England has a long and fascinating history, a history it wears on its sleeve. In fact it is this unrivalled range of architectural delights and iconic heritage that has acted as a huge draw to tourists over the years. Approximately 9 million visits to England a year involve a historic castle or house – so, how do you pick where to go? Well, that’s where I come in. Below you will find my top 10 historic landmarks in the UK.
Stonehenge is notoriously ambiguous in its history; there is no-one that has a definitive answer as to how those stones were moved to create that formation, nor what their purpose was. This prehistoric Wiltshire monument is shrouded in mystery, and that is undoubtedly part of its appeal. The speculation and research around the monument has produced some interesting theories, one of such is that such a monument required over thirty million hours of labour – as for its purpose, well…it ranges from human sacrifice to astronomy. To this day we are no closer to understanding the truth. There is another prehistoric earthwork available in the proximate area, in the form of Avebury, it is 25 miles north of Stonehenge and completely free to visit!
2. Roman Baths
This is one of the largest tourist attractions in the south west of England, and it is no surprise. Trust me, if you have kids and want them to show an interest in history – I cannot think of a more efficient way to do it. One of the most exciting aspects of this landmark is the genuinely intriguing costumed characters that accompany you on the tours, and can be found in and around the site. Conveniently, most of the events take place in the midst of the summer holidays. This is one of the more family friendly locations on the list. These are some of the most well maintained Roman Baths I have had the opportunity to see, so it’s ideal for those who desire a glimmer of what they were actually like.
3. Houses of Parliament
This location has witnessed some of the meetings that have shaped the UK’s very way of life, it is one of the most integral buildings in the history of the UK – it is also open to all visitors, whether UK citizens or from overseas. People are even welcome to attend debates and watch committees should they so please. Those wishing to learn more about what happens behind the scenes can also attend the ‘Question Time’ session in which the prime minister answers questions from the House of Commons. It is best to book these tickets long in advance if you wish to attend.
4. Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral has been cited as the longest Cathedral in Europe, with a history spanning back as far as 642. So, if the date hasn’t suggested so already, it has a rich and interesting past just waiting to be explored. The vicinity is well equipped to do so as well, with frequent tours taking place from Monday to Saturday, alongside a bevy of events occurring throughout the year – you would be hard pushed not to find something you enjoy. You can witness the resting place of Jane Eyre, admire the Winchester Bible and even climb the tower for picturesque views. The majesty of this cathedral is maintained solely by the funds earned from the Winchester Cathedral Shop, so by all means peruse their religious gifts and help them sustain the cathedral for future generations.
5. Tower of London
This complex has changed many times since it was founded in 1066; built by William the Conqueror, expanded by Richard the Lionheart, Henry III and Edward I. It has served as a royal residence, a prison and an armoury – and now it acts as an outstanding example of British architecture. Don’t let the old rumours of torture and death put you off, you can do many things here, such as observe the crown jewels and go on educational tours that cover everything from battles to the swords and armour.
6. Windsor Castle
Another wonder of the architecture world based on royalty, it is still host to over 500 people who live and work on the grounds. It was originally intended to means to oversee a strategically important aspect of the river Thames. It is the official residence of the Queen and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK. There are many things to witness here, you can watch the ‘changing of the guard ceremony for free, and even peruse galleries of art created by generations of royalty.
7. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is the oldest building in Edinburgh, and one with a very colourful past stemming from its use as a military base. It is a fortress that sits atop the volcanic castle rock – and as a result is very hard to miss. It has won the top heritage attraction award for the previous two years and has been nominated again this year. You are provided with a lot of freedom to explore castle grounds, those who are lovers of music can also plan ahead to visit when a concert is playing, a frequent occurrence that happens all year round.
8. HMS Belfast
This entry is a little different, you get the opportunity to get aboard the warship and learn about what life was like on board during the Second World War. Here you can explore all 9 decks, and really get in the mind-set of those who once lived there. They have aboard, a Gun Turret Experience, placing you in the midst of the war with authentic vibrations, lights, sounds and smells – it really is unrivalled in its detail. This ship is situated in London on the Thames path, for those who wish to give it a visit.
9. Royal Armouries (Leeds)
This royal armoury is another completely free attraction, consisting of 5 core displays: War, Tournament, Oriental, Self Defence and Hunting. They have many events taking place here, from falconry and horse riding to authentic lord of the rings weapons and war exhibitions. Anyone with a specific interest in weaponry and armour should take steps to visit; the staff are more than willing to share their knowledge and are just as interested in listening to the knowledge of others.
10. Norwich Market
This marketplace has been around for longer than the majority of the buildings that surround it, from the Saxon times to be exact. It has over 190 stalls and operates from Monday to Friday. Not only is it host to a selection of unique and exclusive products, but it is located down the hill from the equally interesting Norwich castle, built over 900 years ago – you will find that this is also packed with trinkets and doo-dads that will excite the young and old alike.