England is a country brimming with heritage, history and unrivalled fish and chip shops. We are lucky to have some of the world’s most beautiful places right on our doorstep, including 374,000 listed buildings and 30 UNESCO heritage sites (an organisation which seeks to build peace through exploration of education, the sciences and culture). Here, we discover a handful of them…
We chose from some of England’s most beautiful and picturesque places, ranking them based on how many listed buildings each has and the number of notable places of interest such as heritage gardens, parks and tourist attractions.
The word Penzance comes from the Cornish “pen sans” which means “holy headland”. Over a thousand years ago a chapel stood on the headland west of the harbour, giving the town its name. The town’s most famous resident was chemist Sir Humphry Davy whose statue can be seen at the top of Market Jew Street. He invented the miner’s safety lamp, the Davy lamp, among many other achievements. A must-do for visitors to Penzance is to walk across the tidal causeway to St Michaels Mount, a medieval castle that dates back over 1,000 years and one of the town’s 404 listed buildings. There’s also plenty more to do than simply a trip to the beach, the Michelin Guide lists 13 tourist attractions to keep you busy. It’s also worth a trip if you’re a music fan as the area harboured some great talent: Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac was born in the nearby town of Redruth in 1947.
Tewkesbury is a historic riverside town in Gloucestershire, home to Tewkesbury Abbey, a parish church and a former Benedictine monastery built in the 12th century. It is home to Tewkesbury Abbey, a parish church and a former Benedictine monastery built in the 12th century. The abbey is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain and is believed to be the largest Norman tower still in existence. It is only here to be seen today because it was saved from the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII after being bought by the townspeople. There are plenty of other places of interest with 379 listed buildings and an extraordinary 9 parks. The name Tewkesbury comes from Theoc, the name of a Saxon who founded a hermitage there in the seventh century, and in the Old English language was called Theocsbury. The town is also an area of historical significance for The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471 and was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses.
Painswick is a town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England, often referred to as the Queen of the Cotswolds due to its distinctive buildings of pale grey limestone. The town stands on a hill overlooking one of the Five Valleys, between Stroud and Gloucester and boasts a very long history, first appearing in historical records in the Domesday Book of 1086. St Mary’s Church is believed to have been first built between 1042 and 1066, it is on this site that the town celebrates an ancient custom, ‘clipping the church’, in which local children hold hands in an outward facing ring around the church. Originally, the town grew on the wool trade and many of the buildings feature south-facing attic rooms once used as weavers' workshops. In fact, with 389 listed buildings, many of them have historical significance, even the post office is in a listed building, dating back to 1478. Its narrow streets and traditional architecture make it the epitome of the English town.
Ramsgate was one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century and features the only Royal Harbour in the UK, named as such by King George IV in 1821. Ramsgate’s main attraction is its coastline, creating booming industries in both tourism and fishing which led to the creation of one of the largest marinas on the English south coast. One such tourist was Queen Victoria, who holidayed in Townley House, one of the town’s most famous listed buildings amongst 442 others. Another structure of note is St Laurence’s Church, founded in 1062 and rebuilt in 1439, following a lightning strike. Ramsgate takes its place in English history for its participation in some of our bloodiest wars: It was a main embarkation port from the UK during the Napoleonic Wars, on one occasion 40,000 troops embarked from the town. Further, during the First World War, it suffered enormous damage and was branded as the most bombed seaside town in the UK. This led to the creation of four-mile-long tunnels (the only of their kind in the world) to protect its residents.
Most visitors to Sandwich will have been attracted by its historic streets which harbour 443 listed buildings. Strand Street is thought to be the longest unbroken stretch of timber-framed properties in England and features the Sandwich Weavers building, named after the Dutch refugees who settled here in the 16th century but thought to be much older. There’s plenty of tourist attractions, 24 in total, according to the Michelin Guide, so you’ll have plenty of options for a day out. It is also, in a roundabout way, the name behind the popular picnic and lunch snack, the sandwich. It was supposedly named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and others began to order "the same as Sandwich!"
Salisbury is a medieval cathedral city in the southern English county of Wiltshire. The city’s ornate 13th century cathedral is one of the most recognisable landmarks in England, its construction began in 1220 and consisted of 70,000 tons of stone. Inside, you’ll find an original copy of the Magna Carta, a key document from 1215 A.D., and from the outside you can admire the tallest church spire in the country, towering over the city at 123m, as well as the oldest working clock which dates back to the 14th century. There are an enormous number of listed buildings there, 644 to be exact. You may even recognise one of them, Wilton House, from the 2005 Hollywood hit, Pride & Prejudice. Finally, don’t forget to make a trip to UNESCO site, Stonehenge, on your journey there. The iconic Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments stand just eight miles south of the city on the grassland of Salisbury Plain.
Chichester is an old Roman town that is split into 8 conservation areas with 16 heritage gardens, the highest on this list. With 519 listed buildings it is extremely picturesque and brimming with history. It is home to Fishbourne Roman Palace, the largest residential Roman building discovered in Britain with an unusually early date of 75 A.D. (around thirty years after the Roman conquest of Britain). The palace has many superb mosaic floors dating from this period that make a visit even more worth your while. The town itself is brimming with history, featuring a cathedral that dates back to the 12th century and the Butter Market, designed by John Nash in 1808. Just to the north of Chichester is the Goodwood racecourse, an absolute must-do in the summer, during which various events take place, including the famous horse races which overlook some of the most idyllic, rolling countryside that England has to offer.
Oxford was once the capital of England, during which King Charles held his forces on Port Meadow and the royal court. The city now attracts tourists from the world over for its prestigious university, established in the 12th century (although it wasn't until 1878 that women were admitted). The architecture of Oxford University’s 38 colleges in the city’s medieval centre led poet Matthew Arnold to nickname it the 'City of Dreaming Spires'. The colleges of Balliol and Merton are the oldest, established in 1249 and 1264 respectively. There are plenty of historical buildings, 420 of which are listed, one being the Ashmolean Museum which opened in 1683 and was the first museum in the world to be officially opened to the public. Oxford has 15 stunning heritage gardens, making it easy to see why Hitler was said to have planned to use it as his capital if he conquered England, in-fact it’s one of the reasons it wasn't bombed. It is, and has been, the home of many of the rich and famous, Lewis Carroll, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Philip Pullman to name but a few.
Canterbury is a cathedral city in southeast England and home to 593 listed buildings. It was a pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages and its ancient walls, originally built by the Romans, encircle the medieval centre with cobbled streets and timber-framed houses. Outside of the centre there are three verdant heritage gardens as well as four beautifully kept parks. Canterbury Cathedral, founded 597 A.D., is the headquarters of the Church of England and Anglican Communion as well as the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The monumental structure is brimming with Gothic and Romanesque elements in its stone carvings and stained-glass windows. Of course, the city is just as famous for giving its name to the famous opus, The Canterbury Tales. The collection runs to over 17,000 lines written by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. Mostly written in verse, the tales follow a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.
Bath is a historic Roman and Georgian spa city, famous for its hot springs, Roman period baths, Medieval heritage and stately Palladian architecture. With 725 listed buildings, the highest number on our list, it is the only entire city to hold World Heritage status. The Roman Baths were once a well-preserved site for public bathing and offer a fascinating insight into Roman history and culture. The baths themselves are now unfit for bathing due to the quality of the water, however, you can head next door to the modern Bath Spa where you can spend all afternoon in the hot springs. For afternoon tea, there’s no better place than The Pump Room. Overlooking the hot springs, this elegant restaurant was built in 1789 and even featured in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Interestingly, Bath has its own currency, the Bath Oliver, which can be redeemed in local businesses! With so many attractions, it’s easy to see why Bath makes the top of our list.
There are so many wonderful one-of-a-kind places to visit in our beautiful country, we hope we’ve given you a couple of ideas to get your lust for adventure flowing.