Tuesday, February 8, 2011

5 Interesting Places to See in the UK

The UK may be small, but it's full of a variety of amazing places stretching right from John O'Groats to Lands End, Belfast to St Davids. It has a wealth of history, culture, wildlife and it's own unique eccentricities. Here are some of the most iconic sights that this small island has to offer. 

1. Stonehenge 

The monument from a similar angle in 2008 showing the extent of reconstruction

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Stonehenge at sunset in 2004

Archaeologists have believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. One recent theory however, has suggested that the first stones were not erected until 2400-2200 BC, whilst another suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury Henge monument. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.

Fisheye image of Stonehenge showing the circular layout

Archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008 indicates that Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found on the site indicate burials from as early as 3000 BC, when the initial ditch and bank were first dug. Burials continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years.

Print of Stonehenge, 1895

No one knows exactly what purpose it served, but it is thought to have been a centre of pagan worship. Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion.

2. Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge is one of London's most recognisable landmarks and possible one of the most famous bridges in the world.

Tower Bridge at Night London England

Spanning the Thames, just next to the Tower of London, it was built in 1894 after 50 architects and designers entered a competition to design a new bridge for London.

Visitors can view London from the high-level walkways and access the Victorian Engine Rooms. You can also access the bridge lift schedule which shows times and dates when the bridge will rise for large vessels.


3. Chatsworth House 
 Chatsworth House

The UK is dotted with a huge amount of exceptional country houses and castles, but one of the most beautiful is Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, home of the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire since 1549.

 Chatsworth House

As well as housing one of Europe's finest private art collections, the stately home also has a magical 101 acre garden, a farmyard and adventure playground. It's free to visit the surrounding grounds.

Chatsworth garden

Having evolved over more than 450 years, the 105 acre Chatsworth garden continues to change today. At this time of year, the garden is awash with a wonderful display of autumnal colours, and there is plenty to discover at every turn. 

Chatsworth garden

The famous waterworks include the 300 year old Cascade, the trough waterfall in the rockery and the enormous gravity-fed Emperor fountain. As well as the huge maze, the rockery and the rose, cottage and kitchen gardens, there are also over five miles of walks with rare trees, shrubs, streams and ponds to discover.

Chatsworth garden

Today the garden is managed by a team of 18 gardeners and trainees. At the same time as preserving its layers of history, the present Duke and Duchess are developing new areas and features of the garden for visitors. 

Chatsworth garden

Visitors are encouraged to explore the garden at their leisure, there are no signs saying 'keep off the grass', and dogs on leads are also very welcome. However, there is no lighting in the garden after dark. 

 Chatsworth farmyard and adventure playground

Younger visitors and families particularly enjoy the farmyard with its wide variety of animals and their young, and the spectacular woodland adventure playground. From the daily animal handling sessions, to fabulous water play and spiral slides, there is something for everyone. There is a cafe and a shop and for a private party, you can hire the beautiful party hut, which is built around a tree in the adventure playground.

Chatsworth farmyard and adventure playground

The 1000 acre park on the banks of the river Derwent, designed by 'Capability' Brown in the 1760s, is one of the most beautiful and historic man-made landscapes in Britain. It is open free throughout the year, during daylight hours. Visitors are welcome to walk, picnic and play in the park. Large scale outdoor events take place in the park every year. The park at Chatsworth is a farmed, food-producing landscape. The grass you walk on is a crop grazed by sheep, cattle and deer; the river provides fish and the woods game and timber.

Chatsworth park

Wood, behind the house, is also open all year. This historic woodland provides an impressive backdrop for the house, and contains a rich diversity of trees and wildlife. There are spectacular views out across the park and important man-made features include the Hunting Tower (not open to visitors), the lakes which supply the waterworks in the garden, the Aqueduct and the Souter stone, both part of Paxton's 19th century rock and water work in the landscape around Chatsworth. Footpaths also lead out onto the moor to the east.

Chatsworth stand wood

The Chatsworth Estate is able to offer some of the finest fly fishing in Derbyshire on its fishery, the Chatsworth Fishery. The Chatsworth Fishery extends from Baslow through Chatsworth Park to Rowsley on the River Derwent. The Chatsworth Fishery offers approximately 4 miles of double bank fly fishing through some of the most picturesque scenery in Derbyshire. 

Chatsworth Fishery

4. Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere, in Cumbria is 2 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep. It is the largest natural lake in England and is part of the Lake District National Park. This stunning landscape is also known for it's connection with Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome.

Canoeing on Lake Windermere in the Lake District National Park

Although popular with tourists, the west shoreline is almost completely owned by the National Trust, which makes it a haven for wildlife.

Local Attractions in the Lake District

Over a thousand ducks, geese and swans live on Windermere throughout the year. This more than doubles to over two and half thousand birds during the winter!

Many birds fly from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to spend the winter. Windermere has more birds on it in the winter than any other lake in the Lake District. It's one of the top places in Britain for wintering goldeneye, tufted duck, coot, pochard and red-breasted merganser.

Canada goose
Tufted duck
Red-breasted merganser

5. The Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway is a World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.

Giant's Causeway

The area is made up from about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which were created after a volcanic eruption.

Giant's Causeway

The name comes from the legend of Finn MacCool. The story goes that mythical Irish giant Finn built the causeway to get to Scotland and battle with a rival giant called Benandonner.

Giant's Causeway


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