The Best Things to Do in Hertfordshire, UK

Explore long stretches of aromatic lavender at Hitchin Lavender in Hertfordshire, UK
Explore long stretches of aromatic lavender at Hitchin Lavender in Hertfordshire, UK | © Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Callum Davies
3 November 2020

Hertfordshire is one of the most varied and interesting counties in the United Kingdom, easily within reach of London, Oxford and Cambridge, among other large UK towns. From rolling countryside to charming towns and villages, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied on trips to this small, varied patch of England.

Go birdwatching at Rye Meads Nature Reserve

Natural Feature
Map View
Boardwalk in wetland habitat, Rye Meads RSPB Reserve, Hoddesdon, Lea Valley, Hertfordshire, England, october
© FLPA / Alamy Stock Photo

At 58 hectares (143 acres), Rye Meads is one of the largest wetland nature reserves in England, sitting on the banks of the River Lea. It is managed in part by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the whole area is open to the public, with ten birdwatching hides offering the chance to see kingfishers, kestrels and various colourful water-birds. Other larger animals like ponies and even water buffalo can be seen around the reserve as well.

Get zen at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery

Buddhist Temple, Monastery
Map View

Hemel Hempstead isn’t exactly the kind of place you would normally associate with the Buddhist faith, but it is home to one of the most prominent monasteries in the west. Founded by Ajahn Sumedho in 1985, it teaches the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism, and visitors are always welcome. Meditation workshops are run weekly, and you can even stay there overnight if you’re after a stronger dose of inner peace.

Hunt for dinosaurs at Knebworth House

Architectural Landmark, Building
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United Kingdom England Hertfordshire Knebworth. Knebworth House, home of English writer Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873) since
© Universal Images Group North America LLC / DeAgostini / Alamy Stock Photo

Better known in some circles for being the site of the Sonisphere music festival, Knebworth House has plenty more to offer when it isn’t being overrun with music fans. As well as exploring the stately home’s vast interior, you can head out on the dinosaur trail, which includes 72 life-size dinosaur models and educational information about them all. Also on site are a play fort for kids, a tea room and a 17th-century garden.

Go back in time at Verulamium Park and Museum

Museum, Historical Landmark, Park, Archaeological site
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Verulamium Museum, Saint Michaels Street, Verulamium Park, St.Albans, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom. Image shot 2010. Exact date unknown.
© Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo

Long before St Albans existed, the Roman city of Verulamium stood there, and whilst the Romans might be long gone, evidence of their occupancy can still be seen. The Verulamium Park & Museum displays this in both outdoor and indoor settings. At the museum, you can see a range of artefacts found in the area, as well as re-creations of Roman rooms. In the park, you can see the last remaining city walls, as well as an 1800-year-old hypocaust – a Roman system of central heating.

Enjoy a pint at England's oldest pub

Pub, British, Pub Grub, $$$
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Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in Abbey Mill Lane in the historic City of St Albans, noted as the oldest pub in England.
© Peter Wheeler / Alamy Stock Photo
Many pubs around the UK have lofty claims attached to them, but Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has been recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest pub in England. Some doubt still remains, but the owners have adhered to the pub’s rich history by maintaining a 16th-century feel, with little nods to the pub’s past dotted around the interior, including the fact that Oliver Cromwell is said to have been a frequent visitor.

Take in the sights and scents of Hitchin Lavender

Natural Feature, Park
Map View

One of the prevailing features of Hertfordshire is that it’s mostly flat, making it great for agriculture. You can see fields anywhere in the UK, but there are only a handful of lavender fields, and, at 35 miles (56km), Hitchin Lavender is one of the biggest. The flowers bloom all summer, and visitors are treated to incredible views across both Herefordshire and neighbouring Bedfordshire as they explore the long stretches of colourful, aromatic plants. Lavender products can be purchased at the visitor’s centre, and there are plenty of seasonal events to enjoy.

Visit Hogwarts on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Museum
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visitors in The Great Hall at the Harry Potter World Warner Bros Studio Tour Leavesden Watford London UK GB EU Europe
© eye35 / Alamy Stock Photo
You could be forgiven for thinking that all the Harry Potter memorabilia would be housed in London, but, in truth, the WB studio resides in Hertfordshire, on the outskirts of the capital. A full tour will see you through Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest and show you various props and artefacts from the film series. Potterites have no excuse to skip this one.

Go rafting at Lee Valley White Water Centre

Amusement Park
Map View

White-water rafting might be something you’d normally associate with wilder parts of the world, but there are plenty of places where you can try it in a more controlled environment. Lee Valley White Water Centre is one of these. Located in Waltham Cross, it offers rafting, kayaking, hydrospeeding and a number of other activities in a wave pool. If you are after something more relaxed, there is also a lake area, as well as disc golf – if you’d rather stay on land entirely.

Visit St Albans Cathedral

Cathedral, Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
Map View
St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire
© Peter Vallance / Alamy Stock Photo

St Albans Cathedral is named for Alban himself, thought to be England’s first martyr, as he faced up to the Romans in the 3rd or 4th century and was beheaded (it is said that a well sprung up next to where his head landed). The cathedral was built on the supposed site of his martyrdom, first as a monastery, then an abbey and, finally, a cathedral. It has actively operated for centuries and contains bricks from the Roman city of Verulamium. Visitors are permitted all year round.

These recommendations were updated on November 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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