Most interesting wonders of the United Kingdom
Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of the United Kingdom.
Natural landmarks in United Kingdom are somewhat overshadowed by the magnificence of man made heritage. Nevertheless here are located numerous charming and amazing natural landmarks. Below are listed few selected ones:
- Brimham Rocks – England, North Yorkshire. Incredible balancing rocks with some formations up to 30 m high. Especially amazing is Idol Rock – large mass of rock balancing on incredibly small foot.
- Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland, Antrim. Area of outstanding natural beauty, with some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. Tops of these columns form natural stepping stones leading into the sea.
- Seven Sisters – England, East Sussex. Series of chalk cliffs characteristic for this region of England. Their natural beauty is accented by ancient dry valleys, dissecting the cliffs.
- Dan yr Ogof – Wales, Powys. 17 km long cave system, one of major tourist attractions in Wales. Here have been found bones of 42 humans and many animals. Renowned due to beautiful cave formations.
- Easegill System – England, North Yorkshire. Longest cave system in Britain, with 76 km long passages. Beautiful cave formations.
- Fingal’s Cave – Scotland, Argyll and Bute. Highly unusual sea cave, formed by basalt columns and overlaid with arched roof. Powerful echo effect inside the cave. 85 m long, up to 23 m high.
Other natural landmarks
- Badbury Hill bluebell woods – England, Oxfordshire. One of the most beautiful bluebell woods in England. In springs – in April – the beech forest on this Iron Age hillfort is covered with dense carpet of bright blue flowers.
- The Bass Rock – Scotland, East Lothian. Small island, towering 107 m high and almost wholly surrounded by steep cliffs. Island hosts the largest colony of gannets in the world – more than 150,000 birds. Due to the incredible number of white birds and their droppings the island looks white.
- Loch Ness monster – Nessie – Scotland, Highland. This landmark rather belongs in realm of legends – but it is the most famous legend about cryptid (legendary, scientifically unrecognized creature) in the world. Nessie is a supposed creature living in Loch Ness – large lake in Scottish Highlands. By many considered to be a surviving reptile similar to plesiosaurs. Attained world wide fame in 1933 although supposedly mentioned already in the 6th century AD. Numerous search expeditions with state of the art technologies have found some unexplained phenomena but no convincing proofs for the existence of Nessie.
Man made landmarks
Urban planning monuments
- Chester medieval walled city – England, Cheshire. One of the best preserved medieval cities in British Isles. Street network originates from the Roman times. Town has nearly intact defensive walls – the best preserved in Britain. On the top of 3 km long walls is walkway. Unique feature of Chester is Rows – covered walkways on the first floor level of four main streets, with entrances in shops. Rows were developed in the 13th century.
- Grainger Town in Newcastle – England, Tyne and Wear. Large (36 ha) complex of magnificent Neo-Classical buildings, developed by Richard Grainger in 1824 – 1841. 450 buildings, most of high architectonic value.
- Historical centre of Stratford-upon-Avon – England, Warwickshire. One of the best preserved medieval cities in United Kingdom – there is preserved historical street pattern, many streets are lined with well preserved half-timbered houses. The conservation of historical values started more than 200 years ago.
- York walled city – England, North Yorkshire. One of the most beautiful and historically most significant cities in England. Founded by Romans in 71 AD, for many centuries the most important city in Northern England. The structure of this historical city is very well conserved and such places as The Shambles provide insight into medieval city planning. Preserved streets with runnels, overhanging timber frame buildings. Fortification walls include older Roman walls (Multangular Tower, 211 AD and seven more towers) and four medieval gatehouses. There is a possibility that the small Anglian Tower is from Saxon times, built in the 7th century.
- Caernarfon Castle – Wales, Gwynedd. In the southern part of old Caernarfon town is located this impressive castle, which is built in the site of older castle in 1283. Castle bears reminiscence to Walls of Constantinopole.
- Dover Castle and tunnels – England, Kent. Large, well preserved and historically important castle, founded in the 12th century in the site of earlier fortifications. Contains the only medieval counter tunnel in the world, built for surprise attack on French in 1216. Extensive, more than 5 km long tunnels under the castle were used as a command center during the Second World War.
- Edinburgh Castle – Scotland, City of Edinburgh. Dominating element of Edinburgh City, hilltop castle fortress. Royal castle located here since the 12th century, built in many phases over the 12th – 16th century and later. Historically very important complex of buildings.
- Glamis Castle – Scotland, Angus. Ancient, legendary castle, inhabited by lords of Glamis since 1372 (although existing before). Exquisite plasterwork ceilings in several rooms. Place, where William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth takes place. Unusual and weird stories about this castle, f.e. story about Monster of Glamis – a crippled child kept in the castle away from other people.
- Harlech Castle – Wales, Gwynedd. Medieval Welsh castle with impressive gatehouse. Built in 1283 – 1290. Concentric castle, with several concentric rings of defenses. It withstood 7 years long siege which ended in 1468 – the longest siege in the history of British Isles. Slighted in 1647, but well preserved.
- Castle Stalker – Scotland, Argyll and Bute. Massive four-story keep – tower on a tidal islet on Loch Laich. One of the most picturesque Scottish castles, preserved in authentic state. Small fort built around 1320, present structure – around the 1440ies. Abandoned in the 1840ies but repaired in 1908.
- Stirling Castle – Scotland, Stirling. One of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, located on clifftop. For most part built in the 15th – 16th centuries, although mentioned already in 1110. Nowadays the architecture of this well preserved castle represents a valuable example of Renaissance architecture in this region. Important monument is the beautiful Renaissance Great Hall, built in 1497 and Royal Palace – one of the largest Renaissance style buildings in Great Britain, adorned with intricate stone carvings.
- Tower of London – England, Greater London. Royal palace and fortress. White Tower – the central keep – constructed in 1078 – 1087 by William the Conqueror and represents outstanding example of Norman architecture. This enormous keep is 27.4 m high, walls up to 3.4 m thick. Used as a prison already in 1100. Over the centuries extended with numerous buildings within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. Building of outstanding historical importance. Tower houses Crown Jewels. Well known site of legends, reportedly haunted.
- Windsor Castle – England, Berkshire. One of the major castles and palaces of the world. Castle built by William the Conqueror and soon afterwards used as a royal palace. Longest occupied palace in Europe, largest inhabited palace in the world. Initial motte and bailey castle was built in the 11th century (Round Tower – rebuilt in the 19th century), but later the castle was largely extended, always trying to imitate early medieval designs. Beautiful interiors from the 19th century in State Apartments. Site of many important historical events.
As mentioned above, according to the British tradition palaces are residences of royalty or bishops. Nevertheless numerous other residences in United Kingdom qualify as palaces by their size and splendor and are reviewed as such by Wondermondo.
- Blenheim Palace – England, Oxfordshire. Enormous country house, the only non-royal and non-episcopal country house in England, which is named palace. Built in 1705 – 1724 in splendid English Baroque style and contains many valuable artworks. Home of Churchill family for several centuries, now property of Dukes of Marlborough.
- Brighton Royal Pavillion – England, East Sussex. Former royal residence, one of the most extravagant historical buildings in Europe. The building is built in Indo-Saracenic style, more characteristic for India in the 19th century, with very richly-decorated interiors. Built in 1787 – 1822.
- Hampton Court Palace – England, Greater London. Royal palace, one of the most impressive palaces in United Kingdom. Started in late Gothic – Renaissance style in the early 16th century, continued in Baroque style in the 17th century. Site of numerous important historical events, contains huge amount of valuable artwork, site of legends.
- Castle Howard – England, North Yorkshire. One of the most magnificent palace-like structures in Britain. This stately home has been constructed mainly in 1699 – 1712 in Baroque style, designed by John Vanbrugh. 145 rooms, including the Great Hall which is 24 m high.
- Stowe House – England, Buckingamshire. One of the most impressive mansions in England. As a core part serves a mansion constructed around 1683, but it has been rebuilt and now the Neo-Classical south facade of the building is 279 m long. Mansions contains rooms with amazing decorations and paintings, in total there are more than 400 rooms.
Churches and monasteries
United Kingdom has large number of magnificent and historically very interesting church buildings and the selection of few best ones leads to very subjective results.
- Bristol Cathedral – England, City of Bristol. Beautiful Gothic cathedral, one of the most interesting and most beautiful in England. Contains some Romanesque parts built in the 12th century, further extensions from 1220, 1298 – 1332, middle of the 15th century and later times. Building has very intricate vaulting surpassing the Gothic vaults of many more famous churches.
- Canterbury Cathedral – England, Kent. Enormous, richly decorated and historically important cathedral, rebuilt numerous times since around 740, today mainly in Gothic style. One of the earliest representatives of Gothic style in England.
- Durham Cathedral – England, Durham. One of the finest examples of Norman architecture, one of the greatest churches in United Kingdom. Built by Norman conquerors in 1093-1133, in Romanesque style. It is interesting though that there (before its time) are used some elements of the next – Gothic style. Contains relics of several saints – St Cuthbert, head of St Oswald of Northumbria, Venerable Bede.
- Gloucester Cathedral – England, Gloucestershire. Ornate Romanesque – Gothic cathedral. Built on a foundation which was laid in 1089. Cathedral built until 1499. This beautiful building is 130 m long, ornate central tower is 69 m tall. Cloisters have amazing fan vaults. Interesting details are the earliest images of golf game in stained windows from 1350 and carved image of medieval football.
- Iona Abbey – Scotland, Argyll and Bute. Once one of the largest religious centres in Western Europe, established in 563 and serving as a centre for the spread of Western Christianity. 48 kings of different Western European countries are thought to be buried here.
- King’s College Chapel in Cambridge – England, Cambridgeshire. One of finest Gothic buildings in England. Built in 1532 – 1536, 88 m long. The largest fan vault in the world and some of the most magnificent medieval stained glass windows in the world. Altar painting made by Rubens.
- Lincoln Cathedral – England, Lincolnshire. Enormous Gothic cathedral, built in 1185 – 1311. One of most beautiful church buildings in United Kingdom. For 249 years (1300 – 1549) was considered to be the tallest building in the world, until the 160 m tall spire collapsed. 148 m long building with unique facade.
- Salisbury Cathedral – England, Wiltshire. One of the most impressive representatives of Early English architecture (Early Gothic style), built in 1220 – 1258. Spire of the church is 123 m tall. Contains the oldest working clock of the world, from 1386. Contains many valuable works of art.
- St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle – England, Berkshire. Beautiful church in Perpendicular Gothic style. Site of significant historical events – many royal weddings and burials.
- St Giles’Church in Wrexham – Wales, Wrexham. Magnificent Gothic building. The beautiful 41 m tall tower with numerous stone carvings is built in the 16th century. Interior is adorned with numerous carvings, magnificent detail is ornate wrought-iron gates from 1719.
- St Paul’s Cathedral – England, City of London. This enormous church is an important representative of Baroque style, built in 1708, one of the largest churches in United Kindgom.
- Westminster Abbey – England, Greater London. Royal church of United Kingdom with numerous art values. Built in 1245 – roughly 1745, mainly in Gothic style. One of the earliest representatives of Gothic architecture in England.
- York Minster – England, North Yorkshire. One of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. This ornate Gothic structure was built in the site of several earlier churches, current structure was started in 1230, using the existing Norman fundament and completed in 1472. Enormous windows are adorned with the largest medieval stained glass expanse in the world (Great East Window). Church is 158 m long.
- Broch of Mousa – Scotland, Shetland Islands. The best example of broch – prehistoric dry stone tower, great achievement of ancient constructors. Possibly the best preserved prehistoric structure in Europe, built sometimes around 100 BC. Conical tower is 13 m high, has preserved intramural stair.
- Jarlshof – Scotland, Shetland Islands. Impressive archaeological monument – ancient settlement made of dry stone without mortar. Development started in 2500 BC, in Bronze Age, when several oval houses were built. Supplemented with broch and defensive wall in Iron Age, remnants of Pictish times. Notable additions left in Viking times (longhouse) and finally – medieval times, when fortified manor house was built here.
- Knap of Howar – Scotland, Orkney Islands, Papa Westray island. The oldest preserved house in Northern Europe, one of the best preserved Neolithic settlements in Europe, occupied in 3500 – 3100 BC. Similar to the more famous Skara Brae but older. Consists of two dry stone houses.
- Skara Brae – Scotland, Orkney Islands, Mainland Orkney. Impressive, extremely well preserved Neolithic settlement. Occupied in 3180 BC – 2500 BC. Remaining ten stone houses.
Ancient burials and megaliths
- Callanish Standing Stones – Scotland, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Outer Hebrides). One of the most impressive arrangements of standing stones, around 2900 – 2600 BC.
- La Hougue Bie – Jersey. One of the most impressive passage graves with a 20 metres long chamber, under a 12 meters high earthen mound. Developed around 3500 BC.
- Maeshowe – Scotland, Orkney Islands. Mainland Orkney. Enormous Neolithic cairn and passage grave. Represents a grass covered, 7.3 m high and 35 m wide mound with a ditch around it. Inside the mound are passages and grave built of stone slabs weighing up to 30 t. Rear wall in the central chamber is illuminated in winter solstice. Built before 3000 BC. Contains numerous runic inscriptions left by Vikings.
- Stonehenge – England, Wiltshire. One of the most popular archaeological monuments worldwide. Consists of a group of large standing stones in a circular setting, erected around 2500 BC (?). Located in the middle of dense complex of archaeological monuments.
Parks and gardens
- Eden Project – England, Cornwall. World’s largest greenhouse – group of artificial biomes with plants collected from all around the world. Opened in 2001. Greenhouses are built of inflated plastic cells on steel frame. Currently there are two systems of greenhouses – Tropical forest (1.56 ha) and Mediterranean Biome (0.654 ha). There is also outdoor biome for plants of temperate zone.
- Kew Royal Botanical Gardens – England, Greater London. One of the most important botanical gardens in the world with world’s largest collection of living plants. Here are more than 30,000 varieties of plants, herbarium with more than 7 million specimens, library with more than 750,000 volumes. Developed since the 18th century.
- Stowe Landscape Gardens – England, Buckingamshire. Over the 18th century around Stowe House were developed magnificent English landscape gardens with incredible number of impressive follies and park architecture – the largest number of such structures in a single park in United Kingdom.
- Devil’s Bridge – Wales, Ceredigion. Highly unusual "stack" of bridges across the gorge of Mynach. Here have been built three bridges – each new bridge over the older one. Oldest bridge is from 1075 – 1200, second – 1753 and the newest – 1901.
- Forth Bridge – Scotland, City of Edinburgh. Landmark structure – cantilever railway bridge, built in 1890. The first steel bridge in Britain. The bridge would be high achievement also today – it is 2.5 km long and rises up to 46 m above the water. Four cantilevers are 100.6 m tall.
- Iron Bridge – England, Shropshire. First iron bridge of the Industrial Age in the world, built in 1779.
- Tower Bridge – England, Greater London. One of the iconic bridges in the world – combined bascule and suspension bridge built in 1894. Length – 244 m, longest span – 61 m. Consists of two massive, tall towers standing in Thames with high airbridges connecting them. The bridge part between both towers is opened some 1000 times per year.
- British Library – England, Greater London. One of the largest libraries in the world, contains numerous unique books and artworks. More than 150 million items. Contains such printed items as Diamond Sutra (earliest dated printed book from 868 AD), Lindisfarne Gospels, Codex Arundel – manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci and others.
- British Museum – England, Greater London. Museum of human history and culture, one of the most comprehensive museums of the world. Established in 1753 and since then gradually expanded. Amazing architecture of Great Court (2000), the main building is important example of Greek Revival from the middle of the 19th century. Contains numerous unique items of high importance to the culture of world, such as Rosetta Stone, mummy of Cleopatra, Elgin Marbles from Parthenon, Discus-thrower, Cyrus Cylinder, cuneiform tablets from Ashurbanipal Library, drawings by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael and numerous other renowned artists, Hoa Hakananai moai statue from Easter Island.
- National Gallery – England, Greater London. Art gallery, founded in 1824. Contains more than 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th to 20th century. Many paintings are well known worldwide. Located in large Neo-Classical building, constructed in 1832 – 1838.
- National Gallery of Scotland – Scotland, City of Edinburgh. National art gallery of Scotland, houed in outstanding Neo-Classical building. Constructed in 1859. Includes also artwork by renowned artists from other parts of world, including Da Vinci, Van Dyck, Tiepolo, Botticelli, Gauguin, El Greco, van Gogh and many others.
- Natural History Museum – England, Greater London. One of major natural sciences museums of the world, housing some 70 million specimens. Located in a beautiful building which was built in 1881. One of the most renowned specimens is 32 m long replica of Diplodocus carnegii.
- Science Museum – England, Greater London. Enormous museum of science, holding more than 300,000 specimens. Some of the most renowned are the oldest locomotives of the world, world’s first jet engine and many amazing technical exhibits.
- Victoria and Albert Museum – England, Greater London. World’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, founded in 1852. Museum has 145 galleries with over 4.5 million objects, in many areas the collections are among the most important in the world. Museum building is expressive, with impressive frescoes and rich interiors.
Other man made landmarks
- Hadrian’s Wall – England, Northumberland. Stone and turf wall across northern England. Total length 117 km. Construction started in 122 AD by Romans. One of more prominent landmarks here is Knag Burn Gateway – fortified gate through the wall.
- Liver Building – England, Merseyside. One of the first true European skyscrapers, this 90 m tall building was built in 1908 – 1911. The building has 13 floors. One of the first buildings in the world constructed with reinforced concrete.
- Old Royal Naval College – England, Greater London. Beautiful architectural ensemble in Baroque style – former Greenwich Hospital designed by Christopher Wren, built in 1696 – 1712. Consists of two buildings – split in order to have view on Thames from the nearby Queen’s House. Beautiful interior.
- Palace of Westminster – England, Greater London. One of the highest achievements of Neo-Gothic architecture, one of iconic buildings in the world. Meeting place for the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Built in 1840 – 1870, works at interior continued well into the 20th century. Famous feature is the large clock tower of palace – the 96.3 m tall "Big Ben". Facade is 265.8 m long, building has more than 1,100 rooms.
Described wonders of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom is one of the most important countries in world economy and culture. Throughout many centuries this island country has enjoyed relative political stability and wealth. As a result we can enjoy here countless amazing and well preserved values of art and history.
It is not easy to single out the most amazing features – but among the highlights of United Kingdom can be mentioned:
- Castles and fortifications – some of the most magnificent structures of this kind in the world. In medieval times islands experienced stiff warfare between many smaller states and clans, leading to construction of numerous fortresses. It happens that descendants of these medieval rulers live in castles!
- Palaces. Only royalty and bishops have true "palaces" according to the British tradition. Others have stately homes, country houses etc. But quite a few of these country houses in the United Kingdom belong to the most outstanding residences of the world. Often here have been preserved valuable collections of art – a British country house may contain Renaissance or Impressionist paintings, which would make any metropolitan museum proud.
- Church buildings. Britain is extremely rich with amazing, beautiful churches and it is not easy to select the best of them. The magnificent Gothic churches of United Kingdom often have very large windows adorned with amazing stained glass, the intricate stone vaulting and ribs represent an early application of British engineering talent.
- Urban planning traditions. United Kingdom can present a wide array of very well preserved urban planning monuments, starting from the best preserved Neolithic villages north from Alps and ending with amazing experimental towns from the 19th – early 20th century.
- Megaliths. United Kingdom is very rich with a wide variety of prehistoric stone structures. A term "megalith" here is applied to very diverse prehistoric structures, often involving mostly small stones, but some of British megaliths belong to the most impressive in the world.
- Museums. The unbelievable art, engineering and scientific collections in United Kingdom serve as the best testimony of the centuries long affluence and stability of United Kingdom.
Division of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom consists of four countries as well as of three crown dependencies and 14 overseas territories.
These territories have separate pages in Wondermondo and are not described in this page.
- Ascension Island
- British Antarctic Territory (reviewed together with the whole Antarctica)
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Pitcairn Islands
- Saint Helena
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Tristan da Cunha, including Gough Island
- Turks and Caicos Islands
Featured: Dwarfie Stane
In the central part of Hoy Island is located mysterious monument of the past – Dwarfie Stane – enormous sandstone slab left by glacier.
Some 5,000 years ago people with unknown methods and unclear purpose hollowed out this stone, creating a passage with two side chambers. Passage was plugged with a 1.5 tons heavy stone plug – door.
Fodor’s Essential Great Britain: with the Best of England, Scotland & Wales (Full-color Travel Guide)
Great Britain remains a perennial favorite with travelers, drawing almost 3 million Americans each year, many of whom will revisit the nation. People travel here for the hipness of London, the cozy thatched-roof villages of the Cotswolds, or the wild moors and lochs of Scotland, but all want the most worthwhile destinations and savvy travel tips at a glance. The full-color Fodor’s Essential Great Britain provides this with a selective collection of the best of England, Scotland, and Wales.
Explore the misty isle of Great Britain, from lively London to the lush fields of Wales and the craggy beauty of the Scottish Highlands. With Rick Steves on your side, Great Britain can be yours!