Staffordshire is a dark horse. An unsung, unassuming county full of friendliness and rural charm, it has a proper ‘shire’ heart. And yet for some reason, it isn’t plagued by the crowds that flock to other beauty spots.
It’s our beloved home county, but it’s a fact that talk of Staffordshire rarely leaves, well, Staffordshire. Why is this?
A recent YouGov poll of the popularity of English counties told an interesting tale. Dorset, Devon and Cornwall made the podium, and of the top ten, only one of them wasn’t coastal. Every year, thousands of people bypass the county on their way to the distant edges of the U.K. What they can expect when they arrive is beautiful scenery, granted, but also everyone else who got the memo.
The M6 is an artery road in a real sense. It funnels the traffic through and out of our great county. Around it in either direction lie miles of stunning countryside, with grand castles, stately homes and gardens, medieval towns, ancient forest and swathes of moorland.
Nothing worth stopping for, then…
We’ve created the ultimate Reasons To Visit Staffordshire Guide, because it’s high time it had one.
1. Wild, Open Spaces
Nestled between the hubs of Manchester and Birmingham, Staffordshire’s combination of grand peaks and gentle flood plains keep it pleasantly rural. This means we also have a precious commodity...space.
The outstanding Peak District National Park rises to the west, a rambling and wild landscape of tumbling hills, deep forested valleys and rocky outcrops that hold the sunset.
[Glimpse of countryside from Rocks in the Peak District]
The wilds of the Peak District give way to green fields with winding rivers and ancient oak forests. In the centre of Staffordshire the green plains of the river Trent wind through gentle quintessentially English countryside. There are also miles of rolling hills, with farms tucked in their folds and sheep grazing their flanks.
[Rolling hills behind the village of Ilam]
2. Ancient Forests
Near us in Acton Trussell, Cannock Chase AONB is a playground for outdoor lovers. The forest and moorland is a beautiful region to explore. There is also the National Forest and the Forest of Mercia, green lungs built to create wildlife strongholds in the centre of England. Forests play a vital role in regulating the climate but they are also important for our health, with studies even showing that trees release antimicrobial chemicals (called phytoncides) which enter our immune systems when we breathe them in and help us fight disease.
Part of the National Forest has a symbolic significance.The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK’s centre of remembrance. It sits in the heart of the National Forest’s maturing woodland, with over 330 thought provoking memorials. It is home to the Armed Forces Memorial which commemorates those who have been killed on duty or due to terrorism from the end of the Second World War to the present day.
[Cannock Chase woodland]
3. A Fine Cathedral City
One of the most famous sights in Staffordshire is Lichfield Cathedral, which is widely regarded as one of the finest cathedrals in the country.
We would argue it is also one of the most accurately preserved cathedrals in the world. It completely dominates the city’s low-rise skyline, as it would have done when it was built in 1300.
It has to be seen in person to get the full effect. Stand before it today and experience it as worshippers in the middle ages would have: as a presence as imposing as their God.
[Beacon Park, Lichfield]
Lichfield itself is a charming city, a scroll of historic streets centred on the cathedral and its lush, almost tropical parkland. Perfectly walkable, with plenty of independent shops and cafés.
4. The Heart of England
You’d be forgiven for thinking Lichfield’s cathedral is one of the county’s oldest buildings. In fact, Staffordshire’s castles are older than England itself.
What is now our country was once divided into seven separate kingdoms. The largest, Mercia, was centred upon the river Trent in Staffordshire. Ring any bells? Fans of The Last Kingdom (currently streaming on Netflix) will be familiar with Mercia's integral role in this period of our history.
Today our castles bear silent witness to history of Mercia and England, from Mercia’s stronghold at Tamworth Castle, to Stafford Castle, which is visible from The Moat House. A castle was reputedly built on the site in 913 by the warrior princess Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians. It was listed in the Domesday book of 1086 and has a complex history of conquest ever since, having been besieged and conquered through the centuries including in the Civil War.
5. Walk 500 miles (and +500 more)
Explore Staffordshire’s 6000 acres of country parks, open spaces and greenways to your heart’s content. There is public right of way on 2500 miles of country trails and footpaths.
If Acton Trussell is your base, you don’t even need to think where to walk. We’ve teamed up with iFootpath, a walking app with two inspiring routes, one of which starts and finishes at The Moat House, taking in local landmarks and points of interest. Dig out your walking boots and work up an appetite for our award-winning cuisine. Download iFootpath App | Download Walk.
6. A National Trust Dream
Anyone with a penchant for gorgeous gardens, honey-coloured stone palisades and period dramas will feel at home in Staffordshire. We have some of the grandest stately homes and gardens in England.
Shugborough Estate is a fine example. Its gardens were designed by the great Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, with elements that draw on the exotic travels its owners made in India and Japan.
It’s also much more than that, the National Trust have opened ‘The Complete Working Historic Estate’, which includes a working model farm museum dating from 1805 complete with a working watermill, kitchens, a dairy, a tea room, and rare breeds of farm animals.
The estate's brewery is England's only log-fired brewery that still produces beer commercially, operated by Titanic Brewery.
7. Good Grub, Damn Fine Food
Staffordshire’s food is a celebration of its bountiful fields, proud history and culinary innovation.
When the Hairy Bikers toured Staffordshire, they had a taster of its diverse menu, from warm clay oven bread and marmite (a Staffordshire invention), to crepe-like savoury oatcakes, and a cook-off in our kitchen with our chef Matt Davies.
You can experience all of this- without having to cook for your supper. Here are a few of our top foodie suggestions:
• Lunch like a local in Lichfield’s aptly named Damn Fine Café. Try their toad in the hole- a cooked breakfast (veggie or otherwise) piled into a big Yorkshire pud. It’s as good as it sounds.
• Stop off at as many rural farm shops and cafes as you can. They’re all unique and those fresh stuffed oatcakes won’t eat themselves.
• Head to our two AA-rosette restaurant for modern British food at its best.
• Check out the award-winning Seed Chocolate in Stoke-on-Trent, a micro-batch bean to bar chocolate maker.
Experience the best spa facilities and treatments while soaking up the unique atmosphere of an English country house.
9. Family Fun
While all of the above appeal to most kids we know (giant Yorkshire puds, chocolate makers and piglet petting...need we say more) sometimes you want a one-stop-shop for all age groups and weathers.
Alton Towers is of course a must. The UK’s largest theme park has over 40 rides and attractions set within a beautiful country estate. It promises an exhilarating, fun-packed day.
Trentham Park has a Monkey Forest with 140 macaques, Treetop Adventures course, a shopping village and garden centre, and the award-winning Trentham Gardens.
Alternatively, Go Ape at Cannock Chase. Swing through the tree tops on zipwires and high wire obstacle courses, great fun for older children and adults alike.
10. Stay at The Moat House
Why not take your pick from the list above while staying with us? Our grade II listed manor house hotel is the perfect base whether you plan to relax or explore.
We are nestled in rolling countryside in the village of Acton Trussell, a short drive from the M6.
It's a world away from the bustle. We are surrounded by our gardens and the peaceful waters of our lake.