48 hours in Historic Hertfordshire – What to do on a fun filled weekend in Hertfordshire
Just a short hop from the capital and boasting miles of wide-open spaces, picturesque villages, attractive woodland, historic towns and numerous sights and attractions, Hertfordshire has the best of everything and something to offer every visitor, whether you are after a romantic retreat, family fun or girlie getaway.
One of the seven Home Counties of London, Hertfordshire is possibly best known for the towns of St Albans, Watford, Berkhamsted, Hatfield and Tring, the county takes up 1,643 km² with the beautiful Chiltern Hills running across the North Eastern edge and bordering London to the Southern Edge. It’s no wonder celebs such as Gerri Halliwell, Katherine Ryan, Rupert Grint, George Ezra, Martin Freeman and many top footballers have chosen to live here.
With so much to explore it will take several weeks to really experience all that Hertfordshire has to offer, however here is my suggested itinerary for 48 hours in my home county.
Friday afternoon in Hertfordshire
If you are looking to stay somewhere with the wow factor, and are happy to splash out a bit, I’d highly recommend the Grove in Chandlers Cross on the outskirts of Watford, a luxury hotel which regularly hosts A-list celebrities, politicians and footballers. With beautiful rooms, large grounds to explore, an excellent spa plus in the summer it’s Walled Garden is a destination in itself with an outdoor pool, dining areas, tennis courts, activity lawn and ‘beach area’.
You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy their grounds, there are a number of nature walks you can take, I often take my boys around the musical trail, and in the summer there is a beautiful wild flower meadow- perfect for The Gram!
Friday evening in Hertfordshire
Dinner at The Glasshouse at The Grove is something to beheld, offering a food station experience you need to make sure you arrive hungry. The food quality is incredible, with lots of different options, many of which are prepared in front of you. Options include a Carving Station, Robata Grill, Seafood Station, Sushi Station, Stone Oven, Live Pasta Station, Asian Station, Action Salad Bar, Vegan Dining, Soup of the Day, Charcuterie and Cheese and don’t forget the Dessert Station.
Saturday morning in Hertfordshire
From The Grove, it’s just a short stroll to the award winning Cassiobury Park in Watford. This 190-acre park has lots of different space to explore, from nature reserves to woodland, a canal, two playgrounds, a splash park and miniature railway. Don’t miss Molly’s Floating Café- a café on a barge where you can get delicious coffee and cakes as well as bags of food for the waiting ducks.
Cheslyn House and Gardens, in the Nascott Wood area of Watford, around a 15 minute walk from Cassiobury Park, it is definitely worth a visit. Never busy and absolutely stunning- the perfect location for a family photo shoot, especially in spring or early summer when the gardens are an explosion of colour. As well as meticulously designed gardens containing plants from around the world, there is woodland, a small aviary and a pond which is home to some absolutely massive Koi Carp.
Saturday lunchtime in Hertfordshire
Describing themselves as a “surprising little oasis, serving and selling great food in the middle of an industrial estate”, Florish Bakery definitely isn’t somewhere you would just come across but it is worth setting the sat nav and navigating round the fork lift trucks and delivery vans that pack Garnett Close in North Watford. Pop by here for coffee and maybe a little pastry snack for the journey to Tring.
From Watford it’s around a 25-minute drive to this pretty market town where you will find the fabulous Akeman Pub, we’ve been several times and each time I promise myself I’ll try something else on the menu but can never resist their pizzas- ingredients sourced from Naples and cooked in their wood fired ovens, they are honestly the best for miles around.
Saturday afternoon in Hertfordshire
Just a short stroll from The Akeman is Natural History Museum which houses the incredible collection of stuffed animals, originally the private collection of the eccentric Walter Rothschild. Although a lot smaller than the London Natural History Museum I actually prefer this one a lot more, as do my kids. You don’t get the big crowds and crazy noises you get in the London one so is a much more relaxing experience and therefore much easier to do with small children.
15 minutes’ drive east from Tring you’ll find Whipsnade Zoo, the biggest zoo in the UK. To make the most of your time you can choose to drive around the site for an additional cost. Of course, the animals are the main draw but the huge Adventure Playground and the Soft Play area also get double thumbs up from my boys. Other favourites here are the butterfly house, giraffe platform and the Rhino enclosure. For the ultimate zoo experience you can stay overnight in one of their Lookout Lodges and enjoy three out of hours tours of the Zoo including a sunset tour, torch-lit night tour and a morning tour.
Saturday evening in Hertfordshire
After all the activities of the day now must be time for a drink. Heading South East from the zoo, just a 25-minute drive will get you to St Albans where you can experience history at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the oldest pub in Britain which dates back to the 8th century.
Sopwell House is a country house spa hotel in St Albans which is a great choice for a special treat, it’s not cheap so perhaps a good choice for a special child free occasion. If you are really going all out you can opt for one of the Mews Suites, some of which have fireplaces, four-poster beds, in-room baths and private terraces. Enjoy dinner at the Brasserie, a night-cap or two in the Cocktail Lounge and I guarantee you will sleep like a baby
Sunday morning in Hertfordshire
My husband is one of those mad people who prefers to have a lie in than get up for a hotel breakfast but that is not me at all. No matter how many G&Ts were enjoyed in the Cocktail Lounge the night before I will set my alarm so as not to miss the breakfast and will be there gleefully eyeing up the menu and enjoying the multiple coffee top ups. I’m sure breakfast at Sopwell House would not disappoint.
First stop on today’s itinerary is Hatfield House which is just around a 20-minute drive from St Albans. This impressive Jacobean stately home which boasts over 400 years of history has been the location of many films and TV shows and its not surprising its so popular with location scouts. The house is full of jaw dropping rooms, from the huge marble hall with walls covered in impressive wood carvings, a grand staircase lined with tapestries and the long gallery which is over 51 metres and has a ceiling covered in gold leaf.
As well as visiting the historic house (I recommend joining one of the organised tours), you can explore the Old Palace wonder around the gardens or take a woodland walk through the estate’s parkland. Also in Hatfield Houses’ ground is the Stable Yard which offers a quant shopping experience with a number of boutique stores selling jewellery, crafts, gifts and edible treats including Darlish Ice-Cream- one scoop is definitely not enough!
This is just a taster of things to do on a weekend in Hertfordshire, there is so much more to see and do so I hope this blog post has inspired you to explore some of this beautiful county.