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The importance of Stonehenge as a heritage site hardly needs explaining, but for decades it was one of Britain’s great disappointments because facilities were so charmless and shabby. Now there is a wonderful state-of-the-art visitor centre with imaginative displays and a terrific café that perfectly complement the ancient stones. If you haven’t been to Stonehenge for years, visit now and prepare to be joyfully surprised.
2) Rutland Water
The middle of England is full of delightful attractions that few outsiders visit, but Rutland Water is my favourite because it is lovely, transfixing and a joy to walk around. It is so natural-looking that it can come as a surprise to realise that it was built only in the 1970s as a reservoir. It would be hard to think of a more successful large-scale enhancement to the landscape anywhere.
3) Durham Cathedral
I have a sentimental attachment to Durham because I was chancellor at the university for seven years, so was constantly in and out of the cathedral. Almost 1,000 years old, it is unquestionably one of the supreme achievements of the architectural world, and the most thoroughly satisfying building I know – a wonder to behold from every possible vantage point, inside and out.
When I first came to Britain 40 years ago, the country’s seaside resorts were thriving, but now all too many wear an air of abandonment and decline. Tenby is a glorious exception. It is the quintessential old-fashioned seaside resort, with pretty pastel-coloured buildings, cheery cafes, sprawling beaches and stunning views. Perfection.
5) Skara Brae
Orkney has the greatest concentration of archaeological sites in Scotland, but none is more arresting than this miraculously preserved neolithic village. The eight stone dwellings, uncovered by a 19th-century storm, are roofless but otherwise intact. They are older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt and yet they feel as if they were vacated only yesterday.
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