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UK Touring - UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom

UK UNESCO Sites - A Tour of Landscapes, Castles, Cities, Gardens and More


UNESCO - which stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - has been identifying and listing World Heritage Sites for more than thirty years. The "List", intended to preserve places of world importance in humanity's cultural and natural history now has 878 sites. The UK has 27 of them - from castles and factories to prehistoric landscapes and islands in the South Pacific.

They make up an excellent outline for planning a UK tour. We've been to most and here is our list of those that are the most fun. Enjoy your trip.

1. Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd

Telford's Suspension Bridge at Conwy Castle
Rod Edwards/britainonview.com
Edward I of England led two military campaigns against the Welsh in the late 13th century. Eventually, he surrounded the North Wales province of Gwynedd with castles. These castles and fortified complexes - Beaumaris, Harlech, Caernarvon and Conwy - designed by his architect James of St. George, are considered the finest examples of 13th and 14th century military architecture in Europe.

UNESCO said:
"They have only undergone minimal restoration and provide, in their pristine state, a veritable repertory of medieval architectural form: barbicans, drawbridges, fortified gates, chicanes, redoubts, dungeons, towers, and curtain walls."

Read more about:

2. Durham Castle and Cathedral

Durham Castle
A BBC poll in 2001 choose Durham Cathedral as Britain's best-loved building. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries to house the relics of St. Cuthbert, evangelizer of Northumbria, and historian The Venerable Bede, it has been in continual use and occupation for 1,000 years.

The castle, behind it on a peninsula, is an ancient Norman fortress that housed the prince-bishops of Durham. Today it is part of Durham University and, amazingly, you can book a room to stay there.

UNESCO chose it for:
..."the site's role as a political statement of Norman power imposed upon a subjugate nation, as one of the country's most powerful symbols of the Norman Conquest of Britain..."

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3. The Giant's Causeway

Giants Causeway, County Antrim, Ulster, Northern Ireland
courtesy of britainonview.com
It's hard to believe that The Giant's Causeway on the North coast of County Antrim is not man (or giant) made. It looks like a roadway into the sea. It is made of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, some more than 12 meters high, produced by an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones, mostly hexagonal but also with four, five, seven and eight sides, leading from the foot of a cliff into the sea.

UNESCO said:
"The dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland. Geological studies of these formations over the last 300 years have greatly contributed to the development of the earth sciences..."

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4. Ironbridge Gorge

The Iron Bridge - Where the Industrial Revolution began
Photo credit: britainonview-Pawel Libera
A huge number of early industries gathered around this strikingly beautiful river gorge in rural Shropshire in the late 18th century. Soon, contemporaries described it as "the most extraordinary district in the world" and "the birthplace of industry." With its 18th century furnaces, factories, workshops and canals, and the world's first iron bridge, the site continues to excite visitors.

UNESCO said:
"Ironbridge is known throughout the world as the symbol of the Industrial Revolution. It contains all the elements of progress that contributed to the rapid development of this industrial region in the 18th century...The community draws its name from the famous Iron Bridge erected in 1779 by Abraham Darby III."

Read more about Ironbridge.

5. Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

Courtesy of Britain on View
No one knows who built Stonehenge, as much as 5,000 years ago, or why they did it, but Britain's most iconic sight has captured the imagination of of visitors for tens of centuries. Nearby Avebury and Silbury Hill are mysteriously spiritual places.

UNESCO said:
"Stonehenge is one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world...At Avebury, the massive Henge, containing the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world, and Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, demonstrate the outstanding engineering skills which were used to create masterpieces of earthen and megalithic architecture."
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6. Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden together make up one of North Yorkshire's most rewarding visitor attractions. Developed over 800 years, it includes a nearly 900-year-old Cistercian abbey - Britain's largest monastic ruin; an 18th century landscaped garden created by a gifted amateur in the era of such celebrity gardeners as Capability Brown and John Vanbrugh; a Jacobean hall and a Victorian Church.

"Studley Royal Park, including the ruins of Fountains Abbey, combines into one harmonious whole buildings, gardens and landscapes constructed over a period of 800 years. All, important in their own right, have been integrated into a continuous landscape of exceptional merit and beauty..."
Find out more

7. Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace
The only palace not in Royal hands in England, Blenheim Palace was a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough and ancestor of Winston Churchill -- who was born there. The 18th century house, built between 1705 and 1722 by John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, is set in a 2,100 acre park, designed by Capability Brown. Wander around the park and you might just spot the current Duke, who still occupies part of the house.

UNESCO said:
"...it is a perfect example of an 18th-century princely dwelling...the design and building...represented the beginning of a new style of architecture...its landscaped Park...is considered as 'a naturalistic Versailles'."
A Guided Trip to Blenheim to Buy Direct

8. The City of Bath

New Royal Bath at Thermae Bath Spa, in the city of Bath, England.
Jon Spaull/britainonview
From its 2,000 year old Roman Baths to its Georgian terraces and Pump Room, the entire city of Bath was listed by UNESCO. Jane Austen enjoyed the health giving waters of Bath and its accompanying social scene, as did many of her characters. Besides its feast of historic architecture, Bath has great restaurants, top shopping, quirky museums, a lively cultural scene and, of course, a brand new, multi-million pound, thermal spa.

The Roman remains...are amongst the most famous and important...north of the Alps, and marked the beginning of Bath’s history as a spa town...its beauty is largely testament to the skill and creativity of the architects and visionaries of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Visit Bath's Thermae Spa

9. Frontiers of the Roman Empire

Romans in the UK - Excavations at Vindolanda, along Hadrian's Wall
As the Roman Empire began to crumble, the Romans built a defensive wall, across the North of Britain, from Carlisle to Newcastle-on-Tyne, to keep out Picts, invading from Scotland. No one knows how long it might have held because troubles in the rest of Europe drew the Roman's away from this northern most reach of their Empire. Today, remnants of the wall can be found for about 73 miles. Excavations at Vindolanda, a fort and village on Hadrian's Wall, provide a glimpse into the life of a Roman legion at the edge of the empire. Exhibitions include rare letters home.

"It is a striking example of the organization of a military zone and illustrates the defensive techniques and geopolitical strategies of ancient Rome."

10. Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church

St. Augustine's Chair at Canterbury Cathedral
Considered the "Mother Church" of the Anglican Communion, Canterbury Cathedral dates it's origins to St. Augustine, sent to convert the Britons more than 1400 years ago. The ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey, just outside the city walls, date from AD 597. The Cathedral is also where St. Thomas à Becket was martyred and where Chaucer's pilgrims were headed in The Canterbury Tales.

"...other important monuments are the modest Church of St Martin, the oldest church in England; the ruins of the Abbey of St Augustine...and Christ Church Cathedral, a breathtaking mixture of Romanesque and Perpendicular Gothic, where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.
Tour the Cathedral City of Canterbury

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