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Top ways to experience the West Midlands

Gas Street Basin is on the historic Birmingham canal, which was completed in the late 18th century. The canal has traditional and tourist traffic and narrowboats carry people and goods through the city.

 

From getting out on two wheels to taking to the skies, there’s an abundance of ways to experience the magic of the West Midlands. From relaxing canal cruises or captivating exhibitions, to adrenaline-fuelled off-roading or miles of walking and cycling trails, the West Midlands is a bounty of holiday riches. Our round-up reveals some of the top ways see the region from a different perspective.

Wander the walking trails

From the industrial heartlands of the cities to the rolling hills and countryside that surrounds them, much of the West Midlands can be explored on foot. Birmingham Heritage Walking Tours take you on an immersive journey through Birmingham’s past, while numerous Coventry Trails – developed as part of the Coventry City of Culture programme – explore the city’s heritage and cultural roots.

Like this? Love the vast expanse of the Pennine Way National Trail to the north, a long-distance walking route stretching for 268 miles (435km) through some of England’s wild northern landscapes.

Get on your bike

The West Midlands is peppered with cycling trails, from picturesque canal-side routes to tracks which follow old industrial lines. You can cycle the eight miles (13km) from central Birmingham along part of the Tame Valley Canal to explore the 970-acre Sutton Park, located to the north of the city centre. Known as National Cycle Network Route 535, it’s a largely traffic-free trail.

Like this? Love the Tissington Trail through the Peak District National Park, a 13-mile (20km) former London and North Western Railway route linking Parsley Hay and Ashbourne, with bike hire available at both destinations.

Wind along the waterways

Stratford-upon-Avon, hometown of William Shakespeare, Warwickshire, England

 

As a region dominated by waterways, the canals of the West Midlands offer a chance to discover some of its hidden gems. Whether you prefer to hire a rowing boat or explore via an organised boat tour, there are a range of options to choose from. Narrowboat tours operate from central Birmingham, taking you on a journey through the city’s industrial heritage, while river cruises in Stratford-upon-Avon allow you to see Shakespeare Country from a different perspective. You can even tuck into a unique dining experience aboard the restaurant boat, The Countess of Evesham.

Like this? Love the 5.5-mile (9km) Art Trail along the Coventry Canal, which features works paying homage to the region’s rich industrial heritage.

See Shakespeare’s England

Anne Hathaway's Cottage and gardens at Shottery, Warwickshire

 

As the town synonymous with William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon houses many attractions related to the great playwright. The Explorer Pass by Shakespeare’s England provides access to ten incredible attractions across Stratford-upon-Avon (including Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall), Warwick, and the surrounding countryside.

Like this? Love some of the other attractions in Warwickshire available with the pass, including Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle and the MAD Museum.

Head off road

Land Rover Experience

The West Midlands is home to a number of car manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover. The firm’s main car factory can be found in Solihull, alongside a mix of off-road driving experiences which allow you to push the Land Rover’s capabilities to the limit. From a short taster session to a half- or full-day drive, you can test your obstacle handling at the Land Rover Solihull Experience as you take on a series of steep inclines, water wading and other challenging terrain.

Like this? Love getting behind the scenes at this, one of the most advanced car manufacturing facilities in the world, when Factory Tours resume from autumn 2021.

Take to the skies

With miles of rolling countryside to enjoy, why not take to the skies to experience a bird’s eye view of the West Midlands and its surrounds? Numerous companies provide hot air balloon trips across Staffordshire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands. Among them, Wickers World operates from the grounds of Shugborough Hall (near Stafford) and Trentham Gardens (close to Stoke-on-Trent), while High Road Balloons fly from Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as several other locations.

Like this? Love a helicopter tour to take in the sights across the West Midlands.

Discover the real Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders street art mural in Digbeth, in Birmingham city

The original Peaky Blinders gangs can be traced to Birmingham, and many scenes from Steven Knight’s hit show were filmed in the city. Operated by Brum Tours, Peaky Tours looks into the characters behind the TV series, for a fascinating insight into the fictional show and the real-life locals that inspired it. You’ll also find many other key Peaky Blinders sites around the city, including a six-storey mural of Cillian Murphy’s character Tommy Shelby, on the walls of a factory in Digbeth.

Like this? Love following in the footsteps of Tommy and the gang at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, which has provided backdrops in all five series to date.

Celebrate the 2022 Commonwealth Games

As the host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Birmingham’s sporting venues are gearing up to welcome some of the world’s best athletes. Both the opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the newly renovated Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, to the north of Birmingham city centre, while Edgbaston, the region’s premier cricketing venue, will host the women’s T20 competition. Arena Birmingham, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Coventry Stadium and Arena are among the other West Midlands’ venues being used for the Games.

Like this? Love trying out the Bear Grylls Adventure Activity Centre ahead of the games next year. Located at the National Exhibition Centre, it gives you the chance the test your own physical endurance with climbing, high ropes and archery adventures!

Go mad for museums

The rich industrial, musical and cultural heritage of the West Midlands can be explored at the region’s vast array of museums and galleries. The Coventry Transport Museum pays homage to the city’s car-making past with the world’s largest publically owned collection of British vehicles, as well as the two fastest cars on the planet. Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum delves into the world of science and technology with 200 hands-on displays, while the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery houses an unrivalled collection of Pre-Raphaelite art and will reopen its doors in 2022.

Like this? Love the ever-changing exhibitions which tell the story of Coventry’s social heritage at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. The museum will also host the 2021 Turner Prize from late September until mid-January 2022, as part of Coventry’s City of Culture programme.

Discover gardens galore

Contemporary herbaceous planting in the Floral Labyrinth at Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire - designed by Piet Oudolf

From the grounds of stately homes to Victorian glasshouses, the West Midlands offers an abundance of outdoor and garden spaces to explore. The 15-acre Birmingham Botanical Gardens, located just over a mile to the south of Birmingham city centre in Edgbaston, is an oasis of colour where four glasshouses showcase tropical rainforest, subtropical, Mediterranean and arid environments. The 17th century Moseley Old Hall, north of Wolverhampton, provided refuge for King Charles II during the English Civil War. Looked after by the National Trust, its walled gardens house plants cultivated for centuries. Alternatively, explore one of the largest contemporary perennial plantings in Europe at the Trentham Estate.

Like this? Love the Elizabethan Gardens at Kenilworth Castle, packed with colour and fragrance and recreated to be just how they were presented to Queen Elizabeth I around 400 years ago.

 

Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.

28 Jul 2022(last updated)