West Midlands Travel Guide

Dudley Castle, West Midlands - © David M Lear

Introduction and Overview

The West Midlands Travel Guide provides an overview of local attractions and places of interest for visitors. The area guide includes travel information on local events, transport, facts & figures, entertainment and accommodation giving an insight in to the area. Located to the West of the Midlands region, the region is home to the second largest city in the UK, Birmingham.

The region and Birmingham were given an unfortunate label for being a concrete maze, however there has been much improvement to the landscape and the regeneration and redevelopment is beginning to bear fruit. The region has a long history as a centre of manufacturing and had a prominent role in the Industrial Revolution in England.

The largest centre in the region is Birmingham, the city is regional and national hub for the arts with plenty going on. It has been claimed that the city has more navigable canals than Venice. Dudley is thought of as unofficial capital of the Black Country. From the town there are great views over Hereford, Worcester, Staffordshire and the Severn Valley.

The town has a castle that goes back to Norman times, it also has a well known zoo, Dudley Zoo that is a popular family attraction, there the whole family can enjoy a day out. Dudley also has an underground canal that makes its way under the town and the Dudley Museum & Art Gallery featuring fossils.

West Bromwich is a small town in the West Midlands, it's five miles from Birmingham and is in contrast to the big city much quieter for those visitors seeking a more relaxed atmosphere. West Bromwich is well known for its football club, West Bromwich Albion a past giant of the game has in recent times struggled to recreate past glories. The fans of course are ever hopeful the good times will return soon.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is a great place to visit for art lovers, it is among the best small galleries you will find anywhere and boasts an outstanding collection of paintings old and new, sculptures and drawings.

Sutton Coldfield was formerly a Royal Borough and town between 1528 and 1974, when it was merged with the Birmingham Metropolitan District. Sutton Coldfield though has a different character and feel to the much larger Birmingham. The principle attraction is Sutton Park; the park is over 2,000 acres, the natural parkland, now a nature reserve, also has lakes, woodland, moorland, and a golf course and is a sought after spot for boating, fishing and cycling.

Wolverhampton is well known for its iron and brass foundries. It has a long history and was considered an important settlement before the industrial revolution. Wolverhampton has a selection of galleries and museums. Bantock House & Park looks at the area’s heritage and the Art Gallery houses a diverse collection including works by Gainsborough and Warhol.

The town of Walsall became known as 'town of 100 trades' due to the many different trades the local economy was involved with. The Walsall Leather Museum shows the historic aspect of the town’s heritage along with live demonstrations of craftsmen and women at work. The Art Gallery features the Garman-Ryan Art Collection.

To the north there is over 30,000 acres of natural parkland at Cannock Chase. Many people are attracted here each year, they come here to cycle, walk, picnic and enjoy the range of scenery on offer here from moor land to hills to forest. Walsall Museum is perhaps not the most famous or well known museum in the region but is just as interesting nonetheless.

Birmingham, the second largest city in the UK after London the city has been subject to a huge redevelopment and refurbishment programme in recent years. Birmingham has a good selection of museums, exhibition spaces and sports venues and galleries for visitors to enjoy.

Birmingham played a major role in the industrial revolution and prior to this period the Bull Ring, played host to open-air and covered markets and the Bull Ring has been at the centre of the city since. The Bullring Shopping Centre is now one of the largest and most comprehensive shopping complexes in Europe.

Birmingham Shopping offers a blend of arcades, malls, friendly markets and the Jewellery Quarter. There are plenty of places to shop, leading to refer it as the regional shopping capital and a retail haven.

Birmingham is well known for the Jewellery Quarter, there is a large community of jewellers having become established since the 18th century. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter looks at the fascinating history of the area and is worth a visit especially for jewellery enthusiasts.

Coventry is located 20 miles east of Birmingham, the city is the second largest in the West Midlands after Birmingham. Coventry is known for St Michael’s Cathedral (Coventry Cathedral), built after World War II when the previous cathedral was damaged, the cathedral is known for its 20th century architecture.

Visitor attractions include the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, the Coventry Transport Museum that includes over 200 British vehicles, cars, motorcycles and bicycles.

Stoke-on-Trent located in Staffordshire is made up of six separate towns, namely Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton, these are known as 'The Potteries'. The City includes the acclaimed Visitor Centres at Spode and Wedgwood, offering factory tours, craft demonstrations, museum collections and various shopping opportunities.

Other factories also offer factory tours and there are a number of ceramic museums located in the area. Stoke-on-Trent is the favoured destination for collectors of fine and collectible porcelain, there is also great scenic countryside in the area in addition to local attractions including theme park Alton Towers, one of the most popular attractions in the UK.

Hereford is the county town of Herefordshire, the cathedral city includes Hereford Cathedral, dating back to the 11th century, the Grade I listed building is noted for its architecture and the Mappa Mundi, medieval map of the world that dates back to the 13th century.

Other attractions include the 17th century Old House, Hereford; now a museum that details life in the city during the Jacobean era. The Hereford Museum and Art Gallery is noted for its impressive Victorian Gothic building that dates back to the 19th century, the museum includes a range of local artefacts and artworks.

Lichfield is a compact cathedral city located in Staffordshire. The city is well known for its historic cathedral and for being the birthplace of Samuel Johnson, the writer. The city centre retains its old world charm, with over 200 listed buildings and notable Georgian architecture, history and culture is well preserved here. The 12th century Lichfield Cathedral is famous for its three spires and gothic style architecture.

Other places of interest include the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum dedicated to the life and works of the author. The Lichfield Heritage Centre is located in St Mary’s Church; the museum showcases the heritage and history of Lichfield.

Beacon Park in the city centre is popular for recreational and sporting activities and its scenic place offers visitors a fine place to enjoy a walk in a scenic setting.

Stratford-upon-Avon is located in Warwickshire in the West Midlands and is synonymous with its association with William Shakespeare. The town is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and houses the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, one of the best known and culturally important venues in the UK.

The town attracts many visitors each year from around the world, there are a range of sites of interest for visitors including Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Hall’s Croft, Ann Hathaway’s Cottage and Nash’s House.

Worcester is located 30 miles south of Birmingham in the county of Worcestershire. The cathedral city is best known for its impressive cathedral, the River Severn runs through the centre of the scenic city. The city includes a number of parks including Cripplegate, Gheluvelt and Fort Royal parks.

Worcester is famous for its long association with porcelain production, the present day Royal Worcester company is still renowned for its offerings of porcelain.

Warwick is located in the county of Warwickshire, 30 miles south of Birmingham. The town is well known for Warwick Castle, one of the most popular and best recognised attractions in the UK. The town is also known for Warwick Racecourse and Warwick University.

The town includes the 12th century Collegiate Church of St Mary in the town centre, the church is known for its architecture and decoration. Saxon Mill is located close to the town, once a water powered mill, it is now a scenic riverside pub and restaurant.

The West Midlands region offers visitors with a variety of attractions, from the bustling city of Birmingham that plays a central role in much that goes on in the region to the smaller surrounding towns there are places of interest for tourists.

The rather unfortunate image of the region being a concrete maze is being turned around with refurbishment and redevelopment. Visitors are benefiting in the change in the landscape to a more pleasing eye catching one.

The location of the West Midlands is one of its advantages, it is fairly close to both visitors from the north and south of the UK and boasts excellent road, rail and air links, via Birmingham International Airport.

Whilst the region has in the past received a non complimentary assessment from various commentators, a closer look at this fast improving and developing region will reveal an area to visit that is much more appealing than you might have imagined.

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