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Top World Heritage Sites to Visit in the UK

The UK’s World Heritage Sites are fondly referred to and remembered on Heritage Treasures Day, each January 11th.

Although funding from the National Lottery continues to preserve each Heritage Site, as well as projects across the UK, the best thing we can do to support them is pay them a visit.

To give you an insight into some attractions that we can all admire, safely socially distanced and often in the fresh air, here are just some of the World Heritage Sites in the UK.

Some different kinds of Heritage Sites in the UK include:

  • Heritage railways such as Corfe Castle Station (Swanage Heritage Railway).
  • Historically listed buildings and architectural treasures, which include abbeys and palaces like Hampton Court Palace.
  • Ancient cathedrals and castle steeped in history and tradition, like Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.
  • Heritage cities like Durham, where the Cathedral was the first great Norman church in England.
  • Natural Heritage Sites, such as coastlines and islands like the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and St Kilda in Scotland.
  • Maritime Heritage Sites – Liverpool is known as the Maritime Mercantile City
  • Tudor Heritage Sites, such as The Tower of London.

tower of London world heritage site

The UK’s World Heritage Sites Map

How many World Heritage Sites are there in the UK?

There are 32 World Heritage Sites in the UK. To discover the whereabouts of them all, look them up the on UK World Heritage Sites Map.

World Heritage Sites and UNESCO World Heritage Sites

As stated by the National Trust ‘A World Heritage Site is a cultural or natural landmark that has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)‘.

World Heritage Sites are also universally important because they belong ‘to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located’. Therefore, there are many for everyone to admire!

To find all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the world look up the UNESCO interactive map.

The city of Bath is one of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK. Here, you can explore Roman ruins and 18th-century architectural features throughout the city.

Favourite World Heritage Sites in the UK for Free Spirits

Bath, Somerset

Bath was added to the World Heritage Site List in 1987 and is known as a ‘cultural site’. It was given this title because it holds many cultural and historic attributes within a beautiful, landscape setting.

What can you see and experience in Bath?

bath a UK world heritage site

  • Archaeology fans can explore ancient Roman remains. Inside the city, visit Goddess Sulis Minerva’s temple, which is home to Bath’s famous bathing complex.
  • Outside of the city, look out from the Roman and Iron Age hill forts. Climb each fort to view road systems that were built to last and have influenced the layout of the city for centuries.
  • Walk among 18th Century buildings and streets. The architecture and natural landscape complement one another throughout the town. Honey-coloured limestone crescents, squares, as well as the circus, create a beautiful and classical city, which has influenced UK developments since the Georgian era.
  • Hotfoot it to Bath’s healing, hot springs to sip the famous waters, before tucking into afternoon tea at the pump room restaurant. There might only be three hot springs but they’re the only ones in Britain! They also helped shape Bath into a booming city, which was a unique social setting in Georgian times.

Not far from Bath is Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, where you can find Stonehenge…

Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites

Probably the most famous prehistoric, megalithic monument and sophisticated stone circle in the world, Stonehenge’s origins are still shrouded in mystery. A structure older than the pyramids in Giza, it became one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1986.

Along with Avebury (the largest stone circle in the world) in the North Wessex Downs, they symbolise a unique embodiment of our collective heritage. The monuments also demonstrate the outstanding creative and technological achievements of prehistoric times. Collectively, these sites will inspire anyone with an interest in the distant origins of our collective civilisation.

The best way to enjoy a visit to Stonehenge

Give yourself 2.5 hours to see Stonehenge and take a picnic lunch. Walk around Stonehenge’s circle or go inside the stones, via an audio-visual 360 degrees stone circle experience. Stroll around the museum to learn about the 4,500-year-old monument. Or walk around the sites of Neolithic Houses nearby and imagine how the people of Stonehenge lived.

For more picnics immersed in UK Heritage, head to the Lake District…

The Lake District

The Lake District is one of our more recent World Heritage Sites, given the title on 9th July 2017. It became a World Heritage Site because over the last 1000 years, it has continued to follow a unique and traditional farming system of sheep and beef rearing.

The area also helped industrial towns grow and flourish by using natural resources, such as mines, to extract copper, lead, and iron. These traditional industries and systems have enhanced the area’s unique character. The character of the Lake District, with distinctive stone-walled fields and farm buildings, have continued to survive.

Things to do in in the Lake District:

  • Wildlife watching. With your camera in hand and a set of binoculars, go wildlife watching in one of the Lake Districts’ hotspots. From red squirrels and deer to the creatures of the riverbank, spot some of the UK’s rarest animals! Some of the best places include Whinlatter Forest and Dood Wood, Haweswater RSPB Reserve, and Ennerdale – an innovative rewilding project.
  • For something more unique take to the skies for a hot air balloon ride! There can surely be no more breathtaking way to experience the beauty of the lakes than from the clouds. With three different destinations within the charming Cumbrian countryside to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
  • Visit Lake Windermere. If you’re looking for an outdoor activity for both the young and old, join the action on the water. Hire a boat for the day and row from the most southern end of the lake. You could also canoe, kayak, and paddleboard during a leisurely weekend. However, for some quiet, go fishing! There are many different kinds of fish to be found in the waters of Windermere.

The Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland’s 8th wonder of the world has been a World Heritage Site since 1986 and is of global geological importance. What makes it unique is its 40,000 large, regularly shaped polygonal columns of basalt, which stand in perfect horizontal sections. The site’s location is the perfect place to study basaltic volcanism. However, there are other giant experiences to have at The Giant’s Causeway…

Tours at The Giant’s Causeway

  • Learn how the landscape was formed in the fire and shaped by ice before it was preserved in stone over 50 million years ago!
  • Listen to the myths, legends, and stories of the Giant’s Causeway and coast to discover the true character of this magical place!
  • Peer at the ecosystems of the Giant’s Causeway on a conservation tour along the clifftop path.
  • Find the flora and fauna that continue to thrive in their unique habitat on the Causeway Coast.

The Giant’s Causeway also features in our favourite self-driving holidays blog, alongside the Outer Hebrides, which are not far from St Kilda in Scotland…

St Kilda, Scotland

St Kilda is a tiny, isolated archipelago made up of five islands (Hirta, Soay, Boreray, Dun, and Levenish). Together, they sit west-northwest of North Uist, within the North Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago has held this status since 1986 because it is a significant natural beauty spot and home to a large variety of birds.

In 2005, it was recognised for having an important cultural landscape too, due to the structures, field systems, cleits, and traditional stone houses that have stood there throughout 5,000 years of human occupation – in extreme conditions.

The best way to visit St Kilda is by boat from the Isle Of Harris in the Outer Hebrides or via the Isle of Skye.

What can you do on St Kilda?

st kilda uk world heritage site

  • Go on a ferry boat cruise around the islands.
  • Stand at the top of vertical cliffs and sea stacks to gaze at over 1,000,000 birds who call St Kilda home.
  • Walk down the abandoned street on Hirta and reflect upon the life its ancestors may have lived before they were evacuated in 1930.

Once you have chosen which UK Heritage Site to visit, find a historical place to stay nearby. Or simply stay in a historic building for a long weekend break!

Historic Accommodation in the UK

Find yourself an ancient castle, complete with a five-star restaurant and private spa bathroom. After breakfast, wander around grand gardens and discover scenic spots among the hedgerows and flowers.

For a luxurious holiday, stay in a unique setting. For example, try an opulent oast house (a building designed for drying hops), with a swimming pool. To take in the sea air, book a beachside retreat with your own private beach.

Heritage country hotels and sleepy manor houses can be found in cities and the depths of the UK’s countryside. Find one with a golf course for a golfing holiday or within a 400-acre estate, to explore at your leisure.

To find more bespoke accommodation ideas, visit our Unusual Staycation Ideas blog.

Whichever hall, house, or hotel you choose, remember that when you take out Free Spirit UK Travel Insurance, you will be covered for End Supplier Failure with a Super Duper Policy. This is an invaluable benefit to have if your accommodation provider suffers from financial failure before or after your departure. To find all the key features and benefits of each level of cover click here.

Travel Insurance for Historial Holidays

Wherever you stay and whatever World Heritage Sites you visit, don’t forget to take Free Spirit UK Travel Insurance as well. We’ll be happy to help you travel with confidence.

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