The United Kingdom is well-known across the globe for its beautiful historic attractions. You don’t have to be a history buff to get a kick out of the incredible ancient ruins and old buildings dotted around the country, and that’s why we’re going to be looking at the 20 most incredible historic sites that every visitor to the UK should see.
Even if you live in the UK and you’re not visiting, if you haven’t had a chance to go and check these places out for yourself yet, then you should consider a historical staycation to help you learn a little more about thee place that you call home.
1. Broughton Castle, Bunbury
This incredible moated castle is set within north Oxfordshire parkland. It makes up the site of various civil war battles and sieges, and was also the setting for the film “Shakespeare in Love”. Broughton castle is currently occupied by a renowned family, and lowers the drawbridge on select days throughout the year from Easter onwards. July and June come with plenty of events, including racing on the moat, and Shakespeare productions in the parkland.
2. Warwick Castle
Originally a bailey and wooden motte, Warwick castle was constructed during 1068, under instruction from William the Conqueror, around two years after he finished invading England. It was home to various earls of Warwick until it was purchased in 1978 by the Tussaud Group. Today, the average visitor can explore the castle dungeon, check out the incredible Warwick Trebuchet, and explore the living quarters of the Countess of Warwick too.
3. Tre’r Ceiri, Caernarfon
The site of Tre’r Ceiri in Caernarfon is an incredible sprawling settlement at the peak of Yr Eifl, with significant stone ramparts, and one of the most impressive iron-age forts in the whole of Britain. While you visit, you’ll have the opportunity to explore around 150 different iron age huts, making this site an ideal location for those who enjoy exploring the culture and history of the years that came before them. There’s a non-too-strenuous hill walk available along relatively easy terrain, through hills that are fully covered in heather. The summit also offers views of Snowdonia to the north, and the Irish sea to the west.
4. Giant’s Causeway
The result of an enormous volcanic eruption that took place around 60 million years ago, the Giant’s Causeway is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Ireland. This attraction is made up of 40,000 world-famous basalt columns, which have attracted visitors from around the world for centuries. Steeped in both legend and myth, some believe that the causeway was carved by a giant, who left behind a home full of ancient folklore.
5. Tower of London
The disappearance of the princes in 1483, the beheading of Anne Boleyn, and the torture of Guy Fawkes all took place at the Tower of London. Steeped in over 900 years of history, the Tower represents one of Britain’s most beloved historic attractions. In fact, about 2 million visitors check it out every year. Don’t miss your chance to experience the wall walk, where you can explore the huge defensive inner wall that’s protected the tower for centuries. The North Wall Walk opened to visitors for the first time not too long ago.
6. Highgate Cemetery, London
This rugged and atmospheric graveyard in Northern London is brimming with architectural gems. It paints an incredible portrait of Victorian times, particularly if you take the tour of the west cemetery, which you will need to book in advance. During the tour, you’ll learn interesting stories about the deaths and lives of the people buried there. Mysterious paths wind throughout the woodland, among jumbled headstones and ivy-clad angels.
One of the famous wonders of the world, and the best-known prehistoric monument in all of Europe, Stonehenge is the perfect place for any person to visit on a bank holiday or a long weekend. It began as nothing more than a simple earthquake enclosure, and was built in a range of stages, with the unique stone circle erected somewhere around 2500 BC. Make sure you visit the visitors center, where you can see an exhibition of prehistoric objects, as well as the reconstructed face of a Neolithic man.
8. Roman Baths and Pump Room
Established somewhere around AD 43, the Roman baths are some of the most popular attractions in the south west. Even if you’re not one for the “spa” experience, you’re sure to find something interesting within this incredible trip in Bath. There are plenty of beautiful places to explore, and technical wizardry ensures that you can see the ruins as they once were, simply projected onto the ruins in front of you.
9. Noltland Castle, Orkney Islands
The Orkneys are a huge historical site, and a treasure trove that span the centuries from stone age into the second world war. You’ll be able to visit atmospheric tombs, stone circles, stunning little fishing villages, and some of the oldest surviving dwellings in Europe. One of the best places to visit is the Noltland Castle on Westray. There are no stewards or tickets to worry about, all you need to do is knock on the nearby farmhouse door for a key.
10. Edinburgh Castle
This list is bound to be full of castles, since these are some of the best historical sites in the UK. Edinburgh castle is rich in things to do and see. You can stand on a six-gun battery that was built somewhere in the 1730s, or explore the vaults located beneath the Great Hall, were pirates and prisoners of war were held within the 18th and 19th centuries. You can even check out the names and pets of different British army officers and mascots that have been buried at the location since the 1840s.
11. Sherwood Forest
A historical site of legend, this royal hunting forest first came to light after the Norman invasion of 1066, where Norman kings used to enjoy riding through the woods and searching for prey to hunt. Make sure that you take the time to see the Major Oak, a gigantic oak tree that’s considered to be around 800 years old according to local folklore. Apparently, the hollow trunk was once used as a hideout by Robin Hood and his men. However, the council points out that the tree probably would have been a sapling at that time.
12. Old Palace of John Whitgift, Croydon
Hidden away in an unexpected location, is the school that was once the former Archbishop’s Palace. The building dates back to the 12th century, and on certain days, during September and the school holidays, you’ll be able to take a tour of the 15th-century great halls and chapel, to see Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom. This incredible building on Old Palace Road is still a largely-unknown treasure, except for those who are fortunate enough to spend their schooldays there.
13. Blenheim Palace
Constructed sometime during the 18th century to help celebrate the English victory over the French in the war of the Spanish succession, the Blenheim Palace is one of the most incredible royal residencies in the whole of the UK. Not only was it the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, but it’s also home to the 11th Duchess and Duke of Marlborough today. Originally, the palace was a gift to the very first Duke of Marlborough – a military commander who was known for leading the allied forces within the battle of Blenheim in August 1704.
14. Battle Abbey and the Hastings Battlefield
The battle of Hastings in 1066 is still considered by some historical buffs to be one of the most famous and well-known battles ever fought on English Soil. In this incredible location, Duke William of Normandy defeated his rival, King Harold of England, which marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon English nation. Today, you can explore the abbey and the battlefield for yourself, and even take a tour that allows you to stand on the exact area where it’s said that King Harold drew his last breath.
15. St. Fagan’s National History Museum
One of the most popular and famous open-air museums in all of Europe, and Wales’ most popular attraction from a heritage perspective, St Fagan’s national history museum stands on the grounds of Fagan’s gardens and castle – a manor from the late 16th century that was donated to Wales by the Plymouth Earl. Through traditional activities and crafts, visitors can have the opportunity to learn how previous generations of people across Wales have lived and enjoyed their leisure time. There are more than 40 original buildings from various historical periods to visit, from farmhouses and chapels, to homes and mills. You can basically step back in time.
16. Hadrian’s Wall
A list of iconic historical places to visit in the UK wouldn’t be complete without some mention of Hadrian’s wall. There are no less than 20 different places to visit on the wall, which stretches out for around 73 miles across the northern part of England. The coast-to-coast wall was designed and constructed by the Romans under the command of Emperor Hadrian to protect and control the territory they won in their battle. You can explore the landscape today on cycle or foot, and there are plenty of mile castles, turrets, and roman forts to experience. Today, you can walk through towns and experience something that’s a lot like a time capsule for roman life. It’s like exploring the world of a soldier from years ago.
17. Chatsworth House
Set right at the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire, Chatsworth House originally began life as a manor, purchased during 1549 by Sir William Cavendish, who earned his position in the 16th century as one of Henry the 8th’s commissioners for the dissolution of various monasteries. In the later years of Chatsworth house, Mary, Queen of Scots became a prisoner at the location. Make sure that you take the time to explore the collection of more than thirty different rooms within the house. The space also holds one of Europe’s most incredible art collections, which includes a range of old masters and artefacts from ancient Egypt.
18. New Lanark Mills
Walking down the steep-sided valley that houses the Utopian Mill in South Lanarkshire can feel a lot like walking into Brigadoon. The whole of the town has been painstakingly restored so that it resembles its original 19th century appearance. While you’re there, you should make sure that you don’t miss the Annie McLeod experience, which helps to offer an overview of village life, and is both informative, and creepy at the same time. The location is part living history attraction, and part museum, but it tells an uplifting tale of industrial Britain.
19. Bodiam Castle, Rye
Set amid a sprawling flower-splashed and green moat, Bodiam castle looks as though it was lifted straight out of a fairytale. The ruins are equipped with stunning spiraling steps, and a picturesque archway that leads between both ramparts. Build during 1385, the castle was seen as both a defense against invaders from France, and a family home too. At certain times during the peak of the season, visitors will be able to enjoy interacting with costumed actors who will tell the history and tales of the characters.
20. Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset
Finally, even the kids are likely to find themselves feeling overwhelmed and awe-struck by these stunning atmospheric ruins. Still standing tall after over 1,400 years of worship – and maybe even more, the legendary burial place of Guinevere and Arthur is the perfect place to discover the various mysterious of the past. With plenty of space for picnics across acres of tranquil parkland, this is a place filled with calm for stressed parents in search of sanctuary and spiritual growth. Lively costumed guards and intriguing relics will help you to bring your experience of the ancient space to life. Just remember to take plenty of pictures for your memory scrapbooks.