A selection of the UK and Ireland’s best historical attractions

Edinburgh castle

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

Undoubtedly one of England’s top historical attractions, The Tower previously served as a treasury, an armoury, a public records office, the Royal Mint HQ, the home of the Crown Jewels, a prison and a zoo! 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.

Edinburgh Castle

An iconic building sitting on top of an extinct volcano. 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.

Bath, Somerset

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.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

The majestic ring of stones is thought to have been erected between 3000 and 2000 BC, though the method of construction is a mystery. It’s also unknown why the monument was built – experts suggest a place of healing, a religious site, an observatory or a performance venue!

A great deal of restoration work has been carried out on the stones and there’s a visitor centre which will hopefully allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Highclere Castle

Better known in recent years as the home of 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 series, major repairs and refurbishment were carried out. The Castle is open to visitors during the summer, but remains the home of the Earl and Lady Carnarvon during the winter months.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

The Bard’s 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.

Blarney Castle near Cork

If planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to take in Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold located in Blarney, near Cork. Originally built before 1200 AD, the castle was rebuilt in the 1400s by Cormac Laidir McCarthy.

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!

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