One need hardly say that the English wayside inn is as much a feature of the English countryside as the English hawthorn. Its praises have been the theme of essayists and poets for generations, and at its best there is a cosiness and cheer about it which warm the heart, as its quaintness and savour of past days keep alive the sense of romantic travel. There the spirit of ancient hospitality still survives, and, though the motor-car has replaced the stage-coach, that is, after all, but a detail, and the old, low-ceilinged rooms, the bay windows with their leaded panes, the tap-room with its shining vessels, the great kitchen, the solid English fare, the brass candlesticks at bedtime, and the lavendered sheets, still preserve the atmosphere of a novel by Fielding or an essay by Addison.
There still, as in Shakespeare’s day, one can take one’s ease at one’s inn, as perhaps in the hostelries of no other land. It is the frequency and excellence of these English inns that make it charmingly possible to see England, as it is best seen, on foot or on a bicycle. It is not a country of isolated wonders, with long stretches of mere road between. Every mile counts for something. But, if the luxury of walking it with stick and knapsack is denied us, and we must needs see it by motor-car, we cannot fail to make one observation, that of the surprising variety of natural scenery packed in so small a space. Between Land’s End and the Tweed the eye and the imagination have encountered every form of the picturesque. In an area some three hundred and fifty miles long by three hundred broad are contained the ruggedness of Cornwall, the idyllic softness of Devon, the dreamy solitudes of the South Downs, with their billowy, chalky contours, the agricultural fertility of Kent and Middlesex, the romantic woodlands and hilly pastures of Surrey, the melancholy fens of Lincolnshire, the broad, bosky levels of the midlands, the sudden wildness of Wales, with her mountains and glens, Yorkshire, with its grim, heather-clad moors, Westmoreland, with its fells and Wordsworthian “Lakes”; every note in the gamut of natural beauty has been struck, from honeysuckle prettiness to savage grandeur.