An idyllic blend of Regency city, old market town and pretty countryside, Gloucestershire's rural stretches were the languid setting for Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie while its urban architecture dates back to the Norman period. It spans the undulating Cotswold Hills, the lush Severn Vale and Wye Valley, and the entire Forest of Dean (heaven for biking), as well as Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Stroud and Tewkesbury.
For conventional sightseeing, there's a wealth of history. Tewkesbury Abbey has the tallest Norman tower in England; Thornbury Castle was once a Tudor country house, and fans of Harry Potter will recognise the ancient cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral. Royalists can visit Highgrove House and gardens (home to Prince Charles), and the magnificent Sudeley Castle, where Katerine Parr (the last of Henry VIII's wives) lies entombed in a 15thC church.
For something more off-beat, there's an annual cheese-rolling contest atop Cooper's Hill, a raw-onion eating competition in Newent, plus wacky races and a Woolsack-carrying contest in Tetbury! Several times a year, a rolling Bore wave sees surfers and canoeists cresting a 2m wave for miles down the River Severn; an entirely natural phenomenon.
And then there's the honey-hued Cotswolds. Beautiful, sleepy villages, with quaint thatched cottages and immaculate village greens. Stow on the Wold, Winchcombe, Kingham, Broadway and iconic Bibury are the most famous; we adore Snowshill and Hook Norton.