Although small in size, Worcestershire packs more than enough to win your heart.
In the south are the Cotswolds and their enchanting stone-built villages and heart-lifting rural scenery.
Go west and you arrive at the Malverns, dark, brooding hills that rise suddenly over the valley of the River Severn that courses north to south down to the Bristol Channel.
Worcester is the headliner for its cathedral and medieval charm, while the north of the county is where you’ll get the inside track on Worcestershire’s 19th-century industrial legacy, at restored mills and canals.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Worcestershire:
Affluent and exceedingly pretty in places, Worcester is the county town and is an unexpected mix of the very old and new.
So on Friar Street and New Street, rows of Tudor houses are interrupted by an occasional office block from the post-war period.
But this does little to break the spell.
Worcester Cathedral is the city’s crowning glory, adored for its central tower, chapter house and early Norman crypt.
Greyfriars, a former Franciscan friary, has a rustic courtyard and is held as Worcester most beautiful half-timbered house.
Worcester was also the birthplace of the vaunted composer, Sir Edmund Elgar, and the cottage he was born in has a first-rate museum celebrating this English cultural giant.
A spa resort for the upper crust in the 1800s, Malvern is now an endearing assortment of connected villages around a historic centre known as Great Malvern.
Generations of visitors have descended on this location for the spring waters and to hike the Malvern Hills, an extremely ancient igneous formation.
Cresting high above Great Malvern is Worcestershire Beacon, 425 metres up and a signalling point at momentous occasions in England’s past, such as during the Spanish Armada in 1588. On the hill’s lower reaches is Great Malvern Priory, established in the 1000s but with most of its work done in the 1400s.
Go in to admire the carved misericords in the choir, the abundance of medieval floor and wall tiles and the many original 15th-century stained glass windows.
3. Tenbury Wells
A cultivated little town on the Teme, Tenbury Wells is quite rare as its centre has very few chain stores.
This of course lends the town a character you won’t often find in England for a place of this size.
Many of the buildings here are even older than they look, because a lot of the 17th-century timber houses were given brick facades, as was the fashion in the 19th century.
The two pubs, Royal Oak and Pembroke House, show off their original timber frames and are quaintly off kilter.
Even Tenbury Wells’ new architecture manages to be noteworthy: The Regal Cinema from 1937 is art deco at its loveliest, and actually integrates with an 18th-century townhouse.
On the Severn, and with a bridge built by the Regency engineer Thomas Telford, Bewdley is an lovable old town of tall flat-fronted townhouses.
This place has been catering to visitors for many years, and there’s no lack of things for families to get up to.
On foot from Bewdley you can access the Wyre Forest for placid walks and where there’s an adventure park for kids.
You’re also in touching distance of the West Midlands Safari Park and the Severn Valley Railway, a heritage line mostly pulled by steam trains.
And if you have a taste for real ale, the Bewdley Brewery will show you how it’s done.
Even in the Cotswolds, where almost every settlement is delightful, Broadway shines brighter than most.
The name of the village comes from an ancient ridgeway that people would use to get from Worcester to London.
The high street is the “Broadway”, a wide road lined with mellow stone-built cottages and mansions, most from the 17th century.
The scene is enough to melt your heart.
There’s also some weighty cultural interest in Broadway, as it was at the core of the early-20th-century Arts and Crafts movement, and was settled by luminaries like Elgar, William Morris and John Singer Sargent, to name but three.
For country rambles try ascending Fish Hill, or Broadway Hill, which is capped by a romantic medieval-style folly from 1794.
An old market town in the Cotswolds’ northern foothills, Evesham once had one of Europe’s largest abbeys.
This monastery was suppressed and town down in the 1500s, but the Almonry, where alms were dispensed, has an engrossing museum about Eveham’s medieval glory inside a half-timbered hall.
The solemn gothic bell tower is all this is left of the abbey church, and stands in a park where the grounds used to be.
The River Avon and the parkland on its banks, certainly adds to Evesham’s allure, opening up possibilities for boating and countryside walks.
If you do strike out into the countryside you’ll be in a region feted for its fertile soils fostering apples, plums and asparagus.
So maybe you could time your trip to coincide with the marvellous blossoms in early spring.
Also in the Vale of Evesham, Pershore has the same legacy of market gardening, and orchards for pears and plums surround this respectable market town.
In August there’s even the annual Plum Festival, when all sorts of twee events go down, like the crowning of the “Plum Princess”. On Broad Street and Bridge Street you can study the many listed Georgian buildings on a light saunter, and there’s even more historical fascination at Pershore Abbey.
You’ll tell from this building’s odd footprint that it was partially destroyed in the 16th century, but it lives on as a parish church an contains a remarkable Norman font.
For hikes try the 300-metre Bredon Hill, the final northern spur of the Cotswolds.
8. Stourport-on Severn
This town is a bit different because it only came to be in the late-18th century, at the site where the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canals entered the River Severn.
This made it a pivotal distribution centre for everything from Black Country coal and iron to ceramics from the Potteries in the north.
The canal basins here have been sensitively restored in the last couple of decades and exude Georgian refinement.
There’s a heritage trail around this old infrastructure, and naturally the canals are a attraction in their own right if you fancy hiring a narrowboat.
For smaller family members there’s the Treasure Island Amusement Park and the more sedate Little Owl Farm Park, where they can feed pygmy goats and piglets and see newly-hatched chicks in summer.
9. Droitwich Spa
This town sits on a massive underground brine reservoir, so salty that the water that comes to the surface is ten times stronger than seawater.
The Romans were the first to exploit the salt deposits, fittingly naming the settlement Salinae.
By the 1800s people were flocking to bathe in the brine to relieve muscle and joint complaints, earning Droitwich its spa appellation.
In summer you can still swim in Droitwich’s brine at the hugely popular lido, a large outdoor pool complex.
In mid-September there’s also a Salt Festival, when there are Roman re-enactments, ale bars and market stalls.
At any other time you can potter around the high street, which has a historic character for its timber-framed shops.
Less tourism-oriented than the other destinations here, Bromsgrove is a busy town a few miles outside Birmingham.
But if you’re planning in a flying visit there’s much more in Bromsgrove than meets the eye.
At Stoke Heath is the superb Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, where almost 30 structures dating back hundreds of years have been saved from demolition and relocated at an outdoor museum.
Also included is a large set of telephone booths, once a fixture of almost every street in the country.
The Worcester and Birmingham Canal attracts people for its serene towpaths and narrowboating; a short way from Bromsgrove are the Tardebigge Locks, a flight of 30 locks in just over two miles.
In the same vein as Bromsgrove, Redditch is a working town whose early fame was built on manufacturing.
The needle-making craft here went back to medieval times, but by the 1800s Redditch was the needle capital of the world, manufacturing nine out of ten of the world’s needles.
So it’s only right that the town should remember this legacy at the Forge Mill Needle Museum.
There’s vintage machinery, models depicting factory scenes and regular workshops to show how fishing tackle needles for the textile industry were made on this site more than a century ago.
If you’re not needled-out by now, you can an also see the Old Needle Works, or get some light entertainment at the Palace Theatre or play a round at one of Redditch’s golf courses.
Finishing up in the north of county, Kidderminster is a large town that may not win awards for its looks, but radiates a certain charm for its Victorian chimney stacks and old weaving mills.
One of these is the formidable Stour Vale Mill, which is now the venue for the Museum of Carpet.
If industrial machinery catches your imagination, come by at noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to see the immense Victorian power loom in action.
For more of Worcestershire’s country refinement, Hartlebury Castle is a Manor House hosting the Worcestershire County Museum, while a nostalgic trip on the Severn Valley Railway is always a crowd-pleaser.