Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK

Great Britain currently boasts a total of 27 different World Heritage sites with UNESCO status. These sites vary between naturally occurring wonders to sites of significant historical importance. We have selected our top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Great Britain so that you can be sure the places you are selecting are top quality as you consider and plan your Great British Trip.

1. Welsh Castles and Walls
North West Wales is rich with incredible ancient architecture which is mostly the work of King Edward I. During his reign in 1272 – 1307 he commissioned many castles and small fortified cities which were ahead of their time architecturally. The phenomenal castles of Harlech which sits on the West coast of Wales, and Beaumaris which is on the border of the Isle of Anglesey are still fantastically well preserved today and can be visited and climbed. The castles of Conwy and Caernarfon are even more impressive as the massive town walls still extend from the castles and enclose the inner town today. Worthy of its status, if you are into castles then there are no finer examples then Edward’s Welsh fortresses.

2. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is no longer a World Heritage site in its own right but has been incorporated into the wider title of ‘frontiers of the Roman Empire’. The site status has been extended to include the Roman border which spans Europe, particularly through parts of Germany but we will focus on the British section of wall here. The wall was commissioned by the great Emperor Hadrian as the northern territory of the Roman Empire. Large sections of the wall are still intact and clearly visible today though this is better at the Eastern side of the country. The wall had a small fort built in every few miles where the guards and gatekeepers were stationed and small settlements next to the wall have been excavated in places.

3. Neolithic Orkney
The ancient archipelago of Orkney have been inhabited by man for millennia despite the harsh conditions and difficulty getting there. At the heart of Orkney lies a series of Neolithic Monuments which include a large chambered tomb (Maes Howe), two stone circles used for ceremonial purposes and a settlement known as Skara Brae. Similar nearby sites have also been identified but as yet unexcavated. This incredible site provides a rare and graphic glimpse into life 5000 years ago for this Neolithic group of people who choose to live their lives on a remote group of islands in Northern Scotland. Fascinating and mind-blowing, this one is a wonderful visit if you get chance.

4. Ironbridge Gorge
Ironbridge Gorge sits in the heart of Shropshire on the Anglo-Welsh border and is known throughout the globe as the heart of the Industrial Revolution. The bridge itself is the world’s first iron bridge which led the way for other similar developments. The Ironbridge site has its world heritage status due the way that it represents all the elements symbolic of the industrial era from the mines to the early train lines and the furnace that is synonymous with the discovery of coke (the fuel not the drink).

5. Stonehenge and Avebury
Stonehenge is the prehistoric site of the world’s most famous monoliths. These huge iconic stones have stood at the same spot for millennia and been a constant source of awe and wonder for visitors through the ages. Lesser known is nearby Avebury who’s stone circle is very much the largest in the world, pretty much surrounding the town. The monoliths are not as big and therefore spectacular as Stonehenge but you can go right up to these ones which gives it an added bonus over Stonehenge that requires you stand a short distance away.

6. Giant’s Causeway coast
Northern Ireland
The unique site of the Causeway coast needs to be visited to really understand it’s World Heritage status. Due to the very size and nature of the site cameras simply can’t do it justice as the spectacular hexagonal columns simply rise out of the sea. Formed through a volcanic eruption over 50 million years ago, this unique site has helped formed much of the earth science thinking that we have today. A new visitor centre at this site provides an added bonus for visitors who can now learn about the geology and legends surrounding the coast as well as climb it for themselves. Be careful though, those rocks can be very slippy!

7. Fountains Abbey
North Yorkshire
The ancient ruins of Cistercian Monastery Fountains Abbey are surrounded by Fountains Hall castle and 800 years of landscaped and developed gardens, vistas and landscapes. Deliberately developed in such a way as to incorporate the beautiful ruins, over the past few centuries the entire area has been developed into a site so beautiful that it has gained UNESCO status in its own right. The neo-gothic castle of Studley Park royal and it’s surrounding canal, plantations and gardens make this site an essential one for anyone who loves gardens and landscapes.

8. Bath
City of Bath
Bath is known as both an ancient Roman city and a beautiful Georgian city. Britain’s only naturally occurring hot spring is sited here and the Roman’s discovered not long after invading Britain almost 2000 years ago. They turned it into a sacred temple and built a large complex around the spring, much of which survives intact today. The baths have remained at the heart of the developed city which was a vital city in the middle ages for the wool industry and massively developed under George III into an elegant city full of the sandstone buildings we still see today.

9. Durham Castle and Cathedral
Built in the late 11th Century, Durham Cathedral boasts the finest example of Norman architecture in the country. It was originally built for the relic of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. Innovative and ahead of its time, the advanced designs used were very influential upon gothic architecture. The castle sits behind the Cathedral and was also built in the Norman era for the Bishop-Prince of Durham.

10. Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is quite simply a massive house that was completed in 1722. Incredibly modern for its time, it represented a new form of architecture. The gardens and landscaping is for many visitors even more impressive than the house itself and was designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. It was famously the birthplace of Winston Churchill and today is extremely popular with many visitors, including many of those on a Great British Trip.


By Ruth Lancey, GBT Team member

Date: 2017-11-28 13:20:52