Nestled in the countryside, Hitchin sits in one of north Hertfordshire’s most beautiful areas. On the London commuter belt, classy couples and young families love this location for its abundance of amenities, great schools and its close connections to nature.
With notable history dating back centuries, Hitchin remains best known as a market town. Once a pioneer of the wool trade thanks to conveniently placed trade routes, today the market square still holds time-honoured events and gatherings. Regular weekend markets also take place just off of Biggin Lane, meaning this is a popular tradition still withstanding today.
The perfect spot to begin a little history trail of the town centre, Riverside Walk takes you straight from the market towards St Mary’s Church. You’ll either walk down or past the stairs that adjoin St Mary’s car park, and when you do, remember to stop and turn. These stairs are not to be missed. Look close enough and you’ll see the semi-faded typography commemorating the site as that of the old slums.
Continue on to the church itself, dating from the 13th century and owing its grandeur to the wool merchants who poured so much of their money into it, which is one of the most impressive, and largest parish churches, in the county. The narrow footpaths around each side of the church are home to some of the oldest buildings in Hertfordshire; you’re never far away from a blue plaque trail here. A mixture of Tudor and Georgian architecture juxtaposes itself impressively alongside the more modern additions, timber framed buildings are hidden behind brick facades and cobbles join them all together. This place just oozes charm.
The most vibrant areas of the town centre can be found from Bucklersbury and Sun Street over towards Bancroft and Hermitage Road, encompassing the market square and the little side alleys around St Mary’s. There’s a healthy mixture of independent stores and high street chains, with plenty of hip and trendy hangouts in between – a town centre that is undeniably alive and thriving.
Following its market trading routes, retro emporiums are popular browsing destinations, the general artsy vibe often felt from bunting hanging overhead. Coffee shops seem to spring up wherever there is space to let; chain eateries neighbour independent establishments and you’re never far from a home accessories store, no matter which side of the town you wander around.
St Mary’s Church
WHERE TO SHOP
Hermitage Rd & Co, found adjacent to the popular café and restaurant of the same name, boasts an eclectic mixture of home furnishings, gifts and interior inspiration that are undeniably boho chic. With the café seating inside the shop itself, you’ll probably start with a cappuccino and leave with a candle. Oh well. It happens. Treat yourself.
Harvest Moon, Hitchin’s only remaining hippy shop and a rare find in the vicinity, is most definitely worth a visit. A large space filled with incense and dreamcatchers, it does wonders for instilling your sense of inner peace.
Mint Velvet might be on your radar for women’s fashion, but you won’t find it on the high street as frequently as you might like. One of only a handful of Hertfordshire based stores, consider travelling the distance for the immersive Mint Velvet experience. We all know stockists aren’t as much fun.
inside Hermitage Rd & Co
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
CHIA is one of Hertfordshire’s best-known vegan restaurants. Visit them in their new larger premises just opposite St Mary’s Church and indulge in delicious treats that might be considered ever-so-slightly less naughty. Beware that this is a popular spot and that you can also get food to go if you wish.
Sample craft beers on tap at the Beer Shop, the larger of two stores with its own tasting room and communal benches perfect for bigger groups.
I know it’s January but at the first sight of sun, you know what Brits are like…if you’re thinking ice cream, think Fabio’s. With fun and funky flavours, especially around events and holidays, there’s always something different to try. Take in the views from the top of Windmill Hill, gelato in hand. Perfect.
view from Windmill Hill
Grab your phone and stick a date in your diary: from June onwards Hitchin (well, Ickleford) is home to a sea of purple. Hitchin Lavender at Cadwell Farm draws visitors from far and wide and is a beautiful wedding and events venue. Evening movie screenings, sunflower fields and pumpkins are all other things to look out for. But you have a little while to wait.
The surrounding villages of St Ippolyts, Little Wymondley, Great Wymondley, Charlton and Graveley provide ample grounds for exploration to the south west of Hitchin. Short scenic walks and country pubs are plentiful and a nice break from the relative hustle and bustle of a busy town centre.
On the way to Letchworth Garden City, Willian is a great place to go for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon – you have extensive countryside, a couple of small lakes, an arboretum and a suitable watering hole for when you’re finished – The Fox at Willlian.
Whatever your needs, this part of the world has it covered. Wonderful day trip territory for those of us that like exploring our home county, and an even more wonderful spot for those of us lucky enough to live there, Hitchin remains high on the list of desirable Hertfordshire spots. It’s not hard to see why.