British Landmarks You Really Mustn't Miss
I feel like I've set myself an impossible task here are there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of British landmarks that shouldn't be missed. weekend and every holiday wouldn't be enough, so I'll have to select a few for now. In a future blog I'll look at some architectural treasures and perhaps another one could cover some less well-known places.
Starting in the north, Hadrian's Wall was the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. It's a vast structure that runs for 73 miles from coast to coast, designed to hold the "barbarians" at bay. More than just a wall, however large and impressive, it features forts, turrets, towers and towns, and archaeology and history come together here to give a snapshot of life 2000 years ago. See rare artefacts in the various museums or get your walking boots on and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Northumberland moors.
At the other end of the country is Land's End where the First and Last House in England stands defiant against the power of the Atlantic Ocean. Look down the cliff to see the waves pounding at the granite mass of the Armed Knights or look out a little further to the lighthouse standing on the jagged reef of the Longships. Just a short distance along the coast path is the Minack Theatre, a unique open-air theatre carved into the cliff witt the Atlantic as its backdrop. In summer there is a full programme of drama, musicals and opera, and the theatre is open for visits even when no performance is taking place.
A little further along the coast is St Michael's Mount. The isolated rocky island stands just offshore in Mount's Bay, a remarkable twin to the Mont Saint Michel in Brittany. The uncanny similarity extends far beyond the names, with both islands crowned by monastery/castles, both with little quays at their base and both with a causeway that can be used to walk across at low tide.
Let’s head to Wales next and take a look at the highest mountain in the principality: Snowdon. There are a number of routes to the summit, some steep and challenging, others perhaps a little longer but following well-made paths. The easiest way up is to ride the little Victorian steam railway from Llanberis. Cheating? Well a steam railway is always a treat and one with views like this is extra special. Talking of views, when you stand on the summit you are the highest person in Wales, and it really feels like it. On a clear day you can even see as far as Ireland. (And when the weather closes in you can see precisely nothing!)
We’ve already sampled the extreme south-west corner of the country so now let’s go to the south-east. The startlingly white chalk cliffs near Dover were immortalised by Vera Lynn but they have been welcoming travellers home for centuries. As the first sight of homes for troops returning from two world wars they have become a symbol of hope and reconciliation. There are some fabulous walks along the coast here (don’t go too near the edge!) including one to the Victorian South Foreland Lighthouse.
The coast of Dorset and East Devon is known as the Jurassic Coast, due to the huge quantity of fossils that can be found in the sedimentary rocks of the cliffs and beaches. The area was first recognised as a fossil treasure house in the early 19th century when the first complete ichthyosaurus skeleton was discovered here by a young girl. A walk along the beach here will almost certainly reveal an ammonite or two, or some other ancient animal. More recent fame has come from the hit detective drama Broadchurch starring Olivia Coleman and David Tennant, and the coastline also features some famous rock formations such as Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks.
There are Neolithic stone circles all over Europe (Corsica, Menorca and Brittany spring to mind) but the greatest and most famous of them all is Stonehenge. The mystery of how and why the enormous sarsen stones and smaller bluestones were transported and erected here has fascinated people for centuries. Many years ago, I had the privilege of being able to walk among the stones, touch them and look up in awe. Today, visitors must stand back a short distance to view them, in order to prevent the erosion that their popularity would otherwise bring.
The little sister of Stonehenge is Avebury, a short distance to the north. Less well-known and less visited, Avebury is accessible to all, and indeed a road passes through the middle, a village overlaps one edge and sheep are free to graze. In its heyday Avebury would have been at least as impressive as Stonehenge, with a series of stone circles and an outer earthwork 420m in diameter. An avenue of paired stones runs away from the main henge for half a mile, and a mile to the south is Silbury Hill, the largest artificial mound in Europe.
For hotels convenient to any of these places try:
Hadrian's Wall - Lord Crewe Arms
Land's End and St Michael's Mount - The St Mawes Hotel or The Idle Rocks
Snowdon - Plas Tan-Yr-Allt
White Cliffs of Dover - Goss Hall
Jurassic Coast - Halsons
Stonehenge and Avebury - Any of our hotels in Bath
14 Jan 2020, 12:48