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Fascinating heritage sites in the UK

From the ancient ruins of Whitby Abbey to the 73-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall, Britain has plenty heritage hotspots full of beauty and historic importance. We are proud to be part of the Heritage Alliance and with many of our hostels located nearby, we provide you access to incredible landmarks, museums, and landscapes. Here are our top picks of heritage sites in the UK.

Whitby Abbey

Ruins of the ancient Whitby Abbey

The remarkable ruins of Whitby Abbey are a lot more than a dramatic cliff-top landmark. People from generations have been drawn to these iconic ruins for almost 1500 years due to it’s interesting heritage. The first Abbey was found around 657 and became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world. By 664, it was a milestone in the history of the Church in England.

Today, you can uncover centuries of history and follow in the footsteps of writers, artists, and religious leaders, whilst taking in the breathtaking sea views. Pop to the museum and discover how the Abbey inspired Caedmon, the first-named English poet, and Bram Stoker, the author of ‘Dracula’ in their creations.

Stay at YHA Whitby, a stones throw away

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle in Wales

One of the most impressive castles in Wales and in Europe. Conwy Castle is a place filled with mesmerising heritage. The fortress is a World Heritage Site and still looms over the quaint town even after 700 years. Below is the harbour and higgledy piggledy streets – protected by a 1.3km unbroken ring of town walls. When King Edward I built the castle in the late 13th century, it was intended to dominate and intimidate – and it’s still doing a very good job, competing with Snowdonia’s stunning skyline and grabbing its visitor’s attention daily.

Thanks to restored staircases in the towers, you can walk a circuit around the battlements and immerse yourself into the full Conwy experience.

Stay at YHA Conwy, 0.7 miles away

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland

Stretching 73 miles, Hadrian’s Wall – or at least what remains of it – dates to 1,900 years ago, when Hadrian himself declared the construction of a barrier to stop people from further north from invading their lands. The ancient wall remains form part of the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site known as Frontiers of the Roman Empire.

Today, many parts of the wall can be visited, and is one of the most popular heritage sites in the UK. Uncover the remains of the forts and towers that once kept watch over the Wall. Visit the museums and find out what life was like for men, women, and children on the edge of Roman Britain.

Stay at YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall, along the route

National Railway Museum

Two trains at the National Railway Museum in York

Delve into over 200 years of railway history at the National Railway Museum. Get up close to Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive, dig a little deeper into the finest collection of royal carriages, take a trip back in time to experience the working life of a train station. Make sure to jump aboard the new audio trail ‘Sound Tracks’ to learn about the history of the railway works.

Stay at YHA York, 1 mile away

St Briavels Castle

YHA St Briavels Castle

No other hostel can beat YHA St Briavels Castle when it comes to heritage. Built in the early 12th century, take a walk-through time within King John’s former hunting lodge, spend a peaceful moment in his Chapel, rest your feet in his bed-chamber, and wonder who spent time in the debtor’s prison and met their grizzly end on the Castle gallow. The ancient fortress has more than 800 years of stories to tell, making it the perfect spot for history lovers. Just be careful nothing goes bump in the night…

Stay at YHA St Briavels Castle

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

Set high on a rocky peninsular overlooking a remarkable stretch of the Cornish coast is Tintagel Castle. It offers much more than regular English Heritage ruins. Linked with the legend of King Arthur, this is the place where Arthur supposedly commanded his knights, being far from civilisation. For centuries, this place has fired the imaginations of writers and artists. It’s clear why – the views blow your mind!

Today visitors can walk among the ruins that still cling to the cliffs, find early medieval remains, and meet Gallos – the life-size bronze statue of an ancient king who keeps an eye on the fierce seas below.

Stay at YHA Tintagel, 1.3 miles away

Stonehenge 

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Stonehenge is perhaps one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments – a vast man-made circle of standing stones. Built by our ancestors over many hundreds of years, it’s one of the world’s biggest mysteries. To this day, no theory has been proven as to why the structure was built and how it got there. A legend from the 12th century said giants placed the stones on a mountain in Ireland before a wizard named Merlin mysteriously moved the stone circle to England. But like we have mentioned previously, nothing has ever been proven. How do you think the stones got there?

Stay at YHA Cholderton Stonehenge, 7.9 miles away

Ilam Park

Ilam Park, Derbyshire

Managed by the National Trust, Ilam Park is 84 acres of pretty park and woodland. One of our hostels just so happens to be situated at the heart of it all – YHA Ilam Hall. The 17th Century gothic manor is full of character and nestled near the quaint village of Ilam.

The first Ilam Hall was built in the 16th century, but this was demolished by Jesse Watts Russell to make way for his much finer Hall in the 1820s. Most of it was destroyed before Sir Robert McDougall bought the estate and donated it to the National Trust in 1934. Since then, the remaining part of the Hall is now known as YHA Ilam Hall, and the grounds have been open to the public and remain a popular walking destination all year round.

Stay at YHA Ilam Hall

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Photo credit: Colin & Linda McKie / hardyuno / Sergii Figurnyi / Sergii Figurnyi / Pecold / valeryegorov / MindestensM

Written by Ruby Higton

Here is Ruby and she is a digital marketer at YHA. She looks after all things social media, as well as content writing for livemore.yha.org.uk and SEO. Her favourite YHA is YHA Perranporth.

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DestinationsFascinating heritage sites in the UK