Believe it or not, the UK boasts a grand total of 32 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Who knew so many cultural treasures were so close to home! We have selected ten of our favourite UK UNESCO sites, ranging from amazing architectural accomplishments to unique natural landscapes and mysterious ancient constructions. These are the things to look out for on your next staycation.
Edinburgh's Old Town centres around the Royal Mile, which runs from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. It is one of the best-preserved medieval centres in the UK, totally worth a visit for anyone who wants to imagine life in this era. Despite its name, the New Town area of Edinburgh dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, when a series of grand houses were built to accommodate the richer middle classes of the city. Characterised by elegant neoclassical and Georgian architecture, the New Town continues to wow visitors to this day. Edinburgh itself is also bursting with culture and the arts, not only is there plenty to do, but it's easy to get around and explore this compact city.
The whole world times their watches in accordance with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and this spot in London is the perfect place to learn more about the history of this. The UNESCO site, Maritime Greenwich, encompasses a series of buildings in stunning landscaped settings. Many have huge significance for their contribution to scientific endeavour, as well as boasting architectural splendour. This includes the Old Royal Observatory, Queens House, The Old Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.
Not satisfied with a single street or landmark, the entire city of Bath in Somerset, enjoys designated UNESCO status. Famous for its natural geothermal spa waters (hence the name Bath), it has been enjoyed as a place of leisure and wellness since Roman times. It was during the Georgian era however, that the city was developed into what it is today. Elegant neo-classical buildings in the Palladian style are found all over the city, most breathtakingly on sweeping crescents, such as the famous Royal Crescent.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the process of mining for copper and tin was so significant in Cornwall and West Devon, that it forever changed the landscape of the region. This fascinating history can be explored by visiting the actual mines, engine houses and tramways, as well as visiting the numerous ports, towns and villages that were built to support the industry. Understanding the region's mining heritage helps visitors get to grips with the area today and its place in world history.
Two of the oldest human-built sites in the UK, Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles are dated to be in the region of 5,000 years old. The more famous, Stonehenge, is the most sophisticated of all the stone circles found on Earth. Set where it is in the vast Salisbury Plain, there's no better time to visit than sunset or dawn. What the circles were really built for may never be known, but no one who visits can ignore the quiet majesty of these enigmatic stones.
The Lake District in Northern England was awarded UNESCO status in recognition of both its agro-pastoral land use and the natural formation of mountains, valleys and lakes, the latter of which were created in multiple ice ages. The Lake District has long attracted visitors as diverse as Romantic poets and painters to writers, outdoor enthusiasts and scientists. It is home to both the UK's largest natural lake, Windermere and Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England and a mecca for hikers and mountaineers.
A natural site that was formed over 50 million years ago, Giant's Causeway is a collection of basalt columns on the Northern Irish Coast. The dramatic and unique shape of these polygonal columns inspired the legends of a giant, who used them as stepping stones en route to Scotland. The entire coast, known as Causeway Coast, has been designated a UNESCO site, thanks to its unique geological characteristics and natural beauty. It's little wonder that it's the most popular natural landmark in Northern Ireland.
Any holidaymaker in Gibraltar should put this complex at the top of their to-do list, being both a natural and anthropological marvel. Found within the limestone rock face on the island's eastern coast, the cave complex has significant archaeological interest, with Neanderthal and early modern human deposits spanning 100,000 years. Thought to be the last refuge of the Neanderthal people, the caves also tell us a lot about our own evolution.
The Palace of Westminster and neighbouring Westminster Abbey make up a UNESCO heritage site that is one of the most significant historical landmarks in the UK. The historic Westminster Abbey is not only the site of royal coronations and weddings, but also the resting place of William the Conqueror, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and the Unknown Soldier.
One of the world's most important radio astronomy observatories, Jodrell Bank is found in Cheshire Plain, at an isolated spot where it enjoys no interference from Earth-based radio waves. Visitors can learn how this observatory has helped scientists better understand the Universe. Built in 1945, today the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre encompasses an immersive outdoor visitor centre, arboretum, park and the observatory itself, which houses the Grade II listed Lovell telescope.
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