Northampton Car Hire
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An expansive market town in the East Midlands of England, Northampton has a population of 223,000 and is 80km south-east of Birmingham and 97km north-west of London. One of England’s biggest towns, it sits on the River Nene and the history of human settlement here stretches back to the Bronze Age, but it was later settled by the Romans and Anglo Saxons and played a prominent role in the English Civil War. Today Northampton is a busy commuter town with a vast range of attractions for visitors, including stately homes and lush gardens, scenic parks, fascinating museums, famous theatres and various eclectic entertainment venues. Northamptonshire is also a great place for families to visit, with exciting attractions like motor racing at Santa Pod, Rockingham and Silverstone, the Billing Aquadrome caravan park, and various animal parks and wildlife attractions. Throw in super shopping, cafes and restaurants and you’ve got a seriously terrific town with plenty to satisfy every taste. With so many dynamic distractions, Northampton is ideal for exploring by car and there are lots of great deals on offer from Enjoy Travel. For instance, a mini-sized car like a Fiat 500 costs just £22.51 (€25.07) per day in Northampton if you book ahead of time and a compact car like a Vauxhall Corsa costs £23.53 (€26.09) a day. Meanwhile, a spacious Skoda Octavia costs £31.21 (€34.60) per day and a Ford Focus Wagon ̶ ideal for throwing large luggage or golf clubs in the back ̶ is £39.20 (€43.45) per day. Hire a car from Enjoy Travel and get ready for a brilliant break in Northampton.
Guide to Northampton
With a host of amazing ancient buildings, a prime role in one of the most tumultuous times in English history, a lively contemporary arts scene, multi-cultural cuisine and a host of sports attractions, Northampton is a well-rounded town with plenty of character.
Northampton proper started life as the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Hamm Tun, which means ‘village by the well-watered meadow’. Later it became known as North Hamm Tun, possibly to distinguish it from Southampton. By the 9th Century AD the village had expanded and developed as a trading town where various crafts flourished and a market was held. Despite being captured and razed by the Danes in 1010AD, it recovered reasonably quickly and in the Domesday book of 1086 a population of 2000 is recorded, which isn’t insignificant for that time and was comparable with Leicester. The first Earl of Northampton, Simon de Senlis, built Northampton Castle around 1084AD and over the next couple of centuries it was a royal residence for several monarchs including King Henry I, King Richard II and King John, with 32 parliaments also held there. Northampton’s strategic position in the middle of England made it an ideal meeting place for various state occasions in Medieval times and the castle also featured in the trial of Thomas Beckett, and the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328 between Scotland and England, which brought the First Scottish War of Independence to an end. Markets and fairs flourished in this era, as evidenced by modern street names such as Sheep Street, Gold Street and Horse Market, and the town’s prosperity increased accordingly. In 1349 the Black Devastated the town with the loss of half of its population and at 1460 in the Second Battle of Northampton during the War of the Roses, King Henry VI was imprisoned as the Yorkists beat the Lancastrians. When the English Civil War started in 1642, Northampton became a major military garrison for Parliamentarian forces under the command of Oliver Cromwell and during the war the town produced thousands of pairs of leather shoes and boots for Parliamentarian forces, including the famous New Model Army. Shoemaking remained a major industry here for the next few centuries, although Northampton paid a price for its role in the war once the monarchy was restored, with King Charles II having the town walls destroyed and the castle partially demolished in 1660.
Phoenix from the flames
The Great Fire of Northampton in 1645 in destroyed much of the town’s infrastructure, but it rose from the flames again and fast-forwarding to the 19th Century various improvements had been made. These included gas lighting in 1823, a public library in 1877, the railway reaching the town in 1845, sewerage systems and piped water installed and the Guildhall and Royal Theatre opening in 1864 and 1884 respectively. Traditional industries like shoemaking declined in the first half of the 20th Century but the town benefitted from investment in the post-war years thanks to the council house building programme the construction of shopping centres in the 1970s and new industries like cosmetics, brewing and financial services. Today it’s a thriving commuter town and its status was enhanced further with the opening of the University of Northampton in 2005.
Arts & culture
The Royal & Derngate theatre is probably the jewel in the crown of Northampton’s arts and entertainment venues and it usually hosts an eclectic events calendar with dance, drama, stand-up comedy, classical music, kids entertainment and even opera. You’ll find the Royal & Derngate in the Northampton Cultural Quarter and there’s lots to see here, including 79 Derngate, which is an exquisite property designed by Scottish master architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, The renowned Royal Theatre which is one of the best repertory theatres in England and once featured Hollywood luminary Errol Flynn who (allegedly) ordered many pairs of shoes from the town’s craftsmen, only to hot step it home without paying his bill! However, the great and good of Northampton seem to have forgiven the late, great, actor, since the Errol Flynn filmhouse was opened in 2013 in the Royal & Derngate complex. You’ll also find the Museum and Art Gallery here, as well as the awesome Abingdon Park Museum, which is a gorgeous 15th Century Grade I listed pile in the verdant grounds of Abington Park. If you’re a history buff you’ll love the exhibitions of local military history, social history and Egyptology here.
What to do in Northampton?
From the stately seats of world-famous families to serene natural attractions and brilliant distractions for beverage connoisseurs, there’s plenty to see and do in and around Northampton.
Althorp House is only 6 miles north-west of Northampton along the A428 and if you’re interested in royalty and stunning stately homes, this is a must-see. The stately home to the Spencer family since 1508, this is the ancestral seat (and final resting place) of the late Diana, Princess of Wales and the splendid 90-room mansion hosts one of the finest collections of furniture, ceramics and paintings in the whole of Europe ̶ there are several pieces by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Lely, Reynolds and Rubens here. Although Princess Diana’s stellar quality eclipses that of the rest of the Spencers, this is an illustrious family nevertheless and her family tree features other fascinating women like Georgiana Poyntz, wife of the first Early Spencer, whose extravagant social circle included the actor David Garrick, Charles James Fox and Sir William Hamilton, and impressive men such as Edward John, Eighth Earl Spencer and father of Princess Diana, who landed in Normandy during D-Day and was mentioned in dispatches. There are 550 acres of gorgeous grounds on the estate where you can wander around, have a picnic and perhaps even spot some of the resident black fallow deer!
If you’re a fan of much more modern (but equally magnificent) architecture, then you’ll love 78 Derngate in Northampton proper. This is the only house in England designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and it contains all the stylish and striking design flourishes you expect from that Caledonian trailblazer, right down to the detailing on the doorknobs! Designed and remodelled by Mackintosh in 1916 for his patron, Northampton model engineer W.J. Bassett-Lowe, it was his final major commission and has now been carefully restored to its former glory. Once you’ve built up a hunger wandering around the stunning property you can treat yourself to a tasty afternoon tea at The Dining Room onsite restaurant.
If beer is your favourite tipple, a terrific brewery tour at Phipps will be right up your street. You’ll need a designated driver for this one because the fascinating trip through Northampton brewing history involves sampling several ancient and modern ales while you wander through the tunnels and cellars beneath the iconic Albion Brewery building and see the Kings Well, where the wonderful water that distinguishes local beer is drawn. If you still need to slake your thirst after the tour, pop into the Albion Bar, where you can have a game of skittles as you sample bestselling brews like Midsummer Meadow, Phipps IPA and Phipps NBC Black Star.
Eating out in Northampton
With everything from traditional fresh English fare to Mediterranean delicacies and US-style diners, eating out in Northampton stimulates all the senses!
Highly-rated on Tripadvisor, La Pazienza restaurant on Wellingborough Road has the tastiest Sicilian treats this side of Palermo. This cosy restaurant is ideal for a romantic dinner or family feast and the service is as superb as the food. For starters, try the scallops cooked in white wine, cream and lemon sauce or the sharing platter with salami, prosciutto, melon and ciabatta breads, while the pick of the main courses is probably the penne con salsiccia affumicata e funghi ̶ a signature dish of penne pasta with Italian pork sausage, mushrooms, pepper, onions and garlic in a rich tomato sauce. Top off your meal with a traditional tiramisu and wash it all down with one of the fine wines available. Starters are £8-£10 and mains £12-£22, which isn’t bad considering the quality.
Fancy some Great British pub grub served with a smile in sumptuous surroundings? Head straight to The Royal Oak in Cogenhoe. A vibrant veggie platter is a great way to start your meal here ̶ you’ll tuck into tempura frickles (deep-fried pickles) and vegetables, mushroom arancini and a tasty tomato sauce. There are many marvellous mains here, but we can’t see past the steak & Royal Oak blue cheese pie with perfect shortcrust pastry and new potatoes. To round off your meal there’s an awesome artisan cheeseboard, but the poached pear in chianti on pear jam apple tarte tatin with almonds and clotted cream is divine. Starters here are £6-£10 and mains are £12-£24.
Blockbuster burgers, super steaks and a buzzing atmosphere are standard at Firejacks on Walter Tull Way, so if these sound like the ideal ingredients for a great night out, you’ll be in your element here. There are lots of diverse starters to tempt you, including halloumi sticks, chilli tossed calamari and buffalo sauce wings. Meanwhile, the star of the steak show has to be the 18oz T-bone steak cooked to your taste ̶ try it with the pink peppercorn sauce. Finally, spoil yourself with the salted caramel pecan pie dessert. Starters at Firejacks are £3-£5 and mains are £10-£25.
Transport in Northampton
The nearest airports to Northampton are Luton(LTN), Birmingham (BHX), and East Midlands (EMA) which are 55km, 63km and 71km away respectively. Enjoy Travel works with reputable car hire providers like Green Motion, Easirent, Europcar, Keddy and Alamo at these locations, so you can always pre-book a brilliant deal online.
Buses and trains
Northampton and Northamptonshire are covered by a network of almost 200 bus routes, therefore coverage is fairly comprehensive. Operators include Britannia Bus, National Express, Stagecoach and Midland.
Meanwhile, Northampton railway station in on the West Coast Main line, the main provider is West Midlands Trains and there are regular services to Birmingham New Street, London Euston and Crewe.
Always drive on the left-hand side of the road in Northampton and observe the following speed limits: 70 mph (120 km/h) for motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) for non-motorway main roads and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) when you’re in town centres or other built-up areas.
Seatbelts must be worn by the driver and all passengers, mobile phone use isn’t allowed unless it’s hands-free and drink driving is illegal.
There’s lots to see when you hit the road in Northampton and the surrounding area ̶ here are a couple of convenient road trips:
Stanwick Lakes is around half an hour’s drive north-west of Northampton along the A45 road and it’s the perfect place for a relaxed day trip. This 750-acre nature reserve is nestled in the heart of the Nene Valley and it’s packed with adventure playgrounds, woodland walks, a visitor centre with a shop and café, and wildlife like swans, bullfinches and barn owls, bats, foxes and Muntjac deer and a brilliant beekeeping area.
Leicester is around 38 miles northwards from Northampton along the M1 motorway and if traffic permits you can be there in under an hour. There’s lots to keep you occupied here, including the King Richard III Visitor Centre, Curve Theatre, Leicester Cathedral, Leicester City FC and some of Britain’s best Indian restaurants!
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