Britain is a land of riches, steeped in history and world-famous for many things right across the tourist spectrum. The 600 mile stretch of the most powerful island nation in history is littered with historical attractions, unique geology and some of the most stunning coastline that rivals any Mediterranean or tropical region.
As much as the entire length and breadth of the United Kingdom is stunning, and considering the many amazing places to visit, there are some standout attractions that draw masses of tourists because they offer something unique or wondrous.
With the pandemic currently still in full swing but with lockdown restrictions easing, it might be a good idea to hold off on the ESTA and the 3,000 mile American road trip that we all dream of doing some day and instead visit some of the best places that the UK has to offer.
It would probably take years to make a definitive list of all the great places of Britain, but some of the best will have to suffice for now and include:
*Museum of Liverpool
*Leeds Royal Armoury
*The Giant’s Causeway
*The Welsh Mountain Zoo
Stonehenge is one of the most famous historical sites in the world while the Museum of Liverpool offers some unique insights into the city’s dark past and the Titanic museum of Belfast is one of the best attractions for the ill-fated luxury liner.
Not too far from the Titanic museum is one of the most unique geological formations on the continent at the Giant’s Causeway and the windmills of Anglesey offer a glimpse into one of the earliest forms of mass production.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo near Colwyn has a large collection of stunning British wildlife and Edinburgh Castle is one of the most complex in the world that is still standing and further North, the Jarlshof excavation on the Shetlands tells the tale of life in ancient Britain.
It is hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of Stonehenge since it sits among the Pyramids of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. The large circular formation of standing stones is thought to have been a ceremonial area to herald the changing of the seasons, upon which ancient peoples relied as part of their lives.
Dating back to 3,000 BC, the astonishing monument attracts over 1.5 million visitors per year because of its historical importance and mystery in equal measures. To this day, nobody knows for sure exactly how the monument was erected and some of the stones weigh up to 30 tonnes each and have travelled from quarries over 150 miles away. Sadly, because of vandalism, the stones are no longer freely accessible but private tours can be arranged.
Museum of Liverpool
Being a cosmopolitan city, Liverpool itself is a tourist attraction but the city is home to a few museums and historical sites of note. Known worldwide for The Beatles and Liverpool Football Club, the city also has a dark past as being one the primary trading ports for slaves during the height of the despicable events. The Museum of Liverpool hosts a permanent attraction offering historical insights, stories and artifacts directly from the time of the slave trade.
More than a traditional museum, the establishment displays some unique galleries that tell stories of inspiration across a diverse multitude of cultures including African heritage and the tragedies thereof, women’s rights and the success of extraordinary and talented people who rose above adversity to achieve their dreams. The attraction is also completely free and is operated via donations.
Leeds Royal Armoury
One of the largest collections of arms, armour and weapons outside of London, the Leeds Royal Armoury is a stunning insight into ancient warfare. The museum is home to a massive display of British armour dating back to before the Roman invasion and also holds modern weapons such as machine guns, military tools and even a decommissioned nuclear bomb.
As well as the amazing historical insights into the ancient warfare of Britain, one of the museum’s standout attractions is the Oriental gallery which holds genuine ancient Japanese artifacts including a 16th century Kanemoto katana, a Yoroi Chakuyo painting of the “putting on of armour” and a stunning tosei gusoku (armour) of the Sakakibara samurai clan.
One of the worst tragedies of the 20th century, the sinking of the RMS Titanic was immortalised in James Cameron’s slightly glamourised movie. The real story of the Titanic is told at the Titanic Belfast museum which holds a permanent display of genuine artifacts from the luxury liner and offers a 90-minute tour telling the story of the largest passenger ship event built.
Even the building itself is stunning, being designed as a four-piece complex, each of which resembles the bow of the Titanic and has been nicknamed “The Iceberg” by locals. The 120,000 square metre, 8 story gallery is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Titanic with galleries depicting events from construction to launch as well as the tragedy itself.
The Giant’s Causeway
One of Northern Ireland’s best attractions, The Giant’s Causeway is just 60 miles from the Titanic Belfast museum, so it’s well worth a visit while you are in the area. The stunning geological formation is one of the most unique in the world, made from 40,000 hexagonal-shaped basalt columns formed from a volcanic eruption in the Paleogene period 50 million years ago.
In a stunning display of the ingenuity of nature, the columns are believed to have been formed in a hexagon shape in order to interlock in the most efficient way possible so as to use all available space, similar to the way bees form their hives. Because of the mystery of the geology, the formation has garnered many legends including that the columns are the remains of an ancient giant.
Anglesey is known for being the ancient capital of Britain before the Roman invasion and is steeped in Druidic and Celtic history. Apart from that, the island is also known as the breadbasket of Wales, mostly because of the multitude of windmills that litter the area. Built between the early 18th and late 19th century, the windmills of Anglesey produced the flour for breadmaking during the industrial revolution and many of them still stand today not far from the iconic town of Conwy.
Because of their relatively spaced construction, many of the windmills of the island’s mills are very different to each other, as technologies and building techniques changed over time. This means that it is worth visiting as many as you can since they all offer unique insights into different time periods.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo
A zoo built on a mountain really advertises itself and the very family-friendly Welsh Mountain Zoo doesn’t disappoint. Since 1963, the small zoo has been making childhood memories for many families in the North West and from humble beginnings has grown to include some of the most amazing animals from all over Britain such as forest animals, some exotics and birds of prey.
Additionally, the zoo has an excellent petting zoo and children’s farm for younger kids that is home to gentle and supercute creatures like bunnies, ducks and guinea pigs. Like many zoos, there are varying prices which start at a reasonable £9 for children up to £15 for adults, with the cheaper prices for online bookings. There are also family passes available and under 3’s can enter for free.
Built on a hilltop overlooking the city, Edinburgh Castle is dominating presence on the location’s skyline. Originally built as a fortress in the 11th century, the castle was expanded over the course of hundreds of years and has since been home to royalty, soldiers and prisoners. Mary Queen of Scots famously lived here during her unofficial reign and every day since 1861, the 1 O’Clock Gun has fired at precisely 1 pm.
Other events at the castle include the world-famous Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s Eve and a multitude of military ceremonies. Various tours are also on offer, from free basic walking guides to private tours and each lasts a different amount of time. Some of them can be quite long and might not be suitable for younger children.
One of the most captivating locations anywhere in the world, the Shetlands are something to behold. Norse and Scottish history is soaked into the windswept, treeless lands that are home to one of the most ancient excavations in Britain. The Jarlshof excavation is a Norse settlement that was built and expanded over the course of 5,000 years from beginning to end.
Various excavations over the last hundred years or so have uncovered more and more of the ancient site and with each project, archaeologists are learning a deeper understanding of life on the island. Some of the oldest roundhouses found anywhere in the world can be found here and some have been shown to house a central stove, wheelhouse bays and livestock stables. The weather of the Shetlands is very unpredictable and ferry and air excursions there can take a long time or are often cancelled, so be sure to plan ahead.