1) The Dark Hedges, County Antrim
These twisted, sinuous beech trees, forming a stunning avenue, were planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family in order to enchant and impress beholders. Since its appearance on Game of Thrones as the Kingsroad, this magnificent avenue near Armoy has become a tourist attraction, to the extent that driving along the road between the trees is now banned. To pay your respect to this fantastical but fragile landscape, admire it on foot.
Judge John Craven says: “It’s a wonderful sight, when you suddenly go round the corner to see this canopy of huge hedges – which I have helped to trim!”
2) High Force, County Durham
A stunning waterfall formed where the River Tees crosses the Whin Sill, High Force drops 22 metres into the 20-metre deep plunge pool below, carrying the largest volume of water over an unbroken drop in England. With a car park and picnic site nearby, it’s also very accessible by car, bike or on foot.
Judge Mark Rowe says: “It’s very, very dramatic and an amazing part of the River Tees. It looks just like a high Pennine northern river should do when it’s really in spate and powering along. And you can walk either side of it so it’s quite accessible, as long as you don’t lean too far over the edge.”
3) Minack Theatre, Cornwall
A spectacular open air theatre built into the rocks overlooking the sea, where audiences gather to watch comedies or tragedies set against Cornwall’s beautiful coastal backdrop. Rowena Cade conceived of the theatre in 1931 and today it draws 80,000 people a year to its productions.
Judge Miranda Krestovnikoff says: “There is nowhere else in the country quite like the Minack and you’ll never forget your visit. While watching the play, you may have porpoise and dolphins in the background or an incredible sunset – or the wind and the rain coming in – the whole landscape and the scenery is absolutely stunning.”
4) Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis
Standing tall and majestic in their landscape, these 5,000-year-old stones have an awe-inspiring ancient mystery. The main stone complex contains around 50 stones in a cross-shaped setting. The impressive inner circle comprises 13 stones, the tallest of which is 4m high, and a small chambered cairn.
Judge Mark Rowe says: “Callanish is a stunning landmark, with the ancient appeal of Stonehenge without the crowds. You can go there all times of year and you’ll see alignment with the sun. Above all, it’s just a remarkable spectacle.”
5) Castell Dinas Bran, Denbighshire
Judge Phoebe Smith says: “It is home to a legendary giant and is steeped in wonderful Welsh folklore.”