261km (162 miles) NW of London; 74km (46 miles) N of Birmingham; 95km (59 miles) NW of Leicester; 66km (41 miles) S of Manchester

Unless you have an abiding interest in pottery, you may want to skip commercial Stoke-on-Trent, one of author Arnold Bennett's famous Five Towns that he described so vividly. Kilns were busy here in the 14th century, long before Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95), England's most distinguished potter, arrived. Most of the great kilns have disappeared, but there is much that remains to interest visitors. The town and its architecture still reflect the dreary Victorian era, but few visitors take note as they hop from one pottery to another, seeking their favorite patterns.

Although it has been created in the area since 2000 B.C., it wasn't until the Romans rolled through in A.D. 46 that the first pottery kiln was set up at Trent Vale. Now it's Stoke-on-Trent, a loose confederation of six towns (Tunstall, Burslem, Stoke, Fenton, Longton, and Hanley, the most important town) covering an 11km (7-mile) area, that's the real center of the pottery trade. During the Industrial Revolution, the area known collectively as Stoke-on-Trent became the world's leading producer of pottery, and today it is a tourist attraction.