1). Westminster Abbey has served as the venue for coronations since 1066 and also held the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in April, 2011. Visitors to Westminster Abbey can see the graves of 17 monarchs, as well as memorials to many notable figures in British history. In addition, the Coronation Chair is part of the Abbey’s museum, along with pieces of art, stained glass, textiles and more. The Abbey is open to the public six days a week and an adult ticket costs £16.00.
2). St Paul’s Cathedral – the current building is the fifth cathedral to be built on the site since 604, and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710. It has one of the largest cathedral domes in the world, and this summer is one of the best times to visit the building – it has just celebrated 300 years since the building was declared complete, and has just completed a 15 year, £40 million restoration programme
3). Stonehenge Was it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar? How did our ancestors manage to carry the mighty stones from so far away and then, using only the most primitive of tools, build this amazing structure? Surrounded by mystery, Stonehenge, on the Wiltshire Plain near Salisbury, never fails to impress.
4). Edinburgh Castle, a fortress perched on an extinct volcano, dominates the Scottish capital. See the Honours of Scotland, the nation’s Crown Jewels; tour the rooms of the Royal Palace and see where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James; watch the One O’Clock Gun being fired each day (except for Sundays) as it has been since 1861, when it was a signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the port of Leith – and coinciding with the Time Ball, a large white ball which is raised above the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill, and drops at exactly 1300 hours. In August, the Esplanade comes alive with the Tattoo.
5). A Welsh castle – with 641 castles in Wales, the difficulty is choosing which one to visit! Among the most popular are Cardiff Castle with its medieval exteriors and stunning, colourful, 19th century interiors; and Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech in the north of Wales.
6) The British Museum exhibits the works of man from prehistoric to modern times from around the world. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures, and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Entry is free except for special exhibitions. The museum is home to millions of objects and recently was the subject of an acclaimed 100-part BBC radio programme illustrating two million years of history through objects in its collection
7). Stratford-upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Houses: William Shakespeare was born in the Warwickshire town of Stratford, near Birmingham and every year visitors flock to see the houses associated with him, including the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum, and the picturesque thatched Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where his wife grew up. Earlier this year the refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre opened to critical acclaim.
8). The Roman Baths: The Romans built the finest religious spa in northern Europe, round Britain’s only hot springs, and today you can visit the remains, and an important Roman museum located beneath the Pump Room and Abbey Yard, in the city of Bath. In the Pump Room you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal – or even a glass of the Bath water! – to the accompaniment of live music from a classical trio. Nearby is the Thermae Bath Spa, where you can swim or simply relax in the pools, including one on the rooftop with great views over the city and surrounding hills. Make sure to take the time to walk round the city with its fine Georgian crescents and buildings.
9). Oxford and Cambridge are two of the most famous universities in the world and both cities also offer a great day out with fascinating walking tours, visits to leading museums and art galleries and the famous colleges that make up the universities
10). The city of York has cobbled streets, the imposing York Minster church, the National Railway Museum – and lots of ghosts! In fact in 2002 the International Ghost Research Foundation declared York to be ‘Europe’s most haunted city’ and today there is a choice of several ghost walks for those who want to check this out for themselves.
11). Villages: you don’t have to go into a museum, or historic house to get a slice of heritage – some of the best old buildings can be seen in villages across the country. The East of England and particularly Suffolk is full of picturesque villages such as Lavenham, where the buildings lean over and almost touch each other, or Long Melford, with its very long high street full of antique shops, and the neighbouring villages of Cavendish and Clare. Of course you may also want to go inside some of the buildings – particularly the historic inns and pubs!
12). The Potteries: Stoke-on-Trent in the Heart of England is the home of the pottery industry with world renowned brands such as Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Portmeirion, Moorcroft, and Aynsley, with Emma Bridgewater bringing it right up to date. There are at least 30 pottery attractions based here in the City.