- Countryside Rolling hills, suburban frills
- Country life Statelies, strolls and Sunday roasts
The smallest home county is often overlooked in the get-away-from-London league tables, but green-fringed Hertfordshire is heritage- and history-packed.
The Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman inhabitants of this 10th-century shire left their mark with castles and hamlets; royal palaces reveal Jacobean treasures; and more contemporary constructions include the iconic film studios at Elstree and Leavesden. London's next-door neighbour has attracted city workers since Elizabeth I, but it's far from a blighted commuter belt – the Chilterns offer wonderful walking and valley-view villages; north lie stately homes and Tudor houses; the southerly Vale of St Albans marks the ancient route once carved by Thames, and Herts' lower east side is punctuated by the Lee Valley park. William Cowper, George Bernard Shaw and Stanley Kubrick all lived here, and for many modern rurbanites, Herts is still where the home is.
Do go/Don’t go
Any time's a good time: this is England, where there are no weather guarantees, so you never know whether you're going to get a bright, sunny day or a picturesque sprinkling of snow. That said, late spring's bluebells and early Autumn's turning leaves can be a revelation. Just try to avoid travelling at peak commuter times if you're travelling by car.
Planes Hertfordshire's handiest take-off spot is London Luton Airport (www.london-luton.co.uk), which handles regular international flights to Europe and North Africa. London Heathrow (www.heathrowairport.com) is also pretty convenient and has international flights to and from almost every destination around the world.
Trains There are plenty of national rail connections in Hertfordshire: Watford Junction station is served by various services from across and around London, as well as providing links to Birmingham on London Midland trains (www.londonmidland.com) and other cross-country destinations via Virgin Trains (www.virgintrains.co.uk). Stevenage and St Albans stations have rail links to the North and the Midlands respectively (www.nationalrail.co.uk).
Automobiles A chunk of Hertfordshire falls within the M25, making it a relatively hassle-free drive from London's 'burbs and boundary counties; the A1 or M1 will take you up into its northern reaches. A car is handy for exploring Hertfordshire's stately homes and county parks.
- Taxis You won't be able to hail one – arrange minicabs through your hotel, or look for ranks outside train stations in bigger towns.