The British Isles are home to a huge array of heritage sites, many of which make “must visit” lists year after year. Although you may not initially think of centuries-old venues as the first place to take your family on a holiday, in fact, children and adults alike can learn a lot from these historic sites. Whether you and your kids are enthralled by the Royal Family, want to see haunting Stonehenge, or are fascinated by tales of the past, you’ll find plenty to explore in England.
Read on for five fascinating historic sites to add to your next British holiday itinerary.
One of the most iconic historical sites in the world, Stonehenge is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the past, legends, or spirituality. The famous stone circle, situated on Salisbury Plain in the south of the country, has a hazy past that archaeologists and historians are still trying to figure out.
It is believed though that Stonehenge was built in stages, starting around 3,000 B.C. and continuing up to 1,600 B.C. The stones within the monument were transported from up to 150 miles or more away, and the tallest of the upright stones reaches almost 22 feet high.
While access to this historic spot has become limited over the years due to fears of damage, it is possible to book a Stone Circle Access visit that takes place outside of normal opening times. These hour-long visits are late in the evening or first thing in the morning and must be pre-booked in advance. With 17 previously unknown structures recently being discovered in the fields and plains around the World Heritage-listed site, now there is even more to be enthralled by during a visit.
2. The Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most well-known destinations in London itself, and no trip to the city can be complete without a visit. This famous landmark and fortification has stood guard over the north bank of the River Thames for around 1,000 years, and has also served in a variety of other roles.
Apart from once being a royal residence for English kings, the venue has also been a treasury, the Royal Mint, an armoury, and a menagerie. However, what tends to draw tourists from around the world is the Tower’s past as a prison and place of execution. In addition, the site is also the home of the British Crown Jewels, a display that tends to be the highlight of any visit. The exhibition was redesigned and revamped to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and should be added to any travel itinerary within London.
3. Canterbury Cathedral
Located in Canterbury in Kent, the striking Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest Christian structures in England and yet is still a working church and important site of worship with morning and evening prayers conducted daily.
The Cathedral has seen prayers offered each day for more than 1,400 years, and was originally founded back in 597 by Saint Augustine on behalf of Pope Gregory the Great. Apart from being a place of worship, the site boasts a library with more than 30,000 books and pamphlets that were printed before 1900. Canterbury Cathedral is also home to a magnificent array of stained-glass windows throughout the building that have survived from as early as the 12th century.
4. The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths form part of England’s Bath World Heritage Site, and gave this part of the world its name. The popular tourist destination receives over one million visitors every year, and is built on hot springs that were originally discovered by the Celts.
The site features the Roman Bath House, a Roman Temple (the oldest structure in the Baths, built in 60-70 A.D.), a museum, and the Sacred Spring. While it’s no longer possible to bathe in the original Roman Baths, the sight of this historic place lit up by torches at night during the summer months is one not easily forgotten.
5. Blenheim Palace
One of England’s biggest houses, Blenheim Palace sits amid a sprawling 2,100-acre estate in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The Palace was constructed in the early 18th century in the not-often seen English Baroque style. The estate was a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough that claimed victory in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
The site went on to become the ancestral home of the Churchill family for more than 300 years, and was the birthplace of a former prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill. Today the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and a beautiful spot where visitors can wander the home and its surrounding lakes and landscaped gardens.