UK | More countries coming soon
Understanding where we come from, why things are the way they are and how this is being expressed is essential. It helps us create an identity for ourselves, but also helps us understand and respect the identity of others.
First stop: the United Kingdom
“We may be a small country, but we’re a great one too- the country of Shakespeare, Churchill, The Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot… David Beckham’s left foot, come to that.”
– Hugh Grant, as the UK’s Prime Minister in the film ‘Love Actually’ (2003)
The UK boasts one of the most intriguing, unique, ancient and darkest human histories in the world. From the Black Death to the Great Fire to the Second World War- each and every house, village, town and city tells a story which explains why the British are the way they are today. What does it mean to be British? Why do we love tea? We are we so polite? Why are we characterised by having a stiff upper lip? Why are we a nation ruled by class? Why are we so self-depreciating? What’s with the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ slogan? All of these answers are laying dormant, waiting to be unearthed and given life by you. This month, why don’t you seek a few of them out and bring history to life?
The UK is very lucky to have organisations dedicated to preserving our culture, traditions and history. From museums to estate houses to castles to protected coastlines- every area of this green and pleasant land boasts an abundance of awesome sites open for public exploration.
Many are completely free, others charge a small fee for the general upkeep of these ancient places. Either way, our history defines us and therefore it should be explored to the fullest and understood by each of us. Did you know that: The last person to be executed at the Tower of London was German solider Josef Jakobs in 1941? Or that it is illegal to die in the Palace of Westminster? Or that the United Kingdom was the first industrialized country in the world? Or that French was the official language in the UK for about 300 years? Or that the Bank of England has so many rooms excavated below ground that its basements, vaults and cellars are said to be more spacious than that of Tower 42, one of London’s tallest buildings? There are so many cool things about the UK, you should consider what you find interesting and go on a quest to unearth some answers!
Below, we’ve compiled a list of awesome places to visit in each area of the UK. Find where you’re from and explore what’s on offer!
Hadrian’s Wall. Explore Roman life along the most magnificent of Rome’s great frontiers set in the dramatic landscape of Hadrian’s Wall Country.
Lotherton Hall. Get up close and personal with over 200 species of rare birds at Lotherton Hall in Aberford, near Leeds.
Fountains Abbey. Explore the majestic ruins of Fountains Abbey, the Georgian elegance of Studley Royal water garden and a medieval deer park in North Yorkshire and discover 900 years of history.
Edinburgh Castle is a world famous icon of Scotland and part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.
Caerlaverock Castle is one of the finest medieval structures in Scotland. Although it is quite ruined inside, some fine carved stone panels, windows and fireplaces indicate the original grandeur of this unique triangular castle.
Glamis Castle is the ancient seat of the Earls of Strathmore, the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret and the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Dolwyddelan Castle, a beautiful mountain stronghold of the Welsh Princes, stands in a magnificent location deep in Snowdonia.
Castell Henllys Iron Age fort offers a fascinating insight into prehistoric life circa 400BC.
Castell Coch is such an awesome castle not far from the Severn Bridge. A truly fairytale-esque castle, this is definitely worth a drop in if you’re in the area!
The Titanic experience takes you through nine galleries, telling the story of RMS Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and tragic end.
Giant’s Causeway – The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has attracted visitors for centuries.
Game of Thrones filming locations – Loads of shots from the infamous Game of Thrones TV series were filmed in Northern Ireland. Check out this site to follow their footsteps!
Highclere Castle– made famous by the TV series Downton Abbey. This decadent and awesome house is definitely worth a visit. Watch the opening times though, because they are rarely open due to the fact that Carnarvon family still live there!
The beautiful Lacock House in Wiltshire plays host to film crews all year round! Films such as Harry Potter and the current BBC series Wolf Hall were both filmed here.
Roman Baths in Bath. These best preserved ancient baths are such a treat to visit. They have worked hard to make these baths interesting to the 21st century public with interactive reenactments projected onto the walls and an interactive thinkpad to accompany your walk and tell you the tales of these ancient Roman baths.
Black Country Living Museum – re-enactment of life in the Midlands during the Industrial Revolution. Highlights include a working Victorian primary school, where punters can sign themselves up for a Victorian school experience with chalkboard tests and a very scary teacher! Another highlight are the super tasty chips available for purchase in the mock Victorian village.
Peveril Castle– home to one of William the Conquerer’s closest advisors!
Halesowen Abbey– brought down during Henry VIII’s Disolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century and said to be haunted by an order of disgruntled nuns!
Where to start! This city is brimming with world-class museums and heritage centres. The city itself is a walking museum with titillating stories etched into every stone of the city. Here are a few links to websites which will help you guide your way, categorised by your interests:
- Visit London
- Time Out London
- National Trust
- London Museums Directory
- Historic London Town
- English Heritage
To find out more information about visiting the UK, here are a few suggested websites:
Research and writing for United Kingdom session – Harriet Doughty