Although it is a relatively small county, Northamptonshire has a lot to offer but, as it is crossed by some of the country’s major routes, it is also one that is often bypassed. The county town, Northampton, along with other local towns, is famed for its shoe industry although Northamptonshire remains, essentially, a farming county littered with ancient market towns and rural villages. However, it is its long history that is most interesting – the decisive battle of Naseby was fought on its soil and it was at the now ruined Fotheringay Castle that Mary Queen of Scots was executed.
Northamptonshire is shaped like a laurel leaf, with the River Nene a distinctive feature. Wherever one journeys across the county one is never far from its banks and the reflection of the trees in high summer on its shimmering waters can be quite breath taking. The alluvial soils and gravel terraces of the Nene Valley have been continuously farmed since Neolithic times and there are remains of many Anglo-Saxon settlements.
A county of great landowners, Northamptonshire also has many royal connections. The original Rockingham Castle was built by William the Conqueror; Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded there; Charles I spent several months in captivity at Holdenby Hall, at that time the largest house in England; and in more recent times, Althorp entered the national consciousness as the childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, and as her final resting place.
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