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Guide To Holidaying In Leicestershire

A guide by Verity Burns

Leicestershire Leicestershire is a landlocked county in Central England, covering an area of around 984 square miles. Being a largely agricultural county means that Leicestershire has a wealth of rolling hills and green fields, and there are also plenty of forests to explore too if woodland walks take your fancy. In fact, a large part of the northwest of the county is now part of the new National Forest area which extends into Derbyshire and Staffordshire. But if nature walks aren't your idea of fun, don't let this put you off. In Leicester, the city from which the county takes its name, you will find some of the best shopping to be had in the country, for both top high street names and unique one-off finds.

Simon de Montfort, the first Earl of Leicester, really put Leicestershire on the map when he defied Henry III in a successful uprising in the 13th Century. For this, he is commemorated with a huge auditorium, the De Montfort Hall, in Leicester city centre and one of the city's two universities also takes on his name.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Leicestershire's history - there is plenty of to uncover across the county. You could visit Market Bosworth and Bosworth Battlefield where the War of the Roses was fought, or perhaps stop by the town of Lutterworth, once an important stage coach stop and where John Wycliffe made the first English translation of the Bible.

With Leicestershire being primarily a cattle county, there are lots of traditional market towns to explore, some of which still hold cattle markets for local farmers. Market Harborough is a pretty town to visit, with Georgian houses and a 17th century timbered building raised above the pavement on pillars. Similarly, Melton Mowbray and Ashby-de-la-Zouch are pleasant old market towns that brag beautiful 18th century houses, castle remains and ancient almshouses between them.

And if all that hasn't twisted your arm, the gentleman footballer and crisp eater extraordinaire Gary Lineker hails from Leicester. In fact, his family still have a stall on Leicester's fruit and veg market! Really, what more could you ask for?!

Leicestershire is home to a wealth of attractions for all the family, so whatever you fancy, you are sure to find something to suit. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

The award-winning National Space Centre is the UK's only attraction dedicated to space science and astronomy. You really can spend hours here, with lots of hands on activities and audio-visual treats that will keep the whole family entertained.

Visit the site of Bosworth Battlefield 1485, the battle that ended the War of the Roses and began the dynasty of the Tudors. You can see the Battle of Bosworth re-enactment on the weekend closest to August 22nd every year, which is brilliant to watch. Free entry all year round.

The Great Central Railway is Britain's only double track main line steam railway. You can choose to dine on board with a luxurious 4 or 6 course meal and even drive a train yourself (with expert supervision of course!). Train rides are available every weekend and Bank Holiday throughout the year and daily in May to September - plus you get a free journey on the Discover Leicester tour bus with a Great Central Railway ticket. Bargain!

Twycross Zoo is set in open countryside, the zoo is set over 40 acres and houses over 1000 animals of 170 species! The zoo has a strong focus on conservation and education and holds many talks, particularly over the summer period, as well as animal feeding and demonstrations.

Twinlakes Park is a family day out with rides for all the family all year round. Broken up into themed sections, the park has literally acres of attractions to sift through. There are even indoor playcentres for those rainy days, as well as a falconry centre and animal farm, so there should definitely be enough to keep you occupied! Adults/children 7.99, Family (2 adults, 2 children) 28; group discounts available.

Wistow Maize Maze is a previous winner of "Leicestershire's Visitor Attraction of the Year", this is one place that will really get you in a muddle! Set in 8 acres, with 4 miles of paths to navigate and explore, it is one of the country's largest maize mazes. Follow the quiz trail, picking up hidden clues or visit the Activity Funyard for a variety of games and mini mazes.

Just on the border of Leicestershire is England's smallest county of Rutland, which is host to one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Europe Rutland Water. Set in 3,100 acres of countryside, the reservoir offers something for everyone in an exciting yet peaceful environment. There is even a 25 mile cycling track and you can hire bikes or bring your own.

But while you are here make sure you don't miss out on Leicestershire's annual events either. In April, you can catch the National Folk Music Festival in Loughborough which always draws in the crowds. If you are in Leicester over Easter, you can't miss the "Bottle-kicking and Hare Pie Scramble" near the small village of Hallaton on Easter Monday. This ancient tradition begins with a parade and pie sharing ceremony before two local village teams try to get 3 "bottles" (similar to small beer kegs) back to their villages over rolling hills and streams. It has to be seen to be believed!

Leicestershire has its annual county show at Dishley Grange on May Day which is great for the family, whilst racing enthusiasts might enjoy the British Motorcycle Grand Prix which takes place at Castle Donington at the end of July.

If you fancy a taste of the medieval, head to Belvoir Castle in August for the Jousting Tournament, but if you are here at this time of year, make sure you don't miss the Leicester International Air Display at Leicester Aeroclub towards the end of August.

As such a culturally diverse county, you can be sure you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to your holiday. Whatever your tastes, Leicestershire is sure to have something to tempt you.

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