What are England's best-kept secrets

1001 travel dreams

With magnificent mansions, blooming gardens and ancient castles, the region in the heart of England attracts you at first sight with a whole range of popular sights. But there is also a lot to discover along the many canal routes in the counties aside from the classic tourist spots - some places are even considered real insider tips.

A very special atmosphere prevails in the impressive Coventry Cathedral in the city of the same name a little east of Birmingham. While there are two cathedrals on the site - one of which is the currently used Anglican bishopric - it is above all the ruins of St. Michael's Cathedral, which were destroyed in World War II, that fascinate visitors to the city. Of the church, which was completed in the early 15th century, only the outer walls remain today, but when put in the right light, the place conveys a very special magic.

The daily boat tours of the Dudley Canal Trust lead into a secret world of tunnels in limestone caves and grottos. The leisurely boat trip on the Dudley Canal takes around 45 minutes through hidden lakes and color-lit tunnels, past green cliffs and amazing domes that nature has created over millions of years.

The historic Bosworth Battlefield Line between Shenton and Shackerstone in western Leicestershire will take visitors a little faster. Steam or diesel locomotives are in use here on operating days, driven by voluntary, often retired, train drivers, as well as historic passenger cars. The Battlefield, after which the line is named, refers to the historic Battle of Bosworth in 1485 between the rebels under Henry Tudor and the army of King Richard III. The information center for the historical battlefield is not far from the station in Shenton.

Many small towns with some ancient pubs also lead a bit off the beaten track. One of the most beautiful and oldest in the whole of Great Britain is "The Royal Oak" in the village of Cardington in Shropshire on the border with Wales. The building from the 15th century has housed an inn since the mid-17th century, making it one of the oldest pubs in the country. Legendary here is the fidget pie made from bacon, cider, apples and puff pastry, a traditional Shropshire dish that members of the Royal Family have eaten here.

In the south of the region, the city of Worcester is located on the River Severn, the longest river in the country. The 800-year-old Commandery building is barely a 10-minute walk from the water, and visitors can immerse themselves in the centuries-old history of the English Civil War in its rooms. Also worth a visit: The Broadway Tower in the town of the same name a little southeast of Worcester on the edge of the Cotswold Hills is an ideal starting point for the next exploration when the visibility is good. From here you have an overview of a good dozen English counties.

Anyone looking for secrets in Birmingham itself will find what they are looking for in “Back to Backs”, which shows how workers lived in the cities of industrialized England in the 19th century. The block of flats around the city's last remaining classic inner courtyard now serves as a museum and, in addition to originally furnished apartments and shops, is also home to a candy store from the 1930s, in which visitors can still shop today.

More information at: www.englandswaterways.com, www.coventrycathedral.org.uk, www.dudleycanaltrust.org.uk
www.battlefieldline.co.uk, www.at-the-oak.com, www.museumsworcestershire.org.uk, www.broadwaytower.co.uk, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birmingham-back-to-backs