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Things to do in Stafford, Staffordshire

You can experience England's heritage at its richest in Stafford and the surrounding area. Whether you want to relive adventure in a medieval castle, experience life below stairs at a Victorian mansion or marvel at the splendour of an Elizabethan town house, this ancient borough reveals history at its most colourful.

Stafford has heritage at every turn. Today, you can explore the remains of Stafford Castle built by Robert of Stafford in the 11th century, while the visitor centre - built in the style of a Norman guardhouse - features an audio-visual area that brings its turbulent past to life.

The magnificent Ancient High House, was built in 1595, this splendid building is one of the finest Tudor buildings in the country and England's largest timber-framed town house. Take a fascinating trip through the changing fortunes of the property via superb period room settings. Journey from Elizabethan days, through the civil War era when King Charles I stayed here, to Victorian times. A museum to Staffordshire's yeomanry Regiment occupies the top floor.

In the heart of town the churches of St. Chad and St. Mary feature glorious medieval architecture, dating back to Norman times. The town's Shire Hall Gallery hosts a wide variety of exhibitions throughout the year, while Stafford's Victorian gatehouse offers an imaginative programme of theatre and the arts. In high summer, Stafford Festival features an array of events, including open-air Shakespeare performed against Stafford Castle's stunning backdrop.

For shoppers, the town offers a tempting blend of specialist shops and high street names, while its pedestrianised areas and winding side streets are perfect for leisurely browsing. Shop in the airy Piazza-style Square, adjacent to the Shire Hall Gallery. Step off the main retail area, and find yourself in a peaceful haven like St. Mary's Mews - an award-winning complex overlooking the church of St Mary.

From its Edwardian Park in the heart of town, to the landscaped grounds of its stately homes, Stafford has a myriad of delights for the garden and outdoor enthusiast. Opened in 1908, Victoria Park has the River Sow flowing through its heart and caters for leisure pursuits including bowls and music concerts.

A visit to the Shugborough Estate, the magnificent 900 acre ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield, provides a day of nostalgia and pleasure. Set on the edge of Cannock Chase, the Mansion House was built in 1693 and improved throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This superb stately home also houses an exhibition of the work of the present Earl, the leading professional photographer Patrick Lichfield. By contrast the Servants Quarters and Museum of Staffordshire Life, portray the very different scene that took place 'below stairs' in Victorian and Edwardian times.

Another jewel in Stafford's crown is Sandon Hall. This elegant neo-Jacobean house is the ancestral home of the Earl of Harrowby and can be visited by prior booking. Surrounded by 400 acres of splendid parkland, a stunning landscaped garden and arboretum.

Throughout Staffordshire you'll discover a rich seam of industrial heritage - perhaps nowhere more fertile than in the world famous Potteries . The award-winning Wedgwood visitor centre reveals the story behind one of the most legendary names in fine pottery. Situated in a country estate midway between Stafford and Stoke, it offers the chance to watch potters creating modern day ceramics - or even try your hand yourself.

The heritage of the Potteries is further brought to life at Mill Meece. This grand old pumping station features an impressive horizontal steam engine, originally built to supply water to the region during the Great War.

At RAF Cosford near Shifnal, visitors can celebrate man's 20th century achievements at the Aerospace Museum located on an active airfield site.

Perhaps nothing sums up the character of Stafford better than its towns and villages - relaxed yet vibrant; picturesque but with every modern facility.

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