Destinations

5 must-see World Heritage Sites

There are a total of 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom, places of historical importance which are to be preserved. Some are more well-known than others, but all have their own stories to tell.

If you want to check out some of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, we’ve provided five of our favourites. We’ve avoided the obvious ones such as the Tower of London, Blenheim Palace and Kew Gardens, and instead we’ve chosen one or two which provide a bit more to see as part of a weekend break away.

Ironbridge Gorge

This part of Shropshire was originally named the Severn Gorge after the river that forged it, but now it takes its name from the bridge built in 1779 to connect the mines of Madeley and the industrial town of Broseley. This area is now unofficially considered to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and there are 35 historic sites and ten museums in Ironbridge Gorge. Sites include archaeological digs and churches, while the museums explore the production of china, tiles, iron – even the bridge itself – providing a fascinating insight into a period of history which transformed Britain.

Where to stay: YHA has two hostels in Ironbridge – one for groups at Coalbrookdale and another within an old china works at Coalport. Both provide a great base for exploring Ironbridge and the stunning Shropshire countryside.

Durham Castle and Cathedral

Durham is a beautiful medieval city, yet is often overlooked when people are searching for city breaks. Dominating the skyline of the city is Durham Castle and Cathedral, two astonishing pieces of 11th century Norman architecture. The castle forms part of the University of Durham but public guided tours are still available, including looks at the two chapels within it and many of the old state rooms. As for the cathedral, most experts consider it to be one of the finest in the country and the best Norman building found on these shores. Visitors can explore by themselves and even climb the 217-foot central tower for stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Where to stay: YHA has a great-value hostel ;in the heart of the city. Once you’ve seen the castle and cathedral, you can explore the city’s narrow streets or even take a day trip out to Beamish or Hadrian’s Wall.

City of Bath

Bath is the only World Heritage City in England – and when you see the historic delights on offer, you’ll see why UNESCO decided to confer its title on the whole area. From the ancient Roman Bath House which gives the city its name, to the stunning Georgian architecture of the Royal Crescent and the elegant Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon, Bath is one of the most attractive cities in the country with plenty of things to see and do.

Where to stay: In a city of listed buildings, YHA Bath fits right in. An attractive Georgian building, it’s stocked with modern facilities – and YHA members get free Wi-Fi!

Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd

This Heritage Site constitutes the castles of Beaumaris and Harlech, along with the castles and town walls of Caernarfon and Conwy. The fortifications were built by Edward I after his conquest of Wales, in order to build an ‘iron ring’ in which English settlers could live while governing the country. Why should you see them? UNESCO describes them as the “finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”. Exploring the castles and strolling around the walls is a whole weekend’s worth of discovery, and the views from Conwy Castle are particularly spectacular.

Where to stay: YHA Conwy is the ideal base for exploring this World Heritage Site, sat on a hill overlooking the historic walls and just ten minutes from the town centre. Conwy is also very near to Snowdonia and all its great adventure activities and walking trails.

Dorset and East Devon Coast

The Dorset and East Devon Coast is also known as the Jurassic Coast, and the 95-mile span was England’s first natural World Heritage Site. As well as having fantastic views, walks and beaches, not to mention plenty of wildlife, the area gained Heritage status as the geology of the area is a ‘walk through time’, with rocks recording 185 million continuous years of Earth’s history.

Where to stay: YHA has a host of great hostels along the south coast, including the rural Lulworth Cove and the seaside views of Portland.

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