However long you spend in England, you’ll never figure out its inhabitants. The famous English reserve, sarcasm and sense of humour, the belief that a cup of tea is a universal panacea, the all-consuming obsession with weather – all form a nigh-on impenetrable barrier to the English soul. So we’ve come up with a list of unique places and experiences that might help lift the lid on the national character. At the end, you may be no closer to knowing what the English are really like – but you’ll have seen another side to the country than just Big Ben and Beefeaters.

A day at the seaside Blackpool. The quintessential coastal trip is to England’s loudest, brashest and best resort, where the sun never sets on the rollercoasters, karaoke bars and candy-floss kiosks. Fake breasts and party wig optional.

A nice snack Melton Mowbray. France gives protected status to its champagne, Italy to its succulent ham from Parma, and England? Step forward the humble but heroic pork pie.

The Olimpick Games Chipping Campden. Never mind London 2012, what you really need from a world-class sports meet is rustic wrestling, shin-kicking contests and dancing around in Tudor dress.

Cerne Abbas Giant Dorchester. Flummoxed by the English love of Carry On films and tabloid double-entendres? A visit to see a large naked man carved into a Dorset hillside is in order.

On the pier Southwold. Arcade games on the traditional seaside pier get a makeover in Southwold’s brilliantly inventive Under the Pier Show of handmade slots and simulators.

Full steam ahead Haworth. Time was, every right-thinking English boy a) had a thing for Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children and b) wanted to work on a steam railway. Here’s where they get to indulge both passions.

Snowshill Manor The Cotswolds. Eyes glazing over at the fancy plates and Old Masters at stately home Number 32? Charles Paget Wade collected the stuff we really want to see, from beetles to boneshaker bikes.

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