Kent offers everything from ultra-modern art galleries to centuries-old heritage sites. And with its super-fast links to London, Belgium and France, it is a beautiful county that can act as a gateway to so many other exciting places to visit.
Kent also boasts 350 glorious miles of coast, with its famous white cliffs, vast sandy beaches (11 of which are Blue Flag) and safe bays that make it a magnet for water activity enthusiasts.
Essex’s history has been shaped by a wide variety of cultures, including the Romans, Saxons and even the Vikings. But throughout Essex it is the legacy of the Norman invasion of Britain that is most visible.
They build great castles, reconstructed many churches and developed townships. Perhaps the finest of the Norman castles is that at Hedingham.
One of the Home Counties, Surrey sits in the south-east corner of England. While it might be tantalisingly close to the hustle and bustle of London, this is a county enveloped in glorious countryside dotted with historic towns, picturesque villages and magnificent stately homes.
The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The Surrey Hills, to the south-east of Guildford, are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
With its award-winning heritage coastline, offering some of Britain’s finest sandy beaches, Dorset is a county of great contrast and breathtaking scenery.
The coast takes you all the way from Lyme Regis in the west to Christchurch in the east. Christchurch sits at the confluence of the rivers Stour and Avon and on the shores of its own spectacular natural harbour – and is only a short drive from Bournemouth and Poole.
Devon is a diverse county – a delightful mix of sandy beaches, fossil cliffs, medieval towns, historic ruins and moorland national parks. And there is no shortage of great places to eat and drink.
The county boasts five areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here you find the jagged beauty of Dartmoor, that proved inspirational for Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s here you will also find the pure-breed Dartmoor ponies that wander at will through the wild moorland landscape.
Cheshire is a county of rambling pastureland, beautiful gardens, stunning stately homes and plenty of quaint black-and-white-timbered market towns.
Over to the east, you find the Peak District, the first created of Britain’s 15 national parks, while Alderley Edge offers not just a dramatic rocky outcrop at its boundary – this town, along with neighbouring Prestbury, is equally famous for its boutique shopping and fabulous restaurants.
Hampshire provided the backdrop for the popular TV series Downton Abbey – and Highclere Castle, where the programme is filmed, is just one of many fascinating historical features that would be on the doorstep of anyone retiring to this region.
Covering 1,420 square miles, this is a part of the country famous for its aircraft, military and maritime museums, castles, Roman villas and iron-age forts. Predominantly rural, a third of Hampshire comes within its National Parks or an Area of Outstanding National Beauty.
Berkshire might be on London’s doorstep, but with its wealth of beautiful gardens and countryside this county provides the perfect antidote to city life.
It also has strong connections to the Royal family. Here you find Windsor Castle, Ascot Racecourse and Savill Garden, as well as a host of pretty villages and charming hostelries nestled amid the leafy country lanes.
With seven miles of golden sands, a proud reputation for putting on successful cultural events all year round, and a huge variety of shops and restaurants, Bournemouth is a place where you can always find something interesting to do.
This sprawling southern coastal resort town has a population of more than 180,000, making it the largest settlement in Dorset. Which is unsurprising, when you consider the vibrant nature of the area, the beautiful countryside and various award-winning gardens at residents’ disposal.
Gloucestershire is home to the Cotswolds, the Royal Forest of Dean and the Severn Vale, and is famous for its chocolate box villages, picturesque views across the River Severn and stunning countryside location.
It lies on the northern edge of south-west England, and is easily accessible by road and rail links. Its truly beautiful towns and villages include Bourton-on-the Water, Cheltenham, Stow-on-the-Wold, Tewkesbury and The Slaughters.
With its southernmost border just 12 miles away from the centre of London, Hertfordshire is a popular place to settle.
Modern towns thrive amid interesting historic settlements. The county enjoys quiet rural lanes, interesting woodland, river valleys and sleepy, picturesque villages in abundance. Yet for residents of some of its southern towns central London is less than a 20-minute train ride away.
Retire to Yorkshire, where everything’s on your doorstep. From shopping in Leeds to walking the Dales, the choice is endless
With its picture-perfect towns surrounded by great swathes of rolling countryside, Yorkshire is a region packed with character.
Norfolk has miles of unspoilt coastline, fabulous seaside resorts and some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside.
If birdwatching is your passion, then its fantastic nature reserves offer some excellent opportunities for spotting rare species. Thetford Forest also provides a unique landscape of dense Scots pines and heath.
With its rural links and close proximity to London – and the fact that it enjoys one of the mildest climates in Britain, West Sussex makes for a fantastic retirement spot.
This south east county has a population of around 780,000, with many people making their homes along the Sussex coast in large towns including Worthing, Littlehampton and Bognor Regis.
It was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and yet today Shropshire is a rural idyll. Such contradictions make this county a fascinating blend of history and architecture combined with beautiful countryside.
Shropshire also boasts some of the finest medieval towns in England: not least Shrewsbury – home to the Shrewsbury Flower Show, the birthplace of Charles Darwin and set amidst glorious countryside with the Welsh Borders on its doorstep.
Lancashire is a county of enormous variety, with its rugged and blustery Irish Sea coastline, the flat and fertile plains around Ormskirk and the Ribble Estuary, and the undulating fells and moorland of the Forest of Bowland.
While this is famously the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Lancashire’s rural aspects are less well known. But the region boasts some stunning countryside, and is an area steeped in history and fascinating folklore.
Situated in the heart of England, the Midlands offers a huge variety of landscapes and places to enjoy and explore.
It is a vast area that borders South East England, South West England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales – its central location makes it a gateway to great swathes of the country.
Northumberland stretches all the way from the Scottish Borders in the north to the 2,000-year-old Hadrian’s Wall to the south. The county is home to two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a National Park, and various vast, dune-fringed beaches, rugged hills and sweeping valleys.
This is a place rich in history and drama, with ancient castles to explore, countryside to roam and an impressive coastline. Northumberland is also the birthplace of the 8th-century Lindisfarne Gospels from the beautiful and remote Holy Island, cut off twice each day from the rest of the world by fast-moving tides.
Wiltshire is an ancient part of Britain – its chalky uplands boast several of Europe’s greatest Neolithic sites, including Stonehenge and Avebury. This is the county where you will find stone circles, iron age hill forts, long barrows, castles, prehistoric mounds and Roman roads and forts.
The monument at Avebury is a fascinating site. Originally erected 4,500 years ago, many of the stones were re-erected in the 1930s. This must be the only place you will find a pub and a chapel inside a stone circle.
The beautiful West Midlands county of Worcestershire is brimming with country walks, has strong sense of its history and heritage, plenty of opportunities for arts, theatre and culture – and some great retail and sports centres.
Open-air fans can enjoy the Malvern Hills, with their rolling countryside. The town of Great Malvern is largely Victorian but its roots go back much further. Its 900-year-old church contains some of the finest medieval stained glass in the country. Meanwhile the Malvern Theatres, situated in the town’s centre, is one of the leading regional venues and regularly puts on West End shows.