United Kingdom — Attractions
Most of the attractions in the UK are linked to its long history and, especially in London, its royalty. It is a land of spectacular castles and mansions, world-class museums and historic towns such as Stratford upon Avon, Edinburgh and Windsor. Getting around is straightforward by train, bus or rental car.
Tower of London
Founded by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century, this magnificent fortress has played a major part in the history of England. Royal residence, Royal prison and execution ground for traitors, the vast complex with its breathtaking White Tower were completed in the 14th century. You’ll find the amazing Crown Jewels exhibit, the Royal armories, Beefeater Guards in their traditional uniforms, and the ghost of Anne Boleyn, one of King Henry VIII’s unfortunate wives. The massive UK site is the size of a small town, with stone-built cottages for the beefeaters and other workers, and the sinister Traitors’ Gate, the entrance for those accused of treason. Prisoners would be transported by boat along the Thames and once in, there was usually no way out.
Address: Tower Hill, London
The oldest and largest Royal residence in the world, Windsor Castle dominates the pretty town of Windsor just outside of London. One of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite country homes, the palace was founded in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror. Its spectacular State Apartments with their famous artworks and St George’s Chapel can be seen by visitors. The castle itself is set in Windsor Great Park, once a royal hunting ground that is now a landscaped mass of trees bisected by the Royal Mile, a favorite ride for the regal and their guests.
Address: Castle Hill, Windsor
Hampton Court Palace
King Henry VIII’s favorite palace is set on the River Thames in East Molesey. A Royal residence from 1528 until 1737, in 1838 Queen Victoria dedicated it to the people of London. It is a prime UK attraction for its magnificent architecture, glorious gardens, medieval hall with ancient tapestries owned by King Henry himself, the Chapel Royal and a maze. A Tudor Museum and costumed settings show life as it was in Tudor times. The best way to get here is by riverboat from Westminster in central London, a fascinating journey of several hours through the heart of the city.
Address: East Molesey, Surrey
Phone: 0871-909-0384 – only available from the UK.
London has four of the best museums in the world, South Kensington’s Victoria and Albert, the Natural History and Science Museums and the British Museum with its vast collection of world art and artifacts. Established in 1753, it covers every corner of the world’s greatest empires with over eight million collectibles charting human culture from its origins up to the present day. The three South Kensington museums are all 19th century offshoots of the British Museum, with the V&A, as its known, displaying treasures from the colonial countries, as well as Asia. Also featured are the achievements, in ceramics, glass and other materials, of the UK and many other European powerhouses. The Natural History and Science museums are fun for families, with dinosaurs the highlight of the former and the technological advances of the last two centuries interactively displayed in the latter.
Address: Great Russell Street, London
Stratford upon Avon
Set in Warwickshire’s picturesque countryside, this historic town was the home of England’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. His birthplace, Ann Hathaway’s cottage, the great poet’s burial site in Holy Trinity Church, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and rows of ancient homes and shops are just a few of the attractions here. The town itself is utterly charming and set on the River Avon, with pretty walks along its banks and historic pubs lining the central streets.
Address: Warwickshire, England
Edinburgh’s picturesque Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is overlooked by magnificent Edinburgh Castle on a rugged volcanic rock. A Royal castle by the 12th century until the hated union with England in 1603, it’s a monument to the proud Scottish Clan tradition and Scotland’s most visited landmark. It’s still in use by the military, with the Changing of the Guard taking place daily, along with a cannon salute.
Address: Castle Hill, Edinburgh
New Forest National Park
A unique English landscape for its feudal history, spectacular coastline, woodlands, heaths, lakes, streams, and New Forest ponies, this protected area was designated a Royal Forest by William the Conqueror almost a thousand years ago. The area still operates under remnants of feudal law, with residents allowed to graze their livestock and the Forest Court of Verderers still active. Tiny villages and remote homes tucked between the trees are hallmarks of the park, and real estate here is amongst the most expensive in the UK.
Address: Hampshire, England
England’s countryside is dotted with the massive mansions of the hereditary nobility and the industrial revolution’s nouveau riche. One of the greatest is Chatsworth, set amid the natural beauty of the Derbyshire Peak District. Home for 16 generations of Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire, the great house itself holds a famous art collection, as well as sumptuous state rooms, a sculpture gallery, exquisite family rooms, and a servants’ quarter and kitchens. There’s also a farmyard, kids’ playground and magnificent landscaped grounds over looked by the Derbyshire Peaks.
Address: Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire
Set in the beautiful Weald of Kent, Canterbury Cathedral was founded by St Augustine in 597 AD, and grew to be the most important church in the UK. Famous as the site of the political murder of St Thomas-a-Becket in 1170, it’s been a place of pilgrimage ever since and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its surroundings homes and buildings famously picturesque in their own right. The interior of the cathedral is dim and mysterious, and visitors can see the spot in front of the main altar where the saint was murdered by four knights for crossing King Henry II.
Address: 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, England
The Celtic, Roman, Georgian, and Victorian spa town of Bath is a World Heritage city set in glorious countryside over the UK’s only mineral hot springs. The restored Roman Baths, 15th century Bath Abbey, elegant crescents of Georgian terraces, historic Pulteney Bridge, Museum of Costume and much more make Bath one of England’s most popular destinations. The city is also known for its great shopping and fine dining, and Cheddar Gorge, home to caves and the equally famous Cheddar cheese nearby. Maritime Bristol is just 14 miles away, with its signature suspension bridge over the Avon Gorge, and the restored Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s fated iron ship.
Address: Somerset, England
This iconic North Antrim formation is a premier Northern Ireland landmark caused by an ancient volcanic eruption that created tens of thousands of interlocking basalt columns. Now a World Heritage site and nature reserve, its dramatic setting on the wild northern Irish coast is a haven for bird life. Legends of giants and heroes surround the causeway and, on a rough, windy night with the waves crashing on the columns, these tales are hard to deny.
Address: near Bushmill, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Set along the River Thames, Westminster is home to three major British attractions. Westminster Abbey’s over 1,000 years of history encompasses events from the coronation of William the Conqueror to the recent marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and is the resting place of 17 English kings and countless literary giants. The imposing Houses of Parliament are the Abbey’s immediate neighbors, with Big Ben overlooking the Westminster Bridge. Visitors can tour parts of the Houses of Parliament, and even sit in the Strangers’ Gallery during debates.
Address: 20 Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3PA, United Kingdom
London’s National Gallery is set in the tourist hub of Trafalgar Square, a treasure house of Western European art from the 13th to the early 20th century. Famous paintings include Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks, Rembrandt’s Self Portrait and works by Michelangelo, Canaletto, Degas, and Constable.
Address: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN
Estimated to be at least 5,000 years old, the mystical monument of Stonehenge lies on the stark Salisbury Plain and has defied all attempts by experts to uncover its true purpose. It’s the most magnificent of all the UK’s stone constructions and modern-day pagans and members of Wicca still gather here to celebrate the summer solstice. Nearby is the equally eerie Avebury Stone Circle and Avebury Hill.
Address: Off A344 Road, Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE
Phone: +44-1722-334956 (Salisbury Tourist Information)
The World Heritage site of the Jurassic Coast stretches from Swanage to Exmouth in Devon, with its soaring cliffs famous for fossils and bird life. Dinosaur skeletons have been discovered in the area, and a walk along the beaches reveals fossilized flora, marine life and more.
One of Scotland’s World Heritage sites for its Neolithic archaeological remains and standing stones, remote Orkney and the surrounding islands lie off the UK’s northern tip, set in the wild meeting place between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. A rich variety of birds, whales, seals, dolphins, puffins, and kittiwakes can be found here, and the Viking heritage of the land shows in its rich folklore and the Odin Stone, sacred to marriages.
Address: Orkney Islands, Scotland