From soaring towers to ancient spa retreats, the UK is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking sights. Tick off these top attractions from your wish list and explore the best of what dear ol’ Blighty has to offer, right across the network.
Roman Baths, Bath
Long before the Romans invaded Britain in AD43, the city of Bath was already known for its hot springs and mineral water. By AD75 the Romans had built a religious spa complex around the city’s thermal spring.
Visitors came from far and wide to bathe in the waters, worship at the temple and enjoy a gossip with friends. Over time, the Roman Baths fell into disuse and it wasn’t until 1775 that they were discovered again.
Once inside the attraction, you’ll find the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple and the Roman Bath House, as well as plenty of amazing historical artefacts.
Included in the price of the ticket is an audio guide. Public guided tours also run on the hour every hour from 10:00.
Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives
Barbara Hepworth was a world-renowned British sculptor. Inspired by landscapes, the human figure and the human spirit, Hepworth created hundreds of magnificent modernist masterpieces.
From St Ives railway station, follow the winding road towards the pretty town and harbour, past independent galleries, restaurants, studios and gift shops. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is tucked away at the top of an idyllic cobbled street.
Sky Garden, London
The Sky Garden is raising the stakes in the backyard game by becoming the highest public garden in the capital. This urban oasis opened its doors in 2015 and has continued to attract visitors from all over the world.
Housed at 20 Fenchurch Street in the city’s ‘Walkie-Talkie’ skyscraper, the actual garden spans three storeys and offers 360-degree views of London. Access is free but make sure you pre-book online.
Head to floors 35, 36 and 37 where you’ll find terraces filled with shrubs, flowers and ferns – it’s a paradise for plant lovers (and Instagrammers). There are a number of restaurants and bars in the building, although should you fancy a sit-down meal you’ll need to reserve a table well in advance.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Famous for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill, Bleinheim Palace is essentially Downton Abbey come to life.
This epic country house, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, was built in the early 18th century and today is one of England’s most popular attractions.
Travel to Hanborough by train and you can enjoy a picturesque two-mile walk to Blenheim Palace, as well as a 30% discount on your admission fee for travelling ‘the greener way’. There’s lots to see and do at this beautiful site, from discovering the palace’s State Rooms to wandering through the formal gardens; from exploring the Winston Churchill exhibition to visiting the Butterfly House – and much more.
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
This isn’t just a bog-standard bridge, this is a Brunel bridge. Although the famous engineer sadly died before Clifton Suspension Bridge was finished, his colleagues completed it in his memory. The bridge is entirely funded by tolls, which have paid for its upkeep ever since it opened in 1864.
Stroll across the bridge and delight in the magnificent views of the Avon Gorge and the city beyond. Between Easter and October, visitors can enjoy free guided tours on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. And then after your visit, head to the gorgeous suburb of Clifton Village for a spot of lunch and retail therapy.
Tower of London, London
One of the best-known buildings in the world, the Tower of London was built as a secure fortress, but over time it came to house many famous prisoners, including Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes.
This remarkable medieval palace has survived numerous battles and two world wars. London’s riverside just wouldn’t be the same without it.
It is possible to do a self-guided tour of the Tower of London, although the admission ticket (if purchased from reliable sources) should include access to the iconic Yeoman Warder – or ‘Beefeater’ – tours.
On the tour you’ll hear brilliant stories that span 1,000 years of history and learn all about the famous prisoners that were executed on Tower Green.
Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth
Visible from 23 miles away, the Spinnaker Tower is Portsmouth’s most prominent landmark. Since it opened in October 2005, more than 2.5 million people have visited the tower and seen the panoramic views on offer. If you’re not a fan of heights then this attraction, which stands at 170 metres tall, probably isn’t for you.
As well as enjoying the breathtaking views, you can also book afternoon tea ‘in the clouds’ at the Cloud cafe, which is located 105 metres above the harbour.
For those seeking an adrenaline rush, why not book either the abseiling experience or virtual reality experience (balance your way around the building at 90 metres high), neither of which are for the faint-hearted.
Cardiff Castle, Cardiff
What’s especially fascinating about Cardiff Castle is that it spans so many eras. It’s not only a Roman fort but a Norman stronghold and Victorian Gothic fantasy palace as well. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!
Located in the heart of the Welsh capital, the castle was probably built at the end of the AD50s and has since passed through the hands of many noble families before settling with the Bute family, who gifted the castle to the people of Cardiff in 1947.
You can easily fill an entire day at this impressive site. Take a tour of the opulent house, sneak a peek at the castle apartments, explore the wartime air raid shelters and visit the Norman Keep and Roman Wall.
And of course, let’s not forget the castle’s bread and butter, the gift shop – a treasure trove of knick-knacks you most certainly don’t need but won’t be able to resist.
Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury
This Gothic masterpiece is home to one of only four surviving copies of the original Magna Carta from 1215 – one of the main reasons Salisbury Cathedral attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year.
Climb the 332 steps up the cathedral’s tower and you’ll reach the foot of the tallest spire in Britain. Glorious aerial views of the interior can be seen from this vantage point, as well as panoramic views across Salisbury and beyond. The 80-acre Cathedral Close is also the perfect place to while away a peaceful afternoon.
Windsor Castle, Windsor
If you’re keen to catch a glimpse of the royal family, then try your luck by visiting Windsor Castle, one of Her Majesty’s three official residences. Apparently, the Queen spends most of her private weekends here, which makes a Saturday or Sunday visit to this iconic property even more exciting.
Built in the 11th century, Windsor is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and one of the most beautiful landmarks in the UK. Step off the train at Windsor & Eton Central Station and walk through the Windsor Royal Shopping Centre. If you can avoid the temptation to shop till you drop, you’ll soon see a stunning turret, one that makes up just a small portion of the grand castle.
Once inside, you can enjoy a variety of tours including a snoop around the State Apartments and inside St George’s Chapel where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married. The chapel is closed to visitors on Sundays.
23 January 2020 Bath ILondon IOxford IHistory and culture I