There’s plenty to learn and discover for 20th Century history fans at Letchworth Garden City.
Unlike most other towns in the area, Letchworth (or Letchworth Garden City as it was previously known) is a settlement that did not develop naturally. A town that was essentially built from the ground up between 1903 and 1907, it’s one of the first examples of a completely purpose-built and planned town, as opposed to the older, organically formed settlements that surround it.
Social reformer Ebenezer Howard was the man behind the plan; he believed that a truly modern city should embrace aspects of both the rural and the urban – the purchase of 16 square kilometres of land just outside the market town of Hitchin was his chance at proving his theory right. Architects were hired and soon the town was under construction, with the strict instruction to avoid felling trees at any cost. By the time construction had been completed, only one tree had been felled and the UK’s first ‘Green Belt’ had been preserved for agriculture – a large stretch of land which would help feed the growing population of the new town.
The abundance of green space, unusually quiet evenings and proximity to surrounding rural areas makes Letchworth an ideal destination for walkers and tourists alike.
Where to Walk
Whilst there are many great trails and footpaths in the surrounding areas of Letchworth, the best routes to follow are the ones that have been there for almost as long as the town. The Garden City Greenway is far and away the most popular path for visitors. Stretching around the perimeter of the town it runs for 13.6 miles with plenty of opportunities for sight-seeing and picnic breaks. You can find more information about the paths and trails through Letchworth right here.
Where to Stay
There are only a handful of hotels to choose from in Letchworth, but thankfully the standard is high across the board, so you can almost guarantee a good night’s sleep after your long day of exploring the town.
The Broadway Hotel offers a good standard of customer service with good sized rooms for all kinds of clientele, whilst the Mercure Letchworth Hall is priced similarly and is set within the grounds of a converted 17th Century manor house.
If you’d rather keep away from the larger establishments, then there’s a supporting network of Airbnb hosts with reasonable prices and well-placed locations.
Where to Eat
Being of a moderate size now with a good-sized population, you’ll be able to find a restaurant representing most popular World cuisines, however the best-rated establishments are the clutch of small, understated cafes that dot the town centre. At the top of the list is David’s Bookshop Cafe, a recently opened establishment which pretty much does what it says on the tin.
There’s a great selection of cakes and sandwiches, plus there’s always a large stock of reading materials for bargain hunters. You could easily miss The Potting Shed as it’s hidden away in the grounds of Thornes Garden Nursery, it’s only small but serves well-presented cafe fair in a relaxed, un-stuffy environment.
What to Do
Letchworth has always sported a thriving sporting community, thanks to the large amounts of green spaces that were incorporated into the construction of the town. Whilst you’re in Letchworth you can get in on the action, either bring your own gear or buy some whilst you’re there.
Whilst there aren’t any wholesale sporting stores to shop at, there are a handful of shops that can help you get running, cycling or swimming. Trisports can fit you out with some quality sports gear, sometimes at good discounts, whilst Just Racket caters specifically to tennis, squash and badminton players.