Places of Special Interest in the UK
Many great UK attractions are difficult to group under a specific heading, so they fit under the broad classification of places of special interest - theatres, sports stadiums, walks - these are some of the finest UK attractions, beautiful to look at, full of a rich and diverse history and well worth a visit.
The Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank is as popular today as when it was originally built as a home for Shakespeare’s plays back in the 16th century. Built on the site of the original Globe, the theatre has been faithfully reconstructed and is now a home to all things Shakespeare, with daily tours and educational visiting available, and a full programme of performances throughout the spring and summer months. Stratford, in Avon was home to the Bard, but is now the centre of the world for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Fans of that other great British scribe, Charles Dickens, can take delight from a walk around the streets of Southwark, by the side of the Thames, where the names and places from the novelist’s books come alive at Marshalsea Street and Southwark Bridge. Bleak House on the cliffs of the seaside town of Broadstairs, Kent, was once then home of Dickens, and although no longer a museum dedicated to the writer, it still attracts many visitors, who come to see the place where characters such as Oliver Twist and Little Dorrit began life.
Sports fans have much to be happy about in the UK, with many stadia regarded as UK attractions, even when matches aren’t taking place. Football fans might wish to take a tour of Anfield, home of Liverpool F.C.; Old Trafford, the ground of the might Manchester United, or the new Wembley Stadium in London, built at extravagant expense, amid much controversy. Rugby fans might find themselves drawn to Twickenham, the spiritual home of English rugby, while cricket fans might opt to hear the sound of leather on willow, and polite ripples of applause at the Oval, Lords, Headingley, or Trent Bridge cricket grounds, as England reassume their place at the bottom rung of test cricket.
For those who like their history and tradition spread thickly, a trip to the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge is a must for a walk around the cloisters of colleges that have honed the young minds of some of the worlds leading academics, writers, actors and even leaders. Stephen Hawking still works at Cambridge, and lucky visitors might even catch a glimpse of the great man as he rumbles along in his trade mark electric wheelchair, telling people to get out of the way with his famous electro-monotone.
Liverpool, once the home of British pop music and its Mersey Beat, is still a Mecca for Beatles fans, who flock here every year to go to the Cavern Club, – where the Beatles performed their first gigs – take the ferry across the Mersey River, as immortalised in song by Gerry and the Pacemakers, or take the Beatles tour around the city, taking in the former homes of the ‘Fab Four’, plus the familiar Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and even the grave of Eleanor Rigby.
England’s cathedrals, churches and abbeys, are not only among some of the most beautiful in the world, but also form part of the rich tapestry of English history, integral in the past of this island nation. St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, are not just important UK attractions, but also centres of British celebration and mourning, having played host to some of the key moments in British history. Canterbury, Shrewsbury and Southwark cathedrals are well worth the visitor’s time, with their surroundings as much worth the journey as the buildings themselves.
The ruins of Tintern Abbey, on the banks of the River Wye in Monmouthshire, are a great place to lose yourself in the past, and have inspired works by the great English poets Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Wordsworth – a trip to Tintern Abbey can be combined with visits to the castles of the England/Wales border, the Forest of Dean and canoeing up and down the River Wye from Symond’s Yat.
For those who like their places of worship even older, the mysterious rings of Stonehenge in Wiltshire attract many hoping to feel the supposed power of the stones, especially during the winter and summer solstices. Stonehenge is often a stop off for those heading to the West of England, where visitors often go to enjoy the dramatic Cliffside ruins of Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, or to pit their wits against nature, surfing some of the best waves in the world at Newquay.
For naval history buffs, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyards in Hampshire provide an up-close and very personal account of naval history in the UK, with many fascinating exhibitions and displays, including the hulk of the Tudor warship the Mary Rose, Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, and the hybrid sail/steamer battleship, HMS Warrior. Chatham Historic Dockyards in Kent, also provide a great naval day out for all the family.
West End Theatres
‘Theatreland’ is the nickname for an area of London’s West End that has a dense concentration of grand theatres, a district the equal of New York’s Broadway. Every year, more than thirteen million people visit a show at one of the venues here, making this easily one of the most popular London attractions.
Standing defiantly against time on the lush green of Wiltshire’s Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge is a prehistoric stone monument dating back to around 3000BC. Not only one of the most well-known of UK attractions, but also one of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a mysterious circular setting of large standing stones.
Following extensive archaeological research it is now believed that Stonehenge served as a burial ground for its prehistoric creators. It is for this reason it is situated at the centre of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including severalhundred burial mounds. Stonehenge is believed to have evolved over several construction phases spanning at least 1500 years.
The Eden Project
Though it was only finished in 2001, the astonishing Eden Project - a huge botanical garden and greenhouse complex in a reclaimed quarry in Cornwall - has quickly become one of England's best loved attractions. And deservedly so; a centre designed to teach environmental awareness might not sound jazzy and exciting, but so much effort and imagination has gone into the place that it is now the fourth most visited British attraction.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is situated within Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth, on the Hampshire coast. Home to the British Naval Fleet since Tudor times, the base still looks after 66% of the British surface fleet; it was once the biggest industrial site in the world. Visitors to the Historic Dockyard have access to the Royal Naval Museum, HMS Warrior, the Tudor frigate Mary Rose, and Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory.