Britain’s best UNESCO sites

15/04/2019 11:27

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Cotswolds, England by Blenheim PalaceA view over the palace's grounds © Blenheim Palace

A visit to Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Cotswolds, easily takes up more than a day to do it justice if you’re visiting the house and formal gardens alone, but the estate also includes 2,000 acres of parkland to explore. The footpaths across the Great Park give outstanding views of the palace and vistas of the lake that Capability Brown was appointed to create. It gives the opportunity to get away from the crowds and the coaches that hang around the house and formal gardens – the majority of visitors don’t step out into the park at all – and you’ll find many delightfully peaceful spots to sit.

Cornwall Mining Landscape

Portreath beach Cornwall England UK Britain by ian woolcock Shutterstock© ian woolcock, Shutterstock

Cornwall’s industrial heritage is stamped ineradicably on its towns and coast over the whole county, but with no greater density – and pride – than in the region of St Agnes, Redruth, Camborne and Hayle. The landscape remains testimony to the part the region played in the industrial revolution, and was therefore given UNESCO status in 2006.

Dorset and East Devon Coast

Jurassic Coast East Devon Dorset England Britain by Tony Howell, Heart of Devon Images© Tony Howell, Heart of Devon Images

This is England’s first and only Natural World Heritage Site, designated as such by UNESCO in 2004 in recognition of its unique geology and geomorphology. It is known as the Jurassic Coast, and stretches for 95 miles from Orcombe Point in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset.

Derwent Valley Mills

Darley Abbey Derwent Valley Mills Derbyshire Peak District England © Derwent Valley Mills

With their soaring chimney stacks, the Derwent Valley Mills scattered along the A6 were enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, recognising the part the Lower Derwent played in changing the world forever.

Forth Bridge

Forth Rail Bridge Scotland Britain by gemini, Shutterstock© gemini, Shutterstock

A recent addition to the UNESCO list (2015), this railway bridge is an internationally recognised outline like that of the Taj Mahal or Statue of Liberty. Crossing it, you fly like a plane high over the rooftops of South Queensferry on the Edinburgh side, and the train – running 150ft above high water to allow shipping through – is completely dwarfed by the mighty structure. Constructed in 1890, it is a masterpiece of creative genius.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey Ripon Yorkshire Dales England by Wikimedia Commons © Wikimedia Commons

The remains of the Cistercian foundation of Fountains Abbey, four miles southwest of Ripon and just a few fields away from Markenfield Hall, constitute the ultimate romantic ruin. This, and the surrounding Studley Royal Park, were inscribed on the heritage list in 1986 to recognise a magnificent landscape illustrating 800 years of human ambition, design and achievement.

The heart of Neolithic Orkney

Ring of Brodgar UNESCO site Orkney by Orkney.comThe Ring of Brodgar is one of Orkney's most atmospheric sites ©

Along a thin neck of land between the lochs of Harray and Stenness, in a natural amphitheatre formed by the hills of Hoy to the south and the backbone of Orkney’s moorland, lies one of Europe’s richest Neolithic landscapes. The epicentre of this extraordinary density of ritual prehistoric sites lies along and near the B9055, 5 miles northeast of Stromness, where you will find the Ring of Brodgar, the Ness of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe chambered cairn. Each site is visually striking: these are not just bumps and lumps where you must take a guide’s word that they look impressive or are important. Evidence garnered by your own eyes will tell you that you are looking at a landscape unchanged for more than 5,000 years. Their collective significance was recognised by latter-day civilisation in 1999 when UNESCO accorded them – together with Skara Brae, 6 miles west – World Heritage Site status.  

Ironbridge Gorge

Ironbridge Gorge Shropshire UK by stocker1970, Shutterstock© stocker1970, Shutterstock

Ironbridge Gorge covers a three-mile stretch around the River Severn from Coalbrookdale to Coalport, taking in Ironbridge, Jackfield and part of the former mining town of Madeley. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 in recognition of its unique contribution to the Industrial Revolution.

Slow Travel Cornwall  Slow Travel Dorset Dumfries and Galloway the Bradt Guide 

 Orkney the Bradt Guide by Mark Rowe  Peak District 2nd edition cover Shropshire Cover 

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Suzy London posted on 31/10/2016 09:44
The jurassic coast in Devon & Dorset is a fantastic place to take any family with inquisitive children and teenagers. Getting our kids on holiday in the UK can be a chore but well as being very picturesque there is the added excitement of discovering a T-Rex or Diplodocus in the sands and cliffs. We tend to find a picturesque cottage through over looking the sea where we can also take the dog. When you've finished scouring the shore there's Dorchester, Weymouth, Poole and Lyme Regis for nice restaurants, museums and the cinema. Fortunately, its not as busy as further down the coast in Devon and Cornwall.

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