Tucked away behind Stevenage and Letchworth, Hitchin boasts some of Hertfordshire's hidden gems.

A large market town, Hitchin's history spans more than a dozen centuries, dating back to the 600s.

The town is a gateway to the Chiltern Hills, one of England's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and its award-winning restaurants and bars serve dishes and drinks which showcase the region's quality produce.

Hitchin is around 10 minutes by car from Stevenage, 20 minutes by car from Luton, or 50 minutes on Thameslink or Great Northern trains from London's King's Cross and St Pancras stations.

1. Find fields of lavender

This Instagram-worthy attraction features more than 30 acres of lavender - alongside wildflowers and a lavender museum to get a flavour for how important lavender has been in medicine and ecology for centuries.

More than 60 varieties of lavender bloom between May and August every year.

A 17th-century barn features food and cakes, and activities for children.

For grown-ups, the Hitchin Lavender website features a range of gifts and produce from the farm.

Find out more online: https://www.hitchinlavender.com/

2. Shopping spree at Hitchin Market

Hitchin's outdoor market features more than 150 stalls on four days each week (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

Shoppers also flock to Hitchin for special markets throughout the year.

Regular stallholders include street food chefs, fruit and veg vendors, jewellers and booksellers.

"Hitchin Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the region set by the river at the heart of our beautiful town," its website reads.

Find out more online: https://www.hitchinmarkets.co.uk/

3. Dip at the Hitchin Outdoor Pool

Every summer, the pool cover comes off and thousands of visitors take a dip in Hitchin's lido.

Off Fishponds Road in the north of the town, the complex features a heated 50m swimming pool for fitness and family sessions, a sunbathing deck and a smaller pool and play area for little ones.

The pool has been a favourite among Hitchin locals ever since it opened in 1938 - 84 years ago!

An all-year-round indoor pool and gym is in the Hitchin Swimming Centre next door.

Find out more online: https://www.sll.co.uk/hitchin-swimming-centre/

4. Stop for brunch

Hitchin has no shortage of brunch spots.

For a morning or early-afternoon meal, try Joey's Brunch - with both indoor and outdoor dining in the summer months.

This Insta-perfect coffee and food spot is in High Street, near the Market Place.

Brunch-time neighbours include Granello Lounge and Pitcher and Piano.

Find out more about Joey's Brunch on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joeysbrunch/

5. Go back to class at the British Schools Museum

The top-rated attraction in Hitchin on Tripadvisor, step back in time and explore a series of old classrooms and workshops from schooldays past.

The British Schools Museum features temporary exhibitions, as well as a collection featuring everything from the abacus, to textbooks, to the cane.

Look into the life of Joseph Lancaster, who inspired an "educational revolution" in Great Britain and around the world in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The British Schools Museum also runs special events for visitors of all ages.

Find out more online: https://britishschoolsmuseum.org.uk/

6. Discover a piece of North Herts history...

...at the North Hertfordshire Museum.

According to the museum itself: "North Hertfordshire Museum aims to increase the understanding and enjoyment of the culture, heritage and environment of North Hertfordshire, using the museum collections to tell the stories of the people who have lived and worked here."

The collection featuring archaeology, wool, costumes and the Hertfordshire Yeomanry is in Hitchin town centre, in Brand Street.

Find out more online: https://northhertsmuseum.org/

7. Dine out at an award-winning pub

Previously featured in The Good Food Guide, a 2020 The Publican Awards winner and listed in Harden's restaurant guide, Hermitage Road Bar and Restaurant uses East of England suppliers to curate a locally sourced menu.

Hermitage Road features a selection of plant-based and seafood signature dishes, as well as a steak and burger menu. The Sunday menu features a selection of roast meats and plant-based options.

A Harden's reviewer praised the restaurant's daytime offering: "The best brews, home bakes and bagels."

Other award-winning eateries in Hitchin include Kite at The Red Hart - which Muddy Stilettos reviewers say serves up one of the best roast dinners in Britain - Los Reyes Tapas Restaurant, or Marie Claire UK best sustainable restaurant 2022 winner Lussmanns.

Find out more about Hermitage Road online: https://www.hermitagerd.co.uk/

8. Then try an award-winning bar

"We don’t do complicated wine lists that make you break into a sweat. We believe in making wine simple and helping you choose with confidence," The Wee Vinoteca's website reads.

This cosy bar in The Arcade was voted the best bar in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in the 2022 Muddy Stilettos awards.

The Wee Vinoteca also boasts a cheese, charcuterie and bar snacks menu to accompany an evening's glass (or bottle) of wine.

Other top-rated bars in Hitchin include The Speakeasy Club in Sun Street (4.5 starts on Facebook) and Tripadvisor four star-rated Cinnabar Hitchin, High Street.

Find out more about The Wee Vinoteca: https://weevinoteca.com/

9. Return for a special event

Hitchin BID and Hitchin Initiative run an online calendar which features a series of festivals, events and street celebrations (https://www.hitchinherts.com/events) - from the FoodFest, to beer and cider, to the Hitchin Festival each July, to Hallowe'en and Christmas activities for all ages.