Further north, New Quay has a picturesque harbour and expansive sandy beaches. There is still significant employment in sea fishing and fish processing.

Aberaeron is a resort town at the mouth of the River Aeron. It was planned and developed from 1805 by the Rev Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne, as a port and shipbuilding town. Nearby is Llanerchaeron, a Grade I listed mansion, designed and built in 1795 by John Nash as a model, self-sufficient farm complex.

Aberystwyth is a historic market town and holiday resort. It stands where the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol meet on Cardigan Bay. Aberystwyth had been a major Welsh educational centre since the establishment of a university college in 1872. Aberystwyth has a pier and a fine seafront which stretches from Constitution Hill at the north end of the Promenade to the mouth of the harbour at the south. Constitution Hill is scaled by the Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway giving access to fine views and attractions at the top. Aberystwyth Castle was built by King Edward I during the First Welsh War in the late 13th century. At the end of the civil war, Parliament ordered that the castle be slighted, resulting it its current ruinous state.

Borth is a small holiday seaside resort a few miles north of Abersytwyth. North of it lies the mouth of the Dyfi, across which lies Merionethshire.

Inland the county rises into gentle farming country and river valleys, rising up to the dramatic west slopes of the Cambrian Mountains. The highest point is Plynlimon at which three rivers have their source: the Severn, the Wye, and Rheidol, the last of which meets the Mynach in a 300-foot plunge at the Devil's Bridge chasm. The Vale of Rheidol Railway is a narrow-gauge heritage railway running between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge.

The county's main river is the Teifi, which has its source in Llyn Teifi in the mountains of the east. The river flows south past the scenic ruins of Strata Florida Abbey, a former Cistercian abbey founded in 1164. At Strata Florida the most important primary historical source for early Welsh history, the Brut y Tywysogion, is believed to have been compiled. The river then passes through the vast Cors Caron (Tregaron Bog) raised bog, the most intact surviving raised bog landscape in the UK. The market town of Tregaron lies at the south end of the bog on the River Brenig, a tributory of the Teifi.

Over the next 30 miles, the Teifi meanders south-west in a gentle arc reaching the county border near Cwmann. From here the river is the border, first with Carmarthenshire and then with Pembrokeshire, all the way to the sea. The university town of Lampeter lies where the River Teifi and the Afon Dulas meet. The University of Wales, Trinity Saint David campus adds substantially to the resident population giving the rural town a cosmopolitan feel.

Main Towns:Aberaeron, Aberporth, Aberystwyth, Borth, Cardigan, Lampeter, New Quay, Tregaron.
Main Rivers:Teifi, Aeron, Ystwyth, Rhediol, Severn, Wye, Dyfi
Highlights:Promenade, Aberystwyth; Vale of Rheidol Railway; Devil's Bridge; Strata Florida abbey ruins.
County Flower:Bog-rosemary
Highest Point:Pumlumon (Plynlimon), 2,467 feet
Area:693 sq miles
Pop (2011):75,784


19  CRM  Carmarthenshire    Wikishire Map
Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin or, informally, Sir Gâr) is a maritime county in west Wales. With its fertile land and agricultural produce, Carmarthenshire is known as the "Garden of Wales".

The valley of the River Tywi runs from the north-east of the county across the whole county to Carmarthen Bay south of Carmarthen. The River Tywi rises in Cardiganshire and enters Carmarthenshire in the county's far north-east. It flows south-west to Llandovery. The Roman fort at Llanfair Hill was known to the Romans as Alabum. Llandovery Castle was built in 1110, changing hands between the Normans and Welsh several times until the reign of King Edward I.

The Tywi broadens south of Llandovery, continuing on its south-west course to Llandeilo where it is crossed by a 19th-century stone bridge. Dinefwr Castle is a spectacular castle overlooking the River Tywi near the town. The ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle lie in the nearby village of Trap, occupying a spectacular location above a limestone precipice. North of the town, Talley Abbey is a ruined former monastery of the Premonstratensians. The National Botanic Garden of Wales is laid out at Llanarthney. The garden is both a visitor attraction and a centre for botanical research.

The Tywi continues west to the county town, Carmarthen, possibly the oldest town in Wales. When Britannia was a Roman province, Carmarthen was the civitas capital of the Demetae tribe and known as Moridunum. The Roman fort here is believed to date from AD 75-77. Near the fort is one of seven surviving Roman amphitheatres in the UK. Carmarthen Castle was first built by Walter, Sheriff of Gloucester in the early 1100s, the castle was captured and destroyed on several occasions before being rebuilt in stone during the 1190s. South of Carmarthen, the Tywi opens into the middle of a three-branched estuary, with the Gwendraeth and the Taf, into Carmarthen Bay.

East of the Tywi valley, the Black Mountain range extends into Carmarthenshire from Brecknockshire. The county top is the north-west Fan Foel summit on the Fan Brycheiniog mountain.

The south-east part of Carmarthenshire is generally low lying and pastoral. Ammanford is a former coal mining town close to the Glamorgan border. Llanelli, the largest town in Carmarthenshire, sits on the Loughor estuary on the southernmost coast. It was a market town that became the global centre for tinplate production in the 19th century. The economy is now based on leisure and tourism.

Burry Port, on the Loughour estuary, started as Pembrey New Harbour in 1836. The harbour is now a marina for small leisure craft. Kidwelly stands on the River Gwendraeth above Carmarthen Bay. The present remains of Kidwelly Castle include work from about 1111 to about 1476. Cefn Sidan is a long, sandy beach popular for holidaymakers and visually stunning. The beach and its dunes form the outer edge of the Pembrey Burrows between Burry Port and Kidwelly.

The Cambrian mountains extend into the north of the county. The Brechfa Forest covers 16,000 acres, a large part of the ancient Glyn Cothi Forest. In the 1900s Brechfa Forest was replanted with conifers to boost Britain’s timber reserve. Brechfa Forest now provides open access space for walkers, horse riders and cyclists.

In the north-west of the county lies Newcastle Emlyn, a little town with a ruined castle, tucked into a pair of meanders in the River Teifi, which here forms the border with Cardiganshire.

Th south-west the county is mainly rolling grassland consisting of moderate sized fields. The main agricultural enterprise is dairy farming. The soils grow good crops of potatoes, cereals and fruits. The town of St Clears lies in the centre of this. South of St Clears, on the Tâf estuary, lies Laugharne, known for having been the home of Dylan Thomas from 1949 until his death in 1953. Laugharne is thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood. Laugharne contains many fine examples of Georgian townhouses with several earlier vernacular cottages. The ruins of the Laugharne Castle are the result of much development as the building graduated from an earthwork castle to a Tudor mansion. Llansteffan Castle is a Norman castle overlooking the River Towy as it enters Carmarthen Bay near the village of Llansteffan.

Pendine Sands is seven miles of beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay. It stretches west to east from Gilman Point to Laugharne Sands. The village of Pendine is close to the western end of Pendine Sands. In the early 1900s the sands were used as a venue for car and motor cycle races. Malcolm Campbell and J. G. Parry-Thomas set the world land speed record here five times between 1924 and 1927.

Whitland is a small town close to the Pembrokeshire border. Here in 930 met an assembly of lawyers and churchmen, sometimes described as the first Welsh parliament, called by King Hywel Dda to codify the Welsh laws. The mediæval Cistercian abbey pre-dates Tintern but now is very much a ruin.

Main Towns:Burry Port, Carmarthen, Kidwelly, Llanelli, Llandeilo, Llandovery, Llanstefan, Newcastle Emlyn, St Clears
Main Rivers:Tywi, Gwendraeth Fawr, Gwendraeth Fechan, Lougher, Taf
Highlights:Carreg Cennen Castle; National Coracle Centre, Cenarth; Roman Amphitheatre, Carmarthen; Dylan Thomas' boathouse, Laugharne
County Flower:Whorled Caraway
Highest Point:Fan Foel, 2,562 feet
Area:937 sq miles
Pop (2011):184,232


20  CHE  Cheshire    Wikishire Map
The County Palatine of Chester is a maritime county. Along Cheshire's border with Lancashire, the rivers Mersey and Tame, are many industrial and suburban towns and villages. In its west is the City of Chester. The rest of the county has a few large towns but is largely rural.

Most of Cheshire lies in the great lowland expanse of the Cheshire Plain. The Plain extends right up to the Mersey in the north. In the south it extends beyond Cheshire's border, into Shropshire. Westwards, the Plain extends beyond Cheshire to the Welsh hills. The Plain extends eastwards to the Peak District, the eastern part of Cheshire lying in the hills.

In the county's north-west is the Wirral peninsula, separating the Dee and the Mersey. The Mersey coast of the Wirral is highly urbanised. Wallasey formed as its districts merged together during the 19th and 20th centuries. Birkenhead is an ancient port. Birkenhead Priory and the Mersey Ferry were established in the 12th century. Hamilton Square is a Georgian Square designed by James Gillespie Graham. Ellesmere Port lies on the Manchester Ship Canal. The south of the Wirral has the resort of Hoylake and the towns of West Kirby and Heswall.

The rivers Mersey and Tame form Cheshire's border with Lancashire. Towns and villages lie along almost the entirety of the Cheshire side. The port of Runcorn stands where the Mersey estuary narrows to form the Runcorn Gap. On the Cheshire bank of the Mersey, opposite the Lancashire town of Warrington, lie Wilderspool, Latchford, Stockton Heath and Thelwall. To the east is a few miles of countryside, then the town of Partington. Carrington Moss provides a break from the towns before a lengthy urban stretch begins at Ashton upon Mersey.

The town of Sale, east of Ashton Upon Mersey, developed as an industrial town after the arrival of the Bridgewater Canal but, with the arrival of the railway in 1849, grew quickly into a commuter town. To its south, Altrincham was established as a market town in 1290, and today is also an affluent commuter town. This area has two of Cheshire's great country houses. West of Altrincham is the 17th-century Dunham Massey Hall (NT), surrounded by its huge deer park. East of Sale is Wythenshawe Hall, a 16th-century mediæval timber-framed manor house, seat of the Tatton family from 1540 to 1926. Wythenshawe Park comprises 270 acres of the hall's gardens and parkland.

Wythenshawe Hall gave its name and much of its land to the town of Wythenshawe. Wythenshawe began in the 1920s as a massive housing estate for an overspill population from Manchester. Wythenshawe now encompasses 11 square miles and many former villages including Northern Moor and Northenden. Immediately south of Wythenshawe is Manchester Airport, formerly called "Ringway Airport". East of Wythenshawe, the villages of Gatley and Cheadle lies on the Mersey with Cheadle Hulme to their south.

The great Cheshire town of Stockport stands where the rivers Goyt and Tame meet to become the Mersey. Stockport become famous for its hatting industry. The Stockport Viaduct is a major landmark, its 27 brick arches carrying the mainline railways over the Mersey. In the 19th century Stockport spread across the Mersey into Lancashire developing around Lancashire Hill and Heaton Norris. Stockport County Football club began life in Lancashire as Heaton Norris Rovers. The club changed its name in 1890 and moved to Edgeley Park in Cheshire in 1902.

East of Stockport, the River Tame forms Cheshire's border with Lancashire. Bredbury is a suburban town with a long history. The ruins of Arden Hall, erected in 1597, stand in a commanding position above the Tame. East of Bredbury lies the suburb of Woodley and south lies the small town of Romiley. Goyt Hall, a half-timbered building around 1570, lies in the Goyt Valley nearby. Further east on the Tame are the former industrial and mining towns of Hyde and Duckinfield. Stalybridge became one of the first centres of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, though now it is semi-rural in character.

Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire meet at Mossley. The Cheshire part, also known as Micklehurst, lies east of the Tame. The parish of Tintwistle runs up into the Peak District: the famous 'panhandle' of Cheshire between Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The county top, Black Hill, lies on the border with Yorkshire. The villages of Tintwistle and Hollingsworth lie on the Derbyshire border. West of these are the villages of Mottram in Longdendale and Broadbottom. Nearby Hattersley developed as an overspill estate.

South of the 'panhandle', the eastern part of Cheshire lies in the Peak District. The River Goyt forms the border with Derbyshire. The towns of Marple and Whaley Bridge stands on its banks. On the edge of the Peaks is the magnificent Lyme Park estate (NT), with its 16th-century mansion, the largest in Cheshire, surrounded by formal gardens and a deer park.

The River Dane forms the southern section of the Cheshire - Derbyshire border. Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordford meet at Three Shires Head, a picturesque spot with a fabulous high-arched stone packhorse bridge and waterfalls.

South of the Mersey Valley and West of the Peak District, Cheshire is predominantly rural. The Cheshire Plain has fine oak woodlands and countless small lakes or meres. Cheshire excels in dairy farming, resulting in Cheshire cheese.

Chester is an ancient city standing on the River Dee, close to the border with Flintshire. Chester was founded as the Roman fort of Deva Victrix in AD 79. Its four main roads, Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, follow routes laid out at this time. The most important Roman remain is the amphitheatre. The city walls comprise the most complete Roman and mediæval defensive town wall system in Britain. The Rows have shops at ground level and, up steps, a second tier of shops protected by covered walkways. Many have stone undercrofts. The Rows, in some form, have existed since the 13th century.

To the east of Chester, the Cheshire Plain is bisected north to south by the low sandstone hills known as the Mid Cheshire Range. A series of Iron Age hill forts adorn the ridge from Woodhouse Hill and Helsby Hill in the north through Eddisbury and Kelsborrow Castle to Maiden Castle in the south. Beeston Castle is a former Royal castle built on Beeston Crag. Peckforton Castle, a Victorian mansion built in the style of a mediæval castle, stands on Peckforton Hill.

The central part of the county has been a salt-mining area since Roman times, especially around Nantwich, Northwich and Middlewich, the Three Wiches. Nantwich is an architectural gem, with streets lined with Elizabethan houses built to replace the Great Fire of 1583.

Crewe, in the south, is best known as a large railway junction and for Crewe Works, a major railway engineering facility. Nearby Sandbach is an ancient market town famous for the Sandbach Crosses, two 9th-century stone Anglo-Saxon crosses erected in the market place.

Knutsford is a prosperous town lying to the south of Altrincham. To its north is the historic estate of Tatton Park (NT). Tatton Hall is an 18th-century country house. Tatton Old Hall is the original 15th-century manor house. Around them are gardens and a deer park.

East of Knutsford is Wilmslow, well known for its celebrity residents. At Styal is Quarry Bank Mill (NT), one of the best preserved textile factories of the Industrial Revolution.

Alderley Edge is a village known for its affluence and its many historic buildings. Chorley Old Hall is the oldest surviving manor house in Cheshire. The village takes its name from The Edge (NT), a steep and thickly wooded sandstone ridge which overlooks the Plain. The Edge is steeped in legend. Nether Alderley Mill (NT) is a 16th-century working watermill.

Macclesfield stands on the the edge of the Cheshire Plain with the Macclesfield Forest in the Peak District to its east. The town is famous for its once thriving silk industry. North of Macclesfield is Prestbury, a wealthy commuter village with many historic buildings.

The town of Congleton stands on the River Dane close to the Staffordshire border. Nearby is the iconic Tudor manor house of Little Moreton Hall (NT).

The Cloud (NT) stands on the border with Staffordshire, with extensive views from its heath-covered summit. South along the border, the village of Mow Cop lies on Mow Cop Hill on top of which is the 18th-century folly Mow Cop Castle (NT). The village, the hill and the castle all straddle the Cheshire - Staffordshire border.

Main Towns:Altrincham, Birkenhead, Chester, Congleton, Crewe, Dukinfield, Ellesmere Port, Hoylake, Hyde, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Micklehurst, Nantwich, Runcorn, Sale, Stalybridge, Stockport, Stockton Heath, Wilmslow
Main Rivers:Dee, Mersey, Weaver, Dane
Highlights:Alderley Edge; Chester; Little Moreton Hall; Jodrell Bank Observatory.
County Flower:Cuckooflower
Highest Point:Black Hill, 1909 feet (SE 078 047)
Area:1,035 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,668,894


21  CLM  Clackmannanshire    Wikishire Map
Clackmannanshire is a maritime county, on the north bank of the River Forth, between Perthshire and Fife. Britain's smallest county, "The Wee County" is a countrified county of farms and small settlements.

The Ochil Hills lie in Strathdevon in the northern part of the county. These pretty hills are green with pasture, broken in places with jutting rocks and deeply indented ravines. Here are the greatest hills of Clackmannanshire including Ben Cleuch (2,365 feet) – the county top.

The River Devon flows from east to west across the county, at the foot of the Ochil Hills. The river is noted for its romantic scenery and its excellent trout-fishing. The Hillfoots Villages lie at the base of the southern scarp face of the Ochil Hills, between the hills and the Devon. Dollar lies at the eastern end of the county. A highlight is the imposingly sited Castle Campbell, overlooking the chasm of Dollar. Tillicoultry was a mining and textile village, now largely a commuter village. Alva developed as a textile manufacturing town. The most prominent building in Alva is Strude Mill, a former woollen mill that stands above the town. Menstrie lies in the far west of the county. Menstrie Castle is a three-storey castellated house. There is a fine Old Bridge over the Mentrie Burn. Below Menstrie, the Devon turns south for a short distance before flowing into the River Forth at Cambus.

South of the River Devon, the land is low-lying with small towns and some industry. The Black Devon rises in the Cleish Hills and flows south across the east of the county, reaching the Forth south of Clackmannan.

The county's biggest town Alloa lies on the Forth. Formerly a major port, the local economy is now centred on retail and leisure. Alloa Tower is one of the largest and earliest of Scottish tower houses, retaining it original mediæval wooden roof and battlements. West of Alloa is Tullibody, a former mining town now mainly a commuter town. Tullibody Old Kirk is a ruined 12th-century church.

The county town, Clakmannan, lies south-east of Alloa. The name of the town refers to the Stone of Manau or Stone of Mannan, a pre-Christian monument that can be seen in the town square beside the Tollbooth Tower, which itself dates from 1592.

Clackmannanshire became known for the weaving mills powered by the Hillfoots burns. Other industries included brewing, glass manufacture, mining and ship building. Now capitalising on its central position and transport links, Clackmannanshire attracts service industries and tourism.

Main Towns:Alloa, Clackmannan, Dollar, Menstrie, Tillicoultry
Main Rivers:Devon, Black Devon
Highlights:Castle Campbell; Dollar Glen
County Flower:Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage
Highest Point:Ben Cleuch, 2,365 feet
Area:48 sq miles
Pop (2011):50,957


22  CNW  Cornwall    Wikishire Map
The Royal Duchy of Cornwall is a maritime county which forms the tip of the south-west peninsula of Great Britain.

Cornwall is a county of astounding landscapes and distinct identity. Both coasts provide breathtaking scenery. The north coast has plunging cliffs and rocky headlands, interrupted by fine, sandy beaches in sheltered bays. The south coast has long, twisting creeks bringing the tide deep into the land, which were once ideal for smugglers. Cornwall's rough and rugged landscape has inspired poets, novelists and artists for centuries. Prehistoric megalithic dolmens, monoliths, and circles abound on the moors and hills. The old industries (or at least the lawful ones) were tin mining , fishing, and subsistence grazing on the moors. Now tourism dominates, drawn by Cornwall's beauty and fine weather.

Cornwall's border with Devon is formed almost entirely by the River Tamar. Saltash is known as "the gateway to Cornwall" for here the ferries and bridges cross the broad Tamar from Plymouth. Further north, the border town of Launceston is dominated by its Norman castle.

The Atlantic coast is more exposed than the English Channel coast, and has a wilder nature. Bude lies in the county's far north, facing west into Bude Bay. The prosaically named High Cliff, between Boscastle and St Gennys, is the highest sheer-drop cliff in Cornwall at 732 ft. Tintangel Castle, on the peninsula of Tintagel Island, was built by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century. The castle has a long association with Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth described Tintagel as the place of Arthur's conception.

Port Isaac has a picturesque harbour and many historic buildings. Dolphins may be seen from Polzeath's vast beach. Padstow is a fishing port on the Camel estuary. Prideaux Place is an Elizabethan country house with a fine collection of works of art. Watergate Bay is a popular location for water sports, kite flying and sand art.

Newquay has grown from a small fishing village to a major resort town and the top sufing location in Britain. Nearby is Trerice (NT), an Elizabethan manor house set in extensive, manicured grounds. Perranporth is popular with surfers and tourists because of its spectacular beach, and Atlantic swell.

St Agnes was a centre for the mining of copper, tin and arsenic from mediæval times, the signs of which are all over the village and the cliff. Porthtowan is popular with surfers and industrial archaeologists: former mine stacks and engine houses dot the landscape. Hayle is a cargo port. The capacious Hayle estuary has been the fortune of the town ever since Roman days. Godrevy Lighthouse is said to have inspired Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse. St Ives is a port and seaside resort which has been famous for its artistic community since the arrival of the railway in 1877. Tate St Ives exhibits work by modern British artists with links to the St Ives area.

The English Channel coast, dubbed the "Cornish Riviera", is more sheltered with broad estuaries offering safe anchorages. Looe is a delightful fishing port and seaside town divided in twain by the tidal River Looe, which serves as its busy harbour. Fowey has thrived as a port for hundreds of years. Today Fowey is busy with trawlers and yachts. St Austell, a little inland, was once a place where tin and copper mining prevailed, but its more recent fame and wealth have come from the mining of Cornish china clay.

Falmouth is famous for its harbour which, together with Carrick Roads, forms the deepest in Western Europe. It was the start or finish point of the round-the-world record-breaking voyages of Robin Knox-Johnston and Dame Ellen MacArthur. Pendennis Castle stands above the Fal Estuary opposite its sister fort, St Mawes Castle. The castles are ‘Device Forts’, or Henrician castles, part of a defensive chain of castles built for King Henry VIII.

The interior of the county consists of a roughly east-west spine of infertile and exposed upland, with a series of granite intrusions. The uplands are surrounded by more fertile, mainly pastoral farmland. Near the south coast, deep wooded valleys provide sheltered conditions for flora that like shade and a moist, mild climate.

The most easterly of the uplands is Bodmin Moor, a wild, granite moorland. It covers some 80 square miles, across which are wind-scoured hills, weirdly shaped granite outcrops, hill farms, bourns and open moorland. The county top, Brown Willy, lies here. Dramatic granite tors rise from the rolling moorland and crown many of the hills. Prehistoric stone barrows and circles lie scattered across the moor. More than 200 Bronze Age settlements with enclosures and field patterns have been recorded. Dozmary Pool is identified by some with the lake in which, according to Arthurian legend, Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur to The Lady of the Lake. Bodmin, one of Cornwall's oldest towns, lies south-west of the moor. Close by is Lanhydroch House (NT), dating back to the 1620s and set in extensive grounds. South-west of the moor is the ancient stannary and market town of Liskeard.

Further west, the Hensbarrow uplands lie near St Austell, the highest point being Hensbarrow Beacon. The Carnmelluis Hills lie south of Camborne, reaching to Carnmenellis Hill at 828 feet.

The most westly granite intrusion forms the Penwith peninsula. The character of the peninsula is derived from its uncompromising geology; it is a granite massif of rugged hills, whose edges form the sea coast in cliffs and craggy coves, though the numerous bays have created sheltered fishing harbours and fine beaches. Penwith contains a great concentration of Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Romano-British archaeological remains, inlcuding Mên-an-Tol, "the hole stone". Chysauster is a late Iron Age village of courtyard houses. The Merry Maidens is a near perfect circle of 19 regularly spaced stones. In legend, the circle was a group of girls turned to stone as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath. The Pipers, two nearby megaliths, are said to be the petrified remains of the musicians. Land's End is the south-western tip of England.

The port town of Penzance lies in the shelter of Mount's Bay on the south of the Penwith peninsula. To the west lies the fishing port of Newlyn and to the east is a long stretch of shore, Longsands, separating Penzance from Marazion. St Michael's Mount, crowned by its mediæval church and castle, can be accessed by causeway at low tide.

The Lizard Peninsula extends into the sea where the English Channel gives way to the Atlantic Ocean and ends at Lizard Point. The Lizard Lighthouse was built in 1752. The first sighting of the Spanish Armada was off Lizard Point at 3 pm on 29 July 1588. Helston, at the north of the Lizard, was once a town of tin mining and a cattle market. Today it is best known for the annual Floral Dance, said to originate from the Middle Ages. Nearby is the Godolphin Estate (NT), a Tudor/Stuart mansion, complete with early formal gardens and Elizabethan stables.

At the top of the Truro River, one of many leading to the River Fal, is the city of Truro, with its charming cobbled streets, Georgian architecture and for Truro Cathedral. The former mining town of Redruth lies west of Truro. Carn Brea rises above the town, the site of a Neolithic and Iron Age settlement and of an 18th-century folly built on a 14th-century chapel.

The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago of five inhabited islands and numerous other small rocky islets lying 28 miles off Land's End. St Mary's is the largest and most populous of the islands and their main port.

The Prince of Wales is Duke of Cornwall, the Duchy owning much of the county. Historically Cornwall was a separate kingdom, being absorbed into English Wessex only in the 9th or 10th century. In latter years Cornishmen have been reasserting their distinctive identity and even the Cornish language, which died out in the 18th century but flavours most of its place-names.

Main Towns:Bodmin, Bude, Falmouth, Fowey, Launceston, Lostwithiel, Mousehole, Padstow, Penzance, Redruth, St Austell, St Ives, Truro, St Neots, Saltash, Tintagel
Main Rivers:Tamar, Camel, Fal, Fowey, Truro, Kenwyn, Allen
Highlights:Bodmin Moor; Land's End; Lanhydrock house; Mevagissey; Merry Maidens stone circle; St Michael's Mount
County Flower:Cornish Heath
County Day:5th March, feast day of St Piran
Highest Point:Brown Willy, 1,378 feet
Area:1,365 sq miles
Pop (2011):533,594


23  CRT  Cromartyshire    Wikishire Map
Cromarty is a county of the Highlands of Scotland, and certainly the most unusual in form. Cromartyshire consists of 23 physically-separated areas scattered across Ross-shire from the east to the west coast. As Cromartyshire and Ross-shire are thoroughly interlaced, it is common to consider the geography of Cromartyshire and of Ross-shire together. With just over seven thousand residents, Cromartyshire is the least-populous county in the United Kingdom.

The county town, Cromarty, stands at the tip of the Black Isle peninsula on the Moray Firth. The town is an historic port, architecturally important for its Georgian merchant houses that stand within a townscape of Georgian and Victorian fishermen's cottages in the local vernacular style. The Black Isle seperates the Cromarty Firth to the north from the Beauly Firth to the south. What technically is the main body of Cromartyshire occupies the north end of the Black Isle.

The largest part of Cromartyshire, however, stands on the Atlantic coast around the fishing village of Ullapool. Coigach is a broad peninsula jutting into the Minch. Coigach is on the north-eastern shore of Loch Broom, with Ullapool at it foot, stretching north from there. It is an area of astonishing but stark beauty, with mountains rising sheer to dizzying heights from quiet lochs. Although small, Ullapool is the largest settlement for many miles around, and is a major tourist destination. The harbour is still the heart of the town, used as a fishing port, yachting haven, and ferry port. Ferries sail to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

North of Ullapool, Achiltibuie and its smaller adjoining hamlets form the rest of inhabited Coigach, a traditional crofting and fishing community of a couple of hundred houses sprinkled between mountain and shore on a peninsula looking over the Summer Isles and the sea. The Summer Isles lie off the coast of Coignach, in the mouth of Loch Broom. Only the largest, Tanera Mòr, is inhabited.

Fannich Forest is another sizeable part of Cromartyshire. Lying in the middle of Ross-shire, it contains several of the peaks of the Fannich range, including Sgùrr Mòr, Cromartyshire's county top. Loch Fannich, under the shadow of the mountains, lies partially in Cromartyshire.

In a part of Cromartyshire west of Dingwall lies the village of Strathpeffer. In the Victorian era Strathpeffer was popular as a spa resort, owing to the discovery of sulphurous springs in the 18th century. The pump-room in the middle of the village dates from 1819 and the Strathpeffer Pavilion from 1880. The village is still a major tourist destination. Strathpeffer is home to a vibrant music scene and has been described as "The Highland Village of Music".

The arrangement of scattered parcels as one shire arises from the seventeenth century and the influence of George Mackenzie when the sheriff of Cromarty in 1685 and 1698. He owned several estates in Cromartyshire as it was and in Ross and he sought to bring them together into one county, which was duly enacted.

Main Towns:Ardmair, Cromarty, Ullapool
Main Rivers:Ullapool, Kanaird
Highlights:Loch Broom; Hugh Miller's Cottage, Cromarty
County Flower:Spring Cinquefoil
Highest Point:Sgùrr Mòr, 3,642 feet
Area:370 sq miles
Pop (2011):7,074


24  CUM  Cumberland    Wikishire Map
Cumberland is a maritime county in the north-west of England. The fells of the Lake District lie across much of the south and west of the county. West of the fells is Cumberland's coastal plain. The Eden valley occupies much of the county east of the fells. The Pennines stretch into the south-east. The Solway Plain stretches across the north of the county.

Along with Westmorland and Lancashire, Cumberland is one of the "Lake Counties". The county's south and west is dominated by the Lake District with its stately, forbidding fells and cool, glittering lakes. Derwent Water, Buttermere, Crummock Water, Ennerdale Water, Wast Water, and part of Ullswater lie in Cumberland. Above them rise mountains, including England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike (3,210 feet). Also within Cumberland are Scafell, Skiddaw, Great Gable and Pillar.

The major tourist town of Keswick lies among the fells at the northern end of Derwent Water. Greta Hall was home to two of the great Lake Poets: Samuel Taylor Coleridge from 1800 until 1804 and Robert Southey from 1804 until his death in 1843. The hall was frequently visited by William and Dorothy Wordsworth and other literary figures including Byron and Shelley.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, east of Keswick, is one of the largest and most visually impressive stone circles in Britain. The stones stand in a natural amphitheatre created by the surrounding fells. From within the circle it is possible to see some of the highest peaks in Cumberland.

The valley of the River Duddon was beloved by Wordsworth who wrote in soaring praise of its beauty and quiet. The Duddon rises near the Three Shire Stone at the top of the Wrynose Pass which marks the point where Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland meet. From here the river tumbles south and south-west through Dunnerdale for fifteen miles before entering the Irish Sea at Duddon Sands. It forms the Cumberland - Lancashire border the whole way.

The market towns of Egremont and Cockermouth lie on the western edge of the Lake District. Egremont has the remains of a Norman castle. Much of Cockermouth is of mediæval origin substantially rebuilt in Georgian style with Victorian infill.

To the west of the fells is Cumberland's coastal plain. This was formerly heavily industrialised, with coal mining, iron working and several prosperous ports. The traditional industries have gone and the trade through the ports has declined. Retail, services and tourism are now major parts of the economy. The Sellafield nuclear site at Seascale is a major employer, now focussed on the decommissioning of historic plants.

The town of Millom stands on the Duddon estuary in the southernmost point of Cumberland. Millom was constructed as a new town from 1866, built around ironworks.

St Bees Head is the most westerly part of the county. The cliffs rise to 200 feet and afford spectacular views of the coast and the fells. St Bees Priory was founded between 1120 and 1135. Its buildings now form the parish church of St Bees village.

Whitehaven is a port whose former prosperity led to the creation of a Georgian planned town in the 18th century. The port of Workington is home to "Uppies and Downies", a traditional version of football with its origins in Mediæval mob football. Maryport was created by Humprhey Senhouse in 1749 and named after his wife. The Romans established the fort of Alauna here around AD 122. The town has a Roman museum and a maritime museum.

Silloth, on the Solway Firth, developed a port town and a Victorian seaside resort. Tourism still flourishes, with dozens of static and touring caravan parks near the town.

The broad, green Eden Valley crosses from south to north across much of the east of Cumberland. The River Eden enters from Westmorland south of Edenhall. The market town of Penrith lies in the Valley close to the Westmorland border. The ruins of the 14th-century Penrith Castle lie on a site likely to have been a Roman encampment. To the north is the site of the Roman fort of Voreda, now known as Old Penrith.

The Eden flows north past the village of Langwathby to Little Salkeld, close to the Bronze Age stone circle of Long Meg and Her Daughters. The circle has 59 stones set in an oval shape measuring 340 feet on its long axis. Long Meg herself is a 12-foot high monolith standing 80 feet to the south-west of her Daughters. Little Meg is a small stone circle to the north-east.

The Eden flows north past Great Salkeld, Lazonby, Kirkoswald, Armathwaite and Wetheral before eventually flowing through Casrilie before entering the Solway Firth. The famous Settle to Carlisle railway line runs through the valley.

East of the Eden, the Pennines cross into the south-east of Cumberland. Among them is Alston, which claims to be the England's highest market town, at about 1,000 feet above sea level.

In the north is Carlisle, a cathedral city, whose massive castle and fortifications against the Scots still dominate much of the town. Nicknamed the 'Border City', Carlisle is the main cultural, commercial and industrial centre for Cumberland. Carlisle Castle was built in 1092 by King William II. Carlisle Cathedral has a larger east window than any other cathedral in Britain.

The Solway Plain lies north and west of Carlisle, drained by the rivers Esk and Lyne. The small market town of Wigton is the thiving centre of the Plain. It is the hometown of writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg (Lord Bragg of Wigton).

Brampton is a small market town in the county's north-east, known for its cobbled street and historic sandstone houses. Nearby are Naworth Castle and Lanercost Priory.

The Hadrian's Wall Path runs from Bowness-on-Solway across much of the north of Cumberland. It runs alongside the remains of Hadrian's Wall, the defensive wall built by the Romans on the northern border of their empire. Birdoswald Fort is one of the best preserved along the Wall. The grassy ramparts of Bewcastle Roman Fort surround the Bewcastle churchyard.

Across the county's north are fortified churches and "peel houses", built as a defence not so much against the Scots as against reivers, who terrorised the border country before the Union.

Main Towns:Alston, Brampton, Cockermouth, Carlisle, Keswick, Maryport, Penrith, Whitehaven, Wigton, Workington
Main Rivers:Eden, Derwent, Esk, Duddon
Highlights:Carlile Castle & Cathedral; Castlerigg & Long Meg and her Daughters stone circles; Hadrian's Wall; Scafell Pike
County Flower:Grass-of-Parnassus
County Day:24th September, baptism of John Peel
Highest Point:Scafell Pike, 3,209 feet
Area:1,525 square miles
Pop (2011):306,241


25  DBH  Denbighshire    Wikishire Map
Denbighshire is a maritime county in north Wales. In the county lie four of the traditional Seven Wonders of Wales.

In the south and west of the county are high mountains of the Cambrian range. The River Conwy runs north along the western border with Caernarfonshire. Llanrwst is a small market town on its eastern bank. Llanrwst became known for harp manufacture. The three-arch stone bridge across the Conwy, Pont Fawr, dates from 1636 and is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones. Bodnant Garden is a beauteous National Trust estate overlooking the Conwy valley and Snowdonia.

Mynydd Hiraethog (Denbigh Moors) is a large upland area of moorland lying east of the Conwy Valley. The highest point is Mwdwl-eithin (1,745 feet). There are two sizeable natural lakes, Llyn Alwen and Llyn Aled, as well as the reservoirs Llyn Brenig and Alwen Reservoir. The Clocaenog Forest was planted in 1905 on the eastern side of the Mynydd Hireathog. The forest, 40 square miles in extent, is a stronghold of the red squirrel.

North of Mynydd Hiraethog is lower land stretching down to the broad coastal plain. Larger villages include LLanfair Talhaiarn on the River Elwy; Llangernwy on the Afon Cledwen; and Llansannan on the River Aled.

Along the county's coastal plain are found its famous seaside resorts. At the far west lies Rhos-on-Sea. The 6thrcentury St Trillo's Chapel is on the site of a pre-Christian, sacred holy well. Bryn Euryn is a hill overlooking the town. On it the remains of a hillfort called Dinerth and the ruins of the manor Llys Euryn, built by Ednyfed Fychan, general to Llywelyn the Great. The town of Colwyn Bay is famous for its beaches. The town of Old Colwyn had the "Old" added in Victorian times to distinguish it from the rapidly growing Colwyn Bay resort to its west. The Victorian "Fairy Glen" is a popular attraction.

Further along the coast, Abergele originated from an old Roman trading town. Its northern suburb of Pensarn has a popular beach. Gwrych Castle is a Grade I listed 19th-century country house in private hands. East of the town lie the resorts of Towyn and Kinmel Bay. Kinmel Bay lies on the west bank of the mouth of the River Clwyd, here forming the border with Flintshire.

The River Clwyd rises in the Clocaenog Forest and flows from south to north through the county. The broad, fertile Vale of Clwyd comprises much of the eastern side of Denbighshire. The town of Ruthin lies in the southern part of the Vale. Ruthin Castle was demolished by order of Parliament during the Civil War. It was rebuilt in the 19th century as a country house. Nantclwyd y Dre was built about 1435 and is believed to be the oldest surviving town house in Wales.

The market town of Denbigh grew around the glove-making industry. Denbigh Castle, together with its town walls, was built in 1282 by order of King Edward I. Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, planned for the town to have a cathedral. He ran out of money and, instead, he left the ruins known as Leicester's Church. North of Denbigh, the River Clwyd enters Flintshire.

The Clwydian Hills run north from near the village of Llandegla. Much of the eastern border with the main body of Flintshire lies among the hills.

South of the Denbigh Moors, a large tract of Merionethshire, including Corwen, stretches across Denbighshire to within a few miles of Flintshire. To the south of this, Denbighshire broadens out into a large area running south-west to north-east. At the south-west end lie in the Cambrian Mountains and the county top, Cadair Berwyn, on the Merionethshire border. Pistyll Rhaeadr is a spectacular waterfall on the River Disgynfa, which forms the border between Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire. The fall has three stages, over a 240-foot Silurian cliff-face. It is counted as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales.

North of this area, where the River Dee flows into Denbighshire from Merionethshire, lies the historic town of Llangollen, venue of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. The 16th-century bridge across the Dee is a scheduled ancient monument and considered one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. Plas Newydd, the famous home of the Ladies of Llangollen, was originally a five-roomed stone cottage, but was enlarged to include many Gothic features. East of Llangollen, Thomas Telford's dramatic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, of 1805, carries the Shropshire Union Canal 120 feet over the Dee. Valle Crucis Abbey is a ruined Cistercian abbey located in nearby Llantysilio.

North-east of Llangollen lies the county's largest town, Wrexham. Previously reliant on heavy industry, Wrexham is now a major high-tech manufacturing, technology and services hub. Erddig Hall, built in 1684-1687 for Josiah Edisbury, is regarded as one of the country's finest stately homes. St Giles' Parish Church is recognised as one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical architecture in Wales The iconic 16th-century tower rises to a height of 136 feet and can be seen for many miles around. It is another of the Seven Wonders of Wales.

The late-15th-century All Saints' Church in the former mining village of Gresford is remarkable for its size, beauty, interior church monuments, and its churchyard yew trees. The bells are one of the traditional Seven Wonders of Wales, listed it is said for the purity of their tone.

By the Shropshire border lies Chirk Castle, a 13th-century castle converted into a stately home. The property is notable for its gardens and surrounded by 18th-century parkland.

Main Towns:Abergele, Chirk, Colwyn Bay, Denbigh, Gresford, Llangollen, Llanrwst, Ruthin, Wrexham
Main Rivers:Conwy, Clwyd, Dee
Highlights:Castell Dinas Bran; Erddig Hall; Plas Newydd; Valle Crucis Abbey; St Peter's Square, Ruthin
County Flower:Limestone Woundwort
Highest Point:Cader Berwyn (southern summit - "New Top"), 2,726 feet.
Area:668 sq miles
Pop (2011):277,680


26  DRB  Derbyshire    Wikishire Map
Derbyshire is an inland Midland county. Derbyshire has an extradorinary industrial heritage, especially in the Derwent Valley and the coalfields of the north-east. It also has a great natural heritage, in the Peak District and in the pastoral landscapes of the south. It also has a remarkable cultural heritage, in its country houses, its prehistoric sites and its customs and traditions.

The River Derwent forms the spine of Derbyshire, rising at Swains Grave in the far north and flowing south through almost the entire length of the county before joining the River Trent on the Leicestershire border near Shardlow. The Derwent was at the centre of the industrial revolution. The modern factory, or 'mill', system was born here in the 18th century to accommodate the new technology for spinning cotton developed by Richard Arkwright. The system was adopted throughout the valley. Derwent Valley Mills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site stretching from Matlock Bath to down to Derby. Towns and villages included are Cromford, Belper, Milford, and Darley Abbey.

The City of Derby was where the Derbyshire milling industry started. It was here, in 1717, that John Lombe and George Sorocold built the first water powered silk mill in Britain, though Derby's history stretches back to Anglo-Saxon times or further back still, since the Roman camp of Dervention lay at Little Chester, in the north of present-day Derby. Derby became a cathedral town in 1927 when All Saints Church was elevated into a cathedral. City status came in 1977. Derby Arboretum, opened in 1840, the first public park in the country and the inspiration for public parks across the land. Derby is still an industrial city, a centre for advanced transport manufacturing. North-west of the city is the 18th-century Kedleston Hall (NT), the house, interiors and gardens designed by Robert Adam.

The south of Derbyshire, below its county town, lies in the Trent Valley. The Trent forms much of the border with Staffordshire past Burton-on-Trent. The town's eastern suburbs of Winshill and Stepenhill lie east of the Trent in Derbyshire. The Trent then meanders eastwards across Derbyshire becoming the border with Leicestershire near Weston-on-Trent. The main town in the area is Swadlincote, once at the centre of the South Derbyshire coalfield. South of the village of Ticknall is arguably the National Trust's most fascinating property. Calke Abbey (NT) is a baroque mansion built between 1701 and 1704. The Trust has done remedial work but no renovations. The interiors are are almost as they found in 1985 after decades of neglect. Calke Abbey present a unique illustration of the English country house in decline.

West of Derby lie the South Derybshire Claylands, a rolling plateau that slopes from the Trent Valley up to the southern edge of the Peak District. It is an extensively hedged and pastoral landscape. The market town of Ashbourne, known for it annual two-day Royal Shrovetide Football Match, stands at the north of this area. The 17th-century Sudbury Hall (NT), reckoned one the country's finest Restoration mansions, lies close to the Staffordshire border.

East of Derby, the River Erewash forms the border with Nottinghamshire. Several towns lie along the Derbyshire side. Long Eaton grew with the coming of the railways specialising in lace-making and railway wagon manufacture. Ilkeston was built on coal mining, iron working and lace making. Ilkeston Market Place is the site of a Charter Fair, one of the largest street fairs in the country. Langley Mill is at the junction of the Erewash Canal, the Cromford Canal, and the Nottingham Canal. Nearby Heanor was a mining town.

The Amber Valley is a former coal mining area north-east of Derby. The River Amber rises close to the village of Ashover and flows south-west to join the Derwent at Ambergate. Clay Cross, at the top of the Valley, is a former mining town on the Ryknield Street. To the west is Hardwick Hall (NT), a grand Elizabethan country house. Built between 1590–1597 for the formidable Bess of Hardwick. Further south is Alfreton, said to have been founded by King Alfred. Ripley is the site of the 2966 yard long Butterley Tunnel for the Cromford Canal.

At the centre of Derbyshire lies ones of its treasures, the inland resort town of Matlock Bath. In 1698 warm springs were discovered and a bath house was built. The locality developed in the 19th century as a residential and spa town. Byron compared it with alpine Switzerland, leading to a nickname of "Little Switzerland". The town and its attractions still thrive. On Sundays in Summer many hundreds of motorcyclists congregate in the town.

Pioneering industrialist John Smedley developed Matlock as a fashionable spa in the 19th century. His legacy lives on in Smedley's Hydro and the Gothic-style Riber Castle. Darley Dale lies on the Derwent north of Matlock. Here the hills are somewhat gentler than the fierce slopes and moorland of the Peak, the area hereabouts being known as the Derbyshire Dales.

Bakewell, famous for its pudding, lies at the southern edge of the Peak District. Close by are two of Britain's most famous country houses. Chatsworth House Chatsworth House is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The house, set in expansive parkland contains a unique collection of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artefacts. Haddon Hall is a mediæval manor house which has been described as "the most complete and most interesting house of [its] period". John Manners, 9th Duke of Rutland, inherted the hall in 1927 and made a life's work of restoring it.

The mountains in the High Peak, take up the whole north-west of the county. The Pennine Way begins at Edale in the Peak District, drawing hikers in their hundreds each week. The rest of the Peak District should not be neglected though. From Ashbourne the Leek Valley can be visited.The Peak District is known for its springs, as countless underground streams bubble up from the hills, and the ceremony of "well-dressing" that takes place in villages throughout the district. Arbor Low is a well-preserved Neolithic henge near Monyash. It consists of a stone circle surrounded by massive earthworks and a ditch.

Buxton, once a popular spa town, retains its Victorian charm. Eyam is famous as the "plague village" that chose to isolate itself when the plague was discovered there in August 1665, rather than let the infection spread. The market town of Glossop lies in the far north-west of the county in the hills and promotes itself as "the gateway to the Peak District National Park". Close by is Hadfield, on the border with the Cheshire 'panhandle'.

The River Dove forms Derbyshire's border with Staffordshire. From Hartington to Ilam, the Dove flows through a series of scenic limestone valleys, known collectively as Dovedale. The Dovedale gorge is considered so scenic that it attracts a million visitors a year.

The north-east of Derbyshire has long been an industrial and mining area. Its towns and villages (including Chesterfield, Bolsover, Dronfield, Eckington, Staveley and Killarmarsh) reflect its industrial heritage and the economic activities which are replacing them. Chesterfield is perhaps best known for the "Crooked Spire" of its parish church. Bolsover Castle was built in the early 17th century, the present castle lies on the ruins of the 12th-century mediæval castle.

Creswell Model Village is an arts and crafts style model village built in 1895 by the Bolsover Colliery Company for their workers. Creswell Crags is an enclosed limestone gorge. The cliffs in the ravine contain several caves that were occupied during the last Ice Age, between around 43,000 and 10,000 years ago. The caves contain the northernmost cave art in Europe.

The city of Sheffield expanded into Derbyshire in the 1930s. The villages of Totley, Dore, Beauchief, Greenhill, Norton Woodseats, Norton, Hemsworth, Herdings, Hackenthorpe and Beighton now effectively form the southernmost suburbs of Sheffield. Most retain the original village core and some sense of a village character. In Beauchief lie the 12th-century Beauchief Abbey and the 16th-century manor house Beauchief Hall. Hackenthorpe Hall is a 17th-century manor house. Meersbrook Park lies close to the Yorkshire border with offering paroramic views over Sheffield. Within it lie the Bishops House, a 16th-century timber-framed building and the 18th-century Meersbrook Hall.

Main Towns:Alfreton, Ashbourne, Bakewell, Bolsover, Buxton, Chesterfield, Derby, Glossop, Hadfield, Ilkeston, Killamarsh, Long Eaton, Matlock, Totley
Main Rivers:Derwent, Dove, Trent, Wye
Highlights:Chatsworth House; Dove Dale; Eyam 'plague village'; Haddon Hall; Speedwell Cavern
County Flower:Jacob's-ladder
County Day:22nd September, Derbyshire flag launched
Highest Point:Kinder Scout, 2,087 feet
Area:1,017 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,148,373


27  DVN  Devon    Wikishire Map
Devon is martime county in the south-west of England.

In the south-east of Devon lies the vast moorland of Dartmoor. The moor covers over 300 sq miles: a rough, infertile land, grazed by hardy beasts, but providing spectacular scenery. Dartmoor is, geologically, a vast lump of granite, which stone shapes and colours the landscape and the villages of the moor. The moor rises to its highest point at 2,037 feet on High Willhays, Devon's county top. and the whole moor is a great range of hills, many capped with dramatic exposed granite tops, known as tors. The high moors are overlaid with thick deposits of peat and blanket bogs surrounded by large expanses of upland heathland and grass moorland. Around the high moor are the gentler, green valleys and enclosed fields of the Dartmoor farms.

The moor is covered with the remnants of ancient civilisations with around 5,000 hut circles, the remnants of Bronze Age houses, surviving. Grimspound, famously featured in The Hound of the Baskervilles, consists of a set of 24 hut circles surrounded by a low stone wall. Across the moor are also numerous kistvaens (Neolithic stone box-like tombs), stone circles, standing stones and stone rows. Shovel Down has the remains of several stone rows, the Fourfold Stone Circle, and several standing stones. Grey Wethers is a pair of prehistoric stone circles, each 100 feet across and 15 feet apart. At Merrivale is a Bronze Age settlement, two stone rows, solitary standing stones, burial cairns, and a stone circle.

Princetown is the highest town on the moor and as the site of Dartmoor Prison. Ivybridge, at the south of the moors, has a rich heritage of traditional Devon industries such as milling and cloth making. The town’s name comes from the 13th century hump-backed bridge over the fast flowing River Erme. Bovey Tracey, on the eastern edge of the moor, promotes itself as "The Gateway to the Moor". Castle Drogo (NT) stands high above the ancient woodlands of the Teign Gorge. Inspired by the rugged Dartmoor tors that surround it, the castle was designed and built by renowned 20th-century architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

The South Devon plateau wraps around the southern and western edge of Dartmoor. Dartmoor provides a visual backdrop to most areas of the plateau, as well as being the source of eleven of the rivers that flow through and dissect the plateau, giving the area its distinctive landform. At its core, South Devon is a fertile, agricultural landscape, with smooth, rounded hills separated by deep, wooded valleys; a patchwork landscape of arable and improved pasture. The resultant rich and complex mosaic of habitats, supporting many arable and grassland plants and farmland birds. Much of the character is derived from buildings constructed from local stone or cob, with thatched or local slate roofs.

The border with Cornwall is marked by the River Tamar almost from coast to coast. Between the Tamar and the heights of the moor lies the stannary town of Tavistock. Its history dates back to at least 961 when Tavistock Abbey, whose ruins lie in the centre of the town, was founded. Its most famous son is Sir Francis Drake. Knighthayes Court (NT), north of Tiverton, was designed by William Burges for the Heathcoat-Amory family. Buckland Abbey (NT) was originally a Cistercian abbey founded in 1278 by Amicia, Countess of Devon. After the dissolution it became a great house, home to Sir Richard Grenville and, later, Sir Francis Drake.

Plymouth stands between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound. It has been the site a major naval port, Devonport, since the days of Queen Elizabeth I. The old part of Plymouth is known as The Barbican, between the Plym and Plymouth Hoe, built around Sutton Harbour. Plymouth Hoe is a large flat-topped hill dominated by The Citadel, a fortress which still serves as a military establishment. The Mayflower Steps in Sutton Pool commemorate the spot whence the Pilgrim Fathers left for the New World in 1620. The towns of Plympton and Plymstock lie east of the Plymouth, maintaining their own identities though also forming residential suburbs. Nikolaus Pevsner described the Georgian Saltram House (NT) at Plymton as "the most impressive country house in Devon".

To the east of Plymouth are the quiet, unspolit landscapes of the South Hams. The coast is very lovely, rugged between Thurlestone and Salcombe, from where a network of craggy tidal creeks, the Kingsbridge estuary, reaches deep inland to Kingsbridge. The Estuary is described by geologists as a "ria", a flooded valley. Salcombe and Kingsbridge are both tourist destinations, popular with sailing enthusiasts. Overbecks (NT) is an Edwardian country house tucked away on the cliffs above Salcombe. The garden is filled with exotic and rare plants.

Dartmouth is a busy port and naval town on the south bank of the estuary of the River Dart. The town contains many mediæval and Elizabethan streetscapes and is a patchwork of narrow lanes and stone stairways. One of the best known buildings is the 17th-century Butterwalk.

Totnes is a pretty market town tumbling down the hill to the head of the estuary of the River Dart. Totnes' history dates back to 907 when its first castle was built. The Butterwalk is a Tudor covered walkway that was built to protect the dairy products once sold here from the sun and rain. Totnes Elizabethan House Museum is in one of the many authentic Elizabethan merchant's houses in the town, built around 1575. Totnes is a thriving centre for music, art, theatre and natural health. It has a sizeable alternative and "New Age" community.

Tor Bay faces east into the Channel and forms a natural harbour, bounded by headlands: Hopes Nose at the north and Berry Head in the south. At the south end is Brixham, a small fishing town famous as the spot at which William of Orange landed on 5 November 1688 to begin the Glorious Revolution. South of the village is Coleton Fishacre (NT), an early-twentieth-century country house in the Arts and Crafts style, built for Rupert D'Oyly Carte.

Paignton is a resort occupying the central part of Tor Bay. Paignton Beach and the Preston Sands are used for water sports including kite surfing and dinghy sailing. Paignton Zoo, opened in 1923, was one of the earliest combined zoological and botanical gardens in Britain. Torquay was initially a fishing village which grew, in the 19th century, to be the fashionable seaside resort it remains. Kents Cavern, Britain's most important Stone Age site, which was home to early man for some 40,000 years. Agatha Christie was born and brought up in the Torquay. In 1938, she and her husband moved to Greenway (NT), a Georgian house and estate on the River Dart, where they lived for the rest of the their lives. The estate is served by a steam railway service from Paignton and Kingswear.

From north and east of Tor Bay stretch the Devon Redlands, an informal name given to the rich, agricultural lands of the east of the county, especially around the valley and estuary of the River Exe. The Devon Redlands have a very strong, unified character, readily visible in the colouration of its ploughed fields, cliffs and outcrops, as well as the building material of its traditional stone and cob farmsteads, hamlets and villages. This colouration is derived from the red sandstone that underlies the area and produces the rich red soils that make the Redlands the agricultural heart of Devon. It is a region of gently rolling hills, with sunken lanes and high hedgerows enclosing smallish fields utilized both for grazing and crops.

Teignmouth lies on the north bank of the broad estuary of the River Teign. The town grew from a fishing port to a seaside resort of in Georgian times, with further expansion after the opening of the South Devon Railway in 1846. Today, its port still operates and the town remains a popular seaside holiday location. A few miles upstream is Newton Abbot, which grew rapidly in the Victorian era as the home of the South Devon Railway locomotive works. Bradley Manor (NT) is a 15th-century manor house in its own secluded woodland setting, with a notable great hall emblazoned with the royal arms of Elizabeth I.

Dawlish grew in the 18th century from a small fishing port into a well-known seaside resort. Dawlish is known for its black swans (Cygnus atratus), introduced from Western Australia. The railway line between Newton Abbot and the Exe Estuary is one of the most scenic in the country. The line runs along the rvier estuaries and right along the coast between them. The red sandstone cliffs and sea views are very dramatic. Powderham Castle is a fortified manor house standing on the west bank of the Exe estuary

The River Exe is the heart of the Devon Redlands. The river rises at Exe Head on Exmoor in Somerset and flows more or less south entering Devon at Exbridge. In Devon the Exe forges a broad, green valley. The first sizeable is Tiverton, once a prosperous centre of the wool trade. An Iron Age hill fort, Cranmore Castle stands atop Exeter Hill above the town, and a Roman camp was discovered on the hillside below Knightshayes Court near Bolham.

Further south the Exe comes to the city of Exeter, once a great port on the river. The City of Exeter is the county town of Devon and the site of Exeter Cathedral, founded in the 12th century and the seat of the Diocese of Exeter. It is a city full of history and, despite suffering in the Blitz and the later redevelopment, it retains a wealth of historic buildings from many of its ages. Killerton (NT), just north of Exeter, is an 18th-century house with superb labndscape gardens. Within the estate is the Iron Age hill fort of Dolbury. The Exe reaches the sea at a substantial ria, the Exe Estuary. The resort of Exmouth stands at the east side of the estuary mouth and Dawlish Warren stands at the west.

The most eastern part Devon, west of the Exe Valley, is informally known as the Blackdowns, after the Blackdown Hills which lie along the the border of Devon and Somerset, and in which rise the rivers which run north to south through the area. Traces of ancient and modern occupation on the Blackdown Hills include the remains of Iron Age hill forts, Norman motte-and-bailey castles and Second World War airfields. There are also beautiful buildings such as Dunkeswell Abbey and village churches. The hills in the southern part of the area, near Honiton, are more gentle.

The River Otter rises in Dorset and then flows south to Honiton, famous for its lace-making and an important stopping point along the Fosse Way. Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds) are commonplace in the hills south of Honiton and near the village of Dalwood. East of Honiton is the Loughwood Meeting House, an excellent example of a mid-17th-century English Baptist chapel with an unaltered interior.

Downstream is Ottery St Mary, the birthplace of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is also famous for its Guy Fawkes celebrations involving flaming tar-soaked barrels being paraded through the town. Budleigh Salterton lies at the mouth of the River Otter and was the boyhood home of Sir Walter Rayleigh.

Sidmouth lies at the mouth of the short River Sid. Sidmouth remained a village until the vogue for coastal resorts grew in the Georgian and Victorian periods of the 18th and 19th centuries. The numerous fine Georgian and Regency villas and mansions are now mostly hotels.

The River Axe enters Dorset near Axminster. Axminster's history is very much linked to the carpet industry, started by Thomas Whitty at Court House near the church in 1755. The original factory building is now a heritage centre. Carpet making continues in the town. The Axe flows to the English Channel at Seaton. Nearby Beer is home to a cave complex, the Beer Quarry Caves, resulting from the quarrying of Beer stone. This stone has been prized since Roman times, because of its workability for carving and for its gentle yellow colour on exposure to air. It was used for the finer carvings and pillars in many of Devon’s mediæval, Tudor, and Jacobean buildings.

The coast from Orcombe Point near Exmouth east into Dorset forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the "Jurasic Coast" in reference to the wealth of dinosaur fossils found here from many ages. Full of beautiful scenery and fascinating geology, the coast one of the greatest natural wonders of Britain.

The rolling ridges and plateuax of The Culm stretch across the north of Devon from Dartmoor in the south and Exmoor and the Devon Redlands in the east. The dominant influence on the landscape is the heavy clay overlaying the Upper Carboniferous Culm Measures, giving rise to heavy, wet soils, making cultivation difficult. Reflecting this, and the oceanic climate, the predominant land use is grass production for livestock. North Devon ‘Red Ruby’ cattle are common, their colour contrasting with the muted green and buff of the grasslands. The open, often treeless, ridges are separated by an intricate pattern of small valley. This is largely a remote and sparsely populated landscape. Distinctive Culm grassland, or Rhôs pasture, containing uncommon plant communities, including purple moor grass, rush pasture, wet heath, mires and fens.

Hartland Point is the north-western tip of Devon. The Hartland Point Lighthouse was built in 1874. To its south, the wild and spectacular coastline stretches down to the border with Cornwall. The island of Lundy lies 12 miles off Hartland Point. Lundy has had a long and turbulent history but is now managed by the Landmark Trust for the benefit of its unique flora and fauna.

The Devon coast to the west of Hartland Point cotains many jewells but many would arue that the village of Clovelly is the brightest of them all. It is a cluster of largely wattle and daub cottages on the sides of a rocky cleft. Its steep, cobbled main street descends 400 feet to the pier and harbour. The village's famous donkeys these days lead a more leisurely life than their ancesters did. J M W Turner's painting of Clovelly harbour hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. Northwest of the village is the Iron Age hill fort at Windbury Hill.

Cutting through the north Devon landscape are the valleys of the Taw, Torridge and their tributaries: made famous as the country of the two rivers in Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter. Between Appledore and Instow the estuary of the Torridge joins the estuary of the Taw as its enters Bideford Bay. The largest town in north Devon is Barnstaple, standing at the head of Taw estuary and a former port. The town centre still preserves a mediæval character. From the 14th century, it was licensed to export wool. Great wealth ensued. Its Victorian market survives, with a high glass and timber roof on iron columns. The historic port town of Bideford stands at the head of Taw estaury. It is a harbour from which from time immemorial fishermen have sailed out into the Bristol Channel, and also one from which explorers and adventurers have set forth. The River Torridge is spanned at Bideford by the 15th-century Long Bridge. It has 24 arches all of different sizes.

The village of Braunton lies north of the Taw estaury. The undulating Braunton Burrows is the largest sand dune system in Britain. The Burrows end at Saunton Sands, a popular beaches for surfers, as are Croyde Bay and Wollacombe Sands to its north.

Ilfracombe is a popular seaside resort delightfully placed on a rounded promentary extending into the Bristol Channel, with a small harbour, surrounded by cliffs. The landmark of Hillsborough Hill dominates the harbour and is the site of an Iron Age fortified settlement.

The north of the county has few towns inland. Okehampton acts as a gateway to Dartmoor. Okehampton Castle stands a noble ruin on a high motte on the edge of the town. Holsworthy has occupied its hill top site since Saxon times. Great Torrington sits on a hill running down to the banks of the River Torridge. Castle Hill is the site of Norman and mediæval castles but was probably an Iron Age hill fort before these. Rosemoor Garden is nearby, a public display garden, owned and managed by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Exmoor is an area of hilly open moorland which stretches from its heartlands in Somerset into the far north-east of Devon. Exmoor was once a royal hunting forest from the Middle Ages. Devon's Exmoor coast has the highest cliffs in southern Britain, culminating in the Great Hangman, a 1,043-foot "hog's-back" hill with an 820-foot cliff-face. Its sister cliff is the 716-foot Little Hangman, which marks the western edge of coastal Exmoor.

The village of Lynmouth stands at the foot of the cliffs on which stand the town of Lynton. The two are joined by the Lynton Gorge and, since 1890, by the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway. Lynmouth was described by Thomas Gainsborough as "the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast". There is a memorial hall and garden in memory of the disastrous flood of 1952 in which 34 poeple died. On the edge of Exmoor is Arlington Court (NT) a neoclassical style country house built 1820-23. The property has a collection of over 50 horse-drawn carriages.

Main Towns:Axminster, Barnstaple, Bideford, Dartmouth, Exeter, Exmouth, Ilfracombe, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Sidmouth, Torquay
Main Rivers:Plym, Lyd, Tavy, Bovey, Dart, Avon, Teign, Exe, Taw, Tamar, Yealm.
Highlights:Dartmoor; Exeter Cathedral; Exmoor; Lynton/Lynmouth; Plymouth.
County Flower:Primrose
County Day:4th June, feast day of Saint Petroc
Highest Point:High Willhays, 2,037 feet.
Area:2,621 square miles
Pop (2011):1,133,463


28  DRS  Dorset    Wikishire Map
Dorset is a maritime on the south coast of England. Dorset contains an enormous variety of landscapes determined by the underlying geology. It has produced a county of grassy, sweeping hills and gentle valleys and coastal cliffs.

Poole, in the south-east of the county, is both a working port and a tourist resort. The historic port of Poole lies in what is now called the Old Town on the headland at the eastern entrance to Holes Bay. Since the 19th century a conurbation has developed around the town which now encompases the former villages of Upton and Harmworthy west of Holes Bay; Broadstone north of the bay; and Stanley Green, Waterloo and Longleet east of the bay. The urban area spreads north to Canford Heath and Broadstone. To the east the conurbation includes Parkstone, Branksome, Talbot Village and has become contigous with the urban area around Bournemouth in Hampshire.

Several other towns lie just outside the Poole conurbation. To the north is Wimborne Minster with its Saxon church and many 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century buildings. The nearby 17th-century country house of Kingston Lacy (NT) is a majestic Italian Palazzo set in thousands of acres of gardens and pastures. North-east of Poole, along the Hampshire border, are the towns of Ferndown and Verwood.

Poole owes its position and prosperity to Poole Harbour, a vast and deep natural harbour. Brownsea Island (NT) is a nature reserve and the birthplace of the Scouting movement. The affluent Sandbanks peninsula lies at the eastern entry to the Harbour. From here to Hengistbury Head in Hampshire stretches Poole Bay. The Bay has steep sandstone cliffs and several 'chines' that allow easy access to its long sandy beach. The border with Hampshire lies between Branksome Dene Chine and Alum Chine.

Wareham is an historic market town at the western end of Poole Harbour. West of Wareham is the isolated cottage of Clouds Hill (NT), home to T.E. Lawrence in the 1920s and 1930s. South of Poole Harbour is the broad peninsula known as the Isle of Purbeck. At its centre stands the noble ruin of Corfe Castle (NT). Built by the Conqueror, standing atop its hill, Corfe Castle is one of the classic images of a mediæval castle. Swanage was originally a small port and fishing village and later a wealthy seaside resort. Today tourism still flourishes.

From Old Harry Rocks on the Isle of Purbeck, the entire Dorset coast is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Jurassic Coast", one of the greatest natural wonders of Britain. The Jurassic Coast consists of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous cliffs, spanning the Mesozoic Era, documenting 180 million years of geological history. The name "Jurassic Coast" refers to the wealth of dinosaur fossils found here. It was here that Mary Anning found some of the earliest of the great dinosaurs and thus founded the science of palaeontology. The coast is also famous for its spectacular beauty. Lulworth Cove is a delightful curve bitten out of the cliffs. Lulworth Castle is an early-17th-century hunting lodge. Close by is the famous Durdle Door.

Half way along Dorset's coast, on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey, is the resort town of Weymouth. To its south is the Isle of Portland. Portland Harbour, one of the largest man-made harbours in the world, was formed by the building of stone breakwaters between 1848 and 1905. Portland stone is a limestone famous for its use in British and world architecture including St Paul's Cathedral. Portland is connected to the mainland by the mighty Chesil Beach, a shingle bank 18 miles long stretching out in a smooth line from Portland to Bridport's harbour at West Bay.

Since the Middle Ages Bridport has been associated with the production of rope and nets. Many buildings in Bridport date from the 18th century. To the west rises the Golden Cap (NT) (627 ft), the highest point on the south coast of England and visible for tens of miles along the coastline. The charming village of Charmouth lies to its west.

At the far west of the county is the pretty coastal town of Lyme Regis, "The Perl of Dorset". One of the most famous sights of the town is the harbour wall, "The Cobb", which features in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion and in the book and film of The French Lieutenant's Woman, whose author John Fowles lived in the town and wrote most of his major works here.

Dorchester, the county town, lies midway between its eastern and western extents and a few miles inland, separated from the coastal region by the South Dorset Ridgeway. It was the home of Thomas Hardy, whose famous Wessex novels were based in and around his familiar Dorset home, and in which Dorchester's fictional counterpart is "Casterbridge". Max Gate (NT) was designed by Hardy himself and his home from 1885 until his death in 1928. In the village of Higher Brockhampton, north-east of the town, is Thomas Hardy's Cottage (NT) where he was born in 1840 and his home until he was aged 34. Wolfeton House is an early Tudor and Elizabethan manor house amongst the water-meadows north-west of Dorchester.

The Dorset Downs are an area of chalk downland in the centre of Dorset, north and west of Dorchester. On the Downs are two of Britain's most famous historic monuments. Maiden Castle is the largest Ion Age hill fort in Britain. Its great banks and ditches scored deep into the hill are an impressive testament to their age and a source of wonder and inspiration to all who visit it. The Cerne Abbas Giant is a hill figure fully 180 feet high, depicting a standing nude male figure with a prominent membrum virile and wielding a large club in its right hand. It is often thought of as an ancient construction, though the earliest mention of it dates to the late 17th century. The village of Cerne Abbas contains the remains of Cerne Abbey, founded in 987. St Augustine's Well is located in a peaceful area next to the burial ground of the Abbey.

East of the Dorset Downs, separated from them by the River Stour, is the chalk plateau of Cranborne Chase. The Chase has many Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, including the henge monuments at Knowlton and the remains of a number of Iron Age settlements on the downs, most notably the hill fort at Badbury Rings. The town of Shaftesbury lies at 705ft on the edge of the Chase. Here are the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey, founded by King Alfred in 888. Adjacent to the abbey site is Gold Hill. The view from the top of the steep cobbled street has been called "one of the most romantic sights in England".

To the north of the scarps of the Dorset Downs and Craborne Chase is the Blackmore Vale. The east of the Vale is formed by the River Stour, the west by its tributary the River Lydeen. The Stour enters Dorset at its most northerly point and flows down to Gillingham. There is a Stone Age barrow in the town, and evidence of Roman settlement: however the town was established by the Saxons. The church of St Mary the Virgin has a Saxon cross shaft dating from the 9th century. Constable's painting of the old town bridge is in the Tate Gallery.

South of Gillingham, the Stour meanders to across the Vale to Sturminster Newton. The town is at the centre of a large dairy agriculture region. The poet and polymath William Barnes was born in nearby Badger. He wrote over 800 poems, some in Dorset dialect, amongst a wealth of other work. The Stour leaves the Blackmore Vale at Blandford Forum, a town sandwiched between the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase. The town is noted for its fine Georgian architecture, having been rebuilt in the style after a disastrous fire in the 18th century.

The market town of Sherborne stands on the River Yeo at the edge of the Blackmore Vale. Sherborne Abbey is of ancient foundation. In the Anglo-Saxon period it was the site of monastic church which was a diocesan cathedral (705–1075). It was a Benedictine abbey church from 998 until the Dissolution since when it has been the town's parish church. Sherbrourne Old Castle was built in the 12th century by Roger de Caen, Chancellor of England. The palace was destroyed in 1645 by General Fairfax. In 1594 Sir Walter Raleigh built an Elizabethan mansion in the grounds of the old palace, today known as Sherborne Castle.

The town of Beamister sits at the top of valley of the River Birt, which flows south to Birdport and the sea. The towns was previously a centre of manufacture of linen and wollens.

The Marshwood Vale is a low-lying, bowl-shaped valley in the west the county. It is drained by the River Char, which flows south-west to its mouth at Charmouth. The landscape of the Vale consists of narrow lanes winding between farms that lie amongst small fields, old hedgerows, copses and ancient semi-natural woods. The vale is almost wholly surrounded by hills, including Lewesdon Hill, Dorset's county top. Atop of Pilsdon Pen and Lambert's Castle Hill are Iron Age hill forts. The Vale has escaped large-scale agricultural intensification, leading to a landscape that still contains a wealth of wildlife.

In the far west of the county the valley of the River Kit forms a salient of Dorset between Somerset and Devon. The Kit rises near Wambrook and flows down passed Chardstock, being crossed by the Fosse Way south of Tytherleigh before joining the Axe.

Main Towns:Abbotsbury, Bridport, Dorchester, Gillingham, Lyme Regis, Poole, Portland, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Swanage, Weymouth
Main Rivers:Axe, Frome, Stour
Highlights:Brownsea Island; Cerne Abbas Giant; Chesil Beach and Portland Bill; Durdle Door; Lulworth Cove; Maiden Castle
County Flower:Dorset Heath
County Day:1st June, feast day of Saint Wite
Highest Point:Lewesdon Hill, 915 feet
Area:1,005 sq miles
Pop (2011):543,296


29  DWN  Down    Wikishire Map
Down is a maritime county on the east coast of Ulster. Down runs from the highly urbanised, southern Belfast to the wild Mourne Mountains. It is a lovely county of mountains and pastures. It can also be called Downshire.

In the south of County Down are the Mourne Mountains, remarkably precipitous granite peaks of which Slieve Donard (2,789 feet) is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. The mountains run down to the sea at the popular east coast seaside resort of Newcastle. The town promotes itself as the "activity resort" for Northern Ireland and its most special attribute is its location at the foot of Slieve Donard. At their south-west, the mountains run down to Carlingford Lough, which forms the border with County Louth.

Warrenpoint lies at the north end of Carlingford Lough. Newry stands a few miles north up the River Clanrye, allowing it to serve as a major port. Newry stradles the border with County Armagh. Newry Town Hall is built over the River Clanrye and thus on the border itself.

The Dromara Hills lie in the heart of the county, between Dromara in the north and Castlewellan in the south. Slieve Croob is the tallest mountain and the source of the River Laggan.

The town of Banbridge lies west of the Dromara Hills, on the River Bann. The town grew as a coaching stop on the road from Belfast to Dublin. The town's main street rises to a steep hill before levelling out. In 1834 an underpass, 'The Cut', was made, apparently because horses with heavy loads would faint before reaching the top of the hill.

The county town, Downpatrick, lies to the west of the Dromara Hills. Saint Patrick was reputedly buried here in 461 on Cathedral Hill, within the grounds of Down Cathedral. His grave is a place of pilgrimage on St Patrick's Day. The town's name is from Dún meaning "stronghold", to which the missionary saint's name has been added.

Downpatrick lies on the Lecale peninsula, an area of 78 square miles with many historic sites. The Mound of Down or Rathkeltair is an Iron Age defensive earthwork in the middle of which a Norman motte and bailey was built by John de Courcy after his defeat of Rory Mac Donlevy in 1177. Ballyalton Court Cairn is a single court grave situated on a rock outcrop. Ballynoe Stone Circle is a large circle of over 50 closely-spaced upright stones, surrounding a mound. Quiole Castle is the ruin of a 16th-century tower house. Inch Abbey is a large, ruined Cistercian monastic site featuring early Gothic architecture.

Along the county’s north-east coast runs the long Ards Peninsula, an arm of land reaching down between the open sea and Strangford Lough. Grey Abbey is a village on the eastern shores of the Lough. The village is named from a ruined 12th-century Cistercian abbey. The National Trust property of Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and garden, is nearby. Donaghadee, a small town on the north-east coast of the Ards Peninsula, is probably best known for its lighthouse and harbour.

Stangford Lough is one of the wonders of Ulster, a shallow, tidal sea-lough with a narrow mouth to the sea, dotted with beauteous islands, a haven for wildlife. At the northermost tip stands the town of Newtonards, "Ards" to locals. The town is overlooked by the Scrabo Tower, a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, in recognition of his concern for the plight of his tenants during the great potato famine.

North of Strangford Lough, situated at the eastern end of the Belfast Lough, is the resort town of Bangor. The Old Custom House of Bangor is a 17th-century tower and adjoining tower house, a well-preserved reminder of Bangor's seafaring history alongside its modern marina. Bangor Castle is an elegant 19th-century mansion in the Elizabethan-Jacobean revival style.

Belfast lies athwart the Antrim-Down border. The Lagan running down into Belfast, forms Down's north-western edge and carries Belfast's eastern suburbs. The RMS Titanic was built in the Queen's Island district, now known as the Titanic Quarter. The town of Dundonald is often now considered a suburb of Belfast.

Main Towns:Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Bangor, Belfast (east of River Laggan), Downpatrick, Dromore, Newcastle
Main Rivers:Lagan, Bann, Clanrye (Newry), Quoile
Highlights:Exploris aquarium, Portaferry; Dromore Cathedral; Legananny Dolmen; St Patrick's Grave, Downpatrick; The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn.
County Flower:Spring Squill
Highest Point:Slieve Donard, 2,789 feet.
Area:950 sq miles
Pop (2011):528,983


30  DMF  Dumfriesshire    Wikishire Map
Dumfriesshire is a maritime county which lies on the Solway Firth. Dumfriesshire's town and villages lie mainly in the great valleys running south into the Solway Firth: Eskdale, Annandale and Nithsdale. Each dale has its own character.

Eskdale is the dale of River Esk and its tributaries. The White Esk rises in the Ettrick Hills at the north-eastern edge of the county, flowing down through the village of Eskdalemuir. This area is rich in archaeological remains, including two neolithic stone circles, the Loupin Stanes and the Girdle Stanes, and the bank barrow, Castle O'er.

South of Eskdalemuir, the White Esk meets the Black Esk to become the River Esk. Langholm, once a thriving centre for woollen milling trade, is the traditional seat of Clan Armstrong. The clan's most famous descendant, the astronaut Neil Armstrong, accepted in person being bestowed the first Freeman of the burgh in 1972.

The Esk then flows south through the village of Canonbie before meeting the Liddel at the border with Cumberland. The Esk heads south into Cumberland, before emptying into the Solway Firth after a few miles in England.

Annandale cuts through the middle of the county and forms much of the main route from Glasgow to the south. Judging by the towns, old inns and even Roman forts along its length it seems to have served this purpose for millennia.

The Annan rises near the Devil's Beef Tub, a remarkable chasm in the far north, near the spa town of Moffat. The town's heyday was in the Victorian era. The old well is still accessible.

Historically the town of Lockerbie was a trading post for cattle and sheep. The town has grown based on its transport links with the motorway and the Carlisle-Glasgow railway line. In the garden of remembrance at Dryfesdale Cemetery is a memorial to the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing. There are memorials in Lockerbie and Moffat Roman Catholic churches. In Lockerbie Town Hall a stained-glass window depicts the flags of the 21 countries whose citizens lost their lives.

The town of Annan stands on the River Annan nearly 2 miles from its mouth on the Solway Firth. Annan Bridge, a stone bridge of three arches built between 1824 and 1827, was designed by Robert Stevenson.

In the south-east corner of the county, close to where the River Sark forms the border with Cumberland, lies the town of Gretna. Near it is the world-famous village of Gretna Green. Gretna Green is a popular wedding destination due to its romantic wedding traditions dating back over centuries. These originated from cross-border elopements stemming from differences between Scottish and English marriage laws.

The Lochmaben Stone is a megalith standing a mile west of the Sark mouth. It was once possibly part of a stone circle. The Lochmaben Stone was a well-known 'marker' on the Scottish Marches and performed a number of functions such as arrangements for truces and exchange of prisoners.

Nithdale is the valley of the River Nith which flows north to south through the western part of the county. In the north of the dale is the town of Sanqhuar. The ruins of Sanqhuar Castle stand nearby. Thornhill is a small town lying in the middle stretch of Nithsdale. Near the town stands Drumlanrig Castle, a 17th-century turreted mansion, once the ancient Douglas stronghold. Just north of the county town, Dumfries, the Nith becomes the border with Kirkcudbrightshire.

Dumfries has not outgrown the charm which caused Robert Burns to choose it as his final home. Dumfries got its nickname 'Queen of the South' from local poet David Dunbar when standing in the 1857 general election. The heart of the town is found around Queensberry Square and High Street. Between the Devorgilla Bridge and the suspension bridge is a weir colloquially known as 'The Caul'. Near Dumfries is the Twelve Apostles, the largest stone circle on mainland Scotland.

A few miles south of Dumfries, the River Nith empties into the Solway Firth. Close by is Caerlaverock Castle, a moated triangular castle which was a stronghold of the Maxwell family from the 13th century until the 17th century. At Ruthwell, on the Solway Firth between Dumfries and Annan, is the Ruthwell Cross, the finest remaining example of an Anglo-Saxon standing cross.

The many rivers and lochs of Dumfriesshire produce a most beautiful landscape, and are rich in fish, attracting trout and salmon fishing in season.

Main Towns:Annan, Ecclefechan, Dumfries, Gretna, Lockerbie, Moffat, Langholm
Main Rivers:Nith, Annan, Esk
Highlights:Caerlaverock Castle; Birrens hill fort; Blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green; Gretna Hall; Grey Mare's Tail waterfall
County Flower:Harebell
Highest Point:White Coomb, 2,694 feet
Area:1,063 sq miles
Pop (2011):77,160


31  DUN  Dunbartonshire    Wikishire Map
Dunbartonshire is a maritime county. Dunbartonshire consists of two parts. The main part lies along the north shore of the Firth of Clyde and stretching northward between Loch Long and Loch Lomond. The detached portion comprises the parishes of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld and was annexed to Dunbartonshire in the 14th century.

In the far south-east of the main body of the county lies the town of Clydebank. The town's origin is in wharfs and shipbuilding, serving the vast Clyde traffic generated by Glasgow. It first received a name as a town when the Clydebank police burgh was incorporate in 1886. Clydebank is an amalgamation of the villages of Duntocher, Hardgate and Faifley which, nevertheless, retain their own distinct town centres and identities. West of Cyldebank is the Glasgow suburb of Drumchapel, based around a 1950s housing development alongside older part of the town, Old Drumchapel.

Bearsden is a wealthy suburb, developed after the opening of Bearden railway station in 1863, the station being named after a local cottage. The Roman Antonine Wall runs through the town, and the remains of a military bath house can be seen near the town centre.

North of the urban south-east, the Kirkpatrick Hill stretch from close to the Firth across into Stirlingshire. North of these lies Loch Lomond.

The Rock of Dumbarton guards the entrance to the Clyde, rising sheer above the town of Dumbarton on the Firth. Dumbarton was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, its fortress on the rock providing a stronghold against enemies from north and south. Dumbarton emerged from the 19th century as a centre for shipbuilding, glassmaking, and whisky production. These industries have since declined, and Dumbarton today increasingly functions as a commuter town.

Helensburgh is a well-heeled town. It lies on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde and the eastern shore of the entrance to the Gareloch. Helensburgh is a summertime seaside resort and popular destination for daytrippers. In 1903, Charles Rennie Mackintosh built the Hill House for the publishing tycoon Walter Blackie. The house is one of the best examples of his style, with startlingly modern interiors incorporating furniture which he designed. The Gare Loch is 7 miles long. The Clyde Naval base lies on its eastern shore. At its head is the village of Garelochhead.

By far the largest and most magnificent inland water of the county is Loch Lomond, a border loch parting the shires of Dumbarton and Stirling. The loch stretches in a long, thin ribbon from the mountains in the north to near Alexandria in the south, broadening in the south, where it contains many islands, including Inchmurrin, the largest fresh-water island in the British Isles. The loch is formed in the Highland Boundary Fault between Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire. It is the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area. Loch Lomond is a hugely popular leisure destination.

The village of Balloch stands at the foot of Loch Lomond, where the River Leven disgourges from the loch to head southwards to the Firth. Further down the Vale of Leven stand Alexandria and Bonhill. Along the Dunbartonshire shore of the loch is the village of Luss whose pier is a popular starting point for boat trips on the loch and, indeed, for jumping into the loch! Further north, Tarbet stands on the isthmus where Loch Long and Loch Lomond come close. At the head of loch, where the River Falloch enters it, is the village of Ardlui.

The huge sea-loch, 20 miles long, Loch Long forms the western border with Argyllshire. Loch Long and Loch Lomond are separated by the Luss Hills. In the north of the county, the Arrochar Alps lie west of Loch Lomond, including the county top Ben Vorlich and another Munro, Ben Vane.

In the eastern detached part of Dunbartonshire, Kirkintilloch stands on the Forth and Clyde Canal which allowed it to become a port and a centre for boat-building. Cumbernauld is a New Town, created in 1956 but based around an existing settlement, now known as Cumbernauld Village. Cumbernauld House is an 18th-century Vivido Scottish country house close to Cumbernauld Village. Traces of the late Roman Antonine Wall run to the north of the town. In this eastern part of Dunbartonshire the land is level and lush, where it has not been built on.

Main Towns:Cardross, Cyldebank, Cumbernauld, Dumbarton, Helensburgh, Kirkintilloch.
Main Rivers:Cylde, Leven.
Highlights:Antonine Wall; Dumbarton Castle; Glen Douglas; Loch Lomond; West Highland Way.
County Flower:Lesser Water-plantain
Highest Point:Ben Vorlich, 3,094 feet
Area:241 sq miles
Pop (2011):262,419


32  DRH  Durham    Wikishire Map
County Durham is a maritime county in the north-east of England. Known as "the Land of the Prince Bishops", the county was a county palatine under the rule of the Bishop of Durham from the Middle Ages until 1836.

Durham's history was forged by the troubles of the Middle Ages. The Industrial Revolution prompted exploitation of its extensive coalfield, dramatically changing its character. New mining villages were built. Its towns developed as centres of heavy industry, particularly iron and steel production and shipbuilding. The decline of these industries has seen the character of the county change again, with the establishment of new towns, industrial and business parks, and a move towards light industry, technology, services and tourism.

The Durham Dales occupy the west of the county, a landscape of high exposed moorlands, hills and mountains. The River Tees rises in Cumberland before forming County Durham's border with Westmorland and then its long border with Yorkshire. County Durham's border with Cumberland runs across the peaks to where County Durham, Cumberland and Northumberland meet by Killhope Head. From here County Durham's border with Northumberland crosses the fells and thence along the River Derwent. Consett is perched on the steep eastern bank of the Derwent, on the edge of the Durham Dales.

At Wearhead, the River Wear starts its long, meandering journey through some of the county's best known towns and countryside. Upper Weardale is famed for its beauty, surrounded by high fells climbing up to 2,454 feet at Burnhope Seat, the county top, with heather grouse moors. The dale's principal villages include St John's Chapel, Stanhope and Wolsingham.

Upper Teesdale is a landscape of unrivalled drama. At High Force, the Tees plunges 70 feet over a rock precipice in one of Britain's greatest waterfalls. Middleton-in-Teesdale lies a little downstream, amongst the hills. Barnard Castle, famous for its Norman castle, lies on the edge of the Durham Dales. The Bowes Museum has a nationally renowned art collection housed in a 19th-century French-style chateau. The 14th-century Raby Castle, near Staindrop, is famed for both its size and its art.

East from Staindrop, the south of the county lies within the Tees Lowlands, a broad, open plain dominated by the meandering River Tees and its tributaries. The whole area is gently undulating with wide views to the distant hills. Much of it remains a rural landscape of scattered small villages and farmsteads. Unspoilt villages, including Gainford, Carlsbury, High Coniscliffe, Hurworth-on-Tees, Neasham and Middleston-one-Row, lie along the Tees.

Much of the Tees Lowlands is heavily urbanised. Newton Aycliffe was founded in 1947, one of the first of the post-war new towns. Darlington's development owes much to the local Quaker families of the Georgian and Victorian eras, who were intrumental in creating the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world's first permanent passenger railway. Stockton-on-Tees, at the other end of the railway, grew on ship building, steel and chemicals. Billingham was founded circa 650 by a group of Angles known as Billa's people. The chemical industry played an important role in the growth of Billingham.

Hartlepool, a port town on the North Sea coast, was founded in the 7th century around Hartlepool Abbey. In the Middle Ages it served as the official port of the County Palatine of Durham. The port grew with the development of the Durham coalfield. A portion of the docklands has been converted into Hartlepool Marina.

To the north of the Tees Lowlands is the East Durham Plateau, a low upland plateau of Magnesian Limestone falling eastwards to the sea and defined in the west by a prominent escarpment, from which there are panoramic views across the Wear lowlands to the Pennines. The heavy clay soils of the plateau support mixed, predominantly arable, farmland in an open rolling landscape of low hedges with few trees. The landscape has been heavily influenced by mining, quarrying and industry, its scattered mining towns and villages and busy roads giving it a semi-rural character in places.

The coast between Sunderland and Hartlepool used to be called the "black coast" following decades of coal waste being dumped directly onto the beach. Following a lengthy clean-up operation the coast has been reborn as the Durham Heritage Coast. The magnesian limestone that underlies this area has given rise to a spectacular landscape of cream-coloured cliffs intersected by denes.

Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton-le-Hole are large towns with long histories but which grew around the mining industry in the 19th century. Peterlee was a new town founded in 1948 and named after the celebrated Durham miners' leader Peter Lee. Seaham is a seaside town based around its harbour, constructed in 1828. At Seaham Hall, in 1815, Lord Byron married Anne Isabella Milbanke. Their short-lived union produced the mathematician Ada Lovelace.

Between the Durham Dales and the East Durham Plateau are the lowlands of the Wear Valley. The former mining town of Crook lies just north of the Wear at the edge of the Dales. Bishop Auckland lies on the Wear a few miles further south. Much of the town's early history was shaped by the Bishops of Durham who established a hunting lodge which later became the their main residence, the splendid Auckland Castle. The route of the Roman road Dere Street passes through the town on its way to the Roman Fort at Binchester. The nearby village of Escomb has an Anglo-Saxon church built between 670 and 690.

The City of Durham rises magnificently on a hill surrounded by the River Wear, crowned by its huge Norman Cathedral. Behind the cathedral is a precipitous drop down to the river. This site was chosen in troubled times as a defensible spot by the guardians of the bones of Saint Cuthbert, which now lie within the Cathedral. Their settlement here was the effective foundation of Durham and its status. The cathedral, along with the nearby Durham Castle, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The remains of Finchdale Priory, a 13th-century Benedictine priory, are sited by the Wear four miles from Durham.

The Wear flows north to the ancient town of Chester-le-Street. Here the Roman's built the fort of Concangis. This Roman fort is the "Chester" of the town's name; the "Street" refers to the paved Roman road that ran through the town. The parish church of St Mary and St Cuthbert is where the body of St Cuthbert remained for 112 years before being transferred to Durham Cathedral, and the site of the first translation of the Gospels into English.

Washington was designated a new town in 1964, though based around and retaining the older village of Washington. Washington Old Hall is an early-17th-century manor house, with a 13th-century Great Hall. The manor was the ancestral home of the family of George Washington.

At the mouth of the Wear lies the city of Sunderland. Sunderland began as a fishing settlement before being granted a charter in 1179. Sunderland grew as a port, trading coal and salt. Ships began to be built on the river in the 14th century. By the 19th century, the port of Sunderland had absorbed Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth. Since the decline of the city's traditional industries, the area has become a commercial centre for the automotive industry, science and technology and the service sector. To the north of Sunderland are the resort town of Seaburn and the village of Whitburn, with its 18th-century windmill looking out to sea.

The north-east of County Durham is formed by the lowland plain south of the River Tyne and dominated by the towns which line the river's southern bank. At the west of this stretch of the river are the former mining towns Ryton and Blaydon-on-Tyne. Whickham is a prosperous commuter town. Near to the former mining town of Stanley is the Causeway Arch, the oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge in the world.

Gateshead lies on the Tyne, opposite Newcastle upon Tyne and joined to it by seven bridges, including the landmark Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The town's economy is still based around the Team Valley trading estate, established in the 1930s. Gateshead is known for its iconic architecture such as The Sage Gateshead, the Angel of the North and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

West of Gateshead lie Hebburn and Jarrow. Jarrow is world famous for its association with the Venerable Bede who lived, worked and died at St Paul's monastery here. The monastery was founded by Benedict Biscop in 682 and a companion to the St Peter's monastery he founded at at Monkwearmouth in 674. The abbot Ceolfrith established the monastery as a centre of learning and scholarship. Bede composed the first book of English history; The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, creating the narrative which all future works were to follow. Both houses were sacked by Viking raiders, subsequently abandoned, but then refounded as cells of Durham Priory in the 14th century. Since the dissolution, the two abbey churches have formed the parish churches of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. At Jarrow, substantial ruins survive next to St Paul's church.

Should Shields lies at the mouth of the Tyne, built on its docks and the industry that came with them. It remains one of the most important ports in the kingdom. The town's North Sea coast has extensive beaches as well as the dramatic magnesian limestone cliffs of The Leas (NT). Marsden Bay, with its famous Marsden Rock, is home to a huge seabird colony. Souter Lighthouse (1871) was the first lighthouse in the world designed and built to be powered by electricity.

Main Towns:Barnard Castle, Billingham, Blaydon, Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Jarrow, South Shields, Stockton-on-Tees, Sunderland, Washington
Main Rivers:Wear, Tees, Tyne
Highlights:Durham Cathedral; Raby Castle; Jarrow Church and Monastery; HMS Warrior, Hartlepool
County Flower:Spring Gentian
County Day:20th March, feast day of St Cuthbert
Highest Point:Burnhope Seat, 2,447 feet.
Area:1,022 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,467,037


33  ELT  East Lothian    Wikishire Map
East Lothian is a maritime county, also known as Haddingtonshire after the county town.

The sea washes the county's long shoreline of 41 miles; to the north is the Firth of Forth and, rounding the corner at Dunbar, to the north-east is the North Sea. On the west is Midlothian; and to the south is Berwickshire. Broadly speaking, the northern half of the shire slopes gently to the coast, and the southern half is amongst the Lammermuir Hills.

In the north-west of the county, nearest to Edinburgh, are three commuter towns. Prestonpans lies on the firth close to the Midlothian border. It has a history dating back to the 11th century and some impressive historical architecture, including the Preston Tower, the doocot and the local Mercat Cross, which is the only one of its kind which remains in its original form and location. The town has a history of salt panning and mining but is now primarily a commuter town. Cockenzie and Port Seton has grown from what were initially two small fishing villages. Cockenzie was created in 1591 by King James VI. Port Seton harbour was built by George Seton between 1655 and 1665. The two are now indistinguishable and spoken of as one. Tranent was an important mining town, coal was first mined here in the 12th century. Fa'side Castle is a 15th-century keep found some 2 miles south-west of Tranent.

On the most northerly stretch of the coast is the Royal Burgh of North Berwick. The town became a fashionable holiday resort in the 19th century because of its two sandy bays and continues to attract holiday makers to this day. The conical hill of North Berwick Law overlooks the town. Delightfully tumescent as it is, the hill is hard rock extruded from an ancient volcanic eruption. Tantallon Castle, a mostly ruined 14th-century fortress, lies to the east of the town. Two miles west of North Berwick stand the ruins of Dirleton Castle, a mediæval fortress dating back to the 13th century.

In the Firth of Forth lies Bass Rock. Formerly a feared prison island, it hosts a thriving colony of birds, including puffins, gannets and other seabirds.

The town of Dunbar lies on the east coast. Dunbar Castle stands as a magnificent ruin over the harbour, the remants of one of the most mighty fortresses in Scotland. The town's strategic position gave rise to a history full of incident and strife but Dunbar has become a quiet dormitory town. North of Dunbar is the mouth of the River Tyne, but a far gentler one than its busy namesake further south, entering the North Sea in a broad sandy bay.

The small town of East Linton lies on the Tyne a few miles inland. Preston Mill is the oldest working watermill in the county. There has been a mill on the site since 1599. South-west of the town, Hailes Castle is a 14th-century castle in a fine riverside setting,

The county town of Haddington lies on the north-east bank of the Tyne, close to the centre of the shire. Haddington is an old town with a long history. At the centre of the town is the Town House, originally built in 1748. Nearby is the Corn Exchange (1854) and the County Courthouse (1833). The Parish Church of St Mary's was consecrated in 1410. It stands adjacent to the Tyne, beside the 12th-century Nungate bridge. Lennoxlove House, a historic 15th-century house and estate, lies just south of the town.

Close to Haddington are two ancient hill forts. Near the village of Drem is Chesters Hill Fort, a system of ramparts and ditches around a settlement of about twenty roundhouses. Traprain Law is a 725-foot-high hill four miles east of Haddington. It is an ancient oppidum or hill fort, which covered at its maximum extent about 40 acres and must have been a veritable town.

The southernmost part of the county, in stark contrast to most of the shire, is in the Lammermuir Hills, which form a great divide between the Lothians and Berwickshire. Here is the county top, Meikle Says Law, on the border with Berwickshire.

Main Towns:Cockenzie & Port Seton,Dunbar, Haddington, North Berwick, Prestonpans, Tranent
Main Rivers:Tyne, Bothwell Water, Brox Burn, Whiteadder
Highlights:Auld Kirk, North Berwick; Berwick Law; Lammermuir Hills; Haddingtown town walk; Muirfield championship golf course
County Flower:Viper's-bugloss
Highest Point:Meikle Says Law, 1,755 feet.
Area:267 sq miles
Pop (2011):74,882


34  ESE  Essex    Wikishire Map
Essex is a maritime county in the south-east of England. Essex is bounded to the south by the Thames across which is Kent. The border to the east is the River Lea as far upstream as the River Stort and thereafter up the Stort, across which are Middlesex and Hertfordshire. The northern border with Cambridgeshire is the foot of the scarp of the hills, marked by the Icknield Way and then with Suffolk the border follows the River Stour to the sea. Essex is a county of great contrast between town and country.

The south-western portion of the county lies within the metropolitan conurbation, and though the character remains of its individual towns such as Stratford, East Ham, Ilford, Dagenham, Barking, Leyton and Romford, nevertheless there are few spaces in between. Eastbury Manor House (NT) is an Elizabethan house built on land that was formerly part of the demesne of Barking Abbey. Rainham Hall (NT) is a Georgian house in Rainham.

The metropolitan area is constrained in the west by Epping Forest, an ancient woodland covering 6,000 acres. Between the forest and the River Lee is the market town of Waltham Abbey, named from its former abbey, the last in England to be dissolved, now the Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross.

North-west of the metropolitan area, Brentwood has become a suburban town but still with a very rural feel. Billericay is also a commuter town but is ancient in origin. A meeting of the Pilgrim Fathers before they set sail in the Mayflower is said to have taken place in the town.

Basildon and Harlow were developed deliberately as new towns after the War, originally to resettle Londoners whose homes were lost in the Blitz, though they have since been much expanded.

Along the north shore of the Thames estuary is a string of towns given over to industry or leisure, as far as Shoeburyness, and among and to the north of them are new developments. Southend-on-Sea is a child of the great age of seaside holidays. Once it was no more than the south end of the village of Prittlewell, but when holidaymakers first came here in the Georgian period, the south end grew into a large and popular holiday resort.

To the north of the metropolitan area and the Thames estuary, with the exception of major towns such as Colchester, Chelmsford and Braintree, the county is rural, with many small towns, villages and hamlets largely built in the traditional materials of timber and brick, with clay tile or thatched roofs.

Chelmsford, the county town, sits at the centre of the shire. It was granted Letters Patent to become a city in 2012. The Shire Hall is a neo-classical, Georgian building with a Portland stone facade. Ingatestone Hall is a Grade I listed 16th-century manor house 5 miles south-west of Chelmsford. Braintree grew up on the Roman road known as Stane Street. Hedingham Castle, north of Braintree, is a Norman motte and bailey castle with a stone keep.

Colchester, in the north-east, claims to be the oldest town in Britain. It was for a time the capital of Roman Britain. Among its wealth of historic buildings is the Norman Colchester Castle, built on the foundations of a Roman temple.

The Essex coast is yet another aspect, where the land is flat and so carved by many rivers and tidal creeks that it is broken off with islands and vast flats where the only voices are the curlews. In stark contrast are the seaside resorts strong along the northern part of the county's coast: Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze and Dovercourt. Harwich, on the Stour estuary, is a major port.

The north-west of Essex is a rural area, its only town being Saffron Walden, a jewel of Essex. The town retains a rural appearance and many very old buildings dating from the Middle Ages and those from later ages, including its half-timbered Guildhall and the ruins of the 12th-century Walden Castle. Audley End House is an early 17th-century country house, with Capability Brown parklands. Thaxted has a medieval guildhall and a 19th century windmill. In this area, Essex rises with low chalk hills and winding valleys, the county's highest point (482 feet) being at High Wood on Chrishall Common.

The name Essex derives from the Kingdom of the East Seaxe which was traditionally founded by Aescwine in AD 527, occupying territory to the north of the River Thames, incorporating Essex and what soon became Middlesex and Hertfordshire. The royal centre of this kingdom is thought to have been at Ithancestre (Bradwell-on-Sea). As the Mercians expanded in the seventh century, the territory of Essex was driven back to the lands east of the River Lea, which is the county's extent to this day. Essex Day is celebrated on October 26th, the feast day of St Cedd, bishop of the East Saxons and the county's patron saint. Cedd founded many churches, among them the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea, one of the oldest intact Christian churches in England. The Essex flag is ancient in origin and features three notched Saxon seaxes on a red field.

Main Towns:Barking, Basildon, Billericay, Braintree, Brentwood, Colchester, Chingford, Clacton-on-Sea, Dagenham, Chelmsford, Harlow, Harwich, Ilford, Leyton, Maldon, Romford, Saffron Waldon, Southend-on-Sea, Stansted Mountfitchet, Stratford, Tilbury, Tiptree, Walthamstow, West Ham, Woodford
Main Rivers:Stour, Blackwater, Lea, Colne, Chelmer, Crouch, Roding, Thames
Highlights:Castle Hedingham; Colchester roman remains; Waltham Abbey
County Flower:Common Poppy
County Day:26th October, feast day of Saint Cedd
Highest Point:High Wood (nr Langley) (Chrishall Common), 482 feet (TL 443 362).
Area:1,591 square miles
Pop (2011):2,999,248


35  FRM  Fermanagh    Wikishire Map
Fermanagh is an inland county of Ulster. Fermangh is a sparsely populated county of lakes and pasture.

The River Erne, running through the length of Fermanagh, has created two great lakes, Upper and Lower Lough Erne. Much of Upper Lough Erne resembles a scatter of low green islands with broad river channels winding at random between them. Lower Lough Erne is a broader body of water with wee islands dotted about it. Both of the Loughs are popular for fishing and holiday boating.

Along the shores of Upper Loch Erne is the Crom Estate, a nature reserve owned by the National Trust, which includes the ruins of Crom Castle and the late-17th-century formal gardens.

Above the Loughs, Fermanagh is a wholly agricultural county. The main types of farming in the area are beef, dairy, sheep, pigs and some poultry. Most of the agricultural land is used as grassland for grazing and silage or hay rather than for other crops.

The county town, Enniskillen, is almost exactly in the centre of the county between the Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne. The historic centre of the town, the location of Enniskillen Castle, is on an island between two streams of the River Erne. The town's oldest building is Enniskillen Castle, built by Hugh the Hospitable who died in 1428. The castle is now home to the Fermanagh County Museum, which focuses on the county's history, culture and natural history. An earthwork, the Skonce, on the shore of Lough Erne may be the remains of an earlier motte.

A few miles south of Enniskillen is Castle Coole, an 18th-century neo-classical mansion in a large wooded estate owned by the National Trust. The National Trust also owns the large 18th-century Florence Court, best known for its exquisite Rococo decoration and fine Irish furniture. This lies south-west of Enniskillen in the foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain.

The village of Lisnaskea, the county's second largest settlement, lies in the south of the county. It developed after the Plantation of Ulster and is built around the long main street. Nearby is the monument of Sciath Ghabhra (aka Hill of Cornashee or the Moate Fort) where the Maguires were crowned as kings and chiefs of Fermanagh.

The Caldragh graveyard on Boa Island, the largest island on Lough Erne, dates from the Irish early Christian period (AD 400-800). Within it are two unrelated anthropomorphic carved stone statues. The Boa Island figure was found in the graveyard and is regarded as one of the most enigmatuic stone figures in Ireland. It is thought to represent a Celtic deity. The Lustymore Idol was discovered in an early Christian graveyard on Lustymore Island and is thought to be even older. The reasons for creating these sculptures and the dates of their creation are not certain. They may have been part of pre-Christian religious sites, or attempts by early Christians to include older pagan beliefs into their grave sites.

The westernmost part of Fermanagh is the townland of Manger Beg, and here by the bank of the Bradoge River is the westernmost point in the inhabited parts of the United Kingdom.

Main Towns:Enniskillen, Lisnakea, Irvinestown
Main Rivers:Arney, Erne, Sillees, Owenbrean, Cladagh
Highlights:Castle Coole; Devenish Island; Enniskillen Castle; Lough Erne; Marble Arch Caves.
County Flower:Globeflower
Highest Point:Cuilcagh, 2,182 feet
Area:715 sq miles
Pop (2011):61,170


36  FFE  Fife    Wikishire Map
Fife is a maritime county lying along the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. Fife is commonly known as "The Kingdom of Fife", a reference to the ancient Pictish kingdom from which the county evolved.

Fife's most urban area is in its south-west where the Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge cross into the county from West Lothian. Dunfermline, the largest town, is in this area, and the Royal Navy's major base and dockyard at Rosyth.

Dunfermline stands on high ground three miles from the Firth of Forth. It is a former capital of the Kingdom of Scotland, seat of the royal court and an important ecclesiastical centre. Dunfermline Abbey is the burial place for many kings, including Robert I and Saint Margaret, Malcolm III's English queen. Here are remains of the Royal Palace of Dunfermline, birthplace of King Charles I. The wealthy businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie never forgot Dunfermline, his home town. He was the central figure in promoting its early 20th-century urban renewal and he richly endowed the town.

South of Dunfermline, Inverkeithnig has been a port since time immemorial. North Queensferry, between the Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge, takes its name from Saint Margaret, the wife of King Malcolm III, who was said to have established the village to ensure there would be regular ferry crossings across the Firth for pilgrims travelling to St Andrews. Along the coast eastwards is Dalgety Bay, a 1960s new town named after an older village. Further east is Burntisland with a popular beach and the 15th-century Rossend Castle. Nearby Cowdenbeath grew up around the extensive coalfields of the area.

Further up the coast in the waist of the shire is Kirkcaldy, an ancient trading port and the home town of the economist and philosopher Adam Smith. Kirkcaldy has long been nicknamed the Lang Toun in reference to the 0.9 mile main street of the early town. One of Scotland's finest museums, the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery contains a notable collection of paintings by the Scottish Colourists and a display of the town's industrial heritage.

Glenrothes was designated in 1948 as Scotland's second post-war new town. The new town was planned to sit on agricultural land between the three existing towns of Leslie, Thorton and Markinch, which are all still slightly seperate from the new town. The different "precincts" of Glenrothes are named after the pre-existsing hamlets (e.g. Woodside, Cadham), the farms which once occupied the land (e.g. Rimbleton, Caskieberran, Collydean) or historical stately homes in the area (e.g. Balgeddie, Balbirnie, Leslie Parks) The area of the original Cadham Village is now a conservation area.

The Lomond Hills lie in the centre of Fife, east of Kinross-shire and north of Glenrothes. At 1,713 feet, West Lomond is the county top. The town of Falkland stands at the foot of the Lomond Hills. Falkland Palace, begun in 1500 by King James IV, is the best example of French-influenced Renaissance architecture in the United Kingdom. The palace was built to accommodate the royal Court when they came to hunt in the nearby forests.

Levenmouth is a conurbation comprising the coastal towns of Buckhaven, Leven and Methil, and a number smaller towns, villages and hamlets inland. It lies where the River Leven meets the Firth of Forth.

The north-east corner of Fife is recognised throughout Scotland as the "East Neuk" (or corner) of Fife, small settlements around sheltered harbours, with distinctive vernacular "Dutch" or craw (crow) stepped gabled and stone-built architecture. The fishing industry on which the East Neuk settlements were built has declined with the main fishing fleet now operating from Pittenweem and the harbour in Anstruther being used as a marina for pleasure craft.

St Andrews, a former monastic and archiepiscopal centre, is also the seat of one of Britain's oldest universities. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is regarded worldwide as the "Home of Golf". To the east of the town centre, lie the ruins of the Cathedral of St Andrew. The picturesque ruins of St Andrews Castle are situated on a cliff-top to the north of the town. The castle was first erected around 1200 as the home of the bishops and later archbishops for use as a palace, prison and fortress.

North of St Andrews is the small town of Leuchars. The 12th-century St Athernase Church is one of the finest surviving examples of an unaisled Romanesque parish church in Scotland.

Tayport lies close to the north east tip of Fife. To its east is the vast Tentsmuir Nature Reserve, an area of forested dunes.

The Fife coast along the Firth of Tay has few settlements. Newport-on-Tay lies at the eastern end, close to the two bridges which cross the Firth. Newburgh lies at the western end. Lindores Abbey was a Tironensian abbey founded in 1191. Now a reduced ruin, it lies on the banks of the Tay close to Newburgh.

The town of Cupar lies inland equidistant between the Forth and the Tay. The historic hub of the town is the junction of Bonnygate and the Crossgate, where the town's mercat cross (1683) is located. Hill of Tarvit is a 20th-century mansion house with ornate gardens, just south of Cupar. Between 1905 and 1906, the house and gardens were remodelled by the renowned architect Sir Robert Lorimer incorporating French and Chippendale-style furniture, porcelain and paintings collected by F B Sharp.

Main Towns:Anstruther, Auchtermuchty, Culross, Cupar, Dunfermline, Freuchie, Glenrothes, Leven, Kincardine, Kirkcaldy, Rosyth, St Andrews
Main Rivers:Eden, Leven, Den
Highlights:Forth Bridge; Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St Andrews; Hill of Tarvit, Cupar; Pittencrieff House, Dunfermline; Ravenscraig Castle
County Flower:Coralroot Orchid
Highest Point:West Lomond, 1,713 feet
Area:504 sq miles
Pop (2011):365,493


37  FLT  Flintshire    Wikishire Map
Flintshire (Sir y Fflint) is a maritime county in north Wales. The main body of Flintshire lies along the Dee estuary, opposite the Wirral, and on the coast of the Irish sea. A smaller part, Maelor Saesneg, projects between Cheshire and Shropshire, separated from the main body by a tract of Denbighshire.

The Clwydian Hills run from the far south-west of the main body of Flintshire up to close to Prestatyn on the north coast. Much of the western border with Denbighshire lies among the hills. The highest hill in the range, Moel Famau, is the county top and lies on the Denbighshire border.

The hills are named after the River Clwyd, whose Vale marks their western edge. The lower reaches of the river are in Denbighshire, but it meets Flintshire a few miles west of Bodfari and forms the county border for a few miles before heading into Flintshire. In this northern Flintshire part of the Vale of Clwyd lies St Asaph. This small city is best known as the site of St Asaph Cathedral, the seat of the ancient bishopric of St Asaph, which in the early Middle Ages was the spiritual centre of the Kingdom of Powys.

The town of Rhuddlan lies on the east bank of the Clwyd. Twthill is a 'motte and bailey' castle erected by Robert of Rhuddlan in 1073, later replaced by Rhuddlan castle, built by Edward I from 1277 to 1282. The Statute of Rhuddlan was promulgated from here on 19 March 1284. This provided the constitutional basis for the government of the Principality of Wales until 1536. The Statute introduced English common law to Wales but also permitted the continuance of Welsh legal practices. Flintshire itself was created by this statute, out of the lordships of Tegeingl, Hopedale, and Maelor Saesneg.

In its final stretch, the River Clywd again forms the Flintshire-Denbighsire border, flowing into the Irish Sea by the Marine Lake at the western end of the resort town of Rhyl. Once an elegant Victorian resort, the town's fortunes declined after the Second World War but its seafront has more recently seen much regeneration. Along the north Flintshire coast lies the county's other main resort town, Prestatyn. A fishing village for hundreds of years, the arrival of the railways brought the holidaymakers and "Sunny Prestatyn" became famous for its beach, clean seas and promenade entertainers.

The Point of Ayr marks where the northern coast of Flinsthire meets it eastern coast on the Dee estaury. This eastern coast is relatively undeveloped as far south as the county town of Flint. The land between the coast and the Clwydian Hills is rural and agricultural. In this area lies the Maen Achwyfan Cross, a fine Anglo-Saxon slab-cross fashioned from one large stone.

King Edward I began Flint Castle in 1277: the first of his 'iron ring' of royal castles. Inland from the Dee, the town of Holywell takes its name from the St Winefride's Well. The well has been known since at least the Roman period, and has been a site of pilgrimage since about 660 when Saint Winefride was beheaded there by Caradog. The well is one of the traditional Seven Wonders of Wales. Basingwerk Abbey is a ruined 12th-century Cistercian abbey near Holywell.

Around the southern end of the Dee estuary is an industrial area. North of the Dee, close to the Cheshire border is the Deeside Industrial Park, a major employer for the towns in the area. South of the Dee lies Connah's Quay, the county's largest town. Top-y-Fron Hall is a Grade II* listed structure from the Georgian era. Shotton lies at the southern end of the Grade II listed Hawarden Bridge, opened in 1889. Contiguous with Shotton is Queensferry.

To the south is Ewloe. Ewloe Castle was one of the last fortifications to be built by the native Princes of Wales, It was abandoned during the invasion by Edward I in 1277. In the nearby village of Hawarden lie the ruins of Hawarden Old Castle, possibly an Iron Age fort then a Norman motte-and-bailey castle, replaced in the 13th century and slighted on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. New Hawarden Castle is an 18th-century country house which once belonged to William Ewart Gladstone.

The county's second largest town, Buckley, is Anglo-Saxon in origin. The Buckley Jubilee is an annual celebratation on the second Tuesday of July. The Royal Buckley Brass Band, one of only two in the UK to receive sanction to use 'Royal' in their name, lead the Jubilee.

Mold lies on the River Alyn, west of the Deeside towns. The town grew up around Mold Castle, now in ruins. About a mile west is Maes Garmon (The Field of Germanus) the traditional site of the Alleluia Victory by British forces led by Germanus of Auxerre over invading Picts and Scots.

The Maelor Saesneg region is entirely rural. At Bangor-on-Dee, the five-arched stone arch bridge across the River Dee dates from about 1660 and it is believed to have been built by Inigo Jones. Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse, in a bend in the Dee, is one of only 2 racecourses in Wales. In Overton-on-Dee, the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin is famous for twenty-one very ancient yew trees, traditionally one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. At 1,500 to 2,000 years old, the oldest tree predates the church.

Main Towns:St Asaph, Bangor-on-Dee, Bodelwyddan, Buckley, Connah's Quay, Dyserth, Flint, Holywell, Overton, Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, Rhyl, Mold
Main Rivers:Clwyd, Dee, Elwy
Highlights:St Asaph Cathedral; Bodelwyddan Castle; St Winefride's Well, Holywell; Flint Castle; Ewloe Castle; Rhuddlan Castle; Maen Achwynfan Cross, Whitford
County Flower:Bell Heather
Highest Point:Moel Famau, 1,820 feet
Area:260 sq miles
Pop (2011):215,390


38  GLM  Glamorgan   Wikishire Map
Glamorgan (Morgannwg) is a maritime county in south Wales. It is the southernmost and most populous county in Wales.

Glamorgan is a county of three contrasting localities. Across the north of the county run "The Valleys", a densely populated, mountainous area with a proud industrial and mining heritage. In the south, stretching from Porthcawl to Cardiff, is the Vale of Glamorgan, an undulating limestone plateau, mainly comprising farmland and small villages. In the south-west is Swansea Bay and the Gower Peninsula.

The Rhymney River forms the entire border of Glamorgan with Monmoutshire. The largest settlements on the Glamorgan side are Pontlottyn, Hengoed, Ystrad Mynach, Llanbradach and, at its southern end, Caerphilly. Caerphilly Castle, built between 1268 and 1271, is the largest castle in Wales. The River Aber flows through the Aber Valley, with the former mining villages of Senghenydd and Abertridwr, before joining the Rhymney at Caerphilly. The Rhymney continues south through the eastern side of Cardiff to the Bristol Channel.

The Taff Bargoed Valley contains the villages of Bedlinog, Trelewis Treharris and Nelson. It meets the Taff Valley at Quakers Yard. Parc Taf Bargoed is a former colliery site, now a haven for wildlife. Llancaiach Fawr is a Grade I Listed Tudor manor house.

The River Taff forms from the confluence of the Taf Fechan and the Taf Fawr north of Merthyr Tydfil. Merthyr was one of the seats of the industrial revolution. Cyfarthfa Castle is a castellated mansion that was the home of the Crawshay family, ironmasters of Cyfarthfa Ironworks. The Taff meanders its way between Pentrebach and Abercanaid and through Troed-y-rhiw, Aberfan and Merthyr Vale to Quakers Yard. The Cynon and Taff Valleys meet at Abercynon where the Cynon flows into the Taff. The Rhondda and Taff Valleys meets at Pontypridd where the Rhondda River flows into the Taff. The Old Bridge is a 1756 stone bridge across the Taff. From Pontypridd, the Taff flows south through Hawthorn, Upper Boat, Gwaelod-y-Garth, Taff's Well and Radyr, before arriving at the village city of Llandaff. Llandaff Cathedral dates from the 12th century but there is evidence of Christian worship at the site since the 6th century. From Llandaff the Taff flows though Cardiff to the Severn Estuary.

The River Cynon rises in Brecknockshire and flows into Glamorgan east of Hirwaun and then south to Aberdare. During the 19th century Aberdare became a thriving industrial settlement. The town was a major centre of the 1904–05 Religious Revival. From Aberdare the Cynon flows past the villages of Aberaman, Abercwmboi and Fernhill to the town of Mountain Ash before joining the Taff at Abercynon.

The Rhondda comprises two valleys – the Rhondda Fawr and the Rhondda Fach. Famous for its coal-mining heritage, the valleys produced a strong early Nonconformist Christian movement. The Rhondda is also famous for strong masculine cultural ties exemplified in its male voice choirs, sport and politics. Within the Rhodda Fach lie Maerdy, Blaenllechau, Ferndale, Tylorstown, Stanleytown, Ponygwaith, Wattstown and Ynyshir. Within the Rhondda Fawr lie Treherbert, Ynyswen, Treorchy, Pentre, Gelli, Ystrad, Llwynypia, Tonypandy, Penygraig and Williamstown. The rivers meet at Porth, which sees itself as the unofficial capital of the Rhondda. The River Rhondda then joins the Taff at Pontypridd.

The River Ely rises near the former mining village of Tonyrefail. Collenna House is a three story mansion originally built in 1093, which overlooks the village. The river flows west of the Royal Mint in the north of Llantrisant, and past the Royal Glamorgan Hospital at Ynysmaerdy. After flowing through Talbot Green, the Ely is joined by the Afon Clun at Pontyclun. It then flows south into the Vale of Glamorgan and finally into the sea at Cardiff Bay.

The Ogmore Valley comprises Cwm Ogwr Fach with the village of Gilfach Goch and Cwm Ogwr Fawr with Nantymoel, Ogmore Vale and Lewistown. The two rivers form the Afon Ogwr at Blackmill, south of which the river flows on to Bridgend in the Vale.

The village of Blaengarw lies the head of the Garw Valley, Pontycymer and Llangeinor lie further south. The River Garw then enters the Afon Ogwr.

The Llynfi Valley is formed by the River Llynfi runs for around 10 miles from its source north of Maesteg to its confluence with the River Ogmore at Aberkenfig. The Llynfi has endured a long period of industrialisation and coal mining especially around Maesteg. There was an ironworks and brick works at Tondu.

In the Afan Valley, between the villages of Cymmer and Pontrhydyfen, lies the 48 square miles of the Afan Forest Park, well known for its mountain biking and hiking trails. South of Cwmavon, the River Afan enters the sea at Port Talbot.

The Vale of Neath encompasses the upper reaches of the River Neath. Settlements include Pontneddfechan, Glynneath, Blaengwrach, Resolven, Tonna, Aberdulais, Cadoxton and Neath. The head of the Vale is known as Waterfall Country. Several spectacular falls lie on the border with Brecknockshire including Sgwd Gwladus and Sgws Einion Gam on the River Pyrddin, and the Sychryd Cascade on the River Sychryd. The Melincourt Falls were painted by Turner.

In the Dulais Valley lie Seven Sisters, Crynant and Cilfrew. Aberdulais Falls are formed as the Dulais plunges over beds of hard Lower Pennant Sandstone just before it joins the River Neath.

The River Tawe rises in Brecknockshire and enters Glamorgan at Ystalfera. Others towns in the formerly industrailised Upper Swansea Valley include Pontardawe, Trebanos and Cyldach. The Lower Swansea Valley runs from south of Clydach down to Swansea Bay.

The City of Cardiff lies in the far south-east of the county, around the Rhmyney, Taff and Ely rivers. Cardiff is the cultural centre of Wales and its capital. Cardiff has many landmark buildings including the Millennium Stadium, Pierhead Building, the Welsh National Museum and the Senedd. Cardiff Castle is a Norman Castle built on the footprint of a Roman fort, and reshaped to create a luxurious residence by the Marquess of Bute. Castell Coch is an elaborately decorated Victorian folly designed by William Burges for the Marquess of Bute. The castle stands on the footings of a mediæval castle. The National History Museum at St Fagans houses dozens of buildings from throughout Welsh history.

Across the south of the county, from Cardiff to Porthcawl, stretches the Vale of Glamorgan, a lowland area mainly comprising farmland, small villages, and stunning coastline.

Penarth is a resort town with extensive Victorian and Edwardian architecture including its splendid 1895 pier. The nearby village of Dinas Powys takes its name from an Iron Age hill fort. It also has the remains of a Norman castle.

To the west of Penarth is Lavernock Point. The remains of the Lavernock Fort gun battery, first erected in 1860, are a listed Ancient Monument. A battery was also placed on the island of Flat Holm, three miles out in the Bristol Channel. The island has a history of occupation dating at least from the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods. A sanatorium for Cholera patients was sited here from 1896 to 1935. The island is now a nature reserve. In 1897 Marconi transmitted and received the first wireless signals over open sea between Lavernock Point and Flat Holm.

From Lavernock Point the coast heads sharply west to the town of Barry. Barry grew from a village to a large town with its industrial docks. Barry Island is a famous resort with a fine beach and a peasure park. Passing the cliffs of Barry Island, the coastline becomes a low-lying promontory called the Lays, which continues west past the villages of Rhoose and Aberthaw before reaching Breaksea Point, the most southerly point of mainland Wales.

Beyond Breaksea Point is Limpert Bay, overlooked by the village of Gileston and the ancient encampment of Summerhouse Point. From here rise the spectacular cliffs of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, which runs for 14 miles to to Ogmore-on-Sea. The coast comprises rocky limestone cliffs, broad beaches and deeply fissured wave-cut platforms. Colhugh Beach is a popular surfing venue and has the remnants of an Iron Age fort and some of the finest examples of Jurassic Period fossils. Just to its north is the town of Llantwit Major where the 5th-century Saint Illtud founded a monastic community. The Roman villa at Caermead remains as faint earthworks.

Further west on the coast, there is an Iron Age promontory fort and a 19th-century lighthouse at Nash Point and an ancient cairn or cromlech at Cwm Marcross. The remains of Dunraven House, including its walled gardens, lie on the headland at Dunraven Bay. Both Southerndown and Ogmore-on-Sea have popular, west-facing beaches. Ogmore Castle is a Grade I listed ruin.

Away from the coast, the Vale of Glamorgan is quiet, rural and unspoilt. Cowbridge is one of very few mediæval walled towns in Wales. Old Beaupre Castle is a ruined mediæval fortified manor house near the village of St Hilary. New Beaupre is half a mile to the north. Dyffryn House is a manor house surrounded by a sumptuous garden.

The town of Bridgend lies on the River Ogmore, crossed by The Old Bridge which gave the town its name. Newcastle Castle, built by Robert Fitzhamon in 1106, stands on Newcastle Hill. Coity Castle was built by Sir Payn "the Demon" de Turberville, one of the legendary Twelve Knights of Glamorgan. Ewenny Priory is the remains of 12th-century Benedictine monastry.

Across the River Ogmore from Ogmore-on-Sea lie the sand dunes of the Merthyr Mawr Warren. The ruins of Candleston Castle, a fortified 14th-century manor, lie on the edge of the dunes. The area is rich in archaeological sites including Tythegtson Long Barrow and Mynydd Herbert Round Barrow. Merthyr Mawr pre-Norman Stones are a series of early mediæval stone pillars, slabs and crosses housed in St Teilo churchyard. Porthcawl is a seaside resort town with a harbour, a grand pavilion, an extensive promenade and seven beaches. North of the town, at the western extent of the Vale of Glamorgan, lie the Kenfig Burrows, an area of sand dunes managed as a nature reserve. The remains of Kenfig Castle lie here.

North of Kenfig lies Port Talbot. Modern Port Talbot is a town formed from the merging of Baglan, Margam, and Aberafan. The name 'Port Talbot' first appears in 1837 as the name of the new docks built on the south-east side of the river Afan by the Talbot family. Margam Country Park estate was once owned by the Mansel Talbot family. Within the park are Margam Castle, a neo-Gothic country house that was the family seat, and the ruins of Margam Abbey, a Cistercian monastery. The Margam Stones are an important collections of Celtic stone crosses from the 6th to the 16th centuries.

The River Afan commences the wide sweep of Swansea Bay, which from Port Talbot arcs around taking in Baglan Bay, Briton Ferry, Swansea and ending in Mumbles. The whole bay is shut in by high hills and is thickly encircled with sands. Within the bay are two of the major estuaries of Glamorgan: the River Neath at Port Talbot and the River Tawe, the central river of Swansea. Beyond the Tawe, the bay sweeps for six miles before reaching Mumbles Head. Mumbles Head is served by Mumbles Lighthouse, which sits on the further of two small islands off the head. Swansea Bay was immortalised in Bryan Martin Davies' Glas.

Swansea is the second largest city in Wales. During the 19th-century industrial heyday, Swansea was the key centre of the copper-smelting industry, earning the nickname Copperopolis. The ruins of Swansea Castle occupy a strategic position above the River Tawe. The Tabernacle Chapel at Morriston has been described as the "Nonconformist Cathedral of Wales". The poet Dylan Thomas was born at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Uplands, where he lived for 23 years and produced two-thirds of his published work from his tiny bedroom.

Further west lies the Gower penisula, a place of renowned scenic beauty and sea air. Gower is known for its coastline, popular with walkers and outdoor enthusiasts, especially surfers. The southern coast consists of a series of small, rocky or sandy bays, such as Langland and Three Cliffs, and larger beaches such as Port Eynon, Rhossili and Oxwich Bay. The north of the peninsula has fewer beaches, and is home to the cockle-beds of Penclawdd. The interior is mainly farmland and common land. Gower has many caves, including Paviland Cave and Minchin Hole Cave. These are many historic sites on Gower including Bovehill Castle, Oystermouth Castle, Oxwich Castle, Pennard Castle, Penrice Castle and Weobley Castle. Worms Head is the long, thin headland marking the farthest end of Gower and of Glamorgan.

Glamorgan has a wide and diverse economic base including: public administration, agriculture, light industry, manufacturing, service sector, tourism.

Main Towns:Aberavon, Aberdare, Barry, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Llantrisant, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Pontypridd, Port Talbot, Swansea
Main Rivers:Taff, Ely, Rumney, Daw, Ogmore
Highlights:Cardiff Castle; Caerphilly Castle; Castell Coch; Glamorgan Heritage Coast; Gower; Tinkinswood burial chamber
County Flower:Yellow Whitlowgrass
Highest Point:Craig-y-llyn, 1,969 feet.
Area:827 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,321,460


39  GLC  Gloucestershire    Wikishire Map
Gloucester is a maritime county in the south-west of England. The county falls naturally into three parts: the uplands of the Forest of Dean in the west; the Cotswold Hills in the east; and the flat, fertile valley of the lower River Severn which lies between them.

The Forest of Dean forms a roughly triangular plateau bounded by the River Wye to the west, Herefordshire to the north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east. The area has more than 40 square miles of mixed woodland; one of the largest surviving ancient woodlands in Britain. Traditionally the main sources of work have been forestry, iron working and coal mining. The decline of the latter two industries has brought profound change to the economy and way of life of the Forest.

The former mining town of Coleford lies near the Wye Valley making it a popular destination for walkers, cylists and canoeists. Nearby is Clearwell Caves. The caves have been extensively mined for iron ore and are now a mining museum. The Dean Heritage Centre, near Cinderford in the heart of the Forest, tells the story of the Forest and its people. Cinderford itself owes its existence to the development of the Cinderford Ironworks and the coalfield. At Gorsty Knoll lie the internationally important remains of the Darkhill Ironworks and the Titanic Steelworks.

Lydney lies on the River Severn, with a harbour created when the Lydney Canal was built in 1813. Lydney Park gardens has a Roman temple dedicated to Nodens. Newent, at the northern edge of the Forest, was once a mediæval market and fair town. It has a stilted Market House and many other historic buildings.

The River Severn enters Gloucestershire just west of Tewkesbury. The Severn Valley in Gloucestershire is broad and green, dotted with picturesque villages. The River is tidal below Gloucester. As the river opens into the Severn Estuary, Gloucestershire holds both banks as far as the Wye (north bank) and Avon (south bank).

Tewkesbury features many notable Medieval and Tudor buildings, but its major claim to fame is Tewkesbury Abbey, a fine Norman abbey church, originally part of a monastery. The village of Deerhurst has two Anglo-Saxon gems. St Mary's Priory Church was built in the 8th century and is considered a major Anglo-Saxon monument. Odda's Chapel is an 11th-century chantry chapel which became part of a farmhouse for 200 years before its rediscovery in the 19th century.

Cheltenham became famous as a spa town following the discovery of mineral springs in 1716. The town is known for its Regency architecture and the many cultural festivals it hosts. Cheltenham Racecourse has a scenic location in a natural amphitheatre, just below the escarpment of the Cotswold Edge. The Cheltenham Festival, held in March, is one of the major events of the British sporting calendar.

The cathedral city of Gloucester was founded in AD 97 by the Romans as Colonia Glevum Nervens. In 1216 Henry III, aged only ten years, was crowned with a gilded iron ring in the Chapter House of Gloucester Cathedral. Gloucester Cathedral originates in the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter in 681. It is the burial place of King Edward II and Walter de Lacy. Gloucester is a port, linked via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal which runs from Gloucester's docks to the Severn Estuary.

On the south bank of the Severn, below Gloucester, lies WWT Slimbridge, a wetland wildlife reserve set up in 1946 by the artist and naturalist Sir Peter Scott. Berkeley, midway between Bristol and Gloucester, is noted for Berkeley Castle, where the imprisoned Edward II was murdered. Thornbury Castle has two intricate redbrick chimneys, built in 1514, similar to those found at Hampton Court Palace. Chipping Sodbury is a delightfully pretty market town, founded in the 12th century by William Crassus.

The city of Bristol is the county's largest centre of culture, employment and education. Bristol is famously split between Gloucestershire and Somerset with the larger part, north of the old course of the Avon, in Gloucestershire. Bristol's prosperity has been linked with the sea since its earliest days. Whilst the modern port lies at Avonmouth, the old docks in the city centre docks have been regenerated as a centre of heritage and culture. Brunel's SS Great Britain has been restored and sits in dry dock. Bristol has a wealth of historic buildings including its 12th-century cathedral. The affluent suburb of Clifton contains many Georgian streets including the majestic Royal York Crescent. Bristol Zoo, opened in 1836, is the world's oldest provincial zoo. Clifton Suspension Bridge crosses the Avon Gorge from Gloucestershire into Somerset. Brunel's masterpeice joining, for a small toll, two great counties.

The eastern half of Glocuestershire lies winth the Cotswold Hills. The Cotswolds are famed for the beauty of their villages and the landscape. The Cotswolds remain a wealthy sheep-farming region. Locally quarried Cotswold stone is used ubiquitously throughout the Cotswolds, producing picture-postcard, honey coloured towns and villages.

The western edge of the Cotswolds forms an escarpment known as the Cotswold Edge. The Cotswold Edge runs up south-west to north-east through Gloucestershire making a sharp dividing between the Severn Valley and the Cotswold Hills. Many towns lie along the Edge. Near to Wotton-under-Edge, at the southern end of the Edge, is Newark Park (NT) a 16th-century Tudor hunting lodge. To the north is Owlpen Manor, widely recognised as one of the most romantic of early manor houses.

Stroud is almost surrounded by the hills at the meeting popint of the Five Valleys. The village of Bishop's Cleeve stands at the foot of Cleeve Hill, the highest point in the Cotswolds and the county top. Cleeve Hill has an Iron Age hill fort on its western scarp and the Neolithic long barrow Belas Knap near the summit.

Winchcombe may once have been the county town of its own Anglo-Saxon shire, Winchcombeshire, long since become part of Gloucestershire. Close to it are several important historic properties. Hailes Abbey is a ruined Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1246 as a daughter establishment of Beaulieu Abbey. Sudeley Castle is a 15th-century castle. Its chapel is the burial place of Katherine Parr and contains her marble tomb. Stanway House is a Jacobean manor house, owned by the Earl of Wemyss and March. The 16th-century Snowshill Manor (NT) is known for its unusual collection of furniture, musical instruments, craft tools, toys, clocks, bicycles and armour, all collected by architect and craftsman Charles Paget Wade between 1900 and 1951.

North of Winchcombe, the Cotswold Edge faces onto the Vale of Evesham where the River Avon flows down through Worcestershire to its meeting with the Severn at Tewkesbury. Along this stretch of the Edge are the villages of Weston-sub-Edge and Mickleton. Just to the north is the last hill in the Cotswolds, Meon Hill, with a huge Iron Age hill fort and stunning views across three counties. Gloucestershire stretches another few miles north into the valleys of the Avon and Stour, to within a mile or two of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Away from the Edge, the Cotswolds abound in charming towns and villages, built in Cotswold stone. Chipping Campden is famed for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century. Stow-on-the-Wold, with its picturesque market square, lies on the Fosse Way. Lower Slaughter is built on both banks of the River Eye with small stone bidges joining the sides. There are many 16th- and 17th-century houses and the 17th-century Lower Slaugher Manor. Naunton has a famous Dovecote erected in 1660. Bourton-on-the-Water is known for its picturesque High Street, flanked by long wide greens and the River Windrush that runs through them. The sublime beauty of Bibury, including the famous Arlington Row, has made it a major tourist destination.

Cirencester, the largest town in the Cotswolds, was once the Roman town of Corinum. Its Corinium Museum has an extensive Roman collection. The Roman amphitheatre lies in an area known as the Querns. North of the town is Chedworth Roman Villa (NT). To the west of the town is Cirencester Park, the seat of Earl Bathurst and the site of one of the finest landscape gardens in England. Thames Head, the traditional source of the Thames, lies south of Cirencester close to the Wiltshire border.

Tetbury, on the Wiltshire border, lies on the site of an ancient hill fort on which an Anglo-Saxon monastry was founded in 681. Northwest of the town is Chavenage House, an Elizabethan era manor house constructed of Cotswold stone, with a Cotswold stone tiled roof.

In the far south of the county, among the hills, are two famous country houses. Badminton House has been the principal seat of the Dukes of Beaufort since the late 17th century. Dyrham Park (NT) is a baroque mansion in an ancient deer park.

Main Towns:Bristol, Cheltenham, Chipping Campden, Cirencester, Lydney, Nailsworth, Stow-on-the-Wold, Stroud, Tewkesbury.
Main Rivers:Avon, Severn, Windrush, Coln, Leadon, Wye.
Highlights:Badminton; Berkeley Castle; Cabot Tower, Bristol; Cotswolds; Forest of Dean; Source of the Thames; Offa's Dyke.
County Flower:Wild Daffodil
Highest Point:Cleeve Hill, 1,082 feet.
Area:1,293 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,147,106


40  HMP  Hampshire    Wikishire Map
Hampshire is a martime county of the south coast of England. A seaborne county and a landward county, a rural and an urban county, Hampshire looks in two directions.

The south coast of Hampshire, on the English Channel, looks to the sea. The natural coastline is ragged with the river estuaries, islands and creeks, in among which are many towns, ports and resorts.

Southampton is the largest city in Hampshire and the busiest commercial port in the United Kingdom. The city stands at the northernmost point of Southampton Water at the meeting of the River Test and River Itchen. Southampton Water provides a deep, broad, sheltered roadstead, which has ensured Southampton's foremost place among the Channel ports. Southampton is noted for its association with the Titanic, the Spitfire and more recently a number of the largest cruise ships in the world.

The south-east of Hampshire is very developed with its towns expanded into a loose conurbation. Fareham stands at the north-west tip of Portsmouth Harbour. The town was a major producer of bricks, tiles and chimney pots, supplying the "Fareham red bricks" for the Royal Albert Hall. Gosport lies on a peninsula on the western side of Portsmouth Harbour opposite the City of Portsmouth. It was a formerly a major naval town.

Portsmouth is the home of the Royal Navy, for which it is the greatest and most famous port. The city stands on its own island, Portsea Island, facing the English Channel, with a capacious, sheltered, natural harbour, which has been its foundation and fortune.

North of Portsmouth are the towns of Waterlooville and, at the north end of Langstone harbour, Havant. Within Langstone Harbour is Hayling Island. Although largely residential, Hayling is also a holiday, windsurfing and sailing centre, the site where windsurfing was invented.

Across the Solent is the Isle of Wight, a self-reliant island (and once a separate Jutish kingdom) but a part of Hampshire nevertheless. Queen Victoria fell in love with the island and stayed frequently at Osborne House. The Island is famous for its Victorian resort towns (e.g. Sandown, Ryde, Ventor), its dramatic coastline (e.g. the Needles, Tennyson Down) and peace of its unspoiled interior. Cowes is a world famous Yachting centre.

In the north and centre of the county the substrate is the Southern England Chalk Formation, seen in Salisbury Plain and the South Downs, and in Hampshire by hills with steep slopes where they border the clays to the south. A large area of the downs is now protected in the East Hampshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Inland Hampshire is a county of farms. The Itchen and Test are trout rivers that flow from the chalk through wooded valleys into Southampton Water. Nestled in a valley on the downs is Selborne, and the countryside surrounding the village was the location of Gilbert White's pioneering observations on natural history recorded in "The Natural History of Selborne".

The county town at its heart is Winchester. Winchester's Norman cathedral, the seat of one of the land's most senior bishoprics, dominates the centre of the mediæval city, while a Victorian statue of King Alfred reminds us that Winchester was the capital of Wessex and Anglo-Saxon England. Beyond Winchester, Hampshire's picture-postcard countryside rolls all around the traveller.

The border with Surrey in the far north-west of the county is formed by the River Blackwater. In the Blackwater valley lie Aldershot, known as the "Home of the British Army", and Farnborough, best known for Farnborough Aerodrome at which is held the Farnborough Airshow. To the west of these is Basingstoke, an old market town which developed rapidly after World War II in order to accommodate part of the London 'overspill'. In contrast, the north-east of the county is predominantly rural, apart from major town of Andover.

In the south-west of the county is the New Forest. The New Forest was laid out as a hunting reserve by William the Conqueror, but as broad woodland and heath it is far older. It is a timeworn place which appeals to one's ancestral longings.

South of the New Forest, the coast facing the island is remarkably undeveloped as far west as the port town of Lymington. The port town of Keyhaven lies at one end of the shingle bank known as Hurst Spit which leads to Hurst Castle, an artillery fort established by Henry VIII.

To the west are the seaside towns of Milford-on-Sea, Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe-on-Sea. Christchurch was founded in the 7th century at the meeting of the rivers Avon and Stour which flow into Christchurch Harbour. Christchurch town centre and the Harbour are overlooked by the 11th-century Grade I listed Christchurch Priory. The Grade I-listed Christchurch Castle is of Norman origin. The town's harbour, beaches, nature reserves and historically important buildings have made Christchurch a popular tourist destination.

At the far west of the Hampshire coast is the Victorian splendour of Bournemouth. Bournemouth was founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell and named from the River Bourne. This new village became popular as a holiday resort but its growth accelerated with the arrival of the railway. It has remained a major tourist destination ever since. The glorious Central Gardens lead for several miles down the valley of the Bourne through the centre of the town reaching the sea at Bournemouth Pier.

Main Towns:Aldershot, Andover, Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Cowes, Newport, Petersfield, Portmouth, Ringwood, Ryde, Southampton, Winchester, Ventnor
Main Rivers:Meon, Test, Itchen, Hamble, Beaulieu, Avon
Highlights:Beaulieu; Osborne House; HMS Victory & Portsmouth Harbour; The New Forest; The Needles.
County Flower:Dog-rose
County Day:15th July, feast day of Saint Swithun
Highest Point:Walbury Hill, 974 feet (SU 373 616).
Area:1,656 sq miles
Pop (2011):2,099,640


41  HRF  Herefordshire   Wikishire Map
Herefordshire in an inland county in the Midlands of England. It is possibly England's most rural county. Herefordshire is famous for its "black and white villages" of pied half-timbered cottages.

The Black Mountains stretch into the south-west of the county, the county top being Black Mountain itself (2,306 ft). Beyond these, the west of the county is a peaceful, rural, agricultural area. In the lee of the Black Mountains is the so-called Golden Valley of the River Dore, a picturesque area of gently rolling countryside. The main villages are Dorstone, Peterchurch, Abbey Dore and Ewyas Harold. Arthur's Stone, outside the village of Dorstone, is a chamber tomb from the Neolithic Period. The majestic Dore Abbey is a mediæval former Cistercian monastery, built between 1175 and 1220 and restored in the 1630s. Ewyas Harold Castle is an early Norman motte and bailey castle. St Michael's Church in Ewyas Harold contains a 13th-century effigy of a lady holding a heart in the palm of her hand.

In the village of Kilpeck, to the west of the Dore valley, is the magnificant Church of St Mary and St David, remarkable for the wealth and preservation of its Norman stone carvings, both inside and out, all original both in form and position and incorporating many corbels with representations of human faces, hares, fish, fowl, stags etc. West of the church lies a ruined motte-and-bailey and earthworks.

The only sizeable town in the north-west is Kington, a small market town close to the border with Radnorshire. It lies in the part of Herefordshire to the west of Offa's Dyke. Ye Olde Tavern is a late-18th-/early-19th-century Grade II listed public house. Weobley is one of the county's famed black and white villages, its eye-catching old houses lining the main streets. Weobley Castle, now in ruins, stands by the village.

The major river of Herefordshire, the Wye, runs from Clifford next to the bounds of Radnorshire across the county down to Hereford.

The City of Hereford stands on the River Wye at the very centre of the shire. At the heart of the city is Hereford Cathedral, a great, Norman edifice standing by the bank of the Wye, a witness to the glory of God for fourteen centuries. The current cathedral was built from 1079, in the time of William the Conqueror. The first cathedral was founded in the eighth century. The treasures of the cathedral include the Mappa Mundi, a mediæval map of the world dating from the 13th century. It also contains the world famous Chained Library.

South of Hereford, the River Wye writhes southwards to Ross-on-Wye. Ross is a small market town on the northern edge of the Forest of Dean. In St Mary's churchyard is found The Plague Cross, erected in 1637 as a memorial to 315 people of the town who died of the plague that year. Ross-on-Wye is known for its independent shops, picturesque streets and its 17th-century Market House.

South of Ross, the Wye continues its meandering journey southwards. The Wye in its lower Herefordshire reaches is a broad, calm stream passing fields and hamlets. Overlooking the Wye is Goodrich Castle, a ruinous Norman mediæval castle praised by William Wordsworth as the "noblest ruin in Herefordshire". The village of Symonds Yat in the far south is a popular tourist spot. Symonds Yat Rock overlooks a spectacular gorge through which the Wye snakes before it finally leaves the county near Ganarew.

Eastern Herefordshire is a quiet, agricultural area. In very east of the county, along the Worcestershire border, rise the Malvern Hills. Below the Malverns, Ledbury is a thriving market town in the midst of its rural setting. The town has a large number of timber framed buildings, in particular along Church Lane. One of Ledbury's most outstanding buildings is the Market House, located in the centre of the town. Other notable buildings in the area include the parish church, the Painted Room (containing sixteenth-century frescoes), and Eastnor Castle. Ledbury Park, built around 1600 by the Biddulph family, has been called one of Britain's finest timber-framed houses.

Hellens Manor in Much Marcle, close by the Gloucestershire border, is one of the oldest attested dwellings in Britain still inhabited, primarily composed of Tudor, Jacobean, and Georgian architecture, but the foundations date from the 12th century.

Bromyard is a small town in north-eastern Herefordshire. Bromyard's pretty streets have a number of traditional half-timbered pubs and some buildings dating back to Norman days. Lower Brockhampton, a moated farmhouse and National Trust property, lies a short distance to the east.

In the north of the county, on the route from Hereford to Shrewbury, is the ancient market town of Leominster. Grange Court, built in 1663, is the last surviving market house known to be built by John Abel, a local master carpenter. The Prior Church was constructed for a Benedictine Priory in the 13th century. Berrington Hall is a neoclassicial country house 3 miles north of the town. Berrington features Capablity Brown's last design. Croft Castle is a manor house near the village of Yarpole. Hampton Court is a Grade I listed, castellated country house in the village of Hope under Dinmore.

Herefordshire has always been esteemed an exceptionally rich agricultural area. The county is famous for its orchards and for its cider and perry. Large-scale producers include Bulmers of Hereford and Weston's of Much Marcle. There is a plethora of small-scale producers to be sought out and their produce enjoyed.

Main Towns:Bromyard, Goodrich, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Hereford, Ross-on-Wye, Weobley.
Main Rivers:Wye, Frome, Lugg, Teme.
Highlights:Hereford Cathedral; Church of St Mary & St David, Kilpeck; Symonds Yat; Prospect Gardens, Ross-on-Wye; Eastnor Castle.
County Flower:Mistletoe
Highest Point:Black Mountain, 2,306 feet.
Area:837 sq miles
Pop (2011):183,631


42  HTF  Hertfordshire    Wikishire Map
Hertfordshire in an inland county of southern England.

The Chiltern Hills extend into the far north-west of Hertfordshire. South and east of these, the county lies in the London Basin. The western part of the county is drained by the River Colne and its tributaries. The eastern part of the county is drained by the River Lea and its tributaries. Both rivers flow onwards south to the Thames. Hertfordshire's proximity to the metropolitan area led to much of the county becoming urban in character. Two new "garden cities" and four "new towns" were created in the 20th century. Despite this there are still large rural areas with much fine gently rolling countryside. From the Colne Valley's birch and blackthorn woodlands to the mixed farmlands of the bulk of the county are networks of footpaths for all to enjoy.

In the far north-west of the county lies the Tring Salient, a tongue of Hertfordshire which projects north-westwards with Buckinghamshire either side. It follows the gap through the Chiltern Hills carved by the Bulbourne Valley. The Roman road of Akeman Street, the Grand Union Canal and the railway all pass along the valley. The market Town of Tring lies in the north of the salient. The historic town of Berkhamsted lies in its south. It was here, in early December 1066, that William the Conqueror received the surrender of Harold II's successor, Edgar the Ætheling, completing the Conquest. William's brother, Robert of Mortain, constructed Berkhamsted Castle. Now in ruins, the castle became a popular country retreat of the Norman and Plantagenet kings.

The Cilterns rise again north-east of Berkhamsted. Here the Hudnall salient of Buckinghamshire almost encloses a small area of Hertfordshire around Little Gaddeston. The Ashridge estate (NT) lies across this whole area, partly in both counties. The estate comprises 5,000 acres of woodlands, commons and chalk downland which supports a rich variety of wildlife. Ashridge House, one of largest Gothic Revival country houses in Britain, stands, quite literally, on the county border.

The Cilterns continue into the area of Hertfordshire to the east of the Hudnall salient, including the villages of Great Gaddeston and Gaddeston Row, before ending just above the village of Markyate. To its north-east stretches another salient of Hertfordshire, surrounded west, north and east by Bedfordshire. The west side of this salient, including Kenworth, lies on the Dunstable Downs. Caddington lies east of the Downs, on the Bedfordshire border.

The final stretch of the Chiltern Hills rises to the north-east of Luton (in Bedfordshire). This area, around Deacon Hill and the Pegsdon Hills, lies across the Hertfordshire - Bedfordshire border. The Hertfordshire villages of Hexton, Lilley, Little Offney and Great Offley lie among the hills. The village of Pirton lies just beyond the far north-eastern edge of the Chilterns, close to the Bedfordshire border.

The River Gade rises in the Bedfordshire Chilterns and flows south, out of the Chilterns, meeting the Bulbourne in a shallow chalkland valley in which lies Hemel Hempstead. Hemel Hempstead grew from an agricultural market town to a commuter town when the Midland Railway reached it. From 1946 Hemel Hempstead was developed as a new town. The grand design saw each new district centred around a parade or square of shops called a neighbourhood centre. The original town was retained and is now known as the old Town.

The Gade then flows south to King's Langley. The village was the site of King's Langley Palace, built after Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of King Edward I, acquired the estate in 1276 and supervised the development of a lavish royal household. The palace served as a residence of the Plantagenet kings. A Dominican priory was established in 1308. The palace and priory fell into disuse after the Dissolution, though remains of the priory can be seen.

The Gade then flows to the west of Abbots Langley. Around 1100 the village was the birthplace of Nicholas Breakspear, later Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman to have become Bishop of Rome. South from here the Gade flows around Croxley Green. Croxley's large village green is the location each May for the Revels on The Green. The Gade then joins the Colne before the latter flows through Rickmansworth.

The River Ver rises near Kensworth in the Chilterns and flows south through the villages of Flamstead and Redbourn to the city of St Albans. St Albans is an ancient town, with predecessors in a Roman city and an Iron Age town before it. The town of Verlamion was founded as the capital of the Catuvellauni tribe. The Romans drove a road here, Watling Street, and built Verulamium on the site of Verlamion. Remains of the Roman town are visible in Verulamium Park. Offa II of Mercia founded the Benedictine abbey and monastery at St Albans around 793. The abbey is on Holmhurst Hill, across the Ver from the Roman town, on the site of the martyrdom of Saint Alban in around 250. Much of the present church dates from Norman times, but it incorporates details from the Anglo-Saxon abbey. Its tower is made of Roman bricks brought up the hill from the abandoned Roman town. Since the Dissolution, the abbey's church has been used as the parish church, becoming a cathedral in 1877. South of St Albans, the Gade joins the Colne near Bricket Wood.

In contrast to its tributaries, the River Colne itself rises in the south of Hertfordshire, at North Mymms. It flows south west through London Colney and is then joined by the Gade. To the south of this stretch of the Colne, along the Middlesex border, are several towns. Radlett is an affluent town, strung along Watling Street. Bushey has the feel of a small town despite its proximity to the metropolitan area. Borehamwood has been associated with the film industry since 1914. Innumerable famous films have been made in the many studios which have been based here. Chipping Barnet, New Barnet, East Barnet and Totteridge lie in an area of Hertfordshire surrounded on three sides by Middlesex, with Finchley to their south, Southate to their east and the South Mimms - Potters Bar area to their north. These areas are suburban in character, contiguous with the surrounding urban areas of Middlesex and effectively form the northern end of the metropolitan conurbation.

Watford stands on a low hill near the point at which the River Colne was forded by travellers between London and the Midlands. It was a small market town until the arrival of the Grand Union Canal encouraged the construction of paper-making mills, print works, and breweries. The Colne continues westwards, being joined by the Ver, and on to Rickmansworth. The town, known as "Ricky", became part of "Metro-land" in the 1920s and remains a commuter town. The Colne then turns south and becomes the Hertfordshire - Middlesex border before leaving the county on its journey south to the Thames.

The River Lea dominates the east of the county. The Lea rises near Luton and flows south across the border to the affluent commuter town of Harpenden. Nomansland Common was infamous in the 17th century for the brigands who preyed upon travellers, including the "Wicked Lady", a highwaywoman claimed to have been Lady Katherine Ferrers of Markyate. In the village of Ayot St Lawrence is Shaw's Corner (NT), home of George Bernard Shaw.

The Lea flows east past Wheathampstead, a town with a history more ancient even than St Albans. Here, around 50 BC, the Belgic tribes built a substantial oppidium, a fortified town, which survives now as a ring of earthworks known as "The Devil's Dyke".

The Lea flows to the south-east of Welwyn Garden City, founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the 1920s. Howard had called for the creation of planned towns that were to combine the benefits of the city and the countryside and to avoid the disadvantages of both. It was built on farmland around the hamlet of Handside, to the south of the town of Welwyn, from which its name is derived. The town is laid out along tree-lined boulevards with a neo-Georgian town centre. It 1948 it was designated a new town and further period of development began.

To the north of Welwyn Garden city is Stevenage, the first of the post-war new towns. Stevenage has Anglo-Saxon origins and later grew serving the coaches along the Great North Road. The new town was built mostly to the east of the existing town, now known as the Old Town. Former villages Pin Green, Chells, Shephall and Broadwater have become districts of the town. The Stevenage Brook flows into the River Breane which flows into the Lea at Hertford. Knebworth House is a Regency century mansion at Old Knebwoth, just south of Stevenage. The house is known for its events and concerts.

The Lea flows south to Hatfield. Hatfield House is a prime example of Jacobean architecture. An earlier building on the site was the Royal Palace of Hatfield, the childhood home and favourite residence of Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen Elizabeth Oak is said to be the location where Elizabeth was told she was queen following Mary's death. West of the old town is the new town built from the late 1940s. From here the Lea flows east to the county town of Hertford, first mentioned in 672 when the Council of Hertford met here. In the town are the remains of the original Hertford Castle, principally a motte. The Shire Hall (1779) was designed by Robert Adam.

The Lea flows east to Ware. Ware lies on Ermine Street, the Roman road from London to Lincoln, and the Romans had a sizeable settlement here. Ware has many historic buildings including the remains of a fourteenth-century friary. The town is famous for its many 18th-century riverside gazebos. Scott's Grotto is a series of chambers extending over 65 ft into the chalk hillside. The chambers are decorated with shells, stones such as flint and coloured glass. Ware is also known for the Great Bed of Ware, mentioned by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Thence the Lea flows between St Margarets and Stanstead Abbotts and south to Hoddesdon. At Hoddesdon, the Lea accepts the waters of the River Stort and marks the border of Essex below this point. It flows by the long conurbation of Lea Valley towns including Hoddesdon, Broxbourne and Cheshunt. Waltham Cross is the most south-easterly town in Hertfordshire. The town takes its name from the Eleanor Cross which stands in the town centre.

In the far north of the county, the rivers flow north to join the River Great Ouse and the county begins to feels like a part of East Anglia. The River Hiz flows through the town of Hitchin, most picturesquely in front St Mary's Church. To its east is Letchwork, the first of the garden cities. The town's name is taken from one of the three villages it surrounded, the other two being Willian and Norton. The town was laid out by Raymond Unwin as a demonstration of the principles established by Ebenezer Howard. This, the first garden city, had great influence on the new towns movement. Baldock, said to have been founded by the Knights Templar, grew up where the old Great North Road and the Icknield Way crossed. Many old coaching inns still operate as pubs and hotels.

The north-east of Hertfordshire is almost entirely rural. The River Rib rises near the village of Buckland and from there its course is followed by Ermine Street (A10), as the Rib and the road pass through Buntingford, Westmill, Braughing, Puckeridge and Standon before finally joining the Lea near Hertford. At the far north of this area the town of Royston lies where Ermine Street crosses the Icknield Way, the border with Cambridgeshire. The High Street and the heart of Royston are in Hertfordshire. In the far east, Bishop's Stortford lies on the River Stort where it enters from Essex. The town has Saxon origins but developed only after the Stort was made navigable in 1769. South of the town the Stort forms most of the border with Essex until its meets the Lea near Hoddesden.

Main Towns:Abbots Langley, Barnet, Berkhamstead, Bishop's Stortford, Borehamwood, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Hitchin, Hertford, St Albans, Tring, Watford, Welwyn Garden City
Main Rivers:Lea, Colne, Stort, Ivel, Rib, Mimram
Highlights:St Albans Cathedral; Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence; Hatfield House; Verulamium roman remains
County Flower:Pasqueflower
Highest Point:Pavis Wood (nr Hastoe), 801 feet
Area:633 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,157,166


43  HNT  Huntingdonshire    Wikishire Map
Huntingdonshire is an inland county between the Midlands and East Anglia. One of the smallest of the counties, Huntingdonshire is a county of pretty little villages with a few small towns.

Huntingdonshire is roughly rhomboid in shape. Huntingdon, the county town, stands in the middle of the county on the River Great Ouse, at the meeting of the Great North Road (A1) and the route from east coast to the Midland towns (A14). The High Street has many charming old houses, shops and coaching-inns. The town has a well-preserved mediæval bridge. Oliver Cromwell was born in a house on Huntingdon High Street.

The south of Huntingdonshire is a rich agricultural landscape characterised by farming and picturesque villages. The Great River Ouse enters Huntingdonshire at St Neots. The town is named after the Cornish monk, whose bones were moved to the Priory here from St Neot on Bodmin Moor in around AD 980. Pilgrimage to the priory church brought the town prosperity. Today St Neots is a thriving market town and commuter town. Buckden Towers is a 12th-century fortified manor house in the village of Buckden.

The county's highest point lies close to the Three Shire Stone marking where Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire meet. At 263 feet it is the lowest county top in all the counties. Nearby is the splendid Kimbolton Castle. Catherine of Aragon was imprisoned and died here in 1536.

Upstream, just south of Huntingdon, is Godmanchester. The town has many timber-framed Tudor houses and a mediæval bridge connecting it to Huntingdon. To the west, Brampton is associated with Samuel Pepys, the diarist, whose house, Brampton House, stands outside the village. Between Godmanchester, Huntingdon and Brampton lies Britain's largest meadow, Portholme, an important flood plain. In past days it served as a horse race course and centre for early aviation. The modern-day racecourse lies east of Huntingdon.

From Huntingdon, the Great Ouse flows east to the pretty market town of St Ives, famous for its mediæval bridge with a chapel in the middle. East of the town the Great Ouse turns north and becomes the border with Cambridgeshire before tuning east again into Cambridgeshire.

North of Huntingdon lies the county's share of the Great Fen, long since drained and converted into broad, fertile arable fields. There are many small, pretty hamlets and villages scattered across the fen. The only town of any size is Ramsey. The town's manor house, still known as "Ramsey Abbey" is built on the site of an Anglo-Saxon abbey and of material from the abbey.

In the far north-west of the county, the southern suburbs of Peterborough (south of the Nene) including Fletton and the Ortons lie in Huntingdonshire. To the west is the Grade listed Elton Hall. The county border runs along the south-facing wall of the hall, leaving the hall itself in Huntingdonshire, whilst the formal gardens lie in Northamptonshire.

Huntingdonshire is mainly agricultural, though with much light industry and computer technology companies, and around Huntingdon in particular road haulage thrives due to the county's position.

Main Towns:Huntingdon, Kimbolton, Godmanchester, Ramsey, St Ives, St Neots
Main Rivers:Nene, Ouse, Kym
Highlights:Cromwell's Birthplace and Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon; Flag Fen; Old Fletton.
County Flower:Water-violet
County Day:25th April, birth date of Oliver Cromwell
Highest Point:Bush Ground, Bottom Farm (field nr Three Shire Stone), 263 feet.
Area:366 sq miles
Pop (2011):211,776


44  INS  Inverness-shire    Wikishire Map
Inverness-shire is a huge county which spreads from the Atlantic to the North Sea and out into its many beauteous islands. Inverness-shire is the heart of the Highlands, and the largest county in Scotland. It is bounded to the north by Ross-shire, on its long, sweeping eastern and southern border by many counties.

The landward part of Inverness-shire is wild and mountainous throughout to an immoderate degree and characterized by gorgeous scenery, with isolated glens and lochs. The coastline is marked with long, rugged sealochs. Mainland Inverness can be divided into a number of distinct districts. Around the coast are Moidart, Arisaig and Morar in the south-west, Knoydart in the west, Lochaber in the south, Badenoch in the south-east and the Aird in the north. In the mountains are Badenoch, Strathspey (the upper part of the Spey) and Rannoch Moor (shared with Perthshire).

Scored through the centre of the shire is the Great Glen, or Glenmore, a deep straight line running south-west-north-east from sea to sea and containing a string of major lochs, from Loch Linnhe to Loch Ness. Loch Ness is the longest, deepest and most famous of all lochs. The lochs of the Great Glen were linked in the nineteenth century by the Caledonian Canal: now little used but remaining surely the most spectacular canal journey in Britain.

Inverness-shire also includes all of the Outer Hebrides, apart from the Isle of Lewis, out to St Kilda and farthermost Rockall. The shire also includes several islands of the Inner Hebrides, including the Isle of Skye, Raasay, Eigg, and their outliers. More than a third of Inverness-shire's area belongs to the islands.

There are in Inverness-shire more than fifty Munroes (mountains over 3,000 feet), including Ben Nevis (4,406 feet), the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Alder (3,757 feet), Sgurr Alaisdair (3,258 feet) on the isle of Skye, and several of the Cairngorms, a range straddling the border with Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.

Inverness is considered the capital of the Highlands. It stands at the mouth of the River Ness (which empties the waters of Loch Ness) as the river enters the Moydart Firth. Inverness, standing at the trysting of the highland roads, is the main mart of the Highlands as it has been for centuries. In more troubled times it was also a garrison town watching the restive clans. Inverness was raised to being a city in 2000.

Main Towns:Aviemore, Beauly, Broadford, Dunvegan, Fort William, Kingussie, Mallaig, Newtonmore, Portree, Inverness
Main Rivers:Beauly, Enrick, Leven, Lochy, Spean, Ness, Nevis, Spey, Truim
Highlights:Ben Nevis; Caledonian Canal; Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge; Culloden battefield; Great Glen; Loch Ness; Skye
County Flower:Twinflower
Highest Point:Ben Nevis, 4,412 feet
Area:4,211 square miles
Pop (2011):118,077


45  KNT  Kent   Wikishire Map
Kent is a maritime county at the south-easternmost point of Great Britain, known as the "Garden of England". Kent is a county more full of history than any other. Kent's name is also the oldest. It derives from the Cantii, an ancient British tribe known to the Romans long before Caesar. Kent was a British kingdom before the Romans came and after them it soon became a Jutish kingdom. It could almost still be considered a small country, based on the richness of its heritage, the beauty of its landscapes and the diversity of its settlements and economic activities.

Kent's southern border with Sussex runs through the deeply ridged and folded countryside of the High Weald. The high land and ridges is formed from sandstone. The lower land between ridges is the result of softer clays which have been more easily eroded. The result is a mediæval landscape of wooded, rolling hills studded with sandstone outcrops; small, irregular-shaped fields; scattered farmsteads; and ancient routeways.

On the High Weald, in the west of Kent, stands the 13th-century Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and later owned by Anne of Cleves. The nearby village of Chiddingstone is described by the National Trust as " the most perfect surviving example of a Tudor village in the county". Chiddingstone Castle dates from the early 19th century with elements of earlier buildings. To the east is the Georgian spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The border with Sussex is marked by a flagstone outside the church of King Charles the Martyr. Cranbrook is an ancient market town, once a centre of the Wealden cloth industry. Union Mill (1814) is a working windmill. Nearby Sissinghurst Castle is now a romantic ruin. Around it is the famous Sissinghurst Castle Garden (NT), created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. The former port town of Tenterden stands on the eastern edge of the High Weald overlooking the valley of the River Rother.

The Low Weald is a broad, low-lying clay vale which largely wraps around the northern and western edges of the High Weald. It is predominantly agricultural, supporting mainly pastoral farming owing to heavy clay soils. It has many densely wooded areas. In the west of the county, on the River Eden, is Edenbridge, once a centre of the Weladen iron industry. The town has many mediæval timber buildings. The Medway rises on the High Weald and flows through the biggest town in the Low Weald, Tonbridge. Tonbridge stands on spur of higher land where the marshy River Medway could be more easily forded. Tonbridge Castle was built here in the 11th century by Richard Fitz Gilbert. Tonbridge School was established in 1552. Paddock Wood developed as a centre of the local hops industry and remains one. The village of Hamstreet lies at the eastern end of the Low Weald, with the flat landscape of Romney Marsh beyond.

Wrapping around the Low Weald is the Greensand Ridge, an extensive, prominent mixed greensand/sandstone escarpment. Several of the major towns of Kent lie along the ridge. It also forms a transport corrdior with major road and rail routes running along it. The ridge enters Kent around the town of Westerham. South of the town is Chartwell Manor (NT), Churchill's home from 1922 until his death. Sevenoaks was first recorded in the 13th century. It developed around Knole House (NT), built in the 15th century as a palace for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The house sits in Knole Park (NT), a 1,000-acre deer park. Sevenoaks School, founded in 1432, is the oldest secular school in England. To the south, the mediæval moated manor house of Ightham Mote (NT) was described by Pevsner as "the most complete small mediæval manor house in the country".

Maidstone lies where the Medway cuts through the Greensand Ridge. Historically, the river carried much of the town's trade as the centre of agricultural Kent. Leeds Castle was a favourite residence of Edward I. The present building dates mostly from the 19th century and is built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len. Ashford, on the River Great Stour, has become a key transport hub. Its agricultural market is one of the most important in the county. At its south-eastern extreme, the Greensand Ridge forms a notable scarp, formerly a sea cliff, on which lies the village of Lympne, overlooking the Romney Marsh. The Port Lympne Wild Animal Park incorporates the early-20th-century Port Lympne Mansion and its landscaped gardens designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker.

The Greensand Ridge meets the sea in a short coastal stretch which extends from Folkestone to Hythe. From the beginning of the railway age, Folkestone developed from a small fishing community to be both a passenger port and as a high-class seaside resort. Hythe is beside a broad bay, although silting removed its harbour hundreds of years ago. The town has mediæval and Georgian buildings, an Anglo-Saxon / Norman church and seafront promenade.

Below the Weald, in the far south-east of Kent, lies Romney Marsh, a sparsely populated wetland area. Criss-crossed with numerous waterways, the Marsh has over time sustained a gradual level of reclamation, both through natural causes and by human intervention. It covers about 100 square miles. In previous centuries, its isolation made it a notorious haunt of smugglers. The Marsh is famous for its long-wool "Romney" sheep. New Romney grew as a sea port, with the harbour adjacent to the church, but is now more than a mile from the sea.

To the north of the Greensand Ridge, the North Downs stretch across Kent, from south of Biggin Hill in the west to the White Cliffs of Dover in the east. The Kent section is also know as the Kent Downs. The county top, Betsom's Hill, lies on the Kent Downs, close to the Surrey border. The Kent Downs have a steep south-facing scarp slope and a more gentle north-facing dip slope. Their southern boundary is defined by the low-lying Vale of Holmesdale at the foot of the escarpment, separating it from the Greensand Ridge. The ridge of the North Downs is intersected by the valleys of a series of rivers: the Darent, Medway and Stour which drain much of the Weald. Along the Darent valley is the village of Lullingstone. Lullingstone Roman Villa contains a Romano-Christian chapel, displaying some of the earliest evidence of Christianity in Britain. Lullingstone Castle dates from 1497. The surrounding deer park is renowned for its collection of ancient trees.

The White Cliffs of Dover spread for about eight miles along the Kentish coast, with the ancient and modern port of Dover crammed into a gap in the cliffs. The cliff face, which reaches up to 350 feet, owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk accentuated by streaks of black flint. Dover has since ancient days been the major conduit for traffic across the narrow seas betwixt Britain and Europe. The Roman's named the town Dubris. Above the town, on the Eastern Heights, is Dover Castle, founded in the 11th century and described as the "Key to England" due to its defensive significance throughout history. The Pharos Roman lighthouse still stands in the castle grounds. On the Western Heights are a series of 18th- and 19th-century forts, strong points and ditches, including The Citadel and Drop Redoubt. The area is now a nature reserve.

Between the North Downs and the Thames Estuary is the North Kent Plain. The area is essentially open, low and gently undulating land. It is a very productive arable land, with traditional orchards, soft fruits and other horticultural crops. At its south-east, north of Dover, is the quiet quiet seaside resort of Deal. Its finest building is the Tudor Deal Castle, commissioned by King Henry VIII and designed with an attractive rose floor plan. Once a major port, Sandwich is now two miles from the sea, its historic centre preserved but its historic role lost as the sea has retreated.

The Isle of Thanet, long since connected to the mainland, lies in the north-east tip of Kent. Long before Ramgate became a great seaside town in the 19th century it was a busy port and remains so. Broadstairs is known as the "jewel in Thanet's crown". Margate has been a leading seaside resort for at least 250 years. West along the Thames Estuary is Herne Bay, a seaside resort which rose to prominence in the early 19th century after the building of the pleasure pier and promenade. Whitstable is famous for its oysters, which have been collected in the area since at least Roman times.

Five miles south of Whitstable, on the River Stour, is the historic cathedral city of Canturbury. Canterbury stood before the Romans came in the 1st century AD, and since then it has been a Roman town, then the capital of the Kingdom of Kent, a major mediæval town and now a modest provincial city. After Kent accepted Christianity in 597, St Augustine founded an episcopal see in the city and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. The cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077 and developed in ensuring centuries. In 1170, Thomas Becket, then Archbishop, was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and this led to the cathedral's becoming a popular place of pilgrimage. Many historical structures remain in the city, including a city wall founded in Roman times, the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and a Norman castle. The 6th-century St Martin's Church is the oldest church in Britain still in use as a church. It was originally the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent, Æthelberht's Christian Frankish Queen.

Faversham is a market town which lies next to the Swale, the strip of sea separating mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey. There has been a settlement at Faversham since pre-Roman times, next to the ancient sea port on Faversham Creek. The town was favoured by King Stephen who established Faversham Abbey. Faversham Market dates back over 900 years, the oldest street market in Kent. Shepherd Neame Brewery, founded in 1698, claims to be the oldest in Britain. Sittingbourne, in a creek off the Swale, developed as a port from which Kentish produce was transported to the London markets. It had a long history of paper manufacture, growing to become the the largest producer of newsprint in the world. The last paper mill closed in 2006.

The Isle of Sheppey lies off the Coast opposite Sittingbourne. The island's main towns are Sheerness and Minster. The island, like much of north Kent, comprises London Clay and is a plentiful source of fossils. The ground is mainly low-lying, but at The Mount near Minster rises to 250 feet above sea level.

Rochester is at the lowest bridging point of the River Medway. The city is marked by two grand edifices; Rochester Cathedral and Rochester Castle. A great deal of history is found in these streets; Romans, Anglo-Saxon, Mediæval and modern. Strood stands the north-west bank of the River Medway, opposite to Rochester. Strood's history has been dominated by the river, the bridges and the road and rail links they carried. It is now a mainly residential suburb of Rochester, and a commuter town for London. Upnor Castle, an Elizabethan artillery fort, lies on the Medway north of the town.

In 1568 Queen Elizabeth I established the Royal Dockyard on the east bank of the Medway. Chatham, Brompton and Gillingham are all ancient settlements which grew around the dockyard and the 19th-century forts built to provide it with a defensive shield. The Dockyard closed in 1984, but the remaining major naval buildings are an attraction for a flourishing tourist industry. Rainham grew from a small village south of the Medway estuary to a residential town with the arrival of the railway in 1858.

The Hoo Peninsula separates the Medway and Thames estuaries. It is dominated by a line of sand and clay hills. Surrounded these are the North Kent Marshes, a major habitat for wetland birds. Cooling Castle is a 14th-century quadrangular castle built by the Cobham family to guard against French raids into the Thames Estuary. The strategic location of the Hoo peninsula has made it home to several power stations and oil refineries, especially at its farthest extent, on the Isle of Grain.

The North Kent Marshes stretch east from Hoo along the Thames estuary to Gravesend. Because of its geographical position Gravesend has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of south-eastern Britain. The Pier is the world's oldest surviving cast iron pier, built in 1834. Windmill Hill offers extensive views across the Thames, and was a popular spot for Victorian visitors.

Dartford is situated in a valley through which the River Darent flows, and where the old road from London to Dover crossed: hence the name, from Darent ford. Dartford became a market town in the Middle Ages. Today it is principally a commuter town. During the Middle Ages Dartford was an important waypoint for pilgrims and travellers on the way to Canterbury and Europe, and various religious orders established themselves in the area. The Knights Hospitallers of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem established a commandery at Sutton-on-Hone in 1199. The remains of its 13th-century chapel forms St John's Jerusalem (NT).

The north-west of Kent lies in the Metropolitan conurbation, containing a great variety of townscapes. Orpington stands at the edge of the conurbation. The Priory is a 13th-century mediæval hall house, surrounded by Italianate and Arts & Crafts style formal gardens. Bromley was a market town which grew with the arrival of the railway. Its famous son H.G. Wells was born on the High Street in 1866. Sidcup is a fashionable suburb, with large Victorian and Edwardian properties alongside typical 1930s suburbia. Its many parks and open spaces hint at the great estates and large homes which once stood in the area.

Into the 19th century, Bexleyheath was an area scrub-land bordering Watling Street. In 1766 Sir John Boyd had the Pallaidian mansion Danson House built. The surrounded parkland now forms Danson Park. Red House is a significant Arts and Crafts building, co-designed in 1859 by the architect Philip Webb and the designer William Morris. It served as a family home for Morris.

Woolwich is a river crossing point, with the Woolwich Ferry and the Woolwich foot tunnels. Woolwich was a small Kent village which grew to become a leading military and industrial town. It was home to the Woolwich Dockyard, the Royal Arsenal, the Royal Military Academy and the Royal Horse Artillery. Arsenal Football Club was founded in 1886 by workers at the Royal Arsenal – the club were initially known as Dial Square, then Royal Arsenal and then became Woolwich Arsenal in 1891.

The junction of Rock Hill and Sydenham Hill Road in Upper Sydenham forms the westernmost point of Kent. The border with Surrey runs north up Sydenham Hill Road with views out across metropolitan Surrey. Beckenham was, until the coming of the railway in 1857, a small village, with most of its land being rural and private parkland. John Barwell Cator and his family began the leasing and selling of land for the building of villas which led to a rapid increase in population. Lewisham was a small village until the development of passenger railways in the 19th century.

In the north-west of Kent, on the Thames, lies the world famous town of Greenwich. It's rise to fame began when the Palace of Placentia was built here by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in 1443. The palace was the birthplace of many Tudors, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centrepiece of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings, originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen, was designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1712. The Cutty Sark and Gipsy Moth IV are sited on the river front. The National Maritime Museum is housed in buildings forming another symmetrical group and grand arcade around the Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones. Greenwich Park includes the former Royal Observatory, the crosshairs of whose telescope define the prime meridian of the world.

Main Towns:Bexleyheath, Bromley, Canterbury, Catford, Chatham, Dover, Folkestone, Greenwich, Lewisham, Maidstone, Orpington, Ramsgate, Rochester, Sidcup, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Whitstable, Woolwich
Main Rivers:Darent, Medway, Great Stour, Little Stour, Thames
Highlights:Walmer Castle; Knole country house; Royal Greenwich Observatory; Ightham Mote manor house; White Cliffs of Dover; Romney Marsh
County Flower:Hop
County Day:26th May, death date of Augustine of Canterbury
Highest Point:Betsom's Hill, 823 feet
Area:1,611 sq miles
Pop (2011):2,747,715


46  KNC  Kincardineshire   Wikishire Map
Kincardineshire is a maritime county on the North Sea coast. Kincardineshire has also been named "the Mearns". The county consists of a mixture of cultivated land, woodland and moor, rising into the Grampian mountains. Fishing and farming are the main industries.

The north-west of the county lies in the Grampian mountains, including the county top Mount Battock. Glen Dye is remarkable for its beauty.

To the east, these slope down to the finely-wooded valley of the River Dee which forms the border with Aberdeenshire. Banchory is known as the "Gateway to Royal Deeside" and attracts many vistors. It is surrounded by lovely rural countryside and attractive hills. Nearby is the splendid 16th-century Crathes Castle.

South of the Grampians, in the south-west of the county, is the Howe o' the Mearns. This low-lying district may be reckoned to start at the River North Esk, the border with Angus, stretching north-east until it crosses the Bervie Water north of Inverbervie. Laurencekirk is the largest village in the Howe. Its famous landmark is the Johnston Tower, which can be seen from the peak of the Garvock. Den Finella, near the village of St Cyrus, contains a picturesque waterfall.

Kincardine was a burgh at the northern edge of the Howe o' the Mearns beneath Strathfinella Hill. Once a noble castle stood here and its town around it, beside the Devilly Burn. The county town was moved to Stonehaven in 1600 and Kincardine declined and vanished. The market ceased and the old mercat cross was transferred to nearby Fettercairn. All that remains of the old burgh is a hamlet, Castleton of Kincardine, gathered around the ruins of the castle.

Kincardineshire's coast is bold and rocky, but its indentations form fine natural harbours for its numerous fishing villages. Inverbervie lies at the south-western end of the county's coast. Here stand Hallgreen Castle, founded in 1376, on a bluff overlooking the sea. Nearby is Allardice Castle, a sixteenth-century manor house.

The county town of Stonehaven grew around a fishing village inhabited at least since the Iron Age, the site now known as the "Auld Toon". The 16th-century Stonehaven Tolbooth, on the old north quay of the Harbour, has served as a courtroom, a prison and is now a museum. Dunnottar Castle, perched atop a rocky outcrop, was home to the Keith family, and during the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden there. West of Stonehaven is Fetteresso Castle, an 18th-century Gothic-style Palladian manor house. North of the town, near the Cowie Bridge, is the historic fishing village of Cowie and the ruins of Cowie Castle.

North of Stonehaven, Newtonhill is now mainly a commuter village but grew from the older fishing village of Skateraw. Nearby is Muchalls Castle, its lower course a well preserved Romanesque, double-groined 13th-century towerhouse structure. Upon this structure was built the 17th-century castle.

North of Newtonhill, around the A92, is the modern residential suburn of Portlethen. On the coast, east of the modern town, is Old Portlethen, the fishing village whose name the town has borrowed. Close by are the fishing villages of Findon and Downies.

In the far north-east of the county, those suburbs of Aberdeen south of the River Dee lie in Kincardineshire. These include the former Royal Burgh of Torry, famous for its fishing community; Tollus; the garden estate of Kincorth; and the former fishing village turned residential suburb of Cove Bay.

Main Towns:Banchory, Fettercairn, Inverbervie, Kincardine, Laurencekirk, Porthlethen, Stonehaven.
Main Rivers:Dee, North Esk, Dye, Cowie.
Highlights:Dunnottar Castle; Howe of Mearns stone cirlce; Kincardine Castle; Cowie Castle
County Flower:Clustered bellflower
Highest Point:Mount Battock, 2552 feet.
Area:380 sq miles
Pop (2011):77,670


47  KNR  Kinross-shire    Wikishire Map
Kinross-shire is a small, inland county lying between Perthshire and Fife. It is the second smallest county in Great Britain.

At the heart of this little shire is Loch Leven, at 4,000 acres the largest loch in the Scotish lowlands. There are seven islands on the loch. On Castle Island lie the ruins of Loch Leven Castle. The castle is strongly associated with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned here in 1567–1568, and forced to abdicate as queen, before escaping with the help of her gaoler's family. On the largest island, St Serf's Inch, are the remains of St Serf's Inch Priory, founded in 1150 and abandoned during the reign of James VI.

Loch Leven has a rich ecosystem that supports many different species of plants, insects, fish and birds. The loch holds numerous international conservations designations. As the largest lowland loch in Scotland, Loch Leven is an important site for waterfowl, with up to 35,000 birds present in the winter months.

Kinross-shire is landlocked and is generally flat, except in the north-west where the Ochil Hills are located, and along the southern boundary where the Cleish Hills can be found. The Ochils contain Innerdouny Hill, Kinross-shire's highest point (1,631 ft). Much of Kinross–shire is fertile agricultural land.

The county town of Kinross is attractively located on the northern shores of Loch Leven. The site of the original parish church and churchyard are located down a small wynd overlooking Loch Leven, a little away from the town. There are boat trips around the loch and to Loch Leven Castle. Kinross lies close to the M90.

The village of Milnathort stands amidst picturesque countryside at the foot of the Ochil Hills, and near the north shore of Loch Leven. Settlement in the area can be dated as far back as 2,000 BC, with two Neolithic standing stones being nearby where human remains were found and dated. The ruins of Burleigh Castle stand just outside the village. The Balfours of Burleigh built the castle in the 15th century to rule over what was then a market town.

The village of Kinnesswood east of the loch was the birthplace in 1746 of the poet Michael Bruce who was born into a weaver's family and is remembered for his nature poetry in poems such as 'Ode To The Cuckoo. ' He is buried in the tranquil churchyard at Portmoak Church.

At Scotlandwell are famous springs. In early Latin charters it is named Fons Scotiae (meaning "Scotland's Well"); the curative waters that bubble up through the sandy ground were used by Red Friars who maintained a hospital in the village between 1250 and 1587. Thousands of pilgrims came to Scotlandwell to take the water, the most famous perhaps being King Robert the Bruce who is alleged to have found a cure for leprosy here. The ornamental well and wash house which can be seen today were built in the 19th century.

The county is predominatly argicultural, though is increasingly becoming a commuter area for Perth, Dundee and Stirling. The M90 crosses the county from south to north running close to Kinross and Milnathort.

Main Towns:Kinross, Milnathort.
Main Rivers:Leven, North Queich, South Queich.
Highlights:Kinross House; Loch Leven; Loch leven castle; Cleish Hills.
County Flower:Holy-grass
Highest Point:Innerdouny Hill, 1,631 feet.
Area:73 sq miles
Pop (2011):11,223


48  KCB  Kirkcudbrightshire   Wikishire Map
Kirkcudbrightshire is a maritime county on the north coast of the Solway Firth. It is sometimes known as the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. With neighbouring Wigtownshire it forms the region of Galloway.

The north-western part of the county is rugged, wild and desolate. Here are found Merrick, the county top and the group of the Rhinns of Kells. In the north-east rises the majestic hill of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn (2,614 feet), and close to the Ayrshire border is the Windy Standard (2,290 feet).

The southern section of the shire is mostly level or undulating, but characterised by picturesque scenery. The dales of Kirkcudbrightshire which sweep down to the sea are of a special beauty. The Urr Water cuts it way to the Solway below Dalbeattie, the Dee and Ken Water to Kirkcudbright, where the waters open out into the great inlet of Kirkcudbright Bay. The Cree Water further west is a boundary river opening into the broad bay of Wigtown.

The shore is generally bold and rocky, indented by numerous estuaries forming natural harbours, which however are of little use for commerce owing to the shallowness of the sea. Large stretches of sand are exposed in the Solway at low water and the rapid flow of the tide has often occasioned loss of life.

The main towns lie in the south of the county.

Gatehouse of Fleet takes its name from its location near the mouth of the Water of Fleet. The western approach to the town is dominated by the imposing 15th-century tower house Cardoness Castle. Near the town are fine beaches at Carrick and Sandgreen.

Kirkcudbright, the county town, is a small town, built around a sheltered harbour on the Dee estuary, behind which are pretty streets of historic buildings. The 16th-century MacLellan's Castle stands in the centre of the town.

Castle Doulgas, in the hills above the dale of the River Dee, is a Georgian new town, founded in 1792 by Sir William Douglas. Threave Castle is situated on an island in the River Dee, west of the town. Built in the 1370s, it was a stronghold of the "Black Douglases", Earls of Douglas and Lords of Galloway, until their fall in 1455.

Dalbeattie is situated in a wooded valley on the Urr Water. The town is famed for its granite industry and for being the home town of William McMaster Murdoch, First Officer of the RMS Titanic. To the north-west is the Motte of Urr, a great castle motte beside the River Urr near Haugh of Urr.

Maxwelltown stands on the west bank of the River Nith, which forms the border with neighbouring Dumfriesshire. It stands opposite Dumfries, the two joined by a bridge. It's oldest surviving building is Lincluden Abbey.

In the south-east lies the imposing height of Criffel (1,868 feet), surrounded by Long Fell, Maidenpap and Bainloch Hill. In the shadow of Criffel lies the village of New Abbey. Here lie the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway (daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway) in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart was buried alongside her when she died: the monks renamed the Abbey in tribute to her.

Main Towns:Castle Douglas, Creetown, Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbright, New Galloway.
Main Rivers:Dee, Urr.
Highlights:Clatteringshaw Dam wildlife centre; Dundrennan Abbey; Glenkens; McLellan's Castle.
County Flower:Bog-rosemary
Highest Point:Merrick Mountain, 2,766 feet.
Area:899 sq miles
Pop (2011):47,546


49  LNK  Lanarkshire   Wikishire Map
Lanarkshire is an inland county, in the heart of the Lowlands of Scotland. It is Scotland's most populous county, for the City of Glasgow and its eastern suburbs fill its northern parts. Lanarkshire was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.

Lanarkshire is in essence the valley of the River Clyde; the Clyde rises in the Lowther Hills and flows north-westward through the county to Glasgow, after which it widens into the Firth of Clyde. Hence the county's alternative name, Clydesdale.

The southernmost parts of Lanarkshire are within the mountains of the Southern Uplands. The highest hills include the county top Culter Fell, on the eastern border with Peebleshire, and Lowther Hill, on the western border with Dumfriesshire. Upper Clydesdale contains some fine countryside, quiet villages and smaller towns like Biggar. In the village of Dunsyre near the Peebleshire border lies the garden of Little Sparta. Created by artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife, Sue Finlay, the 5-acre Arcadian garden includes concrete poetry in sculptural form, polemic, and philosophical aphorisms, together with sculptures and two temples.

Standing above the Clyde, the county town Lanark, has been an important market town since mediæval time. A mile upstream is New Lanark, the model town developed by Robert Owen, the reforming industrialist, for the families of workers at his factory, New Lanark Mills. Near New Lanark are the picturesque Clyde Falls: Bonnington Linn, Corra Linn, Dundaff Linn and Stonebyres Linn.

The town of Carluke sits on a high plateau overlooking the River Clyde, in the heart of Lanarkshire's fruit growing area. The historic market town of Strathaven lies on the other side of the Clyde valley, the largest settlement in the valley of the Avon Water. The ruins of the 14th-century Strathaven Castle stand in its centre.

Further downstream the plain becomes flatter and the larger towns cluster. Hamilton is a working town, developed and based on industry though with fine historic buildings including the Hamilton Mausoleum in Strathcyle Park. Hamilton Palace was the historic seat of the Dukes of Hamilton. Within its former hunting grounds lies Cadzow Castle, above a gorge overlooking the Avon Water. North of Hamilton is Blantyre, famous as the birthplace of David Livingstone. On a steep bank above the Clyde at Bothwell is the large mediæval fortification of Bothwell Castle. Across the Clyde is Motherwell, formerly the steel production capital of Scotland, nicknamed Steelopolis.

Cambuslang, on the south-eastern outskirts of Glasgow, is known as "the largest village in Scotland". It has a long history of coal mining, iron and steel making and ancillary engineering, but most employment in the area now comes from the distribution or service industries. The town of Rutherglen received its status as a Royal Burgh in 1126. It was a centre of heavy industry but has largely become a dormitory town for Glasgow to the north.

Glasgow, on the Clyde, is one of Britain's greatest cities, built up by the industrial revolution, transatlantic trade and the shipyards. Glasgow was the main motor of Scotland's swift climb to wealth after the union and even after the shipyards have closed it remains the greatest commercial city of the north and one of the greatest in the whole kingdom. The City Chambers stand on the eastern side of the city's George Square, an eminent example of Victorian civic architecture. The history of the High Kirk of Glasgow, usually known as Glasgow Cathedral, is linked with that of the city. The church is allegedly located where the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, built his church.

East of Glasgow, out of the Clyde valley on a plateau roughly 400 feet above sea level, lies the former industrial town of Airdrie. The town's traditional economic activities of weaving, coal mining, and heavy industry have ceased, though light industry continues and the town has become a commuter town. Airdrie forms part of a conurbation with its neighbour Coatbridge. Coatbridge has a proud industrial heritage having once been described as the "Iron Burgh". It is now the site of Scotlands inland container base.

East Kilbride was designated as Scotland's first new town in 1947. Eight miles south-east of Glasgow, it forms a large suburban town close to the Renfrewshire border.

Main Towns:Airdrie, Blantyre, Biggar, Bothwell, Coatbridge, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Glasgow, Lanark, Motherwell, New Lanark, Rutherglen, Uddingston.
Main Rivers:Clyde, Douglas, Avon, Calder.
Highlights:David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre; Falls of Clyde; Tinto Hill; St Mungo's Cathderal & Victorian Necropolis, Glasgow
County Flower:Dune Helleborine
Highest Point:Culter Fell, 2,454 feet.
Area:879 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,008,014


50  LCS  Lancashire   Wikishire Map
Lancashire is a maritime county in the north-west of England. Lancashire has a unique industrial heritage. Away from the industrial and urban areas, the county contains scenery of much beauty and jarring contrasts.

The land that would become Lancashire had been part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. The River Mersey, and further east, the River Tame, was considered the border with Mercia. The Honour of Lancaster was established after the Norman conquest after a wide band of territory, including the lands between the River Ribble and the River Mersey, was granted by William the Conqueror to Roger the Poitevin. In the early 1090s, Lonsdale, Cartmel and Furness were added to Roger's estates. From 1164 until 1189 the Honour of Lancaster was held by the crown and its accounts are recorded in the Pipe rolls. In 1182 Lancashire was first recorded as a separate shire. The county was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution: its mines, foundries and mills supplying the world. The county retains a strong manufacturing base but its economy is increasingly based around service-industries, retail, leisure and tourism.

The main body of Lancashire runs up the English west coast from the Mersey to Morecambe Bay. In south-east Lancashire, around the rivers Mersey, Tame and Irwell are the major towns and cities of Manchester, Salford, Eccles, Stretford and Ashton-under-Lyne. West along the Mersey are Warrington and Widnes and then, on the Mersey estuary, the mighty port of Livepool. The West Lancashire Coastal Plain stretches from the Mersey estuary up to the Ribble, including the famous resorts of Southport and Formby. To its east is the heart of the South Lancashire Coal Field with its many former mining towns including Wigan, St Helens and Leigh. Between Manchester and the West Pennines/Rossendale lie many of Lancashire's great industrial towns including Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham. North of the West Pennines, in the valleys of the Calder and Ribble, are the famous industrial towns of Blackburn, Burnley, Nelson and Colne, with Pendle Hill and Clitheroe to their north. The Fylde coastal plain stretches from Preston on the Ribble up to Lancaster on the Lune. The Fylde's coast is a string of holiday resorts centred on the best known of them all: Blackpool. Lonsdale stretches from Lancaster up beyond Lancashire's main body into Westmorland. Across Morecambe Bay, separated from the county's main body by Westmorland, is Lancashire North of the Sands, with its stunning Lakeland scenery.

Lancashire North of the Sands lies to the north and west of the Kent estuary, where the southernmost spur of Westmorland steps between and divides the two parts of Lancashire. The southern part of Lancashire North of the Sands comprises the Furness Peninsula and the Cartmel Peninsula, primarily agricultural areas. The northern part, known as High Furness, extends inland into the Lake District (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The Furness peninsula projects into the Irish Sea between the Leven and Duddon estuaries. The south-east coast of the peninsula faces on to Morecambe Bay. Its main town, Barrow-in-Furness, is sheltered from the Irish Sea by Walney Island, a 14 mile-long island connected to the mainland by the bascule-type Jubilee Bridge. Barrow grew from a small fishing village to an industrial and port town. It has the largest working shipyard in Britain. Piel Island, in the Walney Channel, is a haven for seabirds and the site of Piel Castle, built by the monks of Furness Abbey to protect the harbour.

The ruins of Furness Abbey (EH) lie between Barrow-in-Furness and the small town of Dalton-in-Furness. The abbey dates back to 1123 and was once one of the most powerful Cistercian monasteries in the country. Dalton Castle (NT) is a 14th-century peel tower built by the monks to protect the town. Ulverston is a market town close to the Leven estuary to which it was connected by the Ulverston Canal, once vital to the town's economy. Stan Laurel was born here in 1890. A statue of Laurel and Hardy stands outside Coronation Hall.

The Cartmel Peninsula juts into Morecambe Bay between the estuaries of the rivers Kent and Leven. Grange-over-Sands is a Victorian seaside resort. In the Middle Ages the peninsula was controlled by the monks of Cartmel Priory. The Priory's imposing church now serves as the parish church at Cartmel. Holker Hall, dating to the 16th century, was described by Pevsner as "the grandest [building] of its date in Lancashire ...by the best architects then living in the county". The delightful Cartmel racecourse is nearby.

High Furness is dominated by the high peaks of the Furness Fells. Lancashire's border with Cumberland follows the River Duddon up to the Three Shire Stone at the top of the Wrynose Pass, the point where Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland meet. Wordsworth wrote in soaring praise of the beauty and quiet of the Duddon valley.

From the Three Shire Stone, the Lancashire - Westmorland border follows the Brathay until it joins the River Rothay as it flows into Windermere. The border runs down the western shore of Windermere. Wray Castle (NT) is a Victorian neo-gothic building on the northern end of this shore. The southern end of the eastern shore of Windermere is also in Lancashire, as far north as Black Beck. Fell Foot Park (NT), formerly the grounds of a Victorian house, spreads out beside the lake near Staveley-in-Cartmel. Stott Park Bobbin Mill (EH) is a 19th-century bobbin mill and now a working museum near Newby Bridge. From Black Beck, the border briefly crosses countryside and then is formed by the River Winster.

Coniston Water, one of the finest of all the Lakes, lies at the heart of High Furness. West of the lake are the Coniston Fells. Here lies the county top, The Old Man of Coniston (2,633 feet). The Victorian artist and philosopher John Ruskin owned Brantwood House on the eastern shore of the lake, and lived in it from 1872 until his death in 1900. The house is a museum dedicated to him. Ruskin is buried in the churchyard in Coniston. The lake is famous for the several world water speed records set on it by Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald Campbell. It was the site of Donald Campbell's fatal accident in 1967. The lake and its surroundings can be enjoyed in Victorian luxury on the Steam Yacht Gondola (NT).

Grizedale Forest, between Coniston Water and Windermere, spreads over the hills around the villages of Grizedale and Satterthwaite. To its north is Esthwaite Water, known for its excellent fishing. The 17th century Hill Top Farm (NT) in the village of Near Sawrey was the home of famous children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. North of Esthwaite Water is Hawkshead, a village with a timeless atmosphere, consisting of a characterful warren of alleys, overhanging gables and a series of mediæval squares. Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammar School. The town is eloquently described in his poem The Prelude. The Beatrix Potter Gallery (NT) presents original illustrations by Beatrix Potter.

The village of Silverdale stands on Morecambe Bay in the far north-west of the main body of Lancashire. Inland is the wetland nature reserve of Leighton Moss, famous for its resident bitterns. Around the moss are low, heavily wooded hills of Carboniferous Limestone, including Warton Crag (535 feet). East of the hills the land is flatter and is crossed by the ancient north–south aligned transport route, now with the motorway and rail networks. East of this is Lonsdale, the River Lune crossing into Lancashire south of Kirby Lonsdale in Westmorland. In the far north-east of the main body of Lancashire lies Leck Fell, on the edge of the Pennines, and, among the fells, the County Stone where Lancashire meets Westmorland and Yorkshire.

South of Silverdale, on the River Keer, lies the railway town of Carnforth. Carnforth railway station was used as the set for David Lean's 1945 film Brief Encounter. The villages of Bolton-le-Sands and Hest Bank, alongside Morecambe Bay, also grew with the railways.

Lonsdale broadens as the Lune flows south-west to the city of Lancaster. The landscape in Lonsdale is mainly one of pastoral agriculture. The Pennines, including the Tatham Fells and Lythe Fell, stretch across from Yorkshire to within a few miles of Lancaster. Lancaster's name was first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Loncastre, where "Lon" refers to the River Lune, and "castre", from the Old English cæster, refers to the Roman fort which stood on the hill on which the mediæval Lancaster Castle was later built. Lancaster Priory, now a parish church, was the church of the Benedictine priory of St Mary, founded in 1094. The Ashton Memorial, built between 1907-1909 by industrialist Lord Ashton in memory of his wife Jessy, dominates the skyline.

The Lune becomes tidal at the weir in the centre of Lancaster. It flows thence east then sweeps south and enters Morecambe Bay at Plover Scar. The famous Lancashire seaside resort of Morecambe lies on the peninsula between the Lune estuary and Morecambe Bay. The town's origins lie in the building of a harbour and connecting railway close to the fishing village of Poulton-le-Sands in the 1840s. The resort which grew around the harbour came to be known as "Morecambe". The town expanded to absorb Poulton and the villages of Bare and Torrisholme. The comedian Eric Morecambe was born in the town, from which he later took his stage name, in 1926.

The ferry port of Heysham is south of Morecambe. The ancient St Patrick's Chapel stands in ruins on the cliff-edge. The chapel contain a unique Anglo-Saxon arch and several grave-holes, thought to date from the 11th century, hewn out of solid rock into the shapes of the bodies they were to receive. St Peter's Church contains a Norse hogback stone of unknown purpose or meaning. A pre-Roman labyrinth is carved in the rocks of the foreshore. The Barrows are the only sea-cliffs in Lancashire. The name, and the discovery of Stone Age artefacts, suggest this may have been an ancient burial ground. The rest of the peninsula is rural. Middleton was the site of Middleton Tower Holiday Camp from 1939 to 1994. At the tip of the peninsula is Sunderland Point. The village of Sunderland is the only community in Great Britain to be on the mainland and yet dependent upon tidal access.

To the south of Lancaster, as far as the River Ribble, stretches the Fylde (or Amounderness) coastal plain. On its east are the foothills of the Pennines. It is a flat, alluvial plain, parts of which were once dug for peat. Away from its towns, the Fylde is predominantly improved pasture, with isolated arable fields. The ancient market town of Garstang stands on the Wyre near the eastern edge of the plain. The ruins of 15th-century Greenhalgh Castle stand nearby. The River Wyre meanders across the Fylde from Garstang, westwards towards Poulton and then northwards to the sea at Fleetwood. The area north and east of the tidal Wyre, known as Over Wyre, is the more rural side of the river. The west coast is almost entirely urban.

Fleetwood, at the mouth of the Wyre, was developed in the 1830s as a seaport and railway spur. It is world famous as the home of Fishermen's Friends. The resort of Cleveleys lies on the coast whilst its near neighbour Thornton lies east on the Wyre estuary. South of Cleveleys is the famous seaside town of Blackpool. Blackpool was a coastal hamlet into the 19th century. A railway was built in the 1840s connecting it to the industrialised regions of northern England. By 1881 Blackpool was a booming resort with a promenade complete with piers, fortune-tellers, public houses, tram and donkey rides, fish-and-chip shops and theatres. Millions still visit every year to enjoy its beaches, its atmosphere and its many attractions, including the Blackpool Tower, Blackpool Illuminations, the Pleasure Beach, and the Winter Gardens. The Blackpool Tramway, opened in 1885, runs from Blackpool to Fleetwood. Blackpool Heritage Trams runs a 'heritage service' with restored trams from the 1930s onwards.

South of Blackpool is the relative tranquility of St Anne's-on-the-Sea, which retains much of its original character of a traditional Victorian seaside resort with up-market hotels, a sandy beach, donkeys, a small pier and ice cream stalls. Its near neighbour Lytham stands at the mouth of the River Ribble. The Green, running between the shore and the main coastal road, is a popular spot. Lytham Windmill, built around 1805, stands on The Green. Between the towns is the famous Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club. The market town of Poulton-le-Fylde stands a little inland from the busy coastline.

Kirkham, in the south of the Fylde, owes its existence to Carr Hill upon which it was built and which was the location of a Roman fort. The city of Preston lies at the very south end of the Fylde, on the north bank of the Ribble. Textiles were produced from the mid-13th century. Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the spinning frame, was born here. The Roman Catholic Church of St Walburge boasts the tallest church spire in England that is not on a cathedral (308 ft). The Preston Bypass, opened in 1958, was the United Kingdom's first motorway.

East of the Fylde the land rises towards the Pennines. East of Garstang are the Bleasdale Moors and Little Bowland, the only part of the ancient Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. To the south, the town of Longridge lies at the western end of Longridge Fell. To the north-west is Clitheroe near the border with Yorkshire. Clitheroe Castle stands on top of a 115-foot outcrop of limestone and is one of the oldest buildings in Lancashire. South-east of the town is Pendle Hill, its gaunt yet beautiful outline visible for huge distances. During the reign of James 1, Pendle was the backdrop to the strange saga of the Lancashire Witches. In 1652 George Fox experienced amazing visions as he ascended Pendle. They led him to found the Quaker movement.

The Lancashire Valleys broadly consist of the wide vale of the rivers Ribble and Calder and their tributaries, between the natural backdrops of Pendle Hill to the north and the West Pennine Moors to the south. This area has a strong urban character. Colne stands close to the Yorkshire border with beautiful countryside all around it. The nearby hamlet of Wycoller has a famous two-arched packhorse bridge, as well as the Clapper bridge and Clam bridge, claimed to be of great antiquity. An Iron Age hillfort called Castercliff is on a hill to the east of the former mill town of Nelson.

Burnley was one of Lancashire's most prominent mill towns: at its peak it was one of the world's largest producers of cotton cloth. It has retained a strong manufacturing sector. The Burnley Embankment, known locally as the Straight Mile, is an embankment carrying the Leeds and Liverpool Canal across the Calder and Brun valleys. The embankment is 1,256 yards long and the canal runs up to 60 feet above the valley floor. The structure was chosen as one of the original Seven Wonders of the Waterways in 1946. Padiham lies three miles west of Burnley. Nearby is Gawthorpe Hall (NT), an Elizabethan country house on the banks of the River Calder.

Accrington is famed for manufacturing the hardest building bricks in the world, "The Accrington NORI", used in the Empire State Building and the Blackpool Tower. The Haworth Art Gallery holds Europe's largest collection of Tiffany glass. Oswaldtwistle has a rich industrial heritage, being home to James Hargreaves, inventor of the spinning jenny.

Blackburn is located where a Roman military road crossed the river Blakewater. The road linked the Roman forts at Bremetennacum Veteranorum (Ribchester) with Mamucium (Manchester). Textiles were produced in the town from the 13th century, when wool was woven in people's houses. Blackburn Cathedral was formerly St Mary's Parish Church. Between the 1930s and 1960s an enlarged cathedral was built using the existing building as the nave. Blackburn's statue of Queen Victoria overlooks the Cathedral Square. Darwen lies on the River Darwen, south of Blackburn, in the foothills of the West Pennine Moors. To the west of Blackburn is Hoghton Tower, a fortified manor house dating from about 1560. It takes its name from the de Hoghton family, its historical owners since at least the 12th century.

Ribchester lies on the Ribble six miles north-west of Blackburn. This is a significant Roman site, being the location of the cavalry fort called Bremetennacum. A major Roman road ran through here. St Wilfrid's Church, believed to have been founded by St Wilfrid in the 8th century, stands on what was the centre of the Roman fort.

Chorley's wealth came principally from the cotton industry. Remnants of the industrial past include the Victoria Mill chimney. Astley Hall dates from the 16th century. The interior is notable for the staggering mid-17th-century plasterwork of its ceilings. The landscaped grounds form Astley Park. Chorley is known as the birthplace of the Chorley cake.

The West Pennine Moors, separated from the main Pennine range by the Irwell Valley, cover 90 square miles of moorland and reservoirs. The moors provide a dramatic backdrop to the Lancashire Valleys' towns to their north and west; and to the great industrial towns of Bolton and Bury to the south. The highest point is at Winter Hill (1,486 feet) with it transmitting station. The Pike Tower, on top of Rivington Pike, was built by John Andrews of Rivington Hall in 1733. A famous local landmark, with spectacular views over the West Lancashire Coastal Plain to the Blackpool Tower and far beyond. Below the Pike Tower, the soap magnate Lord Leverhulme built Rivington Terraced Gardens with the help of Thomas Mawson between 1905 and 1925. It remains a magical place of hidden paths, caves, structures and lakes.

The Pennines between the Irwell and the Yorkshire border are known as the Rossendale Hills. Rossendale is the steep sided valley of the River Irwell and its tributaries. During the Industrial Revolution, towns grew up at the river crossing points between Rawtenstall and Bacup and today form a contiguous urban area. Textile mills and chimneys and gritstone terraced houses are the dominant buildings. To the north are the Lancashire Valleys' towns of Burnley, Nelson and Colne. To the south are Rochdale and Littleborough.

The border town of Todmorden stands in the upper Calder Valley, east of Rossendale. The border with Yorkshire is marked by the original course of the River Calder and its tributary, the Walsden Water. Todmorden's 1876 Neo-Classical town hall was deliberately built above the Walsden Water. On the left-hand side of the front pediment is a sculpture representing Lancashire (cotton spinning and weaving), on the right-hand side is one representing Yorkshire (wool manufacturing, engineering and agriculture). The border also runs through the town's cricket pitch, while most of the field is in Yorkshire, the pavilion is in Lancashire.

Along the foothills of the West Pennines and the Rossendale hills, stretching down towards the Mersey valley, lie many of Lancashire's great industrial towns. The river valleys, upland hinterland and proximity of urban development all contribute to giving the area a distinct Pennine fringe character.

Horwich emerged in the Middle Ages as a hunting chase. During the Industrial Revolution, the textile industry and the Horwich Works became major employers. Urban regeneration has been led by out of town developments, particularly at Middlebrook which is the base of Bolton Wanderers football club.

Bolton was one of the most productive centres of cotton spinning in the world. Traditional industries have largely been replaced by service-based activities. Smithills Hall is a Grade I listed manor house on the moors above Bolton. Its oldest parts, including the great hall, date from the 15th century. Hall i' th' Wood is an early 16th-century manor house. One part was let to Samuel Crompton during the 18th century, where he designed and built the first spinning mule.

Ramsbottom sits on the River Irwell at the bottom of Rossendale. The town's Victorian architecture, its industrial heritage and the beautiful Pennine landscape contribute to heritage tourism in the town. The East Lancashire Railway is a heritage railway which runs through the town, on its line between Heywood and Rawtenstall. Above the town, on Holcombe Hill, stands the Peel Tower - a memorial to Sir Robert Peel, born in nearby Bury.

Bury emerged during the Industrial Revolution as a mill town centred on textile manufacture. The town centre is famous for the traditional market, with its "world famous" black pudding stalls. Castlesteads is an Iron Age promontory fort, situated on the east bank of the River Irwell on a natural promontory. Bury Art Museum holds the Wrigley collection of paintings, which includes works by J. M. W. Turner, Edwin Henry Landseer, John Constable and Peter De Wint. The Fusilier Museum is the home of collections of the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Radcliffe lies 3 miles further down the Irwell valley. Radcliffe Tower is all that remains of an early 15th-century stone-built manor house. The nearby tithe barn was probably built between 1600 and 1720. The former mill town of Whitefield is contiguous with Radcliffe.

Prestwich, further south on the Irwell, is now a suburban town. The oldest part of Prestwich, around Bury New Road, is known as Prestwich Village. Bury New Road roughly follows the line of the Roman road connecting Mamucium (Manchester) and Bremetennacum (Ribchester). It is possible that a Roman fort was built at "Castle Hill".

The former mill town of Heywood lies east of Bury, on the River Roch. The Cheesden Valley, to its north, became a centre of cotton production dependent on running water. Many of the former mills, lodges and a solitary chimney, along with other industrial workings such as weirs and dykes, are still evident today. To its south is Middleton, formerly a centre of silk production. The Church of St Leonard dates from 1412. The Flodden Window is thought to be the oldest war memorial in the United Kingdom. It memorialises the names of the Middleton archers who fought at Flodden Field in 1513. Tonge Hall is an Elizabethan manor house.

Rochdale lies among the foothills of the Rossendale Hills in the valley of the River Roch. Blackstone Edge, Saddleworth Moor and the South Pennines are close to the east, whilst on all other sides, Rochdale is bound by smaller towns, including Whitworth, Littleborough, Milnrow, Royton, Heywood, Shaw and Crompton. It was granted a royal charter in 1251. It was amongst the first ever industrialised towns. Rochdale Town Hall (1871) is one of the United Kingdom's finest examples of Victorian Gothic revival architecture. A Roman road, leading from Mamucium (Manchester) to Eboracum (York), crossed the moors at Blackstone Edge.

Oldham lies at the edge of the Pennines on elevated ground between the rivers Irk and Medlock. Oldham rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture. Today Oldham is a predominantly residential town, and a centre for further education and the performing arts. Oldham Coliseum Theatre celebrated its centenary in 1987 and has seen performers such as Eric Sykes, Charlie Chaplin, Dame Thora Hird and Dora Bryan tread its boards.

Chadderton, a mile west of Oldham, was transformed in the 19th century from a rural township into a major mill town. Although Chadderton's industries declined in the 20th century, the town continued to grow as a result of suburbanisation and urban renewal. The legacy of the town's industrial past remains visible in its landscape of red-brick cotton mills, now used as warehouses or distribution centres.

The former mill town of Failsworth lies 3 miles south-west of Oldham. The poet and journalist Benjamin Brierley, noted for his poetry in Lancashire dialects and his sketches of Lancashire character, was born in the town in 1795 and is honoured by a bronze statue outside the library. Daisy Nook country park, centred on the disused Hollinwood Branch Canal, is named from Brierley's A Summer Day in Daisy Nook (1859).

The West Lancashire Coastal Plain stretches south from the Ribble to the towns along the Mersey estuary. To the east the plain is bounded by the Lancashire Valleys and the former mining area around Skelmersdale, St Helens and Orrell. The coast is famed for its beaches, sand dunes and resort towns. The plain is very flat, much of it reclaimed from marshland and with a distinctive pattern of rectangular fields of dark peaty soil with deep drainage ditches. The Martin Mere nature reserve gives a glimpse of what this area was like prior to reclamation. The land is fertile and agriculturally very productive. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal crosses the plain. Ormskirk lies in the centre of the plain and traditionally is its main market town. Rufford Old Hall (NT), north of Ormskirk, has a Great Hall dating back to 1530 with period furniture, arms, armour, tapestries and a carved oak screen. The hall lies in splendid Victorian and Edwardian gardens.

Southport's origins lie in 1792 when William Sutton set up a bathing house and then the South Port Hotel on the virtually uninhabited dunes at South Hawes, close to the newly constructed Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The canal brought visitors from Manchester, Bolton and Liverpool and by 1820 Southport had more than 20,000 visitors per year. Southport Pier, opened in 1860, has been called the first true "pleasure pier". Southport remains one of the most popular seaside resorts in the United Kingdom. Formby is a commuter town, but also a popular tourist destination, with day trippers attracted to its beaches, sand dunes and wildlife, particularly the endangered red squirrel and natterjack toad. Crosby as an area has been drawn together out of a string of settlements. Along the shore are Blundellsands, Brighton-le-Sands and Waterloo. Inland are Great Crosby, Thornton and Little Crosby. Sir Antony Gormley's sculpture Another Place, at Crosby Beach, consists of 100 cast iron figures, modelled on the artist's own naked body, facing the sea.

Seaforth, to the south of Crosby, has the largest working docks on the Mersey. To its north is Liverland and east of that is Aintree, famous as the site of Aintree Racecourse, which since the 19th century has staged the Grand National. Bootle's location on the Mersey north of Liverpool saw it grow as a dormitory town for wealthy merchants, and then as a centre of commerce and industry.

The city of Liverpool has a maritime, industrial, architectural and cultural heritage unlike any other. Founded by King John in 1207, Liverpool is built across a ridge of sandstone hills rising up to a height of around 230 feet above sea-level at Everton Hill, which represents the southern boundary of the West Lancashire Coastal Plain. Its growth as a major port was paralleled by the expansion of the city throughout the Industrial Revolution. Its status as a port city attracted a diverse population from a wide range of cultures, primarily Ireland, Norway and Wales. It is also home to the oldest black and Chinese communities in the UK. The city is closely associated with the arts, especially music; the popularity of the Beatles has contributed to the city's status as a major tourist destination. Liverpool has a long-standing reputation as the origin of numerous actors and actresses, artists, athletes, comedians, journalists, novelists, and poets. The city is known for being the home of football clubs Liverpool and Everton.

Liverpool's docks have been central to its development. The best known is the Albert Dock, which was constructed in 1846 and today comprises the largest single collection of Grade I listed buildings anywhere in Britain. One of the most famous locations in Liverpool is the Pier Head, renowned for the trio of buildings – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building – collectively known as The Three Graces. The commercial district around Castle Street has many fine building including the Bank of England Building (1848), the Oriel Chambers (1864) and Liverpool Town Hall (1754), the city's finest piece of Georgian architecture. William Brown Street, sometimes referred to as the "Cultural Quarter", is also remarkable for its concentration of public buildings including the Walker Art Gallery (1877), Lime Street Station (1836) and St George's Hall (1854), widely regarded as the finest neo-classical building in Europe. Many of the city's most famous locations and landmarks are included in the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Liverpool Cathedral, built on St James's Mount, is the largest cathedral and religious building in Britain. The cathedral is based on a design by Giles Gilbert Scott and was constructed between 1904 and 1978. Its tower alone soars more than 331 feet, its bells have the highest and heaviest peal in the world and it contains the largest operational organ in the world. Its internal spaces, awe-inspiring in their vastness, stun even the most jaded visitor into silent amazement. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Liverpool, designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd and built from 1962-1967, lies half a mile to the north.

Liverpool has grown to include many former villages and small towns including Wavertree, Walton on the Hill, Garston, Gateacre, Woolton, Halewood, Childwall, Fazakerley and West Derby. Knotty Ash was made famous by its most famous son, the comedian Ken Dodd.

On the bank of the Mersey, south of Liverpool, is Speke Hall (NT), one of the finest wattle-and-daub Tudor manor houses in the country. It has splendid 19th-century gardens with views over the Mersey. At the south southern tip of the Mersey estuary is the village of Hale. John Middleton (1578-1623), known as the Childe of Hale, was reputed to be nine foot three inches tall. His cottage and grave are located in the village, as is a life-size carving. Hale Head is the southernmost point in Lancashire.

North of Hale, the Mersey estuary narrows to form the Runcorn Gap. On the Lancashire bank is Widnes, a centre of the chemical industry since John Hutchinson established his first chemical factory at Spike Island in 1848. Above Widnes the Mersey narrows into the Mersey Valley.

East of the West Lancashire Coastal Plain and north of the Mersey Valley, around the towns of St Helens and Wigan, is the heart of the South Lancashire Coalfield.

St Helens developed rapidly during the Industrial Revolution into a significant centre for coal mining, and glassmaking. The latter continues at Pilkington's. The World of Glass narrates the making of St Helens into a world leader in glass making. The town of Huyton and the village of Roby lie south of St Helens, near the south-western extremity of the coalfield. Between Huyton and St Helens is Prescot, formerly at the centre of the watch and clock making industry. From the mid-1590s to 1609, Prescot was home to the Prescot Playhouse, one of the few free-standing theatres in England outside London. It probably hosted performances by the playing companies maintained by the Earls of Derby. On the edge of the town is Knowsley Hall, ancestral home of the Earls of Derby, surrounded by 2,500 acres of parkland, which contains the Knowsley Safari Park.

Newton-le-Willows, east of St Helens, was the first "railway town", developed as a centre for the transport of Lancashire coal. Ashton-in-Makerfield was a centre of lock and hinge manufacture, as well as coal mining. Neighbouring Haydock had 13 working collieries at its peak, all closed by 1971. More than 200 men and boys lost their lives in the Wood Pit disaster of 1878. Haydock Park racecourse lies between Haydock and the former mining and textile town of Golborne.

Wigan was incorporated as a borough in 1246. Its first mine was established in 1450 and there were 1,000 shafts within five miles of the town centre. Now there are none. George Orwell's 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier dealt with the living conditions of England's working poor. The original "pier" was a coal loading staithe on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, demolished before Orwell visited! The area's collection of warehouses and wharfs has become a local heritage centre and cultural quarter. The town of Orrell was also a major mining town, though today it is a residential suburb of Wigan. Skelmersdale, west of Wigan, was an important colliery town. Skelmersdale was designated as a New Town in 1961 and has been developed from a mining village to a modernist town. Hindley grew to become a major coal mining and cotton town. It is now mainly a commuter town.

The Hulton Park Estate, east of Westhoughton, was the seat of the Hulton family for 700 years until the late 1990s. From the 1550s, the family grew wealthy from the rich coal seams under their estate. On 21 December 1910 an underground explosion at the Pretoria Pit claimed the lives of 344 men and boys. Memorials on the edge of Park and in Westhoughton cemetery mark their lives. During the 20th century the estate declined and Hulton Hall was demolished in the 1950s. To the east of the park is Over Hulton, a residential suburb. The former mining and nail manufacturing town of Atherton lies south of the Hulton estate. Today it is a major retailing centre. The suburb of Howe Bridge was built as a model pit village by the owners of Atherton Collieries.

Leigh, to the south of Atherton, had a considerable silk and cotton industry. The legacy of Leigh's industrial past can be seen in the remaining red brick mills although it is now a mainly residential town. Tyldesley lies north of the vast Chat Moss which stretches south to the Mersey. The remains of a Roman road passing through the township on its ancient course between Coccium (Wigan) and Mamucium (Manchester) were evident during the 19th century. To the east are Little Hulton and Walkden, former mining areas become suburbs.

Worsley had been the site of coal mining since 1376. The Bridgewater Canal was commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. The canal is regarded as an engineering masterpiece of the 18th century. James Brindley, a brilliant, self-taught mechanic and engineer, persuaded the duke to allow him to construct a gravity-flow canal crossing the Irwell valley on a viaduct carried on arches. The highly successful canal, completed in 1761, extended deep into the coalfield. Eventually 47 miles of subterranean tunnels were constructed with specially designed boats being loaded at the coal face to take transport their cargo to Manchester. The tunnels stretched as far as the (now former) mining towns of Farnworth and Kearsley to the north of Walkden. Worsley Delph, now a scheduled monument, was the entrance to the Duke's underground mines. At the height of the operation a million tons of coal a year passed through it.

Worsley expanded following the completion of the canal to an important town based upon cotton manufacture, iron-working, brick-making and extensive coal mining. Worsley is now in the main a tourist destination and commuter town. The village, around Worlsey Green, has over 40 listed buildings. Wardley Hall is an early mediæval manor house, now the official residence of the Roman Catholic bishops of Salford. The skull of St Ambrose Barlow, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, is preserved in a niche at the top of the main staircase. According to legend, it is a screaming skull. As the canal passes through Worsley, iron oxide from the mines stains the water orange. RHS Garden Bridgewater is a public display garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. It lies in the grounds of the former Worsley New Hall estate, with the Bridgewater Canal forming the southern boundary.

To the east of Worsley lie the former mining towns of Swinton and Pendlebury. Swinton became an important industrial area with coal providing the fuel for the cotton spinning and brickmaking industries. Pendlebury saw extensive coal extraction until the closure of Agecroft Colliery in the 1990s. Agecroft Hall, the Tudor home of the Lord of the Manor of Pendlebury, stood on rising ground on the west side of the River Irwell. The house fell into disrepair and was sold in 1925 to Mr and Mrs Thomas C Williams who dismantled it and re-erected it as a tourist attraction on the banks of the James River in Virginia, USA.

South of Swinton at Irlams o' th' Height is the eastern end of the East Lancs Road (A580), the United Kingdom's first purpose-built inter-city highway. The road was officially opened by King George V on 18 July 1934. The road was built to provide better access between the Port of Liverpool and the industrial areas of East Lancashire. Many of the original 1930s steel bridges remain.

The River Mersey forms the border with Cheshire for all of its length from where it is formed by the confluence of the rivers Tame and Goyt near Heaton Norris. Along its valley stand many of the county's most famous towns and cities.

Warrington, 16 miles east of Liverpool, has been a major crossing point on the Mersey since ancient times. In mediæval times Warrington's importance was as a market town and bridging point of the River Mersey. The expansion and urbanisation of Warrington largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution, particularly after the Mersey was made navigable in the 18th Century. Warrington was designated a new town in 1968 and consequently the town grew with many former villages becoming urban districts in the town, e.g. Great Sankey, Penketh, Bewsey, Hulme, Dallan, Orford, Padgate, Fernhead, Woolston and Martinscroft. Warrington Town Hall, dating from 1750, was described by Pevsner as "the finest house of its date in south Lancashire". Bewsey Old Hall is a brick built, three storey, mainly Jacobean building, incorporating or reusing elements of a former mediæval hall.

The Manchester Ship Canal (completed 1893) runs from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire for 36 miles to just north of Salford Quays. It first crosses into Lancashire just east of Warrington where the (straightened) Mersey and the canal become one for a stretch past the villages of Hollins Green and Cadishead. Just south of the village of Irlam, the Mersey resumes its original course and the canal continues up a straightened version of the River Irwell between Salford and Manchester.

The town of Urmston lies between the Irwell/Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey just east of their confluence. The town has early mediæval origins, and until the arrival of the railway in 1873 was a small farming community. The railway transformed the town into a residence for the middle classes. The former villages of Flixton and Davyhulme are now considered part of the town.

The town of Stretford spreads out on the plain between the Mersey and the Irwell/Manchester Ship Canal. The Bridgewater Canal bisects the town. During much of the 19th century Stretford was an agricultural village and an extensive market gardening area. The arrival of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, and the development of the Trafford Park, accelerated its growth.

North of Stretford, between the Bridgewater Canal and the Irwell/Manchester Ship Canal is Trafford Park. Until the late 19th century, it was the ancestral home of the de Trafford family who sold it to financier Ernest Terah Hooley in 1896. He formed the Trafford Park Estates Ltd company which oversaw its development as the first planned industrial estate in the world. The Imperial War Museum North lies within the park, alongside the canal. The huge retail park, the Trafford Centre, lies at its south-east end, by the village of Dumplington. Here the famous Barton Swing Aqueduct carries the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal to Barton upon Irwell. The aqueduct is the first and only swing aqueduct in the world and considered a major feat of Victorian civil engineering. The swing bridge opened in 1894 and remains in regular use.

Old Trafford lies at the east end of Trafford Park at an ancient crossing point across the Irwell. The name derives from Old Trafford Hall, demolished in 1939, the de Trafford family residence until moving to the later hall in Trafford Park. In the 1820s, Manchester scientist John Dalton chose Old Trafford as the site for the Royal Horticultural and Botanical Gardens. The gateway of the Botanic Gardens still stands at the edge of the White City retail park, which now occupies the site. Old Trafford expanded to become an urban area as Trafford Park developed. Old Trafford has been the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club since 1864 and of Manchester United Football Club since 1910.

To the east of Stretford is Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a small town which has long since become a southern suburb of Manchester, as has the village of Withington to its east. Didsbury was a village just north of the Mersey which developed as a prosperous settlement during the Victorian expansion of Manchester and is now an affluent suburb. The Plumage League, which developed into the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, was founded in 1889 by Emily Williamson at her home in what is now the Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden.

On the north bank of the Manchester Ship Canal/River Irwell, opposite to Trafford Park, is the former industrial town of Eccles. Eccles grew around the 13th-century Parish Church of St Mary. The area was predominantly agricultural until the Industrial Revolution, when a textile industry was established in the town. Eccles cake was first made here and is named after the town.

To the east of Eccles lies the city of Salford. The original settlement of Salford lies in a meander of the River Irwell, which river divides it from the centre of Manchester to the east. Salford began to emerge as a small town early in the 13th century. The oldest part of town in based around Chapel Road, Gravel Lane and Greengate, though the Sacred Trinity Church, dating from 1635, is the only survival from the pre-industrial era. The name comes from a ford in the River Irwell between Salford and Manchester. From the 14th century this site was spanned by what became known as Salford Old Bridge. This was replaced by the stone-arched Victoria Bridge in 1839. The stone-arched Blackfriars Bridge had been completed just down river in 1820.

Salford became a major cotton and silk spinning and weaving factory town in the 18th and 19th centuries. The town expanded southwards alongside the Irwell to Ordsall. Ordsall Hall is a formerly moated Tudor mansion, the oldest parts of which were built during the 13th century. With the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal the town reached to Salford Docks, the principal docks of the canal. The docks closed in 1982 and were rebranded for the Salford Quays regeneration project. The Lowry centre, a theatre and gallery complex, is dedicated to L.S. Lowry, from nearby Pendlebury, famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial districts of the area in the mid-20th century. MediaCityUK has become a major centre for the BBC.

Across the River Irwell from Salford is the great city of Manchester. The recorded history of Manchester began with the civilian settlement associated with the Roman fort of Mamucium or Mancunium, which was established in about AD 79 on a sandstone bluff near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell. In the Anglo-Saxon period Manchester was apparently a fortified town; the Mercian army is recorded as having taken Mameceaster on Norþhymbrum from the Norsemen in 919. Manchester became a town of national and indeed world significance in the Victorian period, as the heart of the manufacturing revolution. During its growth it has encompassed several villages and towns including Hulme, Burnage, Levenshulme, Longsight, Gorton, Openshaw, Moston and Blackley.

Manchester today is a centre of the arts, the media, higher education and commerce. A reconstruction of the Roman fort from which Manchester got its name can be seen in the Castlefield conservation area. This area was also the terminus of the Bridgewater Canal, the world's first industrial canal, built in 1764. The world's oldest canal warehouse opened in 1779. The world's first passenger railway terminated here in 1830, at Liverpool Road Railway Station, and the first railway warehouse opened here in 1831. Manchester Town Hall, built in the Gothic revival style, is considered one of the most important Victorian buildings in England. Heaton Park, in the north of the city, is a public park of over 600 acres around the neoclassical 18th-century country house, Heaton Hall.

To the south of Manchester, south of Burnage and east of Disbury, lie Heaton Chapel, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Moor and Heaton Norris, four villages which now form a suburban area known as the Four Heatons, though each with their own high street and identity. In the 19th century the Cheshire town of Stockport spread across the Mersey into Lancashire developing around Heaton Norris and Lancashire Hill. The Rivers Tame and Goyt converge to form the Mersey at the bottom of Lancashire Hill. East from here the River Tame forms Lancashire's border with Cheshire.

The town of Reddish stands north of the Tame. Reddish grew rapidly in the Industrial Revolution and still retains landmarks from that period, such as Houldsworth Mill. Further east is the town of Denton, famous as a former centre of the hatting industry. The Tame then flows north and alongside it lies Audenshaw with a heritage in hat-making, cotton-spinning, calico-printing, and silk-weaving. Nico Ditch, an early-mediæval linear earthwork possibly built as a defensive barrier against Vikings, runs through the area. Nearby Droylsden grew as a mill town on the Ashton and Peak Forest canals. The first machine woven towel in the world – the terry towel – was produced by W. M. Christy and Sons of Fairfield Mills, in Droylsden in 1851.

The market town of Ashton-under-Lyne stands on the north bank of the River Tame on undulating land at the foothills of the Pennines. The town is old: it was important enough to be granted a Royal Charter in 1414. However it only became a major centre at the Industrial Revolution. Although its traditional industries declined, the town has continued to thrive as a centre of commerce. Ashton Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the United Kingdom.

To the east of Ashton, the town of Mossley lies across the Tame. Here Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire meet. The Lancashire part, Mossley Brow, is west of the river and canal, with a natural centre at Market Street.

The Red Rose of Lancashire was first adopted as a heraldic badge by John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399) and has come to symbolise the county. The county flag is formed from the red rose on a gold background, red and gold being the county's livery colours. The 27th of November is Lancashire Day On this day in 1295 the first elected representatives from Lancashire were called to Westminster by King Edward I to attend what later became known as "The Model Parliament".

Main Towns:Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Bury, Liverpool, Manchester, Lancaster, Oldham, Preston, Rochdale, Salford, Southport, St Helens, Todmorden (part), Ulverston, Warrington, Widnes.
Main Rivers:Mersey, Ribble, Lune, Calder, Hodder, Wyre.
Highlights:Liverpool Anglican Cathedral; Manchester Town Hall; Pendle Hill; Ashton Memorial, Lancaster; Old Man of Coniston; Blackpool Pleasure Beach; Martin Mere nature reserve.
County Flower:Red rose
County Day:27th November, first Lancastrians sent to Parliament (1295)
Highest Point:The Old Man of Coniston, 2,634 feet.
Area:1,909 sq miles
Pop (2011):4,942,364


51  LCR  Leicestershire   Wikishire Map
Leicestershire is an inland Midlands county. The county has a long tradition in many fields of engineering. It also has huge areas of countryside and is famed for its scenery.

Watling Street, once the boundary of the Danelaw, forms most of the border with Warwickshire to the south-west. Close to this border lies Hinkley, one the county's largest towns. Hinkley is a traditional centre of the hosiery industry and the headquarters of Triumph Motorcycles. The Battle of Bosworth Field took place north-west of the town in 1485, the precise site of the battlefield, two miles south-west of Ambion Hill, was only located in 2009. In the far south of the county is the fine market town is Lutterworth where Frank Whittle developed some of the world's first jet engines at the British Thomson-Houston works during the late 1930s and the 1940s. The River Soar, the principal river of Leicestershire, has its source midway between Hinckley and Lutterworth. It flows north to the county town, Leicester, in the centre of the shire.

Leicester is a historic city with Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Danish and Mediæval roots under the modern city. The Jewry Wall is a substantial ruined wall of 2nd-century Roman masonry, with two large archways. The Cathedral Church of Saint Martin dates from the 11th century. The remains of King Richard III, killed at Bosworth field, were reinterred in the Cathedral in 2015. After the Battle, Richard's remains had been buried at the friary church in Greyfriars, a burial place only rediscovered in 2013. The original burial site is now a scheduled monument with a visitor centre.

South of Leicester lies Oadby, traditionally an upmarket part of the county and the site of Leicester Racecourse. Nearby is Wigston. The town of today is a conglomeration of villages, of which the heart is Wigston Magna also historically referred to as 'Wigston Two Steeples'.

Downstream from Leicester, the Soar continues northwards through the county. The village of Barrow upon Soar lies on its east bank. The village is famous for a plesiosaur excavated here in 1851, of the species Rhomaleosaurus megacephalus, nicknamed the "Barrow Kipper". Across the river is the upmarket village of Quorn. To the west of the River, close to the Nottinghamshire border, is the county's second largest town, Loughborough. The town has the world's largest bell foundry but is most famous for promoting sport and for the study of sports science.

Just north of Loughborough, the Soar becomes the border with Nottinghamshire finally flowing into the Trent at the very north of the county. The Trent forms the Derbyshire border to the west. In this northern spur of the county lie East Midlands Airport, the town of Castle Donington and the motorsports circuit of Donington Park.

The north-west of the county was formerly a coal mining area. Coalville was created as a coal-mining town in the 18th century, and the marks of mining are everywhere, though the mines themselves closed in the 1990s. Other minings towns and villages in the area include Bagworth, Ellistown, Merry Lees, Desford, Snibston, Nailstone and Ravenstone. Shepshed was wool town, now a dormitory town near the M1. To the north-west lies the market town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch with its ruined 12th-century castle.

Between Leicester, Loughborough and Coalville lies Charnwood Forest, an upland tract, undulating, rocky and picturesque, with barren areas. It also has some extensive tracts of woodland. On it lies the county top at Bardon Hill, one half of it quarried away. Nearby Beacon Hill is the site of a Bronze Age hill fort.

The east of the county is almost entirely rural, with many charming villages and rich farmland. Market Harborough lies at the southern border with Northamptonshire. The historic heart of the town lies in Leicestershire, north of the Welland. Launde Abbey is an Elizabethan manor house close to the Rutland border. Melton Mowbray, famous as home of the eponymous pork pie, lies in the north-east. To its south is Burrough Hill, an Iron Age hillfort commanding fine views over the surrounding countryside.

The Leicestershire Wolds stretch across the north-east of the county, along the Nottinghamshire border. This is reflected in many village names: Burton on the Wolds, Walton on the Wolds, Waltham on the Wolds. The Vale of Belvoir is an area of natural beauty on the borders of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Belvoir Castle, a Grade I listed stately home overlooking the Vale, lies in Liecestershire, though most of the walled garden lies in Lincolnshire.

Main Towns:Ashby-de-La-Zouch, Coalville, Hinckley, Leicester, Loughborough, Lutterworth, Market Bosworth, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray.
Main Rivers:Soar, Wreake
Highlights:Belvoir Castle; Bosworth battlefield; Burrough Hill iron age fort; Castle Donington; Charnwood Forest; Stanford Hall
County Flower:Foxglove
Highest Point:Bardon Hill, 912 feet
Area:836 sq miles
Pop (2011):975,403


52  LNC  Lincolnshire   Wikishire Map
Lincolnshire in a maritime county on the east coast of England. Lincolnshire is England's second largest county, but despite having a population of over a million, it has few sizeable towns and remains predominantly agricultural. It is divided into the three parts; Holland, Kesteven and Lindsey.

Holland occupies the south-east of the county. In it lie the Lincolnshire Fens, part of the Great Fen which spreads over the lands around the Wash in Lincolnshire and Norfolk and deep inland in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough. Much of the land here is at or below sea level and was once a vast fen of wetland, lakes and channels, now drained to produce fertile farmland.

Boston is the major town in Holland. Boston's most notable landmark is St Botolph's Church, known as "The Stump", the largest parish church in Britain with one of the highest towers, visible in the flat lands of Lincolnshire for many miles. The market town of Spalding is well known for its annual 'Flower Parade' and for Ayscoughfee Hall, a grade I listed grand house.

Kesteven occupies the south-west of the county. Though the Fens spread into the east of Kesteven, the western side is more hilly. The market town of Bourne lies on the western edge of the Fens and the eastern edge of the Kesteven Uplands. Nearby, Grimsthorpe Castle stands within a 3,000 acre park of rolling pastures, lakes, and woodland landscaped by Capability Brown. Market Deeping, on the Northamptonshire border, is known for its stone buildings dating back to the 17th century and its 15th century church.

The town of Stamford lies in the far south-west corner of Lincolnshire famed for its mediæval core of streets, lined with 17th-18th century stone buildings, older timber framed buildings and five mediæval parish churches. The River Welland, the border with Northamptonshire, runs at the bottom of a steep hill down which narrow lanes tumble to the meadows where the river is bridged by a fine bridge of Barnack stone.

The market town of Grantham, on the River Witham and astride the Great North Road, is Kesteven's main town. Grantham House (NT) is a town house built in 1380. North of Grantham is Belton House (NT), described as a compilation of all that is finest of Carolean architecture. South of Grantham, Harlaxton Manor is a Jacobethan manor and a popular location for filming historical dramas. A little further south is Woolsthorpe Manor (NT), birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton and where he performed many of his most famous experiments.

The Lincoln Edge is a remarkable stretch of high ground that runs from north of Grantham, northwards for 50 miles through Kesteven into Lindsey, its northern end close to the Humber. "The Heights", as it is known, rarely reach even 200 feet above sea level, but still tower over the fenland to the east.

In the north and west of Kesteven, the River Welland forms its border with Lindsey. Several towns and villages now considered southern suburbs of Lincoln, including Bracebridge and North Hykeham, lie in Kesteven. Nearby is Doddington Hall, an Elizabethan mansion complete with walled courtyards and a gabled gatehouse.

Lindsey is much the largest of the three parts, covering the north and east of the county. The Fens stretch into its south-east, north to Spilsby and east to Coningsby. Near Coningsby is Tattershall Castle (NT) a brick-built 15th century structure which has been described as "the finest piece of medieval brick-work in England".

North of here lie the Lincolnshire Wolds, the county's highest land. The Wolds run roughly parallel with the North Sea coast from north of Spilsby to the River Humber. The Wolds are a striking range, rising suddenly and unexpectedly out of the flatness of the Lindsey landscape, with a gorgeous rolling farmland poised high to look out over the vastness of the county's plains below. The market town of Louth is known as "the capital of the Lincolnshire Wolds". On the western edge of the Wolds lies Market Masen, with much Georgian and Victorian architecture and the Market Rasen Racecourse. In the south of the Wolds is the village of Somersby, birth place and childhood home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Somersby Grange is a Georgian country house adjacent to the rectory, now called Somersby House, where Tennyson was born. At the southern edge of the Wolds is the 18th century country house Gunby Hall (NT), described by Tennyson as "a haunt of ancient peace".

East of the Wolds, lies the coast. At Lindsey's southern end is the famous seaside town of Skegness, where Butlins first resort was opened in 1936. To the north of Skegness are the smaller holiday villages of Chapel St Leonards, Sutton-on-Sea and Mablethorpe. At the edge of the Humber estuary are the resort town of Cleepthorpes and the historic port towns of Grimsby and Immingham. Barton-on-Humber is famed for its ancient church, whose tower is a rare example of a surviving large Anglo-Saxon building.

In the south-east of Lindsey lies the county town. The City of Lincoln stands on the Lincoln Edge, tumbling down to the River Withan and up again. It is a city of Roman origin and mediæval charm, with sword and mitre at its peak: a large castle and larger cathedral, the twin powers of their time. The ruins of the Bishop's Palace (EH), once one of the most impressive buildings in medieval England, are situated on a spectacular hillside site, just below Lincoln cathedral. St Mary's Guildhall was built about 1160 as a luxurious residence, possibly as a royal palace for Henry II.

Further north on the Lincoln Edge lies Kirton-in-Lindsey, one-time home of Catherine Parr. Further north still lies Scunthorpe, both a market town and an industrial town, known as the "Industrial Garden Town".

Between the Lincoln Edge and the Wolds, in the north of the county, lie The Carrlands. The River Ancholme once flooded regularly and the lands used as seasonal pasture. After Enclosure and drainage, the carrs were turned over to arable agriculture. This is a man-made landscape with no striking vistas, only the bridges offer viewpoints over the level expanse.

In the north-west corner of Lindsey lies the Isle of Axholme. The name Isle is given to the area since, prior to the area being drained by the Dutchman Cornelius Vermuyden, each town or village was built on areas of dry, raised ground in the surrounding marshland. Three small towns developed here. Epworth is the birthplace of John Wesley and his brother Charles. Crowle has a Gothic revival market hall. Haxey is famed for its Twelfth Night game, the Haxey Hood, which has been played for over 700 years, reputedly making it "Britain’s oldest traditional tussle".

South of Axholme, on the Trent, stands the historic port of Gainsborough. Gainsborough Old Hall (EH) is a large, 15th-century, timber-framed mediæval strong house, and one of the best-preserved manor houses in Britain.

The name of Lincoln is ancient, the town being known to the Romans as Lindum Colonia. The Kingdom of Lindsey was established in the early Saxon period. The Danes broke upon the land in the ninth century, armies followed by settlers. Many of the Lincolnshire place-names reflect their Scandinavian heritage. The Danes established a fortified presence with armies based at Lincoln and at Stamford. It is assumed that Lincolnshire as a shire was created at the reconquest in the ninth century from the joining of these two Danish army-lands.

The Lincolnshire Flag was adopted in 2005 by a popular vote organised by BBC Lincolnshire and Lincolnshire Life magazine. It features a red cross, edged in yellow and bearing a yellow fleur-de-lys, on a background of green and blue quarters. Yellow represents the crops grown in the county, as well as the nickname "Yellerbellies" given to people born and bred in Lincolnshire. Blue represents both the sea and the wide skies of Lincolnshire, and green symbolises the rich lushness of fenland fields. The fleur de lys is a symbol of the City of Lincoln. Lincolnshire Day is celebrated every year on 1 October and marks the anniversary of the Lincolnshire Rising. The county flower is the Common Dog-violet, a much-loved sight in the county's woodlands, grasslands, hedgerows and pastures from April to June.

Main Towns:Boston, Bourne, Cleethorpes, Gainsborough, Grantham, Grimsby, Holbeach, Lincoln, Louth, Scunthorpe, Spalding, Stamford.
Main Rivers:Trent, Welland, Ancholme, Witham, Brant, Glen, Bain, Steeping.
Highlights:Boston Stump; Carr Dyke, Bourne; Lincoln Cathedral; Skegness; Tattersall Castle; Lincolshire Wolds.
County Flower:Common Dog-violet
County Day:1st October, Lincolnshire Uprising
Highest Point:Normanby Top, The Wolds, 551 feet.
Area:2,687 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,038,510


53  LDR  Londonderry   Wikishire Map
Londonderry, also known as Derry, is a maritime county of Ulster.

The coast of Londonderry stretches from the eastern shore of Lough Foyle and across the wind-beaten Atlantic coast to the strands each side of the mouth of the River Bann. This coastline is marked by gentle land and long sweeps of sandy beach, such as the deep beach of Magilligan Strand stretching 5½ miles along the shore of Lough Foyle and the seven miles of Benone Beach.

In the north-west is Londonderry, Ulster's second city. Londonderry is a historic walled city, set in amongst a hilly landscape. The River Foyle forms a deep valley as it flows through the city, making Londonderry a place of very steep streets and sudden, startling views. The original walled city of Londonderry lies on a hill on the west bank of the River Foyle. Modern Londonderry extends considerably north and west of the city walls and east of the river. The half of the city the west of the Foyle is known as the Cityside and the area east is called the Waterside.

Limavady is a market town set on the plain that runs down towards Lough Neagh. The Binevenagh mountain and the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty stand as a stunning backdrop to the town.

In the north-east of the county, on the River Bann, Coleraine is a busy, prosperous town with an attractive town centre, a marina and the Riverside Theatre. Castlerock is a nearby popular seaside village, close to the Downhill Demene, a grand estate owned by the National Trust. The jewel of the demesne is Downhill House, a striking 18th-century mansion. In the parkland about the house are several delights, including Mussenden Temple, perched on the cliff edge. The National Trust also owns Hezlett House, a 17th-century cottage and one of the oldest standing houses in Ulster. To the east, Portstewart was a popular holiday destination for Victorian middle-class families. Its long, crescent-shaped seafront promenade is sheltered by rocky headlands.

The Sperrin Mountains dominate the southern part of County Londonderry. To the east and west, the land falls into the valleys of the Bann and Foyle rivers respectively. There are only two towns in the south of the county. Maghera is a commercial and educational hub for the surrounding villages. Magherafelt lies close to the shores of Lough Neagh.

Main Towns:Coleraine, Londonderry, Magherafelt, Limavady.
Main Rivers:Bann, Roe, Claudy, Foyle
Highlights:Earhart Centre, Ballyarnett; Sperrin Mountains; Magilligan Strand; Roe Valley Country Park
County Flower:Purple Saxifrage
Highest Point:Sawel Mountain, 2,224 feet
Area:816 sq miles
Pop (2011):247,971


54  MRN  Merionethshire   Wikishire Map
Merionethshire (Meirionnydd) is a maritime county in north Wales. The county is a shire of mountain and coast; the coastland is perhaps best known to visitors, but the heartland in the mountains is a place of rough beauty. Merionethshire is one of the strongest Welsh-speaking parts of Wales.

The shire is washed by the gulf of the Irish Sea known as Cardigan Bay. The coastline consists alternately of cliffs and long stretches of sand and dunes. At the southernmost end lies the Dyfi estuary. The resorts of Aberdovey and Tywyn are known for their fine beaches. In St Cadfan's church in Tywyn can be found the St Cadfan's Stone dating from the 8th or 9th century and inscribed with the oldest known written Welsh. Barmouth is a holiday resort standing on the open sea and the broad estuary of the River Mawddach. The Barmouth Bridge stretches half a mile across the waters. The busy harbour plays host to the annual Three Peaks yacht race.

Further north, hanging over the coast is the tiny town of Harlech, dominated by the remains of the Castle. Little more than a shell now, Harlech Castle served its turn from King Edward I to King Charles I, and it inspired the famous song. The county's coast runs north to the great inlet formed by the estuaries of the River Dywryd and River Glaslyn, the latter being the border with Caernarfonshire. On the headland between the estuaries lies the famous Portmeirion Italianate village, designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975.

Away from the sea the county is the most mountainous in Wales. Much of the Snowdonia National Park lies in the county. The town of Blaenau Ffestiniog was once a centre of the Welsh slate mining industry. The Ffestiniog Railway is a narrow-gauge heritage railway which runs on a single line from Blaenau Ffestiniog 13 miles down to Dolgellau. At nearby Llan Ffestiniog are the Rhaeadr Cynfal waterfalls and the Tolmen-y-Mur Roman fort and amphitheatre.

Amongst the hills, in the south of the county, is Dolgellau, the centre of a minor gold rush in the 19th century. A local goldmine still supplies the gold for royal weddings. South of the town is Cadair Idris (2,930 feet), one of the most popular of the challenging mountains in Wales for walkers and hikers. Its shape and beauty are richly evocative of the wild landscape over which it presides. A prominent ridge stretches from Dolgellau to Bala in the north-east of the county. The county top, Aran Fawddwy (2,969 feet), lies on this ridge.

In the north-west of the county, in a glacial valley, lies the great Bala Lake. The waters of the lake are famously deep and clear. The town of Bala sits at the north end, where the Rive Dee flows from the lake.

Merionethshire stretches further to the north-west, a great tail of the county cutting into Denbighshire. The town of Corwen is best known for its connections with Owain Glyndŵr, who was proclaimed Prince of Wales from his nearby manor of Glyndyfrdwy. A bronze statue of the prince stands in the town Square.

The main industries of Merionethshire are agriculture, forestry and tourism.

Main Towns:Aberdovey, Bala, Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Harlech, Dolgellau, Trawsfynydd.
Main Rivers:Dwyryd, Mawddach, Dyfi
Highlights:Calder Idris; Centre for Alternative Technology; Lake Bala; Harlech Castle; Ffestiniog Railway; Portmeirion; Snowdonia National Park
County Flower:Welsh Poppy
Highest Point:Aran Fawddwy, 2,969 feet
Area:676 sq miles
Pop (2011):37,874


55  MSX  Middlesex   Wikishire Map
Middlesex in an inland county in the south-east of England. Despite being the most urban of all the counties, Middlesex does still have significant areas of countryside.

In the far north-west of Middlesex, the village of Harefield, with its famous hospital and the beautiful St Mary's Church, lies among farmland, woods and important wetland and grassland habitats along the River Colne (the border with Buckinghamshire). This area is flanked east and south by two former villages grown to suburban towns: Northolt, whose suburban developments stretch across into Hertfordshire, and by Ruislip, still clustered around its ancient village centre.

West from Northolt, the county border runs through a long stretch of countryside, including Harrow Weald Common and Stanmore Common, as far as Finchley. The towns in this northern part of the county include Pinner, Stanmore and Edgware - all former villages grown into suburban towns. Mill Hill remains a village. Finchley is predominantly a suburban, residential town with three distinctive town centres. North of Finchley, is the village of Whetstone.

To the west of Finchley, a spur of Middlesex extends northwards. In this spur lie the suburban towns of Wood Green, Edmonton, Southgate, Enfield and Cockfosters. This spur stretches east to the border with Essex (the old course of the River Lea). At its northern extent is Rammy Marsh and the hamlet of Bulls Cross. The spur extends westwards creating a "crook" around the part of Hertfordshire containing High Barnet and Totteridge. This northern "crook" contains the county's largest area of countryside. At its eastern end are the town of Potters Bar and village of South Mimms. The village of Hadley Wood lies in the south of this rural area, close to the neo-Palladian Wrotham Park Estate, with its landscaped park and gardens.

South of Rusilip, on the western border lies the town of Uxbridge, scene of several historical events including attempted negotiations between King Charles I and the Parliamentary Army during the Civil War. Close to is Hillingdon, rural village grown to suburban town. Hillingdon Court Park provides welcome green space. South of Hillingdon is Yiewsley and, further south, West Drayton, a town which grew from its connections with the railway and canal networks, as did nearby Hayes. Much of the the western border in this area comprises wetlands along the Rivers Colne and Frays.

South of West Drayton, the county becomes more rural again around the villages of Harlington, Sipson and Hardmondsworth, with its famous 15th-century Great Barn. Hardmonsworth Moor hugs the county border. South of this area lies Heathrow Airport, built on the site of the former hamlet of Heath Row, demolished in 1944, though the name was only attached to the airport in 1966.

The south-west of Middlesex is an area of villages and small towns set amongst countryside, parkland and several large reservoirs (Wraysbury, King George VI, Staines and Queen Mary). The reservoirs, along with the Staines Moor flood meadows are internationally important wildlife habitats. Staines-upon-Thames lies at a point on the river where there has been a crossing since Roman times. Ashford has Anglo-Saxon origins. Stanwell has the 12th-century St Mary's Church. Sunbury-on-Thames was described by the Rev Gilbert White as "One of those pleasant villages lying on the Thames", a sound judgement to this day. The Thames-side village of Laleham contains Laleham Park and Laleham Abbey. The poet Matthew Arnold lived and is buried here. Nearby is Shepperton and the world-famous Shepperton Film Studios. Further east is the village of Hampton and, east of that, is Hampton Court Palace, a magnificent Tudor royal palace. Hampton Court Park and Bushey Park form a vast green expanse in this part of Middlesex.

Alongside the Thames as it flows northwards lie the villages of Hampton Wick and Teddington, then Twickenham, famous as the home of Rugby Union. The historic riverside area is famous for its network of 18th-century buildings and pleasure grounds. Isleworth is a charming village by the Thames. To the east is the major Middlesex town of Hounslow. Where the Thames starts to turn east, aside the Brent River as it meets the Thames, is Brentford, sometimes considered the county town. Syon Park lies alongside the Thames here. Brentford Dock is a marina and housing estate. As the Thames flows east there lies the quiet Middlesex town of Chiswick. Chiswick House lies south of Chiswick High Road, itself part of the original road from London to Bath.

Away from the Thames, western Middlesex contains many notable towns. Harrow on the Hill is a village rich in historic architecture and the location of famous Harrow School. The Hill is a well-known Middlesex landmark with the spire of St Mary's soaring skywards being visible for many miles. Wembley is home to the famous Wembley Stadium and to Wembley Arena. Ealing is a large suburban town, centred on Ealing Broadway. Southall is located on the Grand Union Canal and a major centre of South Asian culture, having gained the nickname "Little India". Greenford is considered to be birthplace of the modern organic chemical industry, as it was at William Perkin's chemical factory, by the Grand Union Canal, that the world's first aniline dye was discovered in 1856. Hanwell contains the Wharncliff viaduct, built by Brunel to carry the GWR across the River Brent.

Aside from its northern section, Eastern Middlesex is the most urban part of the county. This is the heart of the Metropolis with the cities of London and Westminster at its centre, the former housing the financial institutions of the kingdom and the latter its social, cultural and political institutions, and of course the top shops. In popular usage though, the term "London" refers to an area much bigger than the City itself. Whilst it's a subjective matter what part of the metropolitan conurbation is "London", it is a fact that all of it north of the Thames and west of the Lea lies in Middlesex.

To the west of central London, Hammersmith stands on the north bank of the Thames next to Hammersmith Bridge. Fulham also stands on the Thames, once a working class area, today it is among the most affluent in the country. Chelsea is an affluent town on the Thames. Its frontage runs from Chelsea Bridge along the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk, Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour. North of these is the affluent district of Kensington. Kensington Gardens contains the Albert Memorial, the Serpentine Gallery and Speke's monument. South Kensington is home to the Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Science Museum.

St John's Wood is an affluent district and is the location of Lord's Cricket Ground, home of Middlesex County Cricket Club. Nearby, Kilburn has its origins in a 12th-century priory on the banks of the Kilburn Brook. Further north, Golders Green was a mediæval hamlet, grown to 19th-/20th-century suburb, known for its Jewish community. "Brent Cross" was originally the name of a crossroads between Golders Green and Hendon. Nowadays the crossroads is the "Brent Cross Flyover" and the Brent Cross Shopping Centre lies alongside. Hendon was at the heart of aviation development. Hendon Aerodrome is now an RAF museum.

Hampstead is a wealthy district set below Hampstead Heath, a famous public space with bathing pools and fine views over the metropolis. Nearby Highgate, formerly a distinct village, is now a wealthy suburb with many green expanses. Camden Town is well known for Camden Town Market. The fashionable district of Islington began as a village along the current High Street.

In the east of the county, the town of Tottenham grew up along the old Roman road, Ermine Street. To the south is Harringay, a former village grown to suburban town. Stoke Newington, "Stokey" to locals, has an historic core around Church Street which retains its village character. Hackney is a large town, but still mirroring the area of the ancient parish of Hackney, the largest Middlesex parish.

The East End of London is also the far south-east of Middlesex. Shoreditch is a town built around its High Street and church. Shoreditch Town Hall is a local landmark. Whitechapel was the location of infamous Whitchapel murders (1888-91). Limehouse is a district by the Thames, with a strong maritime flavour. Mile End stretches along the ancient route east out of the City of London.

In the far south-east of Middlesex lies the Isle of Dogs a large peninsula bounded on three sides by a large meander in the River Thames, formerly a major docks and now best known as the location of the Canary Wharf office complex: a world away from the rural landscape of the north-west.

Main Towns:Acton, Brentford, Camden Town, Chiswick, Edgware, Edmonton, Enfield, Fulham, Golders Green, Hackney, Hampstead, Hanworth, Harrow, Hendon, Highgate, Hounslow, London, Mill Hill, Millwall, Pinner, Potter's Bar, Soho, Staines, Stanmore, Tottenham, Uxbridge, Westminter, Whitechapel.
Main Rivers:Brent, Crane, Lea, Colne, Thames.
Highlights:Buckingham Palace; Harrow on the Hill; Hampton Court; Hampstead Hill; Hyde Park; Lord's Cricket Ground, Westminster Abbey; Syon House; St Paul's Cathedral; Tower of London; Houses of Parliament.
County Flower:Wood Anemone
County Day:16th May, Battle of Albuerra (Diehards)
Highest Point:High Road, Bushey Heath, 509 feet.
Area:285 sq miles
Pop (2011):4,000,927


56  LMT  Midlothian   Wikishire Map
Midlothian is a maritime county on the south coast of the Firth of Forth. Its county town and dominating presence is Edinburgh, from which it takes its alternative name of Edinburghshire. Midlothian is a county of contrasts; the busy city and the lovely countryside, the coastal plain and the high hills of Lammermuir.

Edinburgh, Scotland's historic capital, is possibly the loveliest city in Great Britain. Its heart is the Castle, perched high on its immemorial rock, and the Royal Mile that runs from the Castle to the Palace of Holyrood House, lined with historic buildings and monuments, all part of the national story. North of the Royal Mile is the eighteenth-century "New Town", no longer new but with the Georgian charm with which it was built. Edinburgh has long since spread about it and incorporated its port, Leith. In the midst of Edinburgh is Arthur's Seat: a solitary hill, precipitous and natural, surrounded but untouched by cityscape.

East and west of Edinburgh are dormitory towns, suburbs and industrial areas. Musselburgh is a large coastal town, on the seaboard of the Firth of Forth, and site of Musselburgh Racecourse.

There are no great mountains in the county, but two prominent ranges of high hills. The Pentland Hills run from Edinburgh, south-west across the county into Peeblesshire and Lanarkshire. The loftiest Pentland summits are Scald Law (1,898 feet) and Carnethy (1,881 feet). The Moorfoot Hills, in the south-east, are a continuation of the Lammermuir Hills and here is the highest ground in Midlothian and the county top at Blackhope Scar (2,136 feet).

The South Esk rises on the slopes of Blackhope Scar. The North Esk rises in the Pentland Hills. The rivers converge into the Esk just north of the town of Dalkeith. Dalkeith was granted a charter making it a burgh of barony in 1401. Dalkeith Palace lies at the north-east edge of the town, surrounded by parkland and follies. Melville Castle, a Gothic, castellated mansion, stands nearby on the North Esk. North of Dalkeith, the Esk flows into the firth at Musselburgh.

On the North Esk lies Penicuik, a planned village in 1770 and formerly well known for its paper mills. Loanhead was built on coal and shale mining and the paper industry, but now has a wide economic base. Bonnyrigg is also a former mining town. Roslin is a small village on the South Esk steeped in history. The village sits on the west side of Roslin Glen. Overlooking the Glen is Rosslyn Chapel, an elaborately carved chapel erected by William Sinclair in 1446, which in modern times has attracted mythical associations with the Knights Templar and the Grail legend. Rosslyn Castle, owned by the Earls of Rosslyn since the 14th century, is in partial ruins. Hawthornden Castle, a 15th-century ruin with a 17th-century L-plan house attached, stands a mile to the east of Roslin.

On the South Esk, the village of Temple is known for its historical connection to the Knights Templar. It was the principal Templar seat and Preceptory in Scotland from 1107 until the suppression of the order between 1307 and 1312. Arnsiton House is a Georgian mansion nearby. Further north, Newtongrange was formerly Scotland's largest mining village and today houses the National Mining Museum. Newbattle Abbey was founded in 1140.

Borthwick Castle, one of the best-preserved surviving mediæval Scottish fortifications, stands by the Gore Water south of the former mining town of Gorebridge.

The River Almond forms the border with West Lothian. The river, and the border, runs through the centre of Livington, a new town designated in 1962. Edinburgh Airport lies against the border in the north-west of the county.

Main Towns:Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith, Gorebridge, Edinburgh, Loanhead, Murrayfield, Musselburgh, Penicuik, Roslin
Main Rivers:Almond, Braid Burn, North Esk, South Esk
Highlights:Edinburgh - Arthur's Seat, Castle, Royal Mile, Holyrood, New Town; Rosslyn Chapel; The Shore, Leith
County Flower:Sticky Catchfly
Highest Point:Blackhope Scar, 2,136 feet
Area:362 sq miles
Pop (2011):621,610


57  MNM  Monmouthshire   Wikishire Map
Monmouthshire is a maritime county in south-east Wales. Monmouthshire was once the heart of the Kingdom of Gwent, then the first of the Welsh territories brought directly under Norman control. Some still debate whether it is of England or Wales, though others consider the county motto Utrique Fedelis ("Faithful to Both") to be the final word. Monmouthshire is noted for its ruined abbeys and ruined castles and its unspoiled views.

The eastern part of the county is mainly agricultural, while rich mineral resources were discovered in the western valleys in the 18th century. This led to the western part of the county becoming highly industrialised with coal mining and iron working becoming major employers between the 18th and late 20th centuries

The River Wye forms the eastern border with Gloucestershire, the long, rich river entering the Severn south of Chepstow. Chepstow was founded on trade (its name means "market-place" in Old English) but the dominant feature is its Norman castle, for Chepstow Castle, on the Wye, marks the first Norman incursion into Wales. Further north, where the Wye is met by the River Monnow lies Monmouth, the county town. Monmouth dates back to Roman times. The mediæval 13th-century stone gated bridge over the Monnow is unique in Britain being the only preserved bridge of its design remaining. The Monnow becomes the border with Herefordshire north of here.

Between Chepstow and Monmouth, on the banks of the Wye, lie the ruins of Tintern Abbey. It was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131, only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain. Its ruins inspired William Wordsworth's poem "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey", Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Tears, Idle Tears" and more than one painting by J. M. W. Turner.

In the north-east, a limb of the county stretches into the Black Mountains, between Brecknockshire and Herefordshire. Here lies the county's highest point, Chwarel-y-Fan, on the Brecknockshire border. Here too lies Llanthony Priory, a partly ruined, thoroughly romantic, former Augustinian priory.

Just south of the Black Mountains, at the confluence of the Gavenny and the Usk, lies Abergavenny. Formerly a mediæval walled town, it was originally a Roman fort, Gobannium. It contains the remains of a mediæval stone castle built soon after the Norman conquest.

In the south-east of the county, close to the Severn, lies the small town of Caldicot and north of it the extraordinary village of Caerwent. It was founded by the Romans as the market town of Venta Silurum. The modern village is built around the Roman ruins, which are some of the best-preserved in Europe.

Close to the centre of the vast rural expanse of eastern Monmouthshire lies the town of Usk. The town stands on the River Usk, spanned by an ancient, arched stone bridge. Usk Castle, built by the powerful de Clare family, stands above the town. Usk is noted for its rural setting, tranquil lifestyle and quality of life.

The former coal mining valleys of the north-west of the county are heavily populated, although there is no longer a working pit in the county.

Blaenavon, at the source of the Afon Llwyd, grew around an ironworks opened in 1788. Steelmaking and coal mining followed. The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. South of Blaenavon the Llwyd flows through Pontypool, an industrial town on the edge of South Wales coalfieds. Further south is Cwmbran, designated a new town in 1949.

The Ebbw River, along with its tributaries the Ebbw Fach and Ebbw Fawr, flows from the very north of the county joining the Usk at its mouth on the Severn estuary. Many of the towns of the area lie alongside it. The former mining and steel town of Ebbw Vale lies at the head of the Ebbw Fach vale. Newbridge is another former mining town built around a "new bridge" over the Ebbw in the 18th century. The town of Risca lies downstream. Close by is Twmbarlwm, the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.

At the top of the Sirhowy valley, built on land leased from the Tredegar Estate, is the town of Tredegar, an early centre of the Industrial Revolution and birthplace of Aneurin Bevan. Further south in the valley is Blackwood, originally founded in the early 19th century as a model village. The modern economy is based on light industrial and high-tech firms.

Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and Brecknockshire meet where the Nant-melyn brook flows into the Rhymney River just north of the Monmouthshire town of Rhymney. South from here, the Rhymney River forms the entirety of the border between Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. The valley has many small towns and villages including, on the Monmouthshire side, New Tredegar, Bedwas and Machen. It reaches the sea east of Cardiff, with several of Cardiff's most eastern suburbs, including St Mellons, Trowbridge, Llanrumney and Rumney, lying in Monmouthshire.

The City of Newport lies at the mouth of the River Usk. Newport was built around its docks but nowadays has a broad economic base. Newport Transporter Bridge is a Grade I listed building, one of the few remaining in use in the world. West of Newport is Tredegar House, a grand 17th-century Charles-II country house mansion that for over five hundred years was home to the Morgan family, later Lords Tredegar.

North of Newport is Caerleon, famous as the site of Roman legionary fortress of Isca Augusta. Substantial excavated Roman remains can be seen including the thermae (baths), barracks and finest remains of a Roman amphitheatre in Britain.

The Monmouthshire Levels stretch along the north bank of the Severn estuary either side of Newport. They are the result of 2,000 years of human endeavour to reclaim, drain and enclose the land against the recurrent inundations of the Severn. This extraorinary landscape is registered as a Historic Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales.

Main Towns:Abergavenny, Blackwood, Cwmbran, Chepstow, Ebbw Vale, Raglan, Monmouth, Newport, Pontypool, Tredegar, Usk
Main Rivers:Monnow, Usk, Wye, Ebbw, Rhymney
Highlights:Agincourt Square, Monmouth; Blaenavon Industrial Landscape; Caerleon Roman Baths & Ampitheatre; Chepstow Castle; Llanthony Priory; Tintern Abbey; Westgate Hotel, Newport; Transport Bridge, Newport; Wye Valley
County Flower:Foxglove
County Day:25th September
Highest Point:Chwarel-y-Fan, 2,228 feet
Area:542 sq miles
Pop (2011):514,723


58  MTG  Montgomeryshire   Wikishire Map
Montgomeryshire (Sir Drefaldwyn) is an inland county of mid-Wales. Montgomeryshire is a mountainous county, most of it being in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains. The mountainsides provide high sheep pastures, largely unpeopled but for scattered farmsteads and hamlets. Some high passes slice through the hills, where rivers and streams have driven valleys.

The River Severn rises in the far south-west of Montgomeryshire, on the slopes of Plynlimon, and flows through much of the the south and west of the county. The Hafren Forest covers then upper reaches of the Severn, and consists of mainly pine and spruce trees. Ten miles dowstream is h the town of Llanidloes. Llanidloes takes its name from the early-7th-century Celtic Saint Idloes. The town was given a charter in 1289 but existed at least 400 years before that.

The Severn flows eastwards across the south of the county. At Caersws it is joined by the Garno and Trannon. The village is the location of two Roman forts. Further east the Severn flows through Newtown, the largest town in Montgomeryshire. The town is best known as the birthplace of the industrialist Robert Owen in 1771 with his former house now being a museum. Newtown is also the home of Oriel Davies Gallery, a major public gallery.

The town of Montgomery lies a mile south of the Severn, close to the Shropshire border. The town is named after the founder of its castle, Roger de Montgomery, a key supporter of William the Conqueror. The town is in a place with origins much older: an Iron Age hill fort stands on the edge of the town. Other attractions include the Offa's Dyke Path, the Robber's Grave and the town wall.

Near the Shropshire border, the Severn turns northwards and flows through Welshpool which contains much fine Georgian architecture. A little to the south lies Powis Castle, seat of the Earl of Powis.

The Severn then flows to the north of Breidden Hill, an extinct volcanic hill with fine views across Wales and the Shropshire Plain. The river finally leave Montgomeryshire in the north-east near Crew Green, heading east towards Shrewsbury.

The western part of Montgomeryshire reaches out toward the coast at the Dyfi estuary, a wedge between Merionethshire and Cardiganshire, but ends just above that water. It is in the Dyfi valley that the town of Machynlleth lies. The town was the seat of Owain Glyndŵr's Parliament in 1404. The Centre for Alternative Technology lies outside the town.

In the far north of the county is Llanfyllin in a valley by the Berwyn Mountains, close to the Denbighshire border. The town is known for its holy well, dedicated to Saint Myllin who baptised people at Fynnon Coed y Llanin. Lake Vyrnwy is a huge Victorian reservoir of 1,200 acres built to supply water to Liverpool. The lake and the land surrounded it is a designated national nature reserve and a popular spot with bird-watchers, cyclists and hikers.

Main Towns:Carno, Llanidloes, Llanfyllin, Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, Montgomery, Machynlleth, Newtown, Welshpool
Main Rivers:Severn, Vyrnwy, Afon, Carno, Rhiw, Dyfi.
Highlights:Parliament House, Machynlleth; Powis Castle; Market Hall, Llandiloes; Market Square, Montgomery
County Flower:Spiked Speedwell
Highest Point:Moel Sych, 2726 feet
Area:796 sq miles
Pop (2011):61,956


59  MOY  Morayshire   Wikishire Map
Morayshire is a maritime county, lying on the south coast of the Moray Firth, between Nairnshire, Banffshire and Inverness-shire. It was formerly also called Elginshire from its county town.

The shire stretches 30 miles along the coast but also runs deep inland. Along the sea-coast the shores are mostly low and sandy. It is a fishing and farming coast, the Firth rich with haddock and cod. A little inland it consists of fertile valleys, divided by low hills, producing crops and livestock. Further inland the fields gradually rise to the mountains.

The main town, Elgin, lies inland a way. The historic town centre is on the south bank of the Lossie. Elgin Cathedral was established in 1224, though now stands as a ruin. Dr Gray's Hospital was built in 1819. The building, still a working hospital, is imposing with its columns and dome and standing at the head of fine gardens. Downstream Lossiemouth is a fishing village best known for its RAF base.

The main road from Aberdeen to Inverness runs through this coastward strip and here are the main villages. On 11th January each year in the coastal town of Burghhead takes place the fire festival known as the Burning of the Clavie. Above the impressive Findhorn Bay is a magnet for Shakespeareans: the town of Forres where the Bard placed Duncan's royal palace. In the town stands Sueno's Stone, an enormous carved stone, probably created by Picts to commemorate a battle against Norse invaders. Brodie Castle lies near the town.

The southern portion of Morayshire is a contrast. It lies in the hills. A large portion at least on the lower slopes is covered by forest. The Spey, Lossie and Findhorn run from these hills, the Spey and the Findhorn with salmon, and the lochs with trout. Speyside in particular is renowned fishing country. Forestry is the industry of the hills, though a good income is made too from fishing and deer-stalking.

In its far south, Morayshire follows the Spey to Grantown on Spey, above which the serious mountains begin, in Inverness-shire.

Main Towns:Burghead, Duffus, Findhorn, Elgin, Fochabers, Grantown-on-Spey, Lossiemouth
Main Rivers:Spey, Lossie, Findhorn
Highlights:Elgin Cathedral; Gordonstoun school; Sueno Stone, Forres; Nelson memorial, Cluny Hill
County Flower:One-flowered Wintergreen
Highest Point:Carn a'Ghille Chearr, 2,329 feet
Area:476 sq miles
Pop (2011):67,654


60  NRN  Nairnshire   Wikishire Map
Nairnshire is a wee shire on the Moray Firth, just 22 miles in length and 15 miles in breadth.

The county consists of a flattish coastal region where the vast majority of the population live, with a sparsely populated hilly interior, rising to the foothills of the Grampian Mountains in the south. These moorlands, known as the Nairnshire Hills, reach 2,162 feet at Carn-Glas-Choire, the county's very southernmost point. The coast forms an arc shape, with the Whiteness Head peninsula in the west and The Bar peninsula in the east. The seaboard is skirted by sandbanks dangerous to navigation, but the beaches are charming, lined by low dunes extending into Morayshire.

Nairn is the county's only substantial town; a popular seaside resort. The Links, Nairn is one of the finest golf courses in Scotland. The villages of Nairnshire crowd around Nairn and the coast. From the top of Castle Hill in Auldearn is a view for many miles and a 17th-century pigeon loft named the Doocot.

The only sizeable rivers of the county are the Findhorn and the Nairn, both of which rise in Inverness-shire. The Nairn, shortly after issuing from Strathnairn, flows towards the north-east and enters the Moray Firth at the county town, Nairn. The River Findhorn runs through Strath Dearn in Nairnshire's hill districts, on its way to Findhorn Bay in neighbouring Morayshire. There are eight lochs in the county, all small. Nairnshire contains many beautiful woods and much picturesque and romantic scenery.

Five miles south of Nairn, Cawdor Castle is built around a 15th-century tower house, with substantial additions in later centuries and set amid beautiful gardens. The castle is perhaps best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, in which the title character is made "Thane of Cawdor".

To the north of Dulsie Bridge is a monolith called the Princess Stone. A greater number of the mysterious prehistoric stones with cup-markings occur in Nairn than any-where else. Mote hills are also common. At Balnuaran of Clava is a group of three Bronze Age cairns. A stone circle surrounds the each tomb. The cairns incorporate cup and ring mark stones, carved before they were built into the structures. There are many other cairns of this type in the area. Compared with these, the fine castles of the shire seem positively modern.

Main Towns:Auldearn, Cawdor, Ferness, Nairn.
Main Rivers:Nairn, Findhorn.
Highlights:Clava Cairns ancient monument; Cawdor Castle; Culbin Sands RSPB reserve.
County Flower:Chickweed Wintergreen
Highest Point:Carn-Glas-Choire, 2,162 feet.
Area:200 sq miles
Pop (2011):13,894


61  NRF  Norfolk   Wikishire Map
Norfolk is a large county in East Anglia, forming the round eastern rump of the land. The county is famously flat and though it contains a city which was once reckoned the greatest in the kingdom after London, it is mainly rural, and intensely cultivated. It is a popular holiday county too, for the attractions of many sides of the county. Visitors to Norfolk are charmed by cornfields patterned with cornflowers and poppies, and windmills.

The north-western corner of Norfolk is on the Wash, where once were marshland running many miles inland, now drained, and the edge of the Great Fen. King's Lynn is a delightful and historic sea port and market town on the Great Ouse. The heart of the town is mediæval in structure. It has two Guildhalls, several churches and merchant's houses from many ages. Downham Market stands on the Great Ouse at the edge of the Fens. Downham serves as the centre for the many villages scattered across this eastern part of the Norfolk fenland.

To the south-east of the Fens lies another unusual habitat, Breckland. It comprises the gorse-covered sandy heath that lies mostly in the south of Norfolk but also in the north of Suffolk. Covering around 100,000 acres, it is an area of considerable interest for its unusual flora and fauna. On the edge of Breckland lies the market town of Thetford, birthpace of Thomas Paine. Thetford lies on the River Ouse, which forms the west part of the Norfolk-Suffolk border, and has long since spread over the border into Suffolk.

Away from the Fens, Breckland and coast, eastern Norfolk is an agricultural area with the market towns of Swaffham, Watton and Fakenham. Dereham labels itself "The Heart of Norfolk". due to its central location in the county. Notable buildings in the town include the pargetted Bishop Bonner's Cottage, built in 1502.

The western part of the Norfolk-Suffolk border is formed by the River Waveney. On this lies Diss, with a large number of historic buildings, and Harleston, its street lined with many Georgian buildings. Closer to the sea, the Waveney becomes, along with the Yare and the Bure, one of the three rivers which form the heart of the Broads.

The Broads is a network of mostly navigable rivers and lakes. The lakes, known as broads, were formed by the flooding of peat workings. The Broads cover about 120 square miles, most of it in Norfolk but with a significant area in Suffolk. The Broads has similar status to the national parks.

The coast of Norfolk sweeps round in a great arc. At its southern end, eastward facing, is Great Yarmouth, a fishing town still but more a seaside resort. Cromer further north is another resort. On the north coast before the Wash, at Cley-Next-the Sea and Blakeney low tide reveals muddy marshes with long creeks reaching far out. This area is a mecca for bird-watchers. Hunstanton, known colloquially as 'Sunny Hunny', is a seaside town facing the Wash.

Norwich, the county town is an ancient Cathedral City. Norwich can no longer boast of being England's second town, but it is the biggest in East Anglia. Norwich is famous for the number of its ancient parish churches. Amongst them the greatest church is the Cathedral, with one of the highest spires and one of the longest naves in the land, all in perfect architectural harmony.

Main Towns:Aylsham, Blakeney, Caister on Sea, Cley-next-the-Sea, Cromer, Downham Market, Dereham, Great Witchingham, Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton, King's Lynn, Norwich, Swaffham, Thetford, Wells-next-the-Sea
Main Rivers:Bure, Yare, Tas, Thet, Waveney, Little Ouse, Wissey, Great Ouse, Wensum
Highlights:Broads; Britannia Pier & Pleasure Beach, Great Yarmouth; Grime's Graves neolithic flint mines; Norwich Castle & Cathedral
County Flower:Common Poppy
County Day:27th July
Highest Point:Beacon Hill, 343 feet
Area:2,057 sq miles
Pop (2011):807,721


62  NHP  Northamptonshire   Wikishire Map
Northamptonshire is an inland county in the Midlands. A rose has long been the emblem of the county, and Northamptonshire is known as "The Rose of the Shires". During the 18th and 19th centuries Northamptonshire became the boot and shoe making capital of the world. Much of the county has remained largely rural.

The south-west of Northamptonshire is a rural area with three small towns. Towcester stands on Watling Street and is the site of the Roman town of Lactodorum. Today it is famous for its racecourse. Daventry is a market town with many historic buildings including the 18th century Holy Cross Church and Moot Hall. Arbury Hill (738 feet), the county top, lies 6 miles southwest of Daventry with fine views over Warwickshire and Northamptonshire. Canons Ashby House (NT) is a Elizabethan manor house about 11 miles south of Daventry. It was built on the site of the former Canons Ashby Priory of which the priory church of St Mary survives. Northamptonshire has a long association with motor sports, the village of Silverstone hosting the famous Formula 1 motor racing track. The town of Brackley is close to the circuit and some industry related to Formula One is based in the town.

To the north-east of this area lies the county town. Northampton stands on the River Nene and is a mixture of old and new; the town is an ancient borough and the town centre has many historic buildings, but Northampton was declared a “new town” in 1968 and consequently all around it has sprung modern suburbs. Althorp, north-west of the town, is a stately home and estate held by the Spencer family for more than 500 years. It was the childhood home, and now burial place, of Diana, Princess of Wales. North of Northampton is Lamport Hall. Developed from a Tudor manor house, the hall is best known for its classical frontage. The Hall’s fine rooms, including the High Room of 1655 and 18th century library, are filled with a wealth of outstanding furniture, books, china and paintings collected by the Isham family over four centuries. Castle Ashby House, a country house south-east of Northampton, is one of the seats of the Marquess of Northampton.

To the north-east of the county town, a group of large towns stretch across the county from south to north. Rushden was a centre of the shoemaking industry. A few shoemaking companies survive but Rushden has diversified into many industries. Wellingborough is believed to have been founded in the early 6th-century. The town stands on the hills adjoining the flood plain of the River Nene and is surrounded by five wells. The town is noted as a centre of high-performance engineering. Kettering is a market town on the Ise. Kettering's economy was built on the boot and shoe industry, but is now based on service and distribution industries. It contains Wicksteed Park, Britain's second oldest theme park (opened 1921). Corby was designated a new town in 1950 and is now a sizeable town, though the steel industry from which it grow has long since been replaced by other industries.

In the village of Geddington, to the south of Corby, is the Geddington Eleanor Cross. In 1290, Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, died in Harby, Nottinghamshire. Edward set up an elaborate commemorative cross at each location where Eleanor's cortege rested for the night on its journey back to London. On the night of 6 December the procession stopped in Geddington. At Rushton is the Triangular Lodge (EH), designed around 1593 by Sir Thomas Tresham as a protestation of his Catholic faith. His belief in the Holy Trinity is represented everywhere in the Lodge by the number three. It has three walls 33 feet long, each with three triangular windows and surmounted by three gargoyles. At Gretton, north of Corby, is Kirby Hall (EH), a leading and early example of the Elizabethan prodigy house.

To the north-east of the towns in the county's centre, the county is almost entirely rural. The only sizeable settlement in this area is the ancient market town of Oundle, a pretty place on the River Nene. In the nearby village of Fotheringhay are the remains of Fotheringhay Castle. It was a favoured residence of the Dukes of York, and King Richard III was born here in 1452. It was also the final place of imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was tried and executed in the castle in 1587. The castle was dismantled in the 1630s, leaving only the earthworks. Lyveden New Bield (NT) is an unfinished Elizabethan summer house near Aldwincle, south of Oundle. Nearby Lilford Hall started as a Tudor building, with a major Jacobean exterior extension and a Georgian interior. Apethorpe Palace (EH), north of Oundle, dates back to the 15th century and was a favourite royal residence for James I.

The Soke of Peterborough occupies the far north-east of the county. It was once a Liberty under the control of Peterborough Abbey and, after the dissolution of the Abbey, under a secular "Lord Paramount of Peterborough". The Soke has its origin in the Mid-Saxon period, when King Peada of Mercia founded an Abbey at "Medehamstede" and granted it extraordinary civil and ecclesiastical exemptions. Although no longer used for administrative purposes, it retains a geographical and cultural identity within Northamptonshire.

The ancient cathedral city of Peterborough is the heart of the Soke. Peterborough Cathedral, rebuilt in the 12th century, is dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, whose statues look down from the three high gables of the famous West Front. Longthorpe Tower is a 14th-century three-storey tower famous for its well-preserved set of mediæval murals. The city has been expanded greatly with twentieth-century residential developments. Despite this, the greater part of the acreage of the Soke is farmland with many delightful rural villages, of which Barnack, Helpston and Wansford are much noted. Burghley House is a grand 16th-century country house close to the Lincolnshire border.

Northamptonshire was probably of Danish origin, representing in the 10th century the area which owed allegiance to Northampton as a political and administrative centre. In 921 the Danish Jarl Thurferth and the Danish barons submitted to King Edward "together with the entire the host which owed allegiance to Northampton as far north as the Welland". The shire was first mentioned by name in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1011, as 'Hamtunscir'; the prefix "North-" was added to distinguish Northampton from the other important 'Hamtun' further south.

Northamptonshire Day is celebrated on 25th October, the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, the patron saints of cobblers, curriers, tanners, and leather workers. The Northamptonshire Flag was chosen by public vote in 2014. It consists of a gold cross fimbriated in black on a maroon field and a rose in the centre. The cross represents the county's location as a crossroads in England, the colours were inspired by the county's cricket team and county town's football team. The black border represents the county's leather industry. The county flower is the Cowslip: abundant in the woods, pastures and roadsides of the Northamptonshire.

Main Towns:Brackley, Brixworth, Corby, Daventry, Earls Barton, Irthlingborough, Kettering, Northampton, Oundle, Rushden, Peterborough, Silverstone, Towcester, Wellingborough
Main Rivers:Nene, Welland, Avon, Swift
Highlights:Eleanor Cross, Northampton; Fotheringhay; Kirby Hall; Naseby battlefield; Peterborough Cathedral
County Flower:Cowslip
County Day:25th October, feast day of Saint Crispin
Highest Point:Arbury Hill, 738 feet
Area:998 sq miles
Pop (2011):838,786


63  NHB  Northumberland   Wikishire Map
Northumblerand is a maritime county in the far north-east of England. The contrast between the south-east and the rest of the county is dramatic. The largest town of Northumberland is Newcastle upon Tyne, which stands on the north bank of the Tyne, and surrounding it is a small but dense conurbation stretching to both banks of the river and along the coast, but beyond these areas Northumberland is rural and sparsely populated.

Newcastle is one Great Britain's major cities. Grand. Impressive. Distinctive. In large parts, Newcastle still retains a mediæval street layout. Narrow alleys or 'chares', most of which can only be traversed by foot, still exist in abundance. Stairs from the riverside to higher parts of the city centre and the extant Castle Keep, originally recorded in the 14th century, remain in places. The Tyne Gorge, between Newcastle on the north bank in Northumberland and Gateshead on the south bank in County Durham, is famous for a series of dramatic bridges, including the Tyne Bridge of 1928 which was built by Dorman Long, and Robert Stephenson's High Level Bridge of 1849, the first road/rail bridge in the world.

The coast begins at Tynemouth, a major port and a busy industrial gateway to the Newcastle conurbation. North of the Tyne up to Blyth are a number of coastal towns, including the famous resort of Whitley Bay, but beyond that is undisturbed rural Northumberland seacoast. The coastline is generally low-lying and rocky, with numerous little bays and modest villages.

In the north are sites resonating with history: Bamburgh Castle sits perched on a precipitous rock which was the first seat of the Bernician kings. Opposite Bamburgh are the Farne Islands stretching into the North Sea and well known for their abundant birdlife, and north of them the largest and most famous is Lindisfarne or Holy Island, which was the first Christian missionary centre in Northumbria.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is a sturdy town on the north bank of the Tweed. It was once a wealthy port and the county town of Berwickshire and there is still debate about whether it belongs to Northumberland or to Berwickshire.

Inland, Northumberland is a county of fells and dales, part of the Pennine chain. The fells fill most of the county, bleak and beautiful and largely unpopulated. In the north of the county the Cheviot Hills. A great deal of this high moorland is protected in the Northumberland National Park. Castles and peel towers abound; reminders of more lawless times.

Hadrian's Wall crosses the south of Northumberland east to west, from Wallsend-on-Tyne out to the Solway coast in Cumberland, a remnant but an impressive one of the great Roman wall with forts and mile-castles dotted along it.

Main Towns:Alnwick, Ashlington, Berwick on Tweed, Blyth, Haltwhistle, Hexham, Morpeth, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Shields, Seaton Delaval, Tweedmouth, Tynemouth, Wallsend, Whitley Bay
Main Rivers:Tyne, Coquet, Rede, Aln, Tweed
Highlights:Bamburgh Castle; Flodden Field battlefield; Hadrian's Wall; Newcastle city centre and quayside; Whitley Bay
County Flower:Bloody Crane's-bill
Highest Point:The Cheviot, 2,674 feet
Area:2,019 sq miles
Pop (2011):797,006


64  NOT  Nottinghamshire   Wikishire Map
Nottinghamshire in an inland county which stretches from the heart of the Midlands to the edge of Yorkshire. It is low-lying, rarely reaching 600 feet above sea level.

The River Trent, the great river of the Midlands, crosses southern Nottinghamshire as a broad stream. The City of Nottingham itself is one of the largest of the Midland towns. At its heart is a mediæval castle on a sandstone hill overlooking and commanding the Trent. The sandstone of Nottingham and much of the county is peppered with caves. The hill on which Nottingham Castle is built has spacious caves beneath it and evidence of long habitation. The mediæval inn "The Trip to Jerusalem" is built into a cave, and higher up the Trent there were cave-dwellers into the twentieth century. The market town of Hucknall, final resting place of Lord Byron and his estranged daughter, the mathematician Ada Lovelace, lies 7 miles north-east of Nottingham.

From Nottingham, the Trent continues north-west to Newark-on-Trent, close to the eastern border with Lincolnshire. The origins of Newark are possibly Roman as it lies on an important Roman road, the Fosse Way. The town grew around Newark Castle, now ruined, and a large marketplace, now lined with historic buildings. The Fosse Way enters Nottinghamshire south of Newark and departs the county north-east of the town, part of its long course from Exeter to Lincoln. It is remarkably almost devoid of villages along its Nottinghamshire section. West of Newark is Southwell, home of a Cathedral of great architectural interest.

After Newark, the Trent turns north and flows across the east of the county. Cromwell Weir marks the tidal extent of the river. The now tidal river meanders across a wide floodplain, at the edge of which are located riverside villages such as Carlton and Sutton on Trent, Besthorpe and Girton. Close to Dunham-on-Trent the river becomes a long stretch of the county border. Littleborough is the site of the Roman town of Segelocum, where a Roman road once crossed the river. The Trent finally heading into Lincolnshire near Misterton. This eastern part of the county is largely agricultural with no towns.

The ancient lands of Sherwood Forest reach from the edge of Nottingham northwards towards Yorkshire. The woodland itself is less extensive than in former days but the remaining forest is impressive nevertheless, particularly between Ollerton and Worksop. Sherwood is famous as the legendary haunt of Robin Hood.

Much of north-western Nottinghamshire is the area known as "The Dukeries", so named in jest as the place where several great estates lay close together, four of them the country seats of Dukes (Clumber House, Thoresby Hall, Welbeck Abbey, Worksop Manor). This part of Nottinghamshire is better known now for the mining villages and industrial development that grew with the opening up of the Dukeries Coalfield. Nevertheless, several of the great parks remain as a feature of the green landscape. Though the mines are now all closed, north-western Nottinghamshire was shaped by the mining industry. The mines created villages and towns which stretch in a belt up towards the Yorkshire boundary. The major towns in this part are Mansfield, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Worksop, "the capital of the Dukeries".

Away from the coal field, at the centre of the north, Retford remained primarily a rural market town, now with large service and light industry sectors.

Main Towns:Beeston, Blidworth, Eastwood, Edwinstowe, Mansfield, Newark on Trent, Nottingham, Retford, Southwell, Worksop
Main Rivers:Trent, Idle, Maun, Devon
Highlights:Major Oak, Edwinstowe; Robin Hood Hills; Thoresby Hall; Wollaton Hall
County Flower:Autumn Crocus
Highest Point:Newtonwood Lane nr Whiteborough, 673 feet (SK456606).
Area:843 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,096,617


65  ORN  Orkney   Wikishire Map
Orkney is a county formed from the archipelago of the same name. The islands lie north of the mainland of Great Britain but clearly visible from the north coast of Caithness. Between Caithness and Orkney is the Pentland Firth. There are some 90 islands comprising Orkney, but fewer than a third are inhabited.

The main island is Mainland. Seventy-five per cent of Orkney's population live on the island. Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of Orkney. A royal burgh, it stands in the middle of Mainland, where the island is pinched to north and south leaving a narrow gap between Kirkwall on the north coast and Scapa on the south. It bears reminders of the great power once wielded here, in particular the vast St Magnus Cathedral, built by the Norse Earls of Orkney, and beside it, now decayed to ruin, the Earls' residence, while wandering lanes join the town together. A long-established seaport, Stromness lies in the south-western part of Mainland. The old town is clustered along the characterful and winding main street, flanked by houses and shops built from local stone, with narrow lanes and alleys branching off it.

To the north of Mainland are many scattered islands including Shapinsay, Roussay, Egilsay, Westray and Papa Westray, Stronsay, Sanday, and the furthest, North Ronaldsay. From the south-east edge of Mainland a series of causeways built during the War runs southwards to Burray and then to South Ronaldsay. Lying to the south-west of Mainland is Hoy. Unique among the islands, Hoy is mountainous. The rest are generally low, rocky, and treeless, with an occasional cultivated area.

Hoy, Flotta, South Ronaldsay and Mainland form a ring around a great body of water; Scapa Flow. Scapa Flow is the Navy's finest deepwater anchorage, and famous also as the place where in 1918 Rear Admiral von Reuter scuttled the German High Seas Fleet rather than let it remain in British hands.

The folk of Orkney though claim Norwegian blood. King Harold I (Harold Fairhair) of Norway added Orkney to the Scandinavian domain in 875. The islands remained nominal dependencies of Norway until 1468, when Christian I of Norway and Denmark pledged them as security for the dowry of his daughter, Margaret, on her marriage to James III of Scotland. The pledge was never redeemed, and Orkney remained the property of Scotland. Many natives regards themselves first and foremost as Orcadian, a term that reflects a strongly held identity with a tradition of understatement.

The lengthy history of the islands' occupation has provided numerous important archaeological sites. Orkney has an abundance of wildlife, especially of grey and common seals and seabirds such as puffins, kittiwakes, black guillemots (tysties), ravens, and great skuas (bonxies). Whales, dolphins, and otters are also seen around the coasts.

Main Towns:Balfour, Kirkwall, Pierowall, St Margaret's Hope, Stromness
Main Rivers:None
Highlights:St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall; Scapa Flow, Mainland; Old Man of Hoy; Skara Brae ancient monument
County Flower:Alpine Bearberry
County Day:16th April
Highest Point:Ward Hill, Hoy, 1,578 feet.
Area:376 sq miles
Pop (2011):21,349


66  OXD  Oxfordshire   Wikishire Map
Oxfordshire is an inland county which lies along the River Thames, stretching westward and northward into the Cotswold Hills and eastward into the Chilterns.

The north-west of Oxfordshire lies in the Cotswolds. Some of the finest Cotswold towns are to be found here, the main town being Chipping Norton, with an impressive high street and coaching inns all in the honey coloured stone found throughout the Cotswolds. Burford is a small mediæval town often referred to as the 'gateway' to the Cotswolds. The Rollright Stones are located on a scarp of the Cotswold Hills, the Whispering Knights stone circle in Oxfordshire and the King Stone in Warwickshire. Nearby is Chastleton House (NT), a Jacobean country house.

Away from the Cotswolds, northern Oxfordshire is rural in character with a few small towns. In the far north lies Banbury, famed in song and for Banbury cakes. In the north-east, Bicester is a historic market town which, like Banbury, lies close to the M40. In the north-west, Carlbury is a quiet, unspoilt market town. Woodstock is a small market town dominated by the neighbouring house, Blenheim Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), The palace is the seat of the Duke of Marlborough, and was the birthplace in 1874 of Winston Churchill (who is buried in the nearby village of Bladon). Carterton is a large town established by William Carter in the early 20th century. Witney is a historic market town with a 17th century "buttercross", so called because people would gather there to buy butter and eggs.

The south of Oxfordshire is in the middle and upper reaches of the Thames Valley. The Thames forms the whole of Oxfordshire's southern border, stretching for about 70 miles. At Kelmscott, at the south-western corner of the shire, the Thames is a modest river, though just navigable. Downstream from here as the river widens, the county is a place of idyllic villages, down to Oxford itself.

Oxford is the seat of the oldest university in Britain, and one of the most prestigious in the world. Oxford has a wealth of ancient colleges and university buildings with beautiful buildings which define and shape the town. Among its many highlights are the Radcliffe Camera, designed by James Gibbs in neo-classical style and built in 1737–49; the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Britain's first public museum; and the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, founded in 1621, the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain. At Oxford the Cherwell meets the Thames. Down by where the rivers meet are meadows belonging, like much of the city, to the colleges. The cathedral is by the meadows too, rather overlooked. Oxford though also has another side as a manufacturing town, centred in Cowley.

At Oxford the river, and thus the county border, takes a sudden turn south. Dorchester on Thames was in Saxon times a major monastic centre and the seat of a bishopric which covered much of the eastern Midlands, though it is now a small village. In the far south of the county lies the village of Caversham which is now grown to be a suburb of Reading across the river in Berkshire.

Some miles below Caversham is Henley on Thames, a very wealthy town and famous for the annual Henley Regatta. North of Henley the Chilterns begin. The Chilterns are better known in Buckinghamshire, but there are many fine walks to be had in the Oxfordshire hills. The highest point in Oxfordshire is on Bald Hill, within Cowleaze Wood. Greys Court (NT) is a Tudor country house in the Chiltern Hills at Rotherfield Greys. Nuffield Place (NT) is a 20th century country house, the former home of Sit William Morris, near the village of Nuffield.

Oxfordshire was recorded as a county in the early years of the 10th century. Like many Anglo-Saxon counties it was named after its principal town. Oxfordshire Day is celebrated on 19th October. It is the principal feast day of the patron saint of the city and university of Oxford, St Frideswide. The Oxfordshire flag originated as the coat of arms of the former County Council of Oxfordshire. The basic field colour is the dark blue long associated with Oxford University; against this two broad, white, wavy stripes symbolise the River Thames, and against this sits a red ox head, the combination of which alludes to the origin of the county town of Oxford. At the lower left and upper right corners, a golden oak tree and wheatsheaf or garb represent the county's woodland and agriculture.
Main Towns:Bicester, Burford, Caversham, Chipping Norton, Goring-on-Thames, Henley-on-Thames, Oxford, Thame, Witney, Woodstock
Main Rivers:Thames, Evenlode, Cherwell, Windrush
Highlights:Blenheim Palace; Cropredy Bridge battefield; High Street, Burford; Oxford; Rollright Stones
County Flower:Snake's-head Fritillary
County Day:19th October, feast day of Saint Frideswide
Highest Point:Bald Hill, 843 feet (SU 729 958)
Area:754 sq miles
Pop (2011):512,345


67  PBS  Peeblesshire   Wikishire Map
Peeblesshire is an inland county in southern Scotland. Peeblesshire is in the heart of the hills where the Southern Upland and Lammermuir Hills merge. Of the shires along the Tweed it is the highest, and the one most filled with mountains.

The Tweed rises at Tweed's Well, at the southern edge of Peeblesshire and runs north through the shire in a steep valley between the mountains, entering the fine area of Upper Tweeddale. This river has given Peeblesshire its alternative name: Tweeddale. The river flows past the village of Tweedsmuir and continues northwards until reaches its northernmost point by Peebles itself.

Peebles, the only town of any size in the county, was once a popular spa town. It is still a fine holiday destination. St Andrew's Church tower is the oldest building in Peebles (1195). Traquair House, 5 miles south-east of Peebles, is claimed to be the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland. While not strictly a castle, it is built in the style of a fortified mansion. Neidpath Castle is an L-plan rubble-built tower house, overlooking the River Tweed about a miles west of Peebles. Glentress Forest, a vast woodland of Scots Pine, Douglas firs, spruce and larch, spreads out over the southerly fells of the Moorfoot Hills immediately to the north of Peebles and the valley of the River Tweed.

Downstream from Peebles, the Tweed heads south-east reaching the small town of Innerleithen at the point the Leithon flows into it. The area occupied by the town has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. The remains of an Iron-Age hill fort are visible atop Caerlee Hill, in the form of defensive ditchworks. After Innerleithen, the Tweed flows west into Selkirkshire.

The village of West Linton is the largest settlement in the north of the county. The Whipman is an annual summer festival held in the village, and is one of the oldest festivals in the Middle Shires. North-west of the village, the North Esk rises in Cairnmuir and forms the boundary between Midlothian and Peeblesshire for four delightfully scenic miles. East of the village, the South Medwin marks the boundary with Lanarkshire. The rivers are well stocked and popular with anglers.

Main Towns:Innerleithen, Peebles, Traquair, Tweedsmuir, West Linton
Main Rivers:Tweed, North Esk, South Medwin, Lyne, Manor, Leithen, Quair
Highlights:Traquair House; Neidpath Castle; St Ronan's Well, Innerleithen
County Flower:Cloudberry
Highest Point:Broad Law, 2,756 feet
Area:548 sq miles
Pop (2011):19,074


68  PMB  Pembrokeshire   Wikishire Map
Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) is a maritime county in the the south-western extremity of Wales. Pembrokeshire is washed on three sides by the ocean. The coast is rugged and girt with cliffs and spectacular inlets, islands offshore and sheltered beaches. Here the land has been designated the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

In the north-east of the county are the Preseli Hills, a wide stretch of high moorland with many prehistoric monuments and the source of the bluestones used in the construction of the inner circle of Stonehenge. Pentre Ifan is the largest and best preserved Neolithic dolmen in Wales.

From the north, the spectacular coast of Pembrokeshire begins at the Teifi estuary, across which lies Cardiganshire. From there the "heritage coast" runs south to the broad sands of the Nevern mouth and Newport, then with wild cliffs and headlands (past Fishguard, a port for ferries to Rosslare) out to the westernmost headland opposite Ramsey Island. The northern spur of Pembrokeshire is the St David's Peninsula. Here is St David's: a village which is a City. It has a cathedral which is said to be the biggest church in Wales, because Saint David established his monastery here in 550.

The western part of the coast opens into a big mouth some ten miles across; St Brides Bay, at the south of which is the Marloes Peninsula. Off the peninsula is the uninhabited island of Skomer, best known for its large breeding seabird population, including Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills, Great Cormorants, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Atlantic Puffins, European Storm-petrels, and Shags. It is also a schedule Ancient Monument for its stone circle, standing stones and remains of prehistoric houses. To the south lies Skokholm island. Battered by storms, the high cliffs and isolated nature of the island makes it a haven for seabirds.

South of the Marloes Peninsula is the Milford Haven Waterway, the finest natural harbour in the world according to Nelson. Milford Haven is a broad deepwater inlet, and serves two major ports; the town of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock. The banks of the Milford Haven Waterway are dominated by the oil and gas industry. The Haven runs far further inland though, deep into Pembrokeshire and forming a great inland system of seawater creeks and channels in the heart of the county. The town of Pembroke is a modest town, largely serving its port.

The south-east of the county contains the major resorts of Tenby, with its 13th-century mediæval town walls, and Saundersfoot. The nearby small town of Narberth is known for its range of independent shops. Oakwood Theme Park and Folly Farm are hugely popular tourist attractions in this area.

Away from the coast, the county is rolling countryside with small villages. The county is famous for its Pembrokeshire Earlies potatoes. The only large inland town, Haverfordwest, serves as the market town for most of Pembrokeshire.

An area of southern Pembrokeshire and south-western Carmarthenshire, known as "Little England Beyond Wales", has been English in language and culture for many centuries despite its remoteness from England. Its origins may lie in the Irish, Norse, Norman, Flemish and Saxon settlement that took place in this area. Its northern boundary is known as the Landsker Line. The differences in the proportion of Welsh speakers either side of the Landsker Line persist in the 21st century.

Main Towns:Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Narberth, Newport, Neyland, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, St David's, St Dogmaels, Tenby
Main Rivers:Eastern Cleddau, Western Cleddau, Nevern Gwann, Solva.
Highlights:St David's Cathedral & Bishop's Palace; Pentre Ifan burial chamber; Pembrokeshire Coastal Path National Park; Preseli Mountains; Skomer Island
County Flower:Thrift
Highest Point:Foel Cwmcerwyn, 1,760 feet
Area:625 sq miles
Pop (2011):122,122


69  PRT  Perthshire    Wikishire Map
Perthshire is an inland county in central Scotland. Perthshire is a county of spectacle, in its glens and moors and its broad lowland valleys. It stands across the division between the Highlands and the Lowlands.

The whole north of Perthshire is taken up with the Grampian Mountains, including the mountain towns of Pitlochry on the upper Tay (famed for salmon fishing), Blair Atholl and the Forest of Atholl and Crianlarich. There are grand and beauteous lochs slicing through the landscape, including Loch Ericht and Loch Rannoch.

The Rivers Dochart and Lochay join several burns in feeding the great Loch Tay, from which the River Tay emerges at Kenmore. Killin is a village standing at the western head of Loch Tay, magnificently sited around the scenic Falls of Dochart. The Falls of Lochay are a series of fine waterfalls on the River Lochay close to Killin.

In the north-west, the Moor of Rannoch on the borders of Argyllshire is a 50 square mile expanse of boggy moorland.

South of the Grampains is Strathearn, a gentler land of farms and modest towns. The River Earn flows east from Loch Earn at St Fillans through the towns of Comrie, Crieff and Bridge of Earn, falling into the River Tay near Abernethy.

The City of Perth, the Dark Age capital of Scotland, is on the River Tay where it broadens before becoming the Firth. There has been a settlement at Perth since prehistoric times, on a natural mound above the flood plain of the Tay, where the river could be crossed at low tide. Across the Tay is Scone Palace, the family home of the Earls of Mansfield and the ancient crowning place of Scottish kings on the stone of Scone.

Downriver from Perth, the Firth of Tay becomes a broad arm of the sea and divides the county from Fife. North of the Firth of Tay, the Sidlaw Hills are a range of hills of volcanic origin which extend from Perth eastwards into Angus.

The Trossachs are a famed woodland glen in the south-west of Perthshire. The glen itself lies between Ben A'an and Ben Venue, though the name has come to be used for the wider area of wooded glens and braes with quiet lochs, lying to the east of Ben Lomond. The area is now part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and is popular with walkers and cyclists.

Close to the southern border with Stirlingshire, Flanders Moss is the largest raised bog in Europe to remain in a predominantly near-natural state.

Main Towns:Abernethy, Blackford, Coupar Angus, Doune, Callander, Dunblane, Killin, Perth, Pitlochry, Scone
Main Rivers:Tay, Earn, Ericht, Farg, Isla, Tummel Garry
Highlights:Blair Castle; Drummond Castle; Trossachs; Gleneagles Hotel; Scone Palace
County Flower:Alpine Gentian
Highest Point:Ben Lawers, 3,983 feet
Area:2,493 sq miles
Pop (2011):156,371


70  RDN  Radnorshire   Wikishire Map
Radnorshire (Sir Faesyfed) is an inland county in mid-Wales. It is a sparsely populated county. Most of the county is mountainous, with the Cambrian Mountains running through the west. Its hills are uncultivable but rich in sheep grazing, and a delight for wild-country enthusiasts.

The magnificent Elan Valley ("Wales Lake District") occupies the far north-west of the county. The valley contains the Elan Valley Reservoirs and Elan Village, designed by architect Herbert Tudor Buckland, the only purpose-built Arts and Crafts "Model Village" in Wales.

The River Wye rises in Cardiganshire but flows down across the north-west of the county to Rhayader, the oldest town in mid-Wales, known to date from the 5th century. These upper stretches of the Wye are very picturesque. South of Rhayader the Wye becomes the border with Brecknockshire, flowing on to Newbridge-on-Wye, which grew around a stop off point for drovers since the Wye was safe to cross here. A few miles to the west of the Wye is the 19th-century spa town of Llandrindod Wells. The architecture of the town includes many buildings in ornate styles dating from the boom period of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

A little further south on the Wye is Llanelwedd, the site of the Royal Welsh Showground. The Wye then continues as the southern border with Brecknockshire to the point where Radnorshire, Brecknockshire and Herefordshire meet where the Wye meets the Dulas Brook near Hay-on-Wye (in Brecknockshire).

The Radnor Forest is a slightly isolated dome of hills in the middle of the county near the village of New Radnor, and includes the highest ground in the county. New Radnor was founded and named by Earl Harold Godwinsson (later King Harold II) at the conclusion of his campaign in Wales. It is a small market town with impressive earthworks and a fallen castle. Nearby is the spectacular Water-Break-its-Neck waterfall. Old Radnor is a tiny hamlet 5 miles to the south-west. St Stephen's is a 15th-century Perpendicular Gothic church noted for its early organ and organ case, early stained glass, superb 15th-century rood screen and large pre-Norman font.

West of Radnor Forest, by the Shropshire border, is the county town of Presteigne. The old Shire Hall is now an award-winning museum. The Church of St Andrew houses a 16th-century Flemish Tapestry.

The north-east border with Shropshire runs along the Teme Valley with its picturesque rolling countryside. The small market town of Knighton sits on the Teme with a small part of the town across the river in Shropshire. Some of the best preserved remains of Offa's Dyke are a few miles north at LLanfair Hill.

The north of the county is very sparsely populated. Here, though, lie the ruins of Cwmhir Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1176 by Cadwallon ap Madog and closed at the dissolution.

The county's main sources employment are tourism, hill farming and the public sector.

Main Towns:Aberedw, Knighton, Knucklas, Llandrindod Wells, Llanelwedd, New Radnor, Painscastle, Rhayader, Presteigne
Main Rivers:Wye, Elan, Ithon, Teme
Highlights:Abbeycwmhir; Llandrindod Wells; Offa's Dyke at Knighton; Elan Valley
County Flower:Radnor Lily
Highest Point:Great Rhos, 2,166 feet
Area:470 sq miles
Pop (2011):25,821


71  RNF  Renfrewshire   Wikishire Map
Renfrewshire is a maritime county which lies on the south bank of the Clyde, stretching from the southern Glasgow suburbs to the coast opposite Cowal.

The main towns of Renfrewshire are in the east of the shire and along the coast. An area of south-west Glasgow, including Langside, Pollokshields and Shawlands, lies within Renfrewshire, as do suburban towns further to the south-west including Clarkston, Newton Mearns and Thornliebank. Further south-west is Barrhead, once a major centre for manufacturing, now a popular residential commuter town for Glasgow and Paisley.

West of Glasgow, is Paisley, the largest town in the county, and formerly a centre of the weaving industry. The modern economy is based around public administration, higher education, retail and leisure. Glasgow Airport is located on the town's northern edge.

The county town, Renfrew, was a ship-building town on the Clyde.Today it primarily contains service sector businesses. It is called the "Cradle of the Royal Stewarts" for its early link with Scotland's former royal house.

Along the coast in the north-west of the county are Port Glasgow, Greenock and Gourock. Originally a fishing hamlet named Newark, Port Glasgow came about as a result of large ships being unable to navigate the Clyde to Glasgow. Shipbuilding, long the town's biggest industry, continues to this day. Newark Castle, close to the shore of the Clyde, dates to around 1484. Greenock is a port town which historically relied on shipbuilding, sugar refining and wool manufacturing. These have given way to service and financial industries. Greenock Custom House is considered one of the finest in Britain. Gourock was a popular seaside resort but today it is a residential town and a ferry port for Dunoon, Helensburgh and Kilgcreggan across the Clyde.

Above the coastal land the county consists of low moorland, rising to such modest hills as those of the Renfrewshire Heights. Only towards the Ayrshire border and that of Lanarkshire in the south-east are there any great heights and the county's surface is undulating rather than rugged.

Strathgryffe is the only considerable valley in the shire. Strathgryffe extends from the Gryffe reservoirs to below Bridge of Weir, a distance of 10 miles. The scenery at its head is somewhat wild and bleak, but the lower reaches are pasture land.

The Killock Burn rises is a number of smaller headwaters in the gentle hills close to Neilston, and runs east-south-eastwards, creating in its lower reaches a small, lovely gorge known as Glenkillock, a wooded ravine bisecting the Fereneze Hills. The three waterfalls on the burn in Glenkillock have been compared with the Clyde Falls in miniature.

Main Towns:Barrhead, Eaglesham, Erksine, Gourock, Greenock, Linwood, Newton Mearns, Paisley, Port Glasgow, Renfrew, Thornliebank
Main Rivers:Rotten Burn, Black Cart, White Cart, Gryffe
Highlights:Mearns Castle; Paisley Abbey; Pollock Castle; Wemyss Bay
County Flower:Bogbean
Highest Point:Hill of Stake, 1,713 feet.
Area:245 sq miles
Pop (2011):508,064


72  RSS  Ross-shire   Wikishire Map
Ross-shire is a maritime county, stretching from the North Sea to the Atlantic, standing between Inverness-shire and Sutherland. A mountainous shire of high tops, breath-taking glens, windswept bealachs and two contrasting coasts, Ross-shire is a Highland county without compromise.

Ross-shire includes the Isle of Lewis, the northern part of the island collectively known as Lewis with Harris, the largest of the Outer Hebrides. Stornoway is an important port and administrative centre with a variety of educational, sporting and media establishments. The interior of Lewis is a large area of moorland from which peat was traditionally cut as fuel. The southern part of Lewis is more mountainous with inland lochs. The island's diverse habitats are home to an assortment of flora and fauna, such as the golden eagle, red deer and seals.

The mainland county is divided into Easter Ross and Wester Ross.

Wester Ross is well known for its spectacular mountain scenery, especially the Torridon Hills which includes the peaks Beinn Eighe and Liathach. The coast of Wester Ross is deeply indented with craggy sea-lochs reaching between the highlands and with scattered islands. The chief capes include Greenstone Point, Rubha Reidh, and Redpoint. The sea-lochs include Loch Alsh, almost enclosed between Ross-shire and Skye, and Loch Carron, reaching deep inland to Strathcarron. There are also many freshwater lochs, the largest being Loch Maree. The Falls of Glomach are one of the highest waterfalls in the United Kingdom, falling 370 feet on the little Allt a' Ghlomaich burn.

Easter Ross is flatter, and consists of towns, villages and farmland bordering the Moray Firth. In the north, Dornoch Firth separates the county from Sutherland On the south of the firth is the royal burgh of Tain, site of the famous Glenmorangie Distillery. East of Tain is the hammerhead-shaped Tarbat peninsula which is shared with Cromartyshire. South lies the Cromarty Firth, with the port town of Invergordon on its north shore. Dingwall, the county town, lies at the head of the Cromarty Firth. Dingwall Castle was once the biggest castle north of Stirling. The Black Isle, also shared with Cromartyshire, is a peninsula between the Cromaty Firth and the Beauly Firth, the border with Inverness-shire. Land use on the Isle is primarily arable farming and forestry. The Black Isle is known for its wildlife, particularly for the chance to see bottlenose dolphins at close range.

The county has many relics of antiquity - stone circles, cairns and forts. The county is a joy for nature lovers. Red deer and roe deer abound, and foxes and alpine hares are common. Badgers and wild cats are to be found. The golden eagle soars the high slopes and ospreys come to the lochs. Waterfowl of all kinds frequent the sea lochs.

The main sources of employment are tourism, public sector and agriculture.

Main Towns:Dingwall, Gairloch, Kyle of Lochalsh, Fortrose, Port of Ness, Tain, Stornoway
Main Rivers:Orrin, Conon, Blackwater, Oykel, Carron
Highlights:Abbey of Fearn; Glenmorangie distillery, Tain; Isle of Lewis; Shandwick Stone
County Flower:Bog Asphodel
Highest Point:Carn Eige, 3,881 feet
Area:3,089 square miles
Pop (2011):69,503


73  RXB  Roxburghshire   Wikishire Map
Roxburghshire is an inland county. A jewel of the Middle Shires, it lies equally distant from the North Sea and the Solway Firth. Roxburghshire is an agricultural county of small villages.

The Cheviots stretch from Northumberland into much of the east of Roxburghshire. Their highest ridges mark much of the border between the two counties.

North and west of the Cheviots, much of the county is occupied by Teviotdale, the basin drained by the River Teviot and tributaries. The Teviot rises near Causeway Grain Head on the Dumfriesshire border and runs in a north-easterly direction for 37 miles until it sheds its waters into the growing Tweed at Kelso. The town of Hawick, distinctive for its many sandstone buildings with slate roofs, lies in the heart of Teviotdale. The town and royal burgh of Jedburgh stands on the Jed Water, a tributary of the River Teviot. It is dominated by the substantial ruins of Jedburgh Abbey, founded by King David I, still impressive in their shell.

The Tweed enters Roxburghshire in the north, from Selkirkshire, and flows through the north-east of Roxburghshire for 26 miles, serving as a border river with Berwickshire for some twelve miles before meeting the Tevoit at Kelso, and then flowing north-east into Berwickshire. Kelso is a quaint market town with its cobbled streets, elegant Georgian buildings and French style cobbled market square. The origns of the town lies in the creation of Kelso Abbey in 1128.

The destroyed town and castle of Roxburgh lie on the narrow tonque of land between the Teviot and Tweed, just west of Kelso. English and Scots forces repeatedly captured and recaptured the town during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Its final recapture by the Scots in 1460 saw the town and castle destroyed. Nothing remains except some ruined segments of castle ramparts. Today's Roxburgh is a village on the Teviot a few miles away.

The south-west of the county is formed from Liddesdale, the valley of the Liddel Water, from the vicinity of Peel Fell to the point where Roxburghsire, Dumfriesshire and Cumberland meet. In this valley is Hermitage Castle, a massive H-shaped fortress of enormous strength, one of the oldest surviving castles in Scotland.

In the north-east of the shire is the lovely Eildon and Leaderfoot National Scenic Area, beneath the Eildon Hills where the Leader meets the Tweed. On the tweed lies Melrose, with the remains of Melrose Abbey. Nearby, at Newstead, is the Roman fort complex of Trimontium.

Main Towns:Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Liddesdale, Melrose, Newton St Boswells, Roxburgh, Town Yetholm
Main Rivers:Tweed, Teviot, Liddel, Jed, Ettrick, Gala, Leader, Eden
Highlights:Eilden Hills; Floors Castle; Melrose Abbey; Smailholm Tower, Kelso
County Flower:Maiden Pink
Highest Point:Cairn Hill West Top, 2,438 feet
Area:666 sq miles
Pop (2011):50,800


74  RTL  Rutland   Wikishire Map
Rutland is an inland county, the smallest county in England. Rutland's length north to south is 18 miles at its longest, and its breadth east to west 17 miles.

Rutland is almost entirely agricultural. The shire is marked by numerous pretty villages characterised by cottages of limestone and ironstone, with roofs thatched or of Collyweston stone slate.

Rutland is a well watered place; the Eye Brook, the Chater, and the Gwash flowing through green vales between rolling hills. The south-eastern border is the Welland.

The Gwash was dammed in the 1970s, flooding a huge area for a reservoir; Rutland Water. Although its construction was the subject of considerable opposition and involved the demolition of the hamlet of Nether Hambleton, Rutland Water today provides a major recreational resource to the county and is a wetland of international wildlife importance.

In Vale of Catmose is an area of relatively low-lying land in the west of the county. Within it lies the county town, Oakham, a charming market town centred around a small square and market-cross. Oakham Castle, within the town, is a fortified manor house with an important 12th-century great hall and home of an extraordinary collection of presentation horseshoes. The Rutland County Museum is also in Oakham.

Further south, around Uppingham the ground rises into broken and picturesque scenery. Uppingham is a small market town, home of the public school, Uppingham School. Close by, at Castle Hill. are the earthwork remains of a mediæval motte and bailey castle.

Tolethope Hall is a country house in the parish of Little Casterton in the east of the county. Once a country seat for minor gentry, it is now the home of the Stamford Shakespeare Company and the grounds provide their famous open-air theatre, the Rutland Theatre.

There are two large British Army barracks in the county. Kendrew Barracks lies in the north, close to Cottesmore, the county's largest village. St George's Barracks lie close to North Luffenham in the south.

Main Towns:Cottesmore, Ketton, Oakham, Market Overton, Uppingham.
Main Rivers:Welland, Eye, Gwash, Chater.
Highlights:Market place, Oakham; Oakham School; Rutland Water.
County Flower:Clustered Bellflower
County Day:13th September, Grand Assault of Gibraltar
Highest Point:Flitteriss Park, 646 feet (SK 827 085).
Area:152 sq miles
Pop (2011):37,677


75  SKK  Selkirkshire   Wikishire Map
Selkirkshire is an inland county in the Southern Uplands. This is gentle hill country, a green landscape, well wooded and well grazed on the open slopes and valleys. The hills of Selkirkshire are not the harsh forbidding slopes of northern shires but rounded and green. The highest hills are found in the extreme west and south-west. The highest hill, Dun Rig, is amongst the Manor Hills on the western border with Peeblesshire. The main dales are those of the Tweed, the Yarrow and the Ettrick.

The Ettrick flows across almost the entire county. It rises in the far south-west on the slopes of Wind Fell, at the border with Dumfriesshire, and flows north-eastwards down to the village of Ettrick and down Ettrickdale, where the floodplain by the village is known as the Ettrick Marshes. Below Ettrickbridge the river flows on beside small villages to the county town, Selkirk, below which its wild nature appears to tame itself a little. A little north of Selkirk, the Ettrick casts its waters into the River Tweed at the Roxburghshire border.

The source of the Yarrow Water is St Mary's Loch on the border with Peeblesshire and from there the river flows 12 miles in an easterly direction through Selkirkshire (with a fall of fully 405 feet passing such villages as Yarrow Feus, Yarrow and Yarrowford) before joining the Ettrick near to the site of the 1645 Battle of Philiphaugh just west of Selkirk. This joining of the waters is known as the Meetings Pool. The valley of the Yarrow has inspired several well-known songs and poems. Its traditions and folk tales were well documented by Walter Scott, who spent part of his childhood nearby, and in adult life returned to live in the vicinity at Abbotsford House, near Melrose.

The Tweed crosses through the north-west of Selkirkshire. The land between the Ettrick and the Tweed was formerly covered with forest to such an extent that the shire gained an alternative name, Ettrick Forest, a royal hunting forest populated by the oak, birch and hazel and by red deer. King James V, however, would forego the sport to let the land for grazing, and thus vast stretches of woodland became pasture for sheep, leaving today little of the once mighty woodland.

There are no great lochs in Selkirkshire but St Mary's Loch and adjoining it the Loch of the Lowes are remarkably prettily set.

The Royal Burgh of Selkirk, on the Ettrick Water, is one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland. Galashiels lies on the Gala water which forms the border with Roxburghshire at this point. It is a major commercial centre for the region with a history in the textile industry.

Main Towns:Ettrickbridge, Galasheils, Selkirk
Main Rivers:Ettrick, Yarrow, Tweed, Gala, Cawder
Highlights:Scott's house, Abbotsford; St Mary's Loch; Ettrick Forest; Halliwell's House Museum, Selkirk
County Flower:Mountain Pansy
Highest Point:Ben Lomond, 3,196 feet
Area:267 sq miles
Pop (2011):16,010


76  SHT  Shetland   Wikishire Map
Shetland is a county formed from the archipelago of the same name. Shetland has around 100 islands, of which 16 are inhabited. The islands lie 50 miles north-east of Orkney and 110 miles from the mainland of Great Britain.

Early in the Viking Period Shetland was settled by Norsemen, and whether they drove its previous population out or absorbed them, Shetland became a Norse land and almost all of Shetland's place-names are derived from the Norse language. In the days of King Harold Fairhair of Norway, Shetland became part of the new Earldom of Orkney, and it remained under the Norwegian crown until 1468, when it was given to King James III King of Scots as a pledge for a dowry, which pledge was not redeemed.

The main island of Shetland is Mainland. Lerwick, the county town, is seated in the middle of the island, on the east coast, protected by the island of Bressay across the sound. From Lerwick to Sumburgh Head in the south, a spine stretches due south as a broad ridge, steep on the east but with its scarp plunging far down into the sea on the west incredibly steeply. North of Lerwick the island broadens, with a scattering of rock-bound islands deeply cut with voes (fjords). On the west coast of Mainland opposite Lerwick is the former capital, Scalloway, now a fishing port but home also to the remains of a mediæval earl's hall. At Tingwall lies the Law Ting Holm, the location of Shetland's parliament utill the late 16th century.

The next largest islands are Yell, Unst, and Fetlar, which lie to the north of Mainland, and Bressay and Whalsay, which lie to the east. East and West Burra, Muckle Roe, Papa Stour, Trondra and Vaila are smaller islands to the west of Mainland. The other inhabited islands are Foula 17 miles west of Mainland, Fair Isle 24 miles south-west of Sumburgh Head, and the Out Skerries to the east.

Due to the practice, dating to at least the early Neolithic, of building in stone on virtually treeless islands, Shetland is extremely rich in physical remains of the prehistoric eras and there are over 5,000 archaeological sites.

Shetland is famous for its vast, noisy seabird colonies. It also has colonies of grey and common seals, and a thriving otter population.

The main sources of employment are agriculture, aquaculture, fishing, renewable energy, crude oil and natural gas production, the creative industries and tourism.

Main Towns:Baltasound, Lerwick, Scalloway, Sumburgh, Stonybreck
Main Rivers:None
Highlights:Clickimin broch, Lerwick; Croft House Museum, Boddam; Jarlshof neolithic settlement; Noup of Noss seabird colony
County Flower:Shetland Mouse-ear
Highest Point:Ronas Hill, Northmavine, 1,476 feet
Area:551 sq miles
Pop (2011):23,167


77  SHP  Shropshire   Wikishire Map
Shropshire is an inland county in the west of the Midlands. It remains rural except in one intense district of industrialisation and urbanization at Telford and Ironbridge.

The North Shropshire Plain is an extension of the flat and fertile Cheshire Plain. In the north-west of the county, around Ellesmere is a group of small lakes, the "meres", including Ellesmere itself. However westward the hills begin to rise. At the edge of this area is the historic border town of Oswestry. In the north-east lies the Roman town of Whitchurch and, on the Staffordshire border, the small market town of Market Drayton. Wem is famous for its brewing heritage.

The River Severn shapes much of Shropshire. It passes through the middle of the county forming a broad, rich valley and floodplain. The Severn curls around Shrewsbury, the county town, like a moat. Shrewsbury is a town built on a hill above the Severn with a mediæval castle and Tudor streets. It was King Charles I's capital for a while too.

Further downstream the Seven enters the Severn Gorge where it is bridged by the famous Iron Bridge, a symbol of the Industrial Revolution which took root here. The town of Ironbridge which grew up from the works around the bridge is no longer at the cutting edge of industrial advances: it is a heritage centre. Immediately north though is the New Town of Telford.

A mile or so west is witness to earlier ages; the Wrekin, a lone, massive hill dominating the landscape and imagination and which has given a name since immemorial time to the area; Roman Viroconium, Saxon Wrocensæt, Wroxeter and Wrockwardine, and a contemporary administrative district.

Downstream of Ironbridge is Bridgnorth, a town full of history on a precipitous hill above the Seven. The ruin of its castle stares down over the Severn Valley it once commanded.

South of the Severn, Shropshire has new scenic glories of wilder hills, especially westward towards Radnorshire. In this part of the shire are high, rounded hills, deep-set valleys, and woods full of charm. Much of this area forms the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The chief town of the south of the county is Ludlow. Set on a hill, it retains its age-worn charm and is full of fine timbered houses. In the town itself is Ludlow Castle. North are the distinctive long hills of the district such as the Long Mynd and Wenlock Edge (an inspiration for Housman's A Shropshire Lad).

Bishop's Castle, in the far south-west close to the border, has become known for its alternative community of artists, musicians, writers and craftspeople.

Main Towns:Bishop's Castle, Bridgnorth, Church Stretton, Dawley, Donnington, Ellesmere, Ludlow, Coalbrookdale, Newport, Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Telford
Main Rivers:Severn, Perry, Roden, Teme, Clun, Onny, Corve, Rea
Highlights:Cliff railway, Bridgnorth; Ironbridge; The Wrekin; The Long Mynd
County Flower:Round-leaved Sundew
County Day:23rd February, feast day of Saint Milburga
Highest Point:Brown Clee Hill, 1,772 feet
Area:1,342 sq miles
Pop (2011):472,027


78  SMS  Somerset   Wikishire Map
Somerset is a maritime county in the West Country of England.

The Somerset coast stretches for 40 miles of the Bristol Channel from the Avon to Exmoor and includes the resort towns of Minehead, Watchet, Burnham-on-Sea, Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon.

In the north of the county, on the River Avon, lies the jewell that is Bath, a fashionable retreat for Georgian gentry and now a destination for anyone. It is home to the only natural hot springs in Britain, the pungent water pouring forth at a great rate from hidden wells beneath. On this the Romans built their town and others followed. The result of Regency fashion and local stone is one of the most remarkable cities in the kingdom.

Downstream is the mediæval market town of Keynsham and then Bristol, one of the great cities of the realm, split along the old course of the Avon between Somerset and Gloucestershire. Ashton Gate, Bedminster, Knowle, Totterdown and Whitchurch lie on the Somerset side of the city. Bristol City Football Club traditional draws its support from this part of the city and from Somerset generally.

South of Bristol run the Mendip Hills. The caves of the Mendips were settled during the Palaeolithic period onward and contain extensive archaeological sites such as those at the spectacular Cheddar Gorge.

In the heart of the county are the Somerset Levels, a remarkable flat land reaching in from the Bristol Channel, divided in two by the low range of the Polden Hills. The land of the Levels is at or around sea level and in former days was regularly flooded (and some have suggested that Somerset's gets its name from the reappearance of the land in the summer). The Levels are cross-crossed with "rhines", drainage ditches, and that many of the villages' names end in -ey, "-island" tells of life before the Somerset Levels were drained. One of the most dramatic features here is Glastonbury Tor, a lone hill rising steeply out of the landscape above the town of Glastonbury (reputed burial place of King Arthur). More historically, King Alfred of Wessex hid in the Levels at Athelney, before bursting forth and defeating the Danes to restore England.

East of the levels lies Wells, home of Bishop of Bath and Wells. It is a small market town with a large cathedral of unique architecture, and a castle. South of the levels, the market town of Bridgwater is famous for its annual Guy Fawkes illuminated carnival, a spectacular celebration also held in the other towns of Somerset. The Quantock Hills, west of Bridgwater, were England's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The south and east of Somerset is a quiet rural area with several small towns, including Ilminster, Chard, Crewkerne, Langport, Somerton, Castle Cary, Bruton and Wincanton. Yeovil is a larger town standing hard by the River Yeo, the border with Devon.

Taunton, the county town, in the south-west is a modest place, built on the wool trade. The western end of Somerset is the wild moorland of Exmoor.

There are numerous Iron Age hill forts in Somerset, some of which, like Cadbury Castle and Ham Hill, were later reoccupied in the Early Middle Ages. The Stanton Drew stone circles are believed to be Neolithic. Somerset is known for its apples and its cider. (Legend-seekers place the Avalon of legend here, as "Aval" means "apple" in the old tongue.) Somerset can claim to be the home of Cheddar cheese too, first made in Cheddar at the foot of the famous Gorge.

Main Towns:Bath, Bristol (south), Burnham-on-Sea, Clevedon, Glastonbury, Minehead, Shepton Mallett, Somerton, Taunton, Wells, Weston-super-Mare, Yeovil
Main Rivers:Chew, Yeo, Avon, Exe, Tone, Parrett, Brue, Cary, Frome, Isle
Highlights:Roman Baths, Bath; Cheddar Gorge; The Mendips; The Quantocks; Glastonbury Abbey & Tor; Isle of Athelney
County Flower:Cheddar Pink
County Day:11th May, Alfred gathering people of Somerset
Highest Point:Dunkery Beacon, 1,705 feet
Area:1,633 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,053,504


79  STF  Staffordshire   Wikishire Map
Staffordshire is an inland county in the English Midlands. The county provides great contrasts.

The Staffordshire Moorlands fill the north-east of the county. The pretty market town of Leek is known as the "Queen of the Moorlands".

The middle of the county is shaped by its biggest river, the River Trent, which creates low undulating lands, amongst which is found the Potteries, a district on the upper Trent where six industrial towns grew together to become Stoke on Trent, and which has since grown together with Newcastle under Lyme. Here, at Burslem, Josiah Wedgewood discovered his China clay process. From here too the potters had the first industrial canal dug to take their wares safely and in bulk from the factories to the towns.

Elsewhere there is fine natural scenery. Dovedale and Beresford Dale, on the border with Derbyshire, are renowned. Cannock Chase is a former Royal forest and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the centre of the county is Stafford with its ruined Norman castle and 18th-century Shire Hall. Lichfield is one of the smaller cities of the land. Restrained in its houses and shops, the city has a large and ornate three-spired mediæval cathedral. The bishopric is one of the oldest in Britain. Burton-on-Trent in the east is historically the heart of the brewing industry, a continuing tradition. In the far south-east, on the River Tame, is Tamworth, one time capital of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia.

The far south of Staffordshire is heavily urbanised where the industrial towns of the Black Country have grown over the rich coal seams which drove the industrial revolution in these parts. The heavy industry of the nineteenth century gathered here and in nearby Birmingham, so that all have grown into a giant conurbation of communities, in which are the city of Wolverhampton and the towns of Bilston, Smethwick, Rowley Regis, West Bromwich, Walsall and Wednesbury.

Originally a private estate, Alton Towers has been a visitor attraction since its grounds first opened to the public in 1860. It is now the UK's biggest and best-known theme park.

The Staffordshire Knot originated as a heraldic badge of the Stafford family but has become a symbol closely associated with the county. It appears in the badges and logos of many county organisations and on the county flag.

Main Towns:Bilston, Burslem, Burton upon Trent, Hanley, Leek, Lichfield, Rowley Regis, Stoke-on-Trent, Smethwick, Stafford, Uttoxeter, Walsall, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton
Main Rivers:Trent, Penk, Sow, Blithe, Tean, Dove, Churnet, Tame
Highlights:Alton Towers; Castle Ring hill fort, Cannock Chase; Lichfield Cathedral; Wightwick Manor; Wedgwood factory, Barlaston; Weston Park
County Flower:Heather
County Day:1st May, founding of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd
Highest Point:Cheeks Hill, 1,705 feet
Area:1,176 sq miles
Pop (2011):2,159,392


80  STL  Stirlingshire   Wikishire Map
Stirlingshire is a county which stands across the gateway to the Highlands.

The county spreads across the narrow band from the head of the Firth of Forth in the east, across the low hills of the Campsie Fells in the county's centre, out to Loch Lomond in the west. The River Forth forms the northern border with Perthshire, from the Firth until it turns north into Perthshire near Gartmore. Loch Lomond forms the western border with Dunbartonshire. In the north-west of the county is a spur of the Grampian Mountains, the spur culminates in the Arrochar Alps, and their summit, Ben Lomond.

The centre of Stirlingshire is occupied by a group of more modest hills known as the Lennox Hills, consisting of the Campsie Fells, the Kilsyth Hills, the Fintry Hills and the Gargunnock Hills. Lennoxtown lies at the foot of the Campie fells. Kilsyth occupies a narrow strip of land between the Kilsyth Hills and the River Kelvin, the border with Dunbartonshire.

The county town, Stirling, stands on a precipitous hill above the River Forth, crowned with an eleventh-century castle. Stirling was Scotland's capital or co-capital for centuries. Its importance though is also in its position; in the Middle Ages Stirling Bridge was portrayed as the only link joining the Lowlands to the Highlands. The castle was the scene of fearsome clashes in the wars which racked the British Isles in the Middle Ages. Stirling is a somewhat more peaceful city these days, but it is still the major conduit for road and rail from the Lowlands to the Highlands. Immediately south of Stirling is Bannockburn, site of the Battle of Bannockburn 1314.

The south-east of the county is more heavily populated. The towns of Falkirk, Denny, Larbert and Stenhousemuir were formerly a centre of heavy industry but their economies are now based increasingly on retail and tourism. The oil refinery at Grangemouth (opened in 1924) provides employment throughout the region. Milngavie, in the south-west of the county, is a commuter town for Glasgow.

Main Towns:Bridge of Allan, Denny, Larbert, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Kilsyth, Lennoxtown, Milngavie, Stirling
Main Rivers:Bannockburn, Carron, Avon, Allan, Devon, Endrick, Kelvin
Highlights:Bannockburn battlefield; Cambuskenneth Abbey; Loch Lomond; Stirling Castle; Wallace Memorial, Stirling.
County Flower:Scottish Dock
Highest Point:Ben Lomond, 3196 feet
Area:447 sq miles
Pop (2011):244,092


81  SFF  Suffolk   Wikishire Map
Suffolk is a maritime county in East Anglia. The county is largely arable land and wetland habitats. It is is low-lying with few hills. It is divided from Norfolk by the Waveney and the Little Ouse (which rise within yards of each other in the same marsh before running in opposite directions). Its southern border with Essex is the Stour. To the west lies Cambridgeshire, to the east the North Sea.

Many of the county's towns have a rich history, for in Anglo-Saxon times Suffolk was the heart of the Kingdom of East Anglia and later at the forefront of the Danish incursions, and during the later Middle Ages amongst these little towns a great deal of wealth was found from wool.

Suffolk is famous for its exquisitely picturesque villages, featuring in many a painting. The villages abound with broad greens, thatched cottages brightly painted, and that particular East Anglian art, pargeting (shaped plaster). The best are found in the Stour valley, "Constable Country", including Cavendish, Clare, Lavenham and Long Melford. Many Suffolk churches are large and ornate beyond the size of their villages, built on the wealth of wool and weaving.

The wetlands of The Broads National Park cover much of the north-east of Suffolk. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 60 miles of the county's coast. This includes ancient woodland, commercial forestry, the estuaries of the Alde, Blyth, Deben, Orwell and Stour rivers, farmland, salt marsh, heathland, mudflats, reed beds, small towns and villages, shingle beaches and low eroding cliffs. The area includes Dunwich, once a great port and indeed a capital of the Kingdom of East Anglia but now wholly lost to the sea.

The southernmost point of Suffolk is Landguard Point by Felixstowe, a substantial commercial port. It is at this point that the Orwell and Stour estuaries converge. Upriver on the Orwell is Ipswich, an ancient seaport which remains the county's largest town.

At the north of the coast is Lowestoft, the largest container port in the UK and a resort town. Here is found the easternmost point of the United Kingdom: Lowestoft Ness, beyond which lies only the sea. At the very north is the Edwardian seaside resort of Gorleston-on-Sea with its sandy "Edwardian Beach", seaside gardens and Pavilion.

The main town in the west is Bury St Edmunds, a small, pretty town around a large cathedral: St Edmundsbury Abbey. At the far west of the county is Newmarket, the headquarters of British horseracing.

Western Suffolk is renowned for archaeological finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Sutton Hoo in the east of the county is the site of one of England's most significant Anglo-Saxon archæological finds. Here, buried within a man-made mound, was found a ship burial containing a rich collection of treasures.

Main Towns:Aldeburgh, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Framlington, Gorleston-on-Sea, Haverhill, Long Melford, Lowestoft, Newmarket, Woodbridge
Main Rivers:Deben, Stour, Waveney, Lark.
Highlights:Dunwich Cliffs; Lavenham; Flatford Mill; Kersey; Minsmere RSPB reserve; Gorleston-on-Sea
County Flower:Oxlip
County Day:21st June
Highest Point:Great Wood, Rede, 420 feet.
Area:1,505 sq miles
Pop (2011):775,099


82  SUR  Surrey   Wikishire Map
Surrey is an inland county in the south-east of England.

The north-east of Surrey lies within the Metropolitan conurbation. In this area are numerous contiguous towns including Bermondsey; Southwark, home of a Cathedral and of much of the broadcast media; Peckham; Camberwell; Kennington; Clapham; Lambeth, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury; Brixton; Wandsworth; Streatham; Wimbledon; and the wealthy towns of Richmond upon Thames and Kingston upon Thames. Richmond Palace, now demolished, was a favourite home of the Tudor monarchs, while Kingston has an older royal claim as the coronation place of several Anglo-Saxon kings. Even in this area there are broad expanses of breathing-space: Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common the largest, and many local commons and parks.

Outside the Metropolis are towns which are themselves often largely commuter towns including Caterham, Esher, Leatherhead, Molesley, Hersham, Warlingham, Walton-on-Thames and Woking. Further from London the villages become smaller and very pleasant.

The North Downs, a range of fine chalk hills and downland, stretch across Surrey from Guildford into Kent. The Downs are a mixture of chalk, meadow and dense woodland. Box Hill provides a fine viewpoint over its sudden southern scarp slope. Further hills lie to the south, beautifully wooded in places. The highest point is Leith Hill, at 965 feet but with a manmade tower added to take it up to above 1,000 feet.

The brooks that run in the denes between the hills of Surrey have numerous beautiful villages along them. The Mole cuts through the Downs under Box Hill in a beautiful wooded valley. The Wey, further west, has several towns on its banks, including Guildford, the county town. Guildford is a large market town with an attractive high street. Guildford is built in a notch in the hills where the Wey breaks through, and the roads of the county try to force the same gap. On either side the town climbs the slopes, precipitously on occasion.

Some miles west, linked to Guildford by the Hog's Back ridge, is Farnham, a town with well-kept Tudor and Georgian buildings and a twelfth-century castle once belonging to the Bishops of Winchester. The historic market town of Godalming lies 4 miles south-west of Guildford. The town traverses the banks of the River Wey in the Greensand Ridge, an extensive, prominent escarpment which forms part of the Weald.

In the very south of Surrey is Gatwick Airport, a gateway to London, and the consequent swathe of motorway corridor cutting through the farmland to meet the M25. The M25, the London Orbital, is itself an unavoidable feature of the Surrey landscape, with the motorway and all the junctions, slip roads and related equipment slicing through and reshaping the outer suburbs.

At Runnymede near Egham in the north-west is the meadow in which King John sealed Magna Carta in 1215. Between Egham and Chertsey is Thorpe Park a major theme park.

Main Towns:Battersea, Brixton, Clapham, Croydon, Epsom, Farnham, Gatwick, Guildford, Haselmere, Kington-upon-Thames, Leatherhead, Richmond, Southwark, Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Woking
Main Rivers:Mole, Wey, Thames, Eden
Highlights:Richmond Park; Kew Gardens; North Downs; Runnymede; Thorpe Park
County Flower:Cowslip
County Day:4th May
Highest Point:Leith Hill, 965 feet
Area:759 sq miles
Pop (2011):2,975,836


83  SUS  Sussex   Wikishire Map
Sussex is a maritime county on the south coast of England. Sussex was once a Kingdom, until overwhelmed and absorbed in the ninth century. Sussex's coastline is more than 80 miles long, with sandy beaches almost unbroken along its whole length from Chichester Harbour to Camber Sands. The South Downs stretch almost the length of Sussex, from the Hampshire border to Beachy Head.

The coastal strip of Sussex squeezed between the South Downs and the English Channel are what makes "Sussex by the Sea" so famous. Here are a long string of beach resorts including Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Worthing, Shoreham-by-Sea, Hove and of course Brighton, the most famous of them all. Past Beachy Head lie Eastbourne, Bexhill-on-Sea, St Leonards and Hastings.

Brighton is a most remarkable town. Its beachfront is the quintessential seaside resort. In its heart is the higgledy-piggledy maze of The Lanes, and behind it the rampant indo-chinoiserie of King George IV's seaside palace, the Brighton Pavilion.

Hastings is a well-to-do seaside town and resort. Looming over it on are the remains of the castle William the Bastard built on landing on his way to become the Conqueror at Senlac Hill, now the village of Battle, 6 miles to the north-west.

Above the seaside towns the Downs rise sharply, and here Sussex shows some of its greatest glories. The chalk can make a great rolling wave, falling into the sea in spectacular white cliffs as at the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. The open grassland is fine sheep country, or elsewhere the clay feeds rich broadleaved forest. Inland the Weald is a hilly district of woods and coombes, the remains of the great forest which covered much of the South East.

The inland towns of Sussex include Horsham, a market town on the upper reaches of the River Arun on the fringe of the Weald. East Grinstead, close to the Surrey border, has a High Street which contains one of the longest continuous runs of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England. Crawley is an industrial town, designated a New Town in in 1947, though one built on earlier roots. The major influence on Crawley and its business community is Gatwick Airport just across the border in Surrey. Burgess Hill, in the centre of the county, is home to offices of many national and international companies. Haywards Heath, nearby, is primarily a commuter town.

Rye, in the far east of the county, was in mediæval times an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation. The sea now lies 2 miles away but the town's historic roots and charm make it a tourist destination. The county town is Chichester, which lies at the western end of Sussex. Chichester is a modest cathedral city, sitting on a Roman foundation (the Roman wall is still visible in places) and centred on a mediæval market cross. Chichester Harbour (a top yachting haven) is a large natural harbour, by far the biggest in Sussex and a contrast to the smooth stretch of the rest of the county's coast.

Sussex has a strong local identity. The county's unofficial anthem is "Sussex by the Sea" by William Ward-Higgs, inspired by a poem by Rudyard Kipling. The county's motto, "We wunt be druv", reflects the strong-willed nature of its people.

Main Towns:Arundel, Battle, Bexhill-on-Sea, Bognor Regis, Brighton, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Lewes, Hastings, Horsham, Hove, Midhurst, Rye, Southwick, Worthing
Main Rivers:Arun, Adur, Cuckmere, Ouse, Rother
Highlights:Battle; Brighton - Royal Pavilion, Grand Hotel, Palace Pier; Hastings castle; South Downs
County Flower:Round-headed Rampion
County Day:16th June, feast day of St Richard of Chichester
Highest Point:Blackdown Hill, 920 feet.
Area:1,466 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,612,454


84  SRL  Sutherland   Wikishire Map
Sutherland is a maritime county in the far north of Scotland. It stretches across the north end of the land from the Atlantic to the North Sea. Although often linked to its smaller neighbour, Caithness, Sutherland is very distinct; it is a Highland County, rough with mountain and moor. Many of its place-names are Norse, showing the influence that was brought to bear on the northern lands, but there is much Gaelic in Sutherland too, in contrast to its neighbour.

The north coast of Sutherland is a mixture of sandy bays and crags. There are two deep sealochs in the northern coast, the Kyle of Tongue and Loch Eriboll. Beyond the Kyle of Durness is the great rock of Cape Wrath, where the coast turns round to head south. This west coast is rocky and rough and sparingly inhabited.

Sutherland's North Sea coast is smoother, running from the Dornoch Firth to a little beyond Helmsdale. The interior of Sutherland is high and bleak. There are lochs scattered throughout the hills, and peat lochanns in the low ground. The sealochs are renowned for their fisheries and several of the rivers for gentler angling.

The county town, Dornoch, a seaside resort lying on the north shore of Dornoch Firth, has the 13th-century Dornoch Cathedral, the Old Town Jail and Dornoch Castle. Other coastal villages include Bonar Bridge on the Kyle of Sutherland; Brora, Golspie, Embo and Helmsdale on the east coast; Durness and Tongue on the north coast; Lochinver, Scourie and Kinlockbervie on the west coast. Lairg, at the south-eastern end of Loch Shin is unusual in not being on the coast.

Main Towns:Brora, Dornoch, Helmsdale, Kildonan, Lairg, Lochinver, Tongue
Main Rivers:Eanack, Carron, Oykill, Cassley, Shin, Fleet, Broroa, Naver, Hope.
Highlights:Cape Wrath; Dornoch Cathedral; Loch Eribol; Witch's Stone, Dornoch; Dunrobin Castle; Smoo Cave, Durness
County Flower:Grass-of-Parnassus
Highest Point:Ben More of Assynt, 3,274 feet
Area:2,028 square miles
Pop (2011):12,803


85  TYN  Tyrone   Wikishire Map
Tyrone is an inland county in Ulster. Tyrone is the largest county in Northern Ireland, spreading over 1,260 square miles of farm, moor and mountain.

The flat peatlands of eastern Tyrone border the shoreline of the largest lake in the British Isles, Lough Neagh. There are three towns in the east. Coalisland is a small, former mining town. Cookstown was a major centre of the linen industry. It's main street is famous for being one of the longest and widest in the British Isles. Dungannon was, for centuries, the 'capital' of the O'Neill dynasty of Tír Eoghain, who dominated most of Ulster and built a castle on the hill. The traditional site of inauguration for 'The O'Neill', was Tullyhogue Fort, an Iron Age mound some four miles north-east of Dungannon.

The Sperrins dominate the interior of the county and though they spread across into Londonderry they are at their most spectacular here. The mountains have been designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The county town, Omagh, is a major retail and leisure centre. It sits in the midst of the shire, where the rivers Drumragh and Camowen meet to form the Strule. A monastery was apparently established on the site about 792, and a Franciscan friary was founded in 1464. Omagh was then founded as a town in 1610.

In the far south of the county, Slieve Beagh is a mountainous area which is mainly blanket bog, with many small lakes and streams throughout. Slieve Beagh straddles into Fermanagh and Monaghan, the three counties meeting at "Three Counties Hollow".

In the west, Castlederg lies on the River Derg. It was traditionally a traveller's stop along the ancient pilgrimage route to Station Island on Lough Derg. The village has a ruined castle and two ancient tombs known as the Druid's Altar and Todd's Den. The north-west of the county has many scenic forests and glens. Angling and fishing in the River Mourne is a popular tourist pursuit. The town of Strabane stands on the Mourne, close to the border with Donegal.

Main Towns:Ardboe, Castlederg, Coalisland, Cookstown, Donaghmore, Dungannon, Omagh, Fivemiletown, Pomeroy, Strabane
Main Rivers:Camowen, Foyle, Mourne, Derg, Drumragh, Strule
Highlights:Beaghmore stone circles; Knockmany Passage Tomb; Ardboe High Cross; Tullaghoge hill; Ulster American Folk Park, Camphill
County Flower:Bog-rosemary
Highest Point:Sawel, 2,224 feet
Area:1,260 sq miles
Pop (2011):178,440


86  WRW  Warwickshire   Wikishire Map
Warwickshire in an inland county in the English Midlands. Warwickshire can boast of being the birthplace of the British imagination, for this is Shakespeare's own county.

Stratford-on-Avon has become a place of pilgrimage. Shakespeare's birthplace remains almost as he would have known it; a leaning half-timbered house, one of many in the town and in the villages of the neighbourhood, including the home of his wife, a large thatched, half-timbered house in extensive gardens. Shakespeare's grave lies in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church, alongside the Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Company has three theatres in the town.

South of Stratford, the county is largely rural and sparsely populated, and includes a small area of the Cotswolds, around the border with Gloucestershire. Alcester is a Roman town in the west of the county, close to the great stately homes of Coughton Court and Ragley Hall.

The county town Warwick, with its wealth of historic buildings and tangled old lanes, sits close to the centre of its shire. Warwick Castle was first built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and from 1088, belonged to the Earl of Warwick and served as a symbol of his power. Within St Mary's Church is the glorious Beauchamp Chapel, built in the 15th Century to house the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, one of the richest and most powerful men in history. It is a magnificent example of the European ecclesiastical architecture of its time. Warwickshire’s greatest treasure.

East of Warwick is Royal Leamington Spa, a gorgeous Georgian spa town and the birthplace of lawn tennis. North of Warwick is the ancient city of Coventry, with its three cathedrals, its heritage of commerce and industry, its recovery from wartime devastation and its message of peace and reconciliation. In the west of the county is the market town of Rugby, famous for its school, the birthplace of Rugby football.

The market towns of north-eastern Warwickshire, Atherstone, Bedworth and Nuneaton, were industrialised in the 19th century but heavy industry has been replaced by distribution centres, light industry, and services. Watling Street, a Roman Road, forms the north-eastern border with Leicestershire for some distance, as once it formed the border of the Danelaw.

Across the north-west of the county once stretched the Forest of Arden, an enchanted place, much celebrated, The area is still largely rural with numerous areas of woodland, remnants of the great forest. The largest settlement in the forest is Henley-in-Arden the site of an Iron Age hillfort.

Solihull is a pleasant and prosperous town, noted for its historic architecture. Further north-west is Birmingham, the second largest city in Britain. Birmingham was built on heavy industry; it was known in its heyday as "the toyshop of the world". Birmingham is the centre also of the greatest network of canals in Britain, linking it not only with the industrial towns of the Black Country but also with the rest of the country. Birmingham is a city constantly reinventing and redeveloping itself. Its many suburbs have a variety unique to the city and stretch out beyond Warwickshire.

At the far north-west of the county is Sutton Coldfield with its magnificent former Royal Forest of Sutton Park.

The county is proud of its literary heritage, boasting not just Shakespeare but Michael Drayton (Hartshill), George Eliot (Nuneaton), Rupert Brooke (Rugby), Philip Larkin (Coventry), and John Wyndham (Dorridge).

Main Towns:Alcester, Aston, Birmingham, Coventry, Kenilworth, Nuneaton, Royal Leamington Spa, Rugby, Solihull, Straford-Upon-Avon, Sutton Coldfield, Warwick
Main Rivers:Avon, Tame, Anker, Leam, Sherbourne
Highlights:Aston Hall; Baddesley Clinton; Coventry Cathedrals; Ragley Hall; Shakespeare's birth place, Stratford; Warwick Castle
County Flower:Honeysuckle
Highest Point:Ebrington Hill shoulder, Ilmington Downs 853 feet (SP 187 425)
Area:918 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,632,885


87  WLT  West Lothian   Wikishire Map
West Lothian is a maritime county on the south bank at the head of the Firth of Forth. West Lothian is a small county, though populous, with a coast line of only 17 miles. It is fairly low-lying, the surface rising very gradually from the Firth to the hilly district in the centre. The county lies in the industrial and urban belt of the Central Lowlands.

The county's most famous landmark is the Forth Bridge which carries the Edinburgh–Aberdeen railway line across the Forth between South Queensferry in West Lothian to North Queensferry in Fife. The bridge, opened in 1890, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. South Queensferry got its name from the ferry service established by Queen Margaret in the 11th century, which continued until the Forth Road Bridge was opened in 1964.

The other main coastal town is Bo'ness, once the port of Borrowstoun (whence its full name of Borrowstounness) but it has outgrown its parent to become an industrial town. The Antonine Wall ended at Kinneil. Blackness Castle, a 15th-century fortress, lies on the firth, as does Hopetoun House near Queensferry.

The county town, Linlithgow is a small town three miles inland, on Linlithgow Loch where there stand the remains of Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Between Linlithgow and Bathgate there are several hills, the highest being Cairnpapple (1,024 feet). Binny Craig, though only 734 feet, is a striking eminence similar to those of Stirling and Edinburgh.

The main industrial towns such as Armadale, Bathgate and Whitburn, lie a little to the south, along the M8 corridor joining Edinburgh to Glasgow. An early on-shore oil industry was founded here; oil-shale mining, that has left as its legacy the "West Lothian Alps", pink-coloured oil shale bings. The largest, Greendykes Bing near Broxburn, abandoned since 1925, has steep slopes and a grass covered plateau 311 feet above the surrounding landscape. In this part of the Clyde-Forth Belt also is Livingston, once a wee village but now a fully grown New Town.

Main Towns:Armadale, Bathgate, Bo'Ness, Broxburn, Linlithgow, Livingston, South Queensferry
Main Rivers:Avon
Highlights:Blackness Castle; Linlithgow Palace; Linlithgow Loch; St Michael's Church, Linlithgow; Hopetoun House; Dalmeny House; Forth Bridge
County Flower:Common Spotted-orchid
County Day:29th September, creation of first Earl of Westmorland
Highest Point:Cairnpapple Hill (South Top), 1,024 feet
Area:120 sq miles
Pop (2011):154,830


88  WML  Westmorland   Wikishire Map
Westmorland is a mountainous county in the north-west of England, with some of the grandest scenery of the land.

Westmorland was one of the last of the English shires to be formed. The Normans conquered the area in 1092 during the reign of William II and created the baronies of Kendal and Westmorland. The Barony of Kendal covers the south-western part of the county, including the towns of Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale. The Barony of Westmorland covers the northern part of the county, including Appleby-in-Westmorland. These were originally distinct jurisdictions, but were formed into a single county of Westmorland in 1226/7.

The north-west of the county forms part of the Lake District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Westmorland includes the famous fells of Helvellyn, Bow Fell and Nethermost Pike and the great lakes of Windermere, Ullswater, Grasmere and Rydal Water. To the east of Lakeland, separated from it by the valley of the Birk Beck and the Lune Gorge, are the Westmorland Dales, comprising the Howgill Fells, the Orton Fells, Lunesdale and Mallerstang. To the north-east of the Westmorland Dales, most of the county forms part of the Vale of Eden. In the far north-east of the county, the Pennines stretch into Westmorland. The south of the county is a relatively low lying area including the valleys of the rivers Kent and Lune. Westmorland has a short coastline with Morecambe Bay, around the Kent estuary.

Westmorland is famed as one of the Lake Counties. Many of the Lake District's greatest treasures lie within its borders. Ullswater lies along Westmorland's northern border with Cumberland. Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District and one of the most beautiful. Ullswater became a fashionable holiday destination for the British aristocracy in the 19th century, thanks to the options of sailing on the lake or shooting on the fells. Ullswater's attractions include the steam boats which offer trips around the lake. From Ullswater the county border takes to the fells, climbing to the peak of mighty Helvellyn, Bow Fell and across many peaks and ridges to the precipitous Wrynose Pass. The Three Shire Stone marks where Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire meet.

From the Westmorland side of Helvellyn is Striding Edge, a long knife-edge ridge walk, both famous and infamous. South of Helvellyn is the most celebrated part of the Lakes, by Rydal Water and Grasmere. The lakes lie among the fells in the beautiful dale of the River Rothay. Grasmere is a green delight, a restful, cooling, pretty place that has attracted poets and painters down through the ages. The Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show, held annually since 1868, is a major event for the ancient sport of Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling.

This intensely picturesque area is Wordsworth Country, the home and inspiration of one of our finest lyric poets. William Wordsworth lived with his wife Mary and his sister Dorothy in Dove Cottage on the edge of Grasmere from 1799 to 1808. During this period, Wordsworth wrote much of his best-known poetry, including "My Heart Leaps Up" and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud". The Wordsworth Museum is adjacent to Dove Cottage and exhibits manuscripts, landscapes and portraits. Wordsworth lived in Rydal Mount in the small village of Rydal from 1813 to his death in 1850. At the western end of Rydal Water, steps lead to Wordsworth's Seat, considered to have been the poet's favourite viewpoint in the Lake District.

West of Grasmere is the beauteous valley of Great Langdale. The Langdale Pikes are the most famous mountains in Westmorland and present a spectacular sight from Great Langdale as vast rockfaces soar precipitously to the twin peaks of Harrison Stickle and Pike o’Stickle. The only way to savour their essence, however, is to climb them!

From Rydal Water, the Rothay flows south into Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. It has been one of the country’s most popular places for holidays since 1847, when the Kendal and Windermere Railway built a branch line to it. The lake is entirely in Westmorland, though the western shore and the southern part of the eastern shore are in Lancashire.

Ambleside, at the head of Windermere, is a delightful town hard up against the mountains. The town's most famous building, Bridge House (NT), was built over Stock Ghyll more than 300 years ago, probably as a summer house and apple store for Ambleside Hall. Waterhead Pier is a boarding point for cruises on Windermere. At Waterhead too are the remains of the Roman fort of Galava, dating from AD 79. From Ambleside a wee lane runs steeply up to the famous Kirkstone Pass, a bleak, sheer rock pass across the mountains to Patterdale.

Bowness-on-Windermere lies on the eastern shore of Windermere. During the 19th century it grew from a small fishing village to a major tourist town, especially after the arrival of the railway in 1847. Blackwell is a large house designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Baillie Scott with gardens by Thomas Mawson. Built in 1889-1900, the house has survived with almost all its original decorative features intact.

The Westmorland Dales are effectively separated from the fells of the Lake District by the Birk Beck which rises near Shap and flows south, meeting the Lune at Tebay. South from Tebay, the Lune separates the Westmorland Dales from the Lakeland fells as it flows through the spectacular Lune Gorge. The M6 motorway and the West Coast Main Railway line follow the Lune and Birk Beck between the fells giving travellers spectacular views.

The Howgill Fells are a small range of hills which stretch across the border between Yorkshire and Westmorland. Unlike the Carboniferous Limestone landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales and the Orton Fells, the Howgill Fells are formed from lower Palaeozoic slates and gritstones. The Calf (2,218 feet) is the highest top in the Howgill Fells. Its summit lies on the border between Westmorland and Yorkshire.

North of the Howgill Fells, and separated from them by Lunesdale, are the Orton Fells. These are a limestone plateau with a mix of limestone pavements, upland heath and grassland. The fells are open, exposed and sweeping, with panoramic views out to the skylines of the adjacent uplands. There are several areas of limestone pavement, areas where the limestone rock has been eroded by an overlying ice sheet and then fissured by rain to form a flat rocky pattern which resembles man-made pavement. Great Asby Scar and Orton Scar are examples little damaged by subsequent mining. At Castle Folds on Great Asby Scar is the remains of a Romano-British walled settlement.

Several prehistoric stone circles can be found on the Orton Fells, collectively known as the Crosby Ravensworth stone circles. They include the Oddendale stone circle and the Gamelands stone circle near Orton. The Gunnerkeld stone circle, on the moorland near the Shap summit, consists of two concentric circles.

The River Eden and its tributaries dominate the north-east of Westmorland. The river rises as Red Gill Beck in the peat bogs below Hugh Seat. A little further downstream it becomes Hellgill Beck; and it traditionally takes the name 'Eden' below the waterfall Hell Gill Force. Here it flows through the steep-sided dale of Mallerstang. Pendragon Castle is a majestic ruin standing above a bend in the River Eden, overlooked by Wild Boar Fell to the south-west and Mallerstang Edge to the east. According to legend, the castle was built by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur, who is said to have unsuccessfully tried to divert the river to provide its moat. Despite the legend, the castle was built in the 12th century by Ranulph le Meschin, 1st Earl of Chester.

The Settle–Carlisle Railway, built between 1869 and 1876, runs along the dale. Twenty-five of those who died during the construction of this section were buried in unmarked graves in the churchyard of St. Mary's in the hamlet of Outhgill. A monument now marks the site of their graves. North of Round Hill, the dale opens out into the broad Vale of Eden.

Although the Vale of Eden is formed by the course of the River Eden, it is of much greater extent than the actual valley of the river. It forms a broad vale between the Westmorland Dales and the Pennines. The whole area is gentle and pastoral, undulating and attractive but with the bleak, barren and impressive hills on either side.

From where it leaves Mallerstang, the River Eden runs a few miles north to the small market town of Kirkby Stephen, a popular base for tourism. The ruins of the 14th century Hartley Castle are near the town. From Kirkby Stephen the river continues north amongst gentler country, receiving several other rivers coming off the Westmorland Dales and the Pennines.

The village of Brough lies on the Swindale Beck to the east of the Eden. The village is on the site of the Roman fort of Verterae, on the Roman road linking Carlisle with Ermine Street. Brough Castle (EH) was built in the 11th century within the northern part of the former fort. The castle was built by William Rufus around 1092 to protect a key route through the Pennine Mountains. Nearby is Augill Castle, built in 1841 by John Bagot Pearson as a weekend retreat.

The Eden passes the foot of the village of Warcop. The Eden Valley Railway Society run a heritage railway along a section of the former Eden Valley Railway. Soon afterwards the river reaches the county town of Appleby-in-Westmorland.

Appleby's main industry is tourism, a gift of its history, remote location and scenery. Overlooking Appleby is Appleby Castle. Its most famous resident was Lady Anne Clifford, the 17th-century daughter of the Earl of Cumberland who having striven to reclaim her inheritance, spent of her fortune restoring several churches, almshouses and castles to their former glory. Appleby Horse Fair, held each year in early June, is a huge traditional gathering of Gypsies and Travellers with hundreds of horse-drawn vehicles. The earliest known record of it appears in a 12th-century charter from King Henry II. Appleby railway station is on the famous Settle-Carlisle Line which runs down the Eden Valley and onwards into Cumberland.

Near to Temple Sowerby the Eden is joined by the Lyvennet, whose own little dale holds much hidden history. North of here the Eden becomes the Westmorland-Cumberland border for a little way before heading into Cumberland. The border continues west up the Eamont. Mayburgh Henge (EH) is a large prehistoric henge monument on a knoll just outside the village of Eamont Bridge. The site consists of a single circular bank possibly built using cobble stones from the rivers. Contained within it is a single monolith 9 feet high. King Arthur's Round Table (EH) is a 100 yard wide henge monument situated 400 yards to the east.

In the village of Brougham just south of Eamont Bridge is Brougham Castle. The castle was founded by Robert de Vieuxpont in the early 13th century. The site is near the confluence of the rivers Eamont and Lowther, a place which had been chosen by the Romans for a fort called Brocavum. Nearby is Brougham Hall which dates back to Tudor times. The Eamont flows on to Pooley Bridge at the head of Ullswater. South and west of here are the Lakes.

The Pennines stretch into the far north-east of the county, east of the Vale of Eden. Here lies Great Dun Fell (2,782 feet), the second highest mountain in all the Pennines.

The south of Westmorland is dominated by the rivers Kent and Lune and their tributaries. The River Lune runs down from the Orton Fells, its valley being known as Lonsdale in the south-east of the county. Kirkby Lonsdale lies on the Lune close to the border with Lancashire. The 14th-century Devil's Bridge spans the Lune here. Ruskin described the view of the Lune from St Mary's churchyard as "One of the loveliest views in England".

The River Kent rises at Kentmere in the Lakeland fells and flows south for around 20 miles into Morecambe Bay. The river passes through Staveley and Burneside to Kendal. Kendal is a centre for tourism and the home of Kendal mint cake. Its buildings, mostly constructed with the local grey limestone, have earned it the nickname the Auld Grey Town. The ruins of Kendal Castle stand on a drumlin to the east of the town. The castle was probably built in the late 12th century as the home of the Lancaster family who were Barons of Kendal.

From Kendal, the Kent flows south to Sedgwick, near which the river passes through a rock gorge which produces a number of low waterfalls. Nearby Sizergh Castle (NT) dates from the 14th century, with a 1,600 acre estate and gardens with an award winning rock garden. Close by is Levens Hall, an Elizabethan era manor house with a celebrated topiary garden. The river then broadens to a wide estuary and enters Morecambe Bay. The village of Arnside lies alongside the Kent estuary. Arnside Peel tower is an achingly lovely ruin that dominates its little valley between Arnside and Silverdale. The tower, one of many peel towers across Westmorland, was built in the 14th/15th century as a refuge against raids from Border Reivers.

The large village of Milnthorpe lies on the River Bela close to where it joins the Kent estuary. The Grade I listed Dallam Tower, with an estate known for its deer, is just south-west of Milnthorpe. The Westmorland County Showground lies near the village of Crooklands, north-east of Milnthorpe. The Westmorland County Show takes place here on the second Thursday of September. The county show began in 1799 and is the biggest event in the county's social calendar.

Westmorland is famous for its damsons. The orchards of the Lyth Valley, south-west of Kendal, are unique, surrounding each small farmstead and growing along every hedgerow in the valley. Each April the orchards and hedgerows become snow white with blossom, a wonderful sight in a county filled with natural wonders.

The Westmorland flag comprises two red bars, from the arms of the de Lancaster family, Barons of Kendal. Superimposed on these is a stylised apple tree, from the thirteenth-century seal of the Borough of Appleby. Hence, the flag represents the two parts of the county. It is a popular symbol of Westmorland, being used in the logos of many county organisations such as the Westmorland County Football Association.

Westmorland Day is celebrated on 29th September. On this day in 1397, Ralph Neville was created the first Earl of Westmorland by Richard II. This date was chosen in a public vote at the Westmorland County Show in 2013.

The county flower is the Alpine Forget-me-not, a sky-blue flower of open, rocky mountain locations. Westmorland has most of the UK population.

Main Towns:Ambleside, Appleby, Bowness-On-Windermere, Grasmere, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Kirkby Stephen, Windermere
Main Rivers:Bela, Dune, Eamont, Eden, Rothay, Kent
Highlights:Helvellyn; Kirkstone Pass; Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere
County Flower:Alpine Forget-me-not
Highest Point:Helvellyn, 3117 feet
Area:785 sq miles
Pop (2011):87,466


89  WGT  Wigtownshire   Wikishire Map
Wigtownshire is a maritime county in the far south-west of Scotland, forming the western part of Galloway, between the Solway Firth and the North Channel.

The west of the county is comprised of the hammer-headed peninsula The Rhinns of Galloway. The Rhinns or Rhins are a hilly ridge running almost north-south and joined to the main body of the county in their midst. The rounded northern headland ends at Milleur Point and the southern headland is the Mull of Galloway, Scotland's southernmost point. Between the Rhinns and the main body of the county are two bays; Luce Bay a broad expanse to the south with 10 miles of sheltered sandy beach, and the more enclosed Loch Ryan to the north, at the head of which is Stranraer and further north Cairnryan, two ferry ports taking advantage of the shelter of the loch.

The south-east of the county is comprised of The Machars, a great triangular peninsula between Wigtown Bay and Luce Bay. This land has no notable hills but is a gently rolling landscape. At the end of this promontory is the Isle of Whithorn, once site of a major Anglo-Saxon abbey. The Machars peninsula is rich in prehistoric remains, most notably the Torhousekie Standing Stones, a neolithic stone circle aligned to the winter solstice.

Wigtown Bay is a formed of the estuary of the modest River Cree and that of the Water of Fleet, and it divides Wigtownshire from Kirkcudbrightshire. Wigtown, the county town, is at the top of Wigtown Bay. It has gathered a large collection of second-hand bookshops and is known as 'Scotland's National Book Town'.

On the eastern border with Kirkcudbrightshire is the town of Newton Stewart, "The Gateway to the Galloway Hills". The town spills over River Cree which forms the county border. In the north-east, the county trespasses into the Southern Uplands.

Main Towns:Cairnryan, Glenluce, Portpatrick, Port William, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Whithirn, Wigtown
Main Rivers:Cree, Luce, Bladnoch
Highlights:Castle Kennedy Gardens; Stones of Torhousekie; Marchars peninsula; Mull of Galloway
County Flower:Yellow Iris
Highest Point:Craigairie Fell, 1,056 feet
Area:487 sq miles
Pop (2011):26,618


90  WTS  Wiltshire   Wikishire Map
Wiltshire is an inland county in the south of England. Two thirds of Wiltshire, a mostly rural county, lies on chalk, giving it a high chalk downland landscape.

Southern Wiltshire is known for pretty towns and villages. In its middle is the City of Salisbury, a mediæval "new town", built around an ornate cathedral; the cathedral with the highest spire in Britain. The cathedral Close, in which are the most exclusive houses, is renowned. The origin of the city is found on a hill to the north: Old Sarum, a city since the iron age, now abandoned. The nearby town of Wilton dates back to the Anglo-Saxons in the 8th century AD, and by the late-9th century it was the capital of 'Wiltunscir'. Wilton Abbey was surrendered to Henry VIII during the Dissolution and granted to the Earl of Pembroke who began the process of transforming the abbey into the magnificent Wilton House.

North of Salisbury is Salisbury Plain, the largest area of chalk in the county, some 300 square miles of it, a semi-wilderness used mainly for arable farming and by the Army as training ranges. The Plain is home to Stonehenge, and many ancient burial mounds and manmade features whose origins are lost in the mists of time, such that the whole spread has been termed a ‘sacred landscape’. The town of Amesbury stands on the southern edge of the great plain.

North of Salisbury Plain, in the east of the county, is the Vale of Pewsey, a broad valley through which flows the River Avon. Centred on the picturesque village of Pewsey, the Vale is a beautiful agricultural landscape of small villages and fertile fields.

North of the Vale of Pewsey, the high chalk hills of the Marlborough Downs sweep across the county from the Berkshire border, extending eastwards to the Anglo-Saxon town of Calne. This is a hauntingly beautiful landscape of open hills, broad valleys and clear airs. It is full of mystery, littered with earthworks, stone circles and hillforts of forgotten peoples. The most famous monuments are the Avebury ring and Silbury Hill. The River Kennet rises in these hills and forms a valley down to Marlborough in their midst. Marlborough claims to have the widest main street in the country. Littlecote House is an Elizabethan country house standing on the banks of the Kennet.

North of the downs lies Swindon, perhaps an ancient place but transformed by the Great Western Railway and in the 20th century developed greatly as an “Expanded Town”.

In the west of the county is a string of towns including Warminster, on the River Were, and Westbury, famous for its White Horse. To the west of these towns lies Longleat, a grand stately home and seat of the Marquesses of Bath. Longleat Safari Park opened in 1966, the first drive-through safarai park outside Africa. North of Westbury lie Trowbridge, formerly a major textile town; Bradford-on-Avon, with its rare Anglo-Saxon church of St Laurence; Melksham, a one-time spa town; and Chippenham, a market town with Roman origins. The village of Castle Combe, near Chippenham, is renowned for its attractiveness, tranquillity and fine buidings. Nearby Corsham Court is notable for its fine art collection. Lacock Abbey (NT), between Melksham and Chippenham, is famous for its role in the invention of photography and houses the Fox Talbot Museum. Great Chalfield Manor (NT) is a late medieval manor house near Bradford on Avon.

The north-west of the county lies in the Cotswolds. Malmesbury is a delightful Cotswolds market town at whose heart is its vast and ancient church, Malmesbury Abbey.

Wiltshire is famed for its white horses, the chalk downs of Wiltshire being an ideal place for such hill figures. Eight of these magnificent hill figures are still visible and another 5 have been overgrown and "lost". The oldest is the Westbury White Horse. The present horse was contructed in 1778 by a Mr George Gee, completely obliterating a much older horse reputedly cut in the 9th century. The Cherhill White Horse, beneath the Oldbury Castle easthwork, was contructed in 1870. The other older horses are those at Marlborough (1804), Alton Barnes (1812), Hackpen (1838) and Broad Town (1864).

The English conquest of the area which became Wiltshire began in 552 AD with the victory of the Saxon Cynric over the native Britons at Old Sarum. Four years later, Cynric extended the limits of the West Saxon kingdom to the Marlborough Downs by a victory at Barbury Hill. The West Saxon colonisation was initially confined to the valleys of the River Avon and the River Wylye. The little township of Wilton which arose in the Wylye valley gave the name of Wilsætan to the new settlers. By the 9th century the district had become an administrative and territorial unit. The oldest recorded mention of the name, as 'Wiltunscir', was by Asser in 878.

The local nickname for Wiltshire natives is moonrakers. Legend tells of a band of smugglers who foiled the Excise men by hiding their untaxed brandy in kegs, in a village pond. When confronted by the Excise men, the smugglers raked the surface to conceal the submerged contraband with ripples, and claimed that they were trying to rake in a large round cheese visible in the pond, really a reflection of the full moon. The officials took them for simple yokels and left them alone.

The Wiltshire flag accepted by the Flag Institute features a Great Bustard, a bird native to the county, which had been extinct since 1832 but has recently been succesfuully reintroduced on Salisbury Plain. An alternative Wiltshire flag, regarded by many as more cultural connected to the county, is a depiction of the iconic Cherhill White Horse on a green background. Wiltshire Day is celebrated each 5th June.

Main Towns:Amesbury, Bradford-On-Avon, Chippenham, Devizes, Lacock, Malmsbury, Marlborough, Melksham, Salisbury, Swindon, Warminster, Westbury, Wilton
Main Rivers:Avon, Wylye, Kennett, Nadder, Bourne
Highlights:Avebury; Salibury Cathedral; Stonehenge; Wilton House; Lacock Abbey
County Flower:Burnt Orchid
County Flower:5th June, first flying of county flag
Highest Point:Milk Hill, 967 feet
Area:1,374 sq miles
Pop (2011):682,380


91  WRC  Worcestershire   Wikishire Map
Worcestershire is an inland county in the Midlands of England. The county is a mixture of the very rural and the very urban. It is low-lying: much of it lies in the Severn Valley.

In the centre of the shire is the fine city of Worcester. Worcester sits on the River Severn and is dominate by a grand cathedral, around which it retains many charming streets. Nearby Droitwich Spa is a town which stands on top of large deposits of salt. In the Victorian period the town attracted many visitors to bathe in the briny waters.

In the south-east of the county is the pleasant Vale of Evesham, presided over by Evesham, popular with visitors. The Vale is famed for its fruit production. The far south-west of Worcestershire lies in the Cotswolds. The village of Broadway is often referred to as the "Jewell of the Cotswolds".

In the south-west, forming the boundary with Herefordshire, are the pretty Malvern Hills, a sheer, sharp north-south edge marking the end of the gentle hills in Worcestershire before the rigours of the Herefordshire peaks. Great Malvern standing in their shade is a lovely spa town that grew around the pure waters issuing from the hills.

The north-west of Worcestershire is a complete contrast to the rural heart, covered over with a conurbation spreading out across the county borders. This and the neighbouring part of Staffordshire were coal country, known as the Black Country from the coal beneath and the smoke above, the latter now thankfully cleared. Much of the Black Country is in Worcestershire, including including the towns of Cradley, Dudley, Oldbury and Warley. Outside the Black Country itself but still more or less absorbed within the same unbroken townscape are quieter towns; Halesowen and Stourbridge. Yardley, a north-western extremity of Worcestershire has long since been absorbed into Birmingham. To the south of the conurbation, Redditch is an old town, once the world centre for needle manufacture, which in the 1960s was designated a "new town" and has seen massive expansion, much of it over the border into Warwickshire.

Towards the Shropshire border in the north-west are the towns of Kidderminster, famed for its carpet production; Stourport-on-Severn, a town built around its canals and basins; and Bewdley, headquarters of the Severn Valley Railway.

A huge area in the west and the north-west of Worcestershire, much of it part of the Teme valley, in unspoilt countryside without even small towns. In the far north-west the county lunges westward between Herefordshire and Shropshire. The small market town of Tenbury Wells sits on the border, in a landscape as far removed from the county's north-east as it could possibly be.

Main Towns:Bewdley, Bromsgrove, Droitwich, Dudley, Evesham, Great Malvern, Halesowen, Kidderminster, Oldbury, Pershore, Redditch, Stourbridge, Tenbury Wells, Warley
Main Rivers:Stour, Severn, Teme, Avon
Highlights:Bourneville; Broadway; Malvern Hills; Severn Valley Railway; Worcester Cathedral
County Flower:Cowslip
Highest Point:Worcestershire Beacon, 1,394 feet.
Area:709 sq miles
Pop (2011):1,125,037


92  YRK  Yorkshire   Wikishire Map
Yorkshire is a martime county in the north of England, the largest county of them all by far. It stretches from the North Sea coast deep into and over the Pennine Mountains, and from the River Tees to the Humber and further south inland. It encompasses empty moorland and crowded conurbations, high fells and low plains. It is a county with a strong character and identity of its own.

Yorkshire is divided into three ridings, whose boundaries meet at the walls of the ancient city of York. York is in the middle of the shire. It was a great city even in Roman times (the co-capital of Britannia). It is a delight of mediæval streets, and at its heart its huge and delightful cathedral, York Minister.

The East Riding: The East Riding lies along the coast of the North Sea and the Humber. It is low-lying country in contrast to the other ridings, rich agricultural land. In the centre are the Yorkshire Wolds, an undulating chalk plateau which never rises above 900 feet. Holderness is a flat, broad triangular land between the sea and the Humber. It comes towards a point and a narrow whip of land ending at Spurn Head. The coast of the Humber estuary is flat, windy ground. The Humber is a great commercial gateway, and at its heart the City of Kingston upon Hull, usually known just as Hull, a large port and industrial city. North of Hull, Beverley is a quieter town with the famous Beverley Minster. The coast describes a smooth line along Holderness and a smooth sandy curve up to Flamborough Head. This stretch includes the resorts of Withernsea, Hornsea and Bridlington. Beyond the East Riding coast continues up to the lofty chalk cliffs up to Filey Bay. The gentle Derwent valley forms the boundary with the North Riding.

The North Riding: Scarborough, at the south end of the North Riding's coast, is Yorkshire's biggest seaside resort. In the eastern part of the North Riding are the hills of the North York Moors. The Cleveland Hills in this area plunge down to the sea at Whitby, home of Whitby Abbey, fishing and bracing holidays. The Cleveland coast is marked by the high cliffs that give it its name, Boulby Cliff being one of the highest in England. Wooded valleys, the wykes, tumble down from the high moors to the sea. In between pretty fishing villages such as Robin Hood's Bay and Staithes nestle under the cliffs. On the northern slopes, the market town of Guisborough looks down to the coast 5 miles away. The mouth of the Tees, at the very northern bounds of Yorkshire, is an industrial centre. The main town being Middlesbrough, a port and factory town that grew from nothing in the nineteenth century but from which now a small conurbation has grown, stretching down to the seaside town of Redcar. The industry on the Tees took wing from the coal of County Durham and the iron ore mined in the northern hills of Cleveland. The Tees marks the boundary with County Durham. The western part of the Riding is in the Pennines, with wild, often breathtaking scenery. Here (in the Lune Forest in Upper Teesdale) Mickle Fell stands at 2,591 feet, the highest point of Yorkshire. Southward are the Yorkshire Dales, rightly renowned for their beauty. In Swaledale are the old town of Richmond and the immemorial garrison town of Catterick. In Wensleydale runs the River Ure, noted for waterfalls, the forces, and delightful villages. In the upper part of Wensleydale is Hawes, home of the famous Wensleydale Creamery. Lower down are the haunting ruins of Jervaulx (or Ure Vale) Abbey. Between the Pennines and the North York Moors is the Vale of York, a broad, low fertile land fed successively by the Swale, the Ure and the rivers of the West Riding and running down to York and the Humber plains.

The West Riding: The West Riding is the biggest of the three. It consists of a largely urban south and a rural north, though the division is not clear cut; in among the industrial towns in the south of the riding are many picturesque villages giving the quintessence of the ordinary Briton's understanding of Yorkshire, including Haworth – home of the Brontë sisters. Leeds is the commercial and financial centre of Yorkshire. Leeds is an ancient town but its rapid growth is only since the industrial revolution, building itself first on wool manufacturing but then with all industry. Bradford has grown with it. South of these two great cities are many other industrial towns, the whole area knotted in A-roads and motorways. In the south is another great city: Sheffield. Sheffield was built on steel and the coal underneath which powered it mills. Sheffield had been famous for its steel since the middle ages but the nineteenth century saw explosive growth, the city climbing unchecked over the steep slopes of its seven hills and spilling over into Derbyshire. Doncaster, another industrial town, lies north-eastward. In contrast, some of the loveliest of the Yorkshire Dales are in the West Riding, including Nidderdale and Wharfedale. In the north-west the Riding scales the Pennines, including the peaks of Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent, and Great Whernside. The West Riding stretches out to Sedbergh, only fifteen miles or so from the west coast. Craven is a distinctive area of limestone hills. It is popular among cavers. The Bowland Forest is a high moorland plateau from which becks flow both east and west. Harrogate grew as a spa town, still popular with genteel visitors. Ilkley too is a popular spot, albeit better known for the apparent goings on on Ilkley Moor according to the song. Ripon is a modest city with a fine cathedral, one with remarkably early foundations.

Main TownsYork. North Riding: Guisborough, Hawes, Helmsley, Northallerton, Middlesbrough, Pickering, Scarborough, Redcar, Richmond, Thirsk, Whitby. West Riding: Barnoldswick, Barnsley, Bradford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Keighley, Leeds, Pontefract, Rotherham, Saddleworth, Sedbergh, Sheffield, Skipton, Todmorden (part), Wakefield. East Riding: Beverley, Bridlington, Filey, Kington-upon-Hull, Market Weighton
Main Rivers:Ouse, Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder, Derwent, Don.
Highlights:Bempton Cliffs; Castle Howard; Cleveland Hills; Minster & Shambles, York; Yorkshire Dales; North York Moors.
County Flower:Harebell
County Day:1st August, Battle of Minden (1759), emancipation of slaves (1834)
Highest Point:Mickle Fell, 2,585 feet
Area:6,081 sq miles
Pop (2011):5,218,838