The UK and Ireland are home to a huge range of historical attractions, from castles and cathedrals to relics and Roman ruins. Every year, both British and overseas visitors book their breaks with these attractions in mind – and so here’s a round up of our top historical attractions in the UK and Ireland.
The Tower of London is undoubtedly one of England’s top historical attractions, its gruesome history a reminder of what life used to be like. The Tower previously served as a treasury, an armoury, a public records office, the Royal Mint HQ, the home of the Crown Jewels and a prison: it is a building that is steeped in history. Modern day tours take visitors on a journey through time, exposing the tower’s bloody history, viewing the Crown Jewels and telling the story of the Tower through the eyes of a Beefeater. Children will also enjoy trying on armour.
Moving further north, head to Edinburgh to visit the city’s stunning castle, an iconic building that sits on top of a volcano that is now extinct. St Margaret’s Chapel is the only remaining part of the original castle, built around 1130, with the remaining castle having been rebuilt in the 14th and in the 16th centuries. A former ancient stronghold, home of Scottish monarchs and army headquarters, Edinburgh Castle is the top paid tourist attraction in Scotland.
For a break in the South West, a trip to the Roman city of Bath is a must. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1987, and visitors can experience a tour through most stages of British history in just one city. Must-visits are the stunning Bath Abbey – still used as a place of worship – and a tour of the Roman Baths, including the Roman Temple, the Sacred Spring, the Museum and the Roman Bath House.
Not too far from Bath is the historic site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire: probably one of the most famous historic sites in the world. The majestic ring of stones is thought to have been erected between 3000 and 2000BC, and considering the size of the individual stones, the method of construction is a mystery. It is uncertain as to why the monument was built – possibly as a place of healing, a religious site or as an observatory. What we do know is that a great deal of restoration work has been carried out on the stones and a fascinating visitor centre built, with an incredible number of people visiting the site each year to see the stones and learn about the history of the site in the visitor centre.
Always a popular tourist destination, Highclere Castle has become even better known in recent years as the home of popular television series Downton Abbey. The Jacobethan country house is located in Hampshire, and has extensive grounds that were the work of Capability Brown. Until recently, only the ground floor and first floor were usable, with a vast amount of repairs needed. However, with a fresh influx of visitors as a result of the Downton Abbey series, major repairs to both the interior and the Castle’s turrets are now in progress. The Castle is open to visitors during the summer, but remains the home of the Earl and Lady Carnarvon during the winter months.
No mention of British literature is complete without referring to William Shakespeare, and his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon continues to be one of the UK’s top historical attractions. The house, situated on Henley Street, is a beautiful half-timbered building where the author and playwright is believed to have been born back in 1564. A relatively simple house, it has been lovingly restored, and now includes a visitors’ centre as well as actors in full historical dress re-enacting what life would have been like in Shakespeare’s time.
If planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to take in Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold located in Blarney, near Cork. Originally built before 1200AD, the castle was rebuilt in the 1400s by Cormac McCarthy. Although partially ruined, some rooms and the battlements are still accessible to visitors, along with its gardens with stunning rock formations and further attractions. The main reason that visitors flock to Blarney, however, is to kiss the Blarney Stone: a block of bluestone that is built into the castle’s battlements. Whoever kisses the stone is, according to legend, supposed to be blessed with the gift of the gab…
The number of historical sites in the UK and Ireland is enormous, with plenty for visitors to explore. Take a look at the cottages4you website for a range of stunning historical hideaways in the UK and Ireland.