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10 top English Heritage sites you need to visit

From epic castles to concealed caves, add these ten iconic locations to your England bucket list. With properties scattered across the country, your next day out at an English Heritage site could be closer than you think.

Please note that due to social distancing requirements, most English Heritage properties now require tickets to be booked in advance. Please check English Heritage’s website before travelling.

1

Hadrian's Wall

Birdoswald Roman Fort - Hadrian's Wall

Birdoswald Roman Fort, a key English Heritage site on Hadrian's Wall.

Built to guard the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire, this UNESCO World Heritage Site adorned with towers, turrets and forts stretches 73 miles from coast-to-coast and has over 20 English Heritage sites to discover. Unearth the remains of granaries, workshops and temples at Corbridge Roman Town near Newcastle, or examine rare Roman artefacts – from jewellery to armour – at Birdoswald Roman Fort.

If you want to up your step count, there are plenty of walks and trails that run alongside the wall, many with unbeatable views of the epic northern countryside. One of the best vantage points is at Housesteads where you can snap views of the dramatic Northumberland countryside.

Please note that currently only Birdoswald Roman Fort, Corbridge Roman Town, Chesters Roman Fort and Housesteads Roman Fort are open to the public.

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2

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle, a key English Heritage site in the south west of England.

Linked to the legend of King Arthur and Merlin, Tintagel Castle has a magical feel to it. Now mostly ruins, Tintagel is split between the mainland and a small island, connected by a suspended footbridge, so sweeping views across the sea and coastline are a given. Once on the island, you’ll find the remains of the Great Hall where guests from across the country feasted and danced all night long.

One of Tintagel’s best kept secrets can be found on the beach below. Merlin’s Cave is said to be the former home of the legendary wizard, and at low tide, you can explore his former residence for yourself, before heading back outside to explore the rock pools or take a stroll along the shore.

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3

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens

A man standing in the entrance hall of Belsay Hall.

With three different architectural marvels to explore, the grounds of Belsay Hall are a perfect way to spend a day out in the north east. Belsay Castle (the oldest landmark on the site) was previously abandoned and replaced by Belsay Hall, but much of the castle’s grandiose structure and interiors remain in place.

Soak in views while walking across the 30-acre estate and before exploring the first country home in England to be built in the “Greek revival” style and the Grade I-listed gardens. The Quarry Garden, built out of hand carved ravines of rock, is home to a unique microclimate where you’ll find rare exotic plants.

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4

Audley End House & Gardens

Audley End House and Gardens

Audley End House and Gardens, a key English Heritage site.

Regarded as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England, Audley End House was first built in the early-17th century and still retains much of its glory to this day. Its striking stone-clad front gives the house a palatial feel, while inside, you can learn about the day-to-day life of a Victorian servant.

A gothic chapel and library add even more grandeur and outside you will find sweeping parkland, the Serpentine Lake and an organic kitchen garden. Be sure to stop by the stable yard to say hello to Audley End’s resident horses.

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5

Osborne

Osborne

Osborne on the Isle of Wight, a historic English Heritage site.

Escape your everyday like a royal with a trip to this grand holiday home on the Isle of Wight. A favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Osborne has all the luxuries that you would expect from a royal residence, including a private beach!

Explore the sumptuous state rooms of Osborne (still true to the original design and décor) before heading outside to enjoy the seasonal colours that sweep the gardens and grounds. Osborne House is a must-visit for both fans of the royals and grand, eye-popping architecture.

Please note that while the majority of the Osborne estate is now open, tickets need to be booked in advance and the top floors of the house remain closed for the time being.

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6

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge, a historic English Heritage site.

Known around the world as a masterpiece of prehistoric ingenuity, Stonehenge is one of the England’s most famous historic sites. Believed to have been built at least 4500 years ago, the iconic stone circle’s purpose has been the source of much debate (and few far-out theories) but most historians agree that it had a spiritual significance to those who built it.

Book tickets in advance and learn more about the mystery surrounding the site. For a truly unforgettable experience, why not book a Stone Circle Experience which lets you get closer to the impressive monoliths.

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7

Dover Castle

Dover Castle

Dover Castle in south east England, a historic English Heritage site.

Perched atop Kent’s iconic white cliffs, 2,000-year-old Dover Castle has plenty of stories to keep history buffs on their toes. Step inside Henry II’s recreated rooms full of grand and colourful furnishings, below which wind the Medieval Tunnels that protected the castle from attack.

Fast forward to the 20th century and discover how the castle played a vital role in communication for both World Wars. Head outside to explore the battlements and mighty defences (all with panoramic views of the English Channel) and catch a glimpse of the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country.

Just so you know, due to social distancing measures, the Secret Wartime Tunnels and Underground Hospital are currently closed.

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8

Walmer Castle

Walmer Castle

Walmer Castle in Kent, a historic English Heritage site.

Once home to the Iron Duke (1st Duke of Wellington and former British Prime Minster), this Tudor castle on the Kent coast is brimming with history. With eight acres of award-winning gardens, there's plenty to wander around and see - discover the cloud-shaped yew hedge in the Broadwalk Garden, walk through wild meadows or explore the Kitchen Garden, blooming with seasonal fruit and veg.

On top of that, you can now explore previously inaccessible areas of the grounds, including the sunken Glen Garden with its maze of woodland paths. Young explorers will love the Natural Play Trail dotted with wobbly bridges, climbing nets and hollow tree trunks. Don’t leave without visiting the Queen Mother’s Garden –this perfectly pruned garden was gifted to her in honour of her 95th birthday.

Please be aware that, at the moment, only the gardens are open to the public. 

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9

Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, a historic English Heritage site.

Uncover the lives of the Percy family – once the most powerful family in the north – at Northumberland’s hilltop fortress, Warkworth Castle. Traverse the cross-shaped keep that played a vital role in the long-running war between England and Scotland before taking a sneak peek into the Duke of Northumberland’s rooms. Keep an eye out too for the lion badge, the family symbol of the powerful Percy family.

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10

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, a historic English Heritage site.

Make your way to Kenilworth to marvel at a mighty Norman keep and explore immaculate gardens. Enjoy the same views as Queen Elizabeth I did and learn about her rumoured romance with courtier, Robert Dudley.

Lost for almost 400 years, the beautifully recreated Elizabethan Garden is a treasure trove of tranquillity, with its ornate aviary, marble fountain and flourishing fragrant flowers. Wrap up your visit with a spot of lunch at the Stables Tearoom.

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28 Oct 2020(last updated)

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  • 1

    Birdoswald Roman Fort - Hadrian's Wall

  • 2

    Tintagel Castle

  • 3

    Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens

  • 4

    Audley End House and Gardens

  • 5

    Osborne

  • 6

    Stonehenge

  • 7

    Dover Castle

  • 8

    Walmer Castle

  • 9

    Warkworth Castle

  • 10

    Kenilworth Castle

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