While the attractions listed may not be your top choices, or your editor’s, for that matter, they are ones most people think of when England is mentioned as a holiday destination. Many epitomize the interesting historical aspects of this country. These sites are exclusive of natural attractions.
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At Alnwick, Northumberland, off the A1. Tel. 0 1665 510 777.
The second largest inhabited castle (Windsor is first) in England. Ancestral home of the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland since 1309. Medieval exterior with palatial Renaissance style interior. Paintings, furniture, china, Regimental Museum. Grounds with walks and views.
For full historical details go to the website at Alnwick Castle
Avebury Stone Circles:
Located at the village of Avebury, Wiltshire, seven miles (11.3km) west of Marlborough. Tel. 020 7973 3434. English Heritage property.
This great stone circle—the largest in Europe—is enclosed by a ditch and bank, and, itself, encloses the village. Built about 2000BC, the circle is 450 yards across. The whole structure covers 28 acres (11ha). A 2-mile long avenue leads to a burial site, the Sanctuary. At one time there were about 100 pairs of 30-40 ton stones here. An excellent small museum is located in the village. For further details visit English Heritage’s website at English Heritage
Roman Baths, Museum and Pump Rooms:
In the town of Bath, Somerset, on the A4. 2000-year-old Roman temple and bathing complex with museum of treasures found on the site. The Pump Room, built in 1795, serves tea. Website: Bath
At the Houses of Parliament, London. A famous landmark. The clock tower was completed in 1859. The clock mechanism weighs 5 tons, and the dials are 23-ft (7m) in diameter.
On A44 at Woodstock, 8 miles (13km) northwest of Oxford, Oxfordshire.
Tel. 01993 811091
Famous as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, it houses an exhibition on his life. The home was built between 1705-1722 in the baroque style. There’s a Great Hall, staterooms, Long Library, and a collection of paintings, furniture, and tapestries. Extensive grounds landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. Restaurants, cafeterias.
Website: Blenheim Palace
Brighton Royal Pavilion:
At Brighton, East Sussex, on the A27/A259. Domed and turreted Oriental style building with extravagant decor, mostly in the Chinoiserie style. Erected by King George IV when he was still Prince of Wales. It was his pleasure palace. The Banqueting Room contains a one ton crystal lighting device with a silver winged dragon.
On Russell Square, in the Bloomsbury, Camden area of London.
Magnificent collections span the centuries. Among them is an Egyptian sculpture gallery, the famous Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, a Greek Room, the Magna Carta, Roman rooms, the Mildenhall and Sutton Hoo Treasures—to name only a small portion.
Website: British Museum for further details of the collections.
In London between Hyde Park and the Houses of Parliament by St. James Park. Tel. 020 7839 1377. London home of the queens and kings of England. Magnificent stateroom interiors contain objects from the Royal Collection.
Website: Buckingham Palace
At Canterbury, Kent on the A2/A28.
Tel. 01227 762862
The cathedral was founded in 597AD, but no building remains from that time. The Norman crypt, the largest in the world, dates from 1100 and is the earliest part of the present building. The nave dates from the 14th century while other sections date from the 15th century. Canterbury Cathedral was the most important centre of pilgrimmage in northern Europe long before Chaucer wrote Canterbury Tales (late 15th century). The Cathedral is well known for the infamous murder of Thomas Becket, which took place here in 1170. When visiting. Be sure to see the cathedral treasury, the stone screens in the Chapel of our Lady Undercroft and the site where Becket was murdered (marked by a plaque) and the elaborate vaulting of the Great Cloister walks. Henry IV is buried here in an alabaster tomb. The Cathedral has wonderful medieval glass.
Website: Canterbury Cathedral
Near York in North Yorkshire. Take A64 from south and follow signs. Best known in North America as the scene of the PBS “Brideshead Revisited” series. 18th century palace, set between two lakes, with a painted and gilded dome rising from the Great Hall. Furniture, porcelain and Italian sculpture. Collection of paintings. 1000 acres (404.7ha) of gardens and grounds—includes garden architecture: Temple of the Four Winds, Mausoleum, bridges, cascades and fountains. Website:Castle Howard
In Derbyshire. From the A619 at Bakewell on the eastern edge of Peak National Park there are two options, both scenic. One is the northeastern route turning off A619 onto B6048, then south on the B6012; the other is the southeastern route: from the roundabout in Bakewell take the A6 turning north onto the B6012.
One of Britain’s “Treasure Houses”. Built by Bess of Hardwick with further alterations in the late 1600’s and early 1800’s. Set in beautiful gardens and park.
For detailed information on the house and grounds, visit the official website at Chatsworth
At Dover, Kent on the A2/A20. Tel. 0 1304 201 628.
Clifftop castle, construction begun in late 12th century. Thick inner and outer curtain walls. Contained within is a Roman lighthouse. Spectacular Constable’s Tower. Tunnels and secret chambers were built below the castle.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Garden:
Four miles west of Ripon, Yorkshire off B6265 to Pateley Bridge, signposted from the A1. Tel. 0 1765 608 888. National Trust. A World Heritage Site.
Spectacular ruin of 12th century Cistercian Abbey in beautiful rural setting. The Water Garden has ornamental lakes, cascades, temples, and walks. St. Mary’s Church by the cascade is a must see. AV program and exhibition centre. For full details and opening hours see the website Fountains Abbey and the National Trust website National Trust
Located in Cumbria and Northumberland on the borders between Scotland and England. This famous Roman wall was built by Emperor Hadrian in 122AD. It runs 73 miles (117km) from Wallsend to Bowness. There are museums, camps, and settlements along the way. Main sites include Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle upon Tyne, Corbridge and Corstopitum, Chesters, Housesteads Roman Fort, Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran. Both English Heritage and The National Trust manage sites along the wall. For detailed information check out their websites at National Trust and English Heritage
Hampton Court Palace:
Located on the A308 about 30 minutes southwest of London on the Thames River, Surrey. It can be reached by train, bus or river trip from London.
Tel. 020 8781 9500.
A Tudor palace built by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 1500’s but commandeered by Henry VIII, who enlarged it. The Great Hall has a splendid hammerbeam roof. The State Apartments, decorated with carvings by Grinling Gibbons, contain a collection of paintings and furniture. The kitchens and cellars have a display of life in Tudor times. In the gardens is a famous maze.
Website: Hampton Court Palace
At Doe Lea, six miles west of Mansfield, Derbyshire, off A6175 and M1, exit 29. Tel: 01246 850430. National Trust.
Set in a large country park, the house was built in the 1590’s by Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. It was designed by Robert Symthson to show off Bess’ wealth. It contains furniture, tapestries, and needlework. On the same property is Hardwick Old Hall, a ruin, managed by English Heritage.
In Kensington Gardens, London.
Website: Kensington Palace
Residence for royal family members. The State Apartments and Court Dress Collection are on view.
Kew Royal Botanical Gardens:
Kew Gardens were created in 1772 and encompasses 300 acres. The gardens are botanical (they have an extensive seed bank), rather than visual, in theme. Plant houses include the Palm House, the Temperate House, The Princess of Wales Tropical Conservatory and the Alpine House. Kew Palace with the Queen’s Garden at the rear, is located in the grounds. It is a small country house built during King George’s III’s reign. There is an Orangery and a Pagoda in the grounds along with the Queen’s Cottage, a picnic house for Queen Charlotte. Extensive paths wind among many varieties of trees. For opening times, location, map of the Gardens, special events and full details see their website at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
St. Paul’s Cathedral:
Tel. 020 7246 8348.
The original building was destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666. The present building, built by Sir Christopher Wren, was started in 1675 and completed in 1710. The dome is a famous London landmark (259 steps to the Whispering gallery at the top and 543 steps to the Golden gallery). Beautiful gilded ceilings and Grinling Gibbons choir stalls. The crypt contains tombs of famous persons. The Cathedral was the site of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. Cafe on site.
In Wiltshire west of Amesbury at the junction of the A303/A344.
Set in the middle of Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge is probably England’s best known attraction. The large stone circle dates from approximately 3000BC to 1600BC, although experts disagree on the exact dating. Its true use is not known, but it is thought to relate to sun worship or some other religious purpose. It is one of Britain’s great mysteries. The site is planned for extensive redevelopment.
Off the B3092 at Stourton, Wiltshire. Tel. 01747 841152.
An outstanding example of the English classical landscape garden—1741-1780—complete with lake and follies: the Temple of Flora, the Watch Cottage, the Grotto, the Pantheon, and the Temple of Apollo. Exotic specimens with changing seasonal views, collection of rhododendrons.
Tower of London:
Next to the Tower Bridge on the Thames River.
Tel. 029 7709 0765 or, from the United States, 800-806-7187.
The Tower began life as a wooden fortress, constructed by William I in 1067, but was later replaced by a stone one and expanded to include 18 acres (7ha). For 500 years, from 1300 the Royal Mint was located at the tower. It also served as a prison and a safe place to keep the royal jewels. Take in the Crown Jewels, the Chapel of St Peter and Vincula (note organ carvings by Grinling Gibbons) and the Traitor’s Gate (once a main entrance). The White Tower or Keep was begun by William I in 1078 and houses a complete armour collection, one of the largest in the world.
Website: Tower of London
On the River Avon in the town of Warwick, Warwickshire on the A46. Tel. 0926 495421.
Constructed mainly in the 14th century, the castellated castle has a massive gatehouse, towers, torture display, and armour collection. It served Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, (1428-71) during the Wars of the Roses and later became a stately home (collection of paintings and furniture) with grounds landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. There is a ‘ghost’ tower.
Website: Warwick Castle
At Wells, Somerset on the A39/A371. Tel. 01749 674483.
Built in the Early English style, from 1170’s to 1508. The west front displays 13th century sculpture—300+ statues, half of which are life-size. The most interesting part of the cathedral are the scissor arches (1338-40), an architectural solution to the problem of subsidence of the crossing tower. In the chancel is a Jesse window of medieval glass. Intricate vaulting is found in the retro-choir. The oldest original clock face in existence is located here. There is an octagonal Chapter House, completed at the beginning of the 14th century, with fine vaulting and window tracery. On the same grounds is the 700 year old Bishop’s Palace with its walled gardens, the ruins of a banqueting hall and the springs from which Wells gets its name.
In London just west of the Houses of Parliament. Tel. 020 7222 5152.
The present Gothic style Abbey was begun by Henry III but not completed until the 1500’s. Since the 11th century England’s kings and queens have been crowned here, and the Abbey houses many of their tombs and those of other famous people. Look for the carved screens, the vaulting in Henry VII’s Chapel and the15th century altar pieces. Be sure to see the Chapter House.
Website: Westminster Abbey
At Windsor, Berkshire near Junction 6 of the M4 west of London. Tel. 01753 869898.
England’s largest castle is one of the official royal residences. Furnished with works of art from the Royal Collection. The Upper and Lower Wards, North Terrace, State Apartments and other rooms are among those open. Panels and carvings by Grinling Gibbons are in the Waterloo Chamber and Garter Throne Room. The Grand Reception room contains Gobelins tapestries and is decorated with gilt plasterwork and chandeliers. The Round Tower stands on the site of William I’s original fortress. St. George’s Chapel, (open except on Sundays) a Perpendicular chapel begun by Edward IV, took 50 years to build. The nave is noted for its fan vaulting and coloured bosses. The chancel contains ornately carved stalls. The banners, crests, helmets, and swords of the Knight of the Garter decorate the Chancel. The Palace is set in Windsor Park—most of Great Park is public.
Website: Windsor Castle
In the city of York, Yorkshire on the A19. Tel. 01904 639347.
York’s cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. It is 534 ft (160m) long and 249 ft (76m) wide across the transepts. Begun in 1220 and completed in 1470, its nave is the second highest in England. Look for the medieval glass in the east window of the Lady Chapel. The Chapter House, built at the end of the 1200’s, has a magnificent wooden vaulted ceiling. There is a beautiful 15th century choir screen. The largest collection of medieval stained glass in England is found in the Cathedral. Be sure to see the treasury’s collection of silver and church plate, and don’t miss the fascinating Foundations Exhibition. Located in a subterranean area of the cathedral, the exhibit displays the early Norman cathedral foundations and the remains of a Roman building on the site.
Website: York Minster