Britain’s Favourite Heritage Site

31st July 2013

selected by Countryfile presenter John Craven

  • Kirkstall Abbey, West Yorkshire
    My first heritage site – I was brought up a couple of miles away and often went here as a child. One of Yorkshire’s great Cistercian ruins, it stands on the banks of the River Aire just three miles from the centre of Leeds – a quiet refuge amid suburbia.
  • Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire
    This Battle of Britain airfield brilliantly recalls the history of aviation. More than 200 military and civil aircraft are on display.
  • Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland
    Standing on a rocky outcrop, this massive 14th-century fortification is everything a ruined castle should be. Around 500 years ago a chronicler wrote that it stood “in wonderful great decaye” – and it still does.
  • Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
    I discovered them this year on holiday, but restoration actually began in the 1990s. The 1,000 acres of formal gardens and woods were at their peak until being abandoned after the First World War. Now, they are a glorious tribute to Britain’s gardening heritage.
  • Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
    Blenheim is the only non-Royal, non-church residence to be called a palace – and rightly so. Home of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, its magnificence takes the breath away.
  • Beamish Museum, County Durham
    Window shop down a high street from a century ago, catch a tram…  Victorian and Edwardian life in north-east England is vibrantly re-created here.
  • Glamis Castle, Angus
    Often called Scotland’s most beautiful castle, it was the home of the late Queen Mother before her marriage. I love the fairy tale-like spiral towers.
  • Hadrian’s Wall
    Britain’s best-known, best-loved link to Roman times is this summer celebrating the 10th anniversary of the National Trail that runs alongside it. Those not pulling on walking boots can marvel at it from the comfort of their cars as they drive along the nearby B6318 and stop to explore Housesteads Fort at milecastle 37.
  • Stokesay Castle, Shropshire
    One of England’s first and finest medieval fortified manor houses, built in the 1280s by a rich Shropshire wool merchant. The only addition since then is the enchanting timber-framed gatehouse, built around 1640, which has a lovely little tea room.
  • Blue John Cavern, Derbyshire (not Craven!)
    An impressive reminder of our mining heritage, this magnificent series of natural caves in the Peak District has, for centuries, been mined for blue john, a rare semi-precious stone found in eight veins in its limestone walls.


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