One of the Home Counties, Hertfordshire borders London to the north and its recent history is anchored in its proximity to the capital.
“New Towns” like Stevenage and pioneering Garden Cities like Welwyn and Letchworth popped up in the 20th century, all to give people the joint advantages of the city and countryside.
But what is most inspiring about Hertfordshire is the profusion of oddities: Medieval caves with indecipherable carvings, a massive taxidermy hoard owned by a Victorian eccentric, and a huge fairytale grotto created by a Quaker poet.
For more mainstream history St Albans and its Roman heritage is an essential first step towards the south of the county.
1. St Albans
Known as Verulamium to the Romans, St Albans was the second city in Britain after London 2,000 years ago.
And today this market town has its share of ancient sites and artefacts.
Go straight to Verulamium Park, where traces of a spa were excavated in the 1930s, revealing a wondrous mosaic and hypocaust.
Just by the park is the Verulamium Museum, with yet more mosaics and display cases full of coins, ceramics and even a soldier’s helmet and mask discovered in the theatre, which makes up the museum’s exterior.
Elsewhere, contemplate the 15th-century clock tower, a logo for St Albans, and unusual in England for being a belfry unattached to any church.