A survey of UK travel experts has revealed the 10 most charming towns in the East Midlands - and four of them are on our doorstep!
The survey by TravelMag.com invited 100 travel writers, photographers and selected professionals to name the towns they consider the most appealing.
And Stamford, Oakham, Uppingham and Oundle were all named in the Top 10.
Those surveyed were asked to vote for towns in any of the region’s six recognised shires (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland) with populations of between 3,000 and 50,000 people.
Each participant was asked to disclose their top three choices before all votes were added up to produce the final ten.
The presence of Stamford on the list is little surprise, given that it was voted the best place to live in the United Kingdom in another survey in 2013.
So what did the survey have to say about our towns which we already know and love?
Oakham - The current holder of a coveted Britain in Bloom award, Oakham is a quintessential English market town located in the shire of Rutland. Packed with heritage, it is popular for day trips and short breaks, thanks to its scenic setting and impressive roll-call of historical attractions that serve as testimony to the town’s ancient roots. Nothing demonstrates this better than the 200-plus horseshoes hanging from the walls of Oakham Castle, the legacy of a tradition that requires peers of the realm to forfeit a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor of Oakham on their first visit to the town. Less reliant on folklore is Oakham School, housed in a beautiful 16th century building and one of the town’s most notable landmarks.
Oundle - Encircled by the river Nene, the historic market town of Oundle has all the visual qualities you might expect from a glitzy period drama. Its streetscapes are dotted with Georgian town houses, 17th-century cottages and medieval gables, while limestone buildings add to the town’s character. Laying on Oundle’s borders is Fotheringhay Castle, where Richard III was born and where Elizabeth I imprisoned and executed Mary Queen of Scots. Such harrowing history has evaporated, but its physical relics remain. A revered Public School plays its part in rearing the town’s future protégées.
Stamford - Nestled on the River Welland in Lincolnshire, the bustling market town of Stamford was once proclaimed by the novelist Sir Walter Scott as “the finest stone town in England”. Such lofty praise would help ensure that 600 of its mellow limestone buildings gained listed status, including five medieval churches. Little wonder that it commands such curiosity. Among the historical highlights are one of the oldest provincial theatres in England, the Steam Brewery, Browne’s Hospital’s and the 12th century ruins of St Leonard’s Priory. A popular Town Trail invites visitors to explore Stamford in methodical fashion, taking in its passageways, main thoroughfare and market squares.
Uppingham - The Rutland town of Uppingham has much in its favour, but it is its vibrant arts scene that sets it apart from many of its regional neighbours. Galleries are dotted everywhere, with works regularly trading hands for substantial sums. Historical curios also do a brisk trade here, with numerous antiques stores across the town. Needless to say, visitors often leave with more than they bargained for. In keeping with its East Midlands counterparts, there’s plenty of architectural gems to admire too. The ubiquitous honey-coloured buildings are a delight, while the Church of St Peter and St Paul dating back to the 14th century stand as testament to the town’s long history.