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There are 32 World Heritage Sites in the UK and its territories: 26 cultural, 5 natural and 1 mixed. The first seven sites were listed in 1987. In addition to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there are also sites in Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Pacific and the South Atlantic.
Map of UK World Heritage Sites
UK UNESCO Sites
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Located in Wales, this cultural site was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom in 2000. The site was recognized by UNESCO as it is evidence of the iron and coal production in South Wales during the 19th century, which was one of the biggest in the world. To this day, you can still see evidence of the coal and iron industry with several monuments still intact in this present day. These monuments include a primitive railway system, ore mines, quarries, workers homes, furnaces and other social infrastructure that reflect the community at that time.
Blenheim Palace (1987)
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The Blenheim Palace was built to celebrate the victory over French in the early 18th century. The impressive building is a work of two architects: Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. The palace is located in the town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, England. There is also a garden along with the palace, which was worked on by Capability Brown. It was named a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Canterbury is the seat of the Catholic Church in England for 5 centuries now. However, the Canterbury Cathedral is not the only important Catholic Church in Kent. There are also several other important monuments in Canterbury namely Church of St. Martin (the oldest church in England), Abbey of St. Augustine, and Christ Church Cathedral (where Thomas Beckett was murdered in 1170).
This site features a combination of castles and fortified complexes that were built in Gwynedd, Wales. The well-preserved monuments and forts exhibit how colonization and defense works were carried out during the late 13th century under the rule of King Edward I. These monuments are some of the best examples of military architecture in United Kingdom’s history.
City of Bath (1987)
The city of Bath in Somerset, England is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom. It is recognized for having preserved the Roman ruins and 18th-century architectural features in the city. The city was named after the famous Roman baths that were built during the year 43 BC.
The industry of copper and tin mining was booming in the 18th to 19th century in Cornwall and West Devon. The regions consisted of deep underground mines, foundries, ports, harbors, engine houses, and ancillary industries that reflect advanced technology during that time. In fact, the region produced two-thirds of the copper supply in the world. The contribution that this region made to the Industrial Revolution is therefore undeniably significant. Many of the technologies used for mining in the region were even exported to other parts of the world.
Derwent Valley Mills (2001)
Located in Derbyshire, England, this cultural site was recognized by UNESCO as it features several factory communities. These communities were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Silk Mill was established in 1721 and it helped to kick-start an industrial development in the region. Then, a water-powered spinning mill was built by Richard Arkwright in 1771. Another larger mill was built a few years later until Arkwright’s inventions facilitated an industrial-scale production.
Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001)
The rock and cliff formations along the coast of Dorset and East Devon are unique and extraordinary. Studies have shown that these rock formations date back to the Mesozoic era, or roughly 185 million years ago. This is therefore considered an important fossil site. Meanwhile, the geomorphologic features have been the center of scientific study in the past 300 years.
Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)
Built in the late 11th century, Durham Cathedral serves as home to the relics of St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. It is believed to be the best example of Norman architecture in England. The cathedral is located next to Durham Castle. This, too, features Norman architectural style and serves as the residence of the prince-bishops of Durham.
The Forth Bridge (2015)
This is the newest addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom. It is a railway bridge that was the longest in the world during 1890. To this day, it continues to carry passengers and freight across the Forth estuary in Scotland. The aesthetic design of the bridge also features a strikingly industrial look. The combination of style, materials, and scale combine in creating this milestone bridge design that was ahead of its time.
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The ‘Roman Limes’ measure about 5,000 kilometers in length and was built in the 2nd century AD. Today, the ruins of these Limes consist of forts, watchtowers, ditches and built walls. There are also some civilian settlements in some parts of the Roman Limes. Some areas underwent reconstruction and excavation while others were completely destroyed.
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This natural interlocking basalt columns in County Antrim, Northern Ireland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. These columns were formed following an ancient volcanic eruption. The columns start from the foot of a cliff and disappear under the sea. The tallest columns measure around 12 meters in height. It remains to be the most popular attraction in Northern Ireland.
Gough and Inaccessible Islands (1995)
The Gough and Inaccessible Islands represent the most undisrupted islands in the cool temperate zone of South Atlantic. It is composed of spectacular cliffs and marine ecosystems that are home to the largest colonies of seabirds in the world. There are two endemic species of land birds that inhabit Gough Island. Meanwhile, Inaccessible Island is home to eight plants, 10 invertebrates and 2 birds that are all considered endemic.
Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)
This site is a collection of Neolithic monuments that were discovered in Mainland, Scotland. There are five sites that were included in this listing upon recognition as a World Heritage Site: 1) Skara Brae, 2) Ring of Brodgar, 3) Standing Stones of Stenness, 4) Ness of Brodgar, and 5) Maeshowe. These sites are Neolithic villages, stone circles, megaliths, archaeological sites, and passage graves.
Henderson Island (1988)
Henderson Island is located in the eastern South Pacific. It is a property of the United Kingdom and thus included in this list. It is an atoll and one of few remaining atolls in the world wherein the ecology remains untouched by human presence. The isolated location makes it the ideal venue for the study of insular evolution and natural selection. It is also home to 10 plants and 3 land bird species that are endemic to Henderson Island.
This is another World Heritage Site located far from the United Kingdom – the Town of St. George. This town was founded in 1612 and is the best example of English urban settlement in the New World. The fortifications built along the coast of Bermuda also showcase English military engineering. These forts were built during the 17th century and most remain intact until today.
Ironbridge Gorge (1986)
Located in Shropshire, England, this deep gorge was inscribed as a World Heritage Site because it was created around the same time that the Industrial Revolution started in England. Hence, it was one of those important monuments established during that time. Within the Ironbridge Gorge, there are transport infrastructure, workers’ houses, mines and factories. Another important monument in the site is the Iron Bridge, which is the first bridge in the world made from iron.
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The city of Liverpool was the largest trading center in the United Kingdom during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were six key areas within the city’s historic center that were involved in the flourishing trading industry. Liverpool was also inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom due to the role it played in the success of the British Empire. The port in Liverpool served as the key port for moving people such as slaves and emigrants to and from America. For this reason, there was a huge advancement in dock technology and transport systems (especially involving port management) in Liverpool that was well ahead of its time.
Maritime Greenwich (1997)
Greenwich is a district in London with a long history. During the 15th century, it served as the site of the Palace of Placentia. During the English Civil War, the palace was destroyed and a hospital was rebuilt in its place. The rebuilding process was initiated by Sir Christopher Wren. Eventually, these buildings were converted into a military college now known as the Old Royal Naval College. The Queen’s House is also located in Greenwich.
New Lanark (2001)
This 18th-century village served as a model for the industrial community in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The town was built for by Richard Owen. He did this as part of an experiment on Utopian idealism. The village consists of cotton mill buildings, school, and workers’ housing. From the late 18th century to the mid-20th century, some of the buildings were destroyed and replaced with new ones. But the overall appearance of the village remained intact. A New Lanark Conservation Trust was founded in 1975 to prevent the demolition of the entire village.
This is the second site included in this list from Scotland. Edinburgh has been the Scottish capital since the 15th century and it is divided into two areas: Old Town and New Town. Both areas were recognized as a World Heritage Site as they contain important monuments. The Old Town is filled with medieval fortress while the New Town is where you will see evidence of European urban planning established in the 18th century. This harmonious juxtaposition provides a unique character to the city of Edinburgh.
The city of Westminster in London offers a wide range of important historical and architectural monuments. Thus, it was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom in 1987. The properties included in this site are the Westminster Palace, which features a neo-Gothic architectural style, and Westminster Abbey, which is of great historic and symbolic significance.
This aqueduct is an important product of civil engineering during the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 19th century. This 18-kilometer long aqueduct and canal were built on challenging geographical setting, which made this engineering feat even more impressive. To construct this, engineer Thomas Telford used cast and wrought iron for building the arches so that they are both light and strong.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)
This historic garden is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK as it exemplifies significant periods of art through its garden design. To be specific, it showcases art from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The garden is also home to a massive botanic collection that was developed and cultivated for centuries. The garden is also a center for economic botany and biological diversity studies.
Located in West Yorkshire, England, Saltaire is an industrial village that had been preserved since the second half of the 19th century. It is one of the most complete preserved villages from the Industrial period with the workers’ houses, textile mills, and public buildings still standing until today. This village was recognized by UNESCO for its urban planning and high architectural standards.
St Kilda (1986)
This volcanic archipelago features spectacular landscapes and several islands. It also boasts of having the highest cliffs in Europe. Although uninhabited by humans since 1930, there are colonies of rare and endangered species of birds that live on the island. Meanwhile, there is also evidence collected on the site about possible human settlement some 2,000 years ago.
The Stonehenge in England is one of the most notable ancient tourist attractions in England. This is a group of megaliths that were arranged in a pattern believed to hold astronomical significance. These megaliths have been in existence since prehistoric times and are considered as a holy place.
Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)
This World Heritage Site features a striking landscape that was built around the ruins of a Cistercian Fountains Abbey and Fountains Hall Castle. This 18th-century monument consists of a garden, canal, and landscape. Meanwhile, there is also a 19th-century vista and plantation on the site. But the most prominent monument on the site is the neo-Gothic castle within Studley Royal Park.
Tower of London (1988)
The Tower of London is a fortress in London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is imposing and offers several layers of history. Aside from being named as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom, it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions. The fortress is built around the White Tower, which exhibits the Norman military architectural style. William the Conqueror commissioned the construction of the fortress to protect London.
Gorham’s Cave Complex (2016)
The steep limestone cliffs on the eastern side of the Rock of Gibraltar contain four caves with archaeological and paleontological deposits that provide evidence of Neanderthal occupation over a span of more than 100,000 years. This exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of the Neanderthals is seen notably in evidence of the hunting of birds and marine animals for food, the use of feathers for ornamentation and the presence of abstract rock engravings. Scientific research on these sites has already contributed substantially to debates about Neanderthal and human evolution.
The English Lake District (2017)
The English Lake District is a national park and the newest addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK. This mountainous region is also known as Lakeland or the Lakes. This site, which is a popular tourist destination visited by 15.8 million visitors per year, is made up of lakes, forests, and mountains. The region is also a subject of the literature of William Wordsworth during the early 19th century. The entire region covers up to 2,362 square kilometers in area.
A notable feature within the national park is the highest mountain in England – Scafell Pike – and the deepest and longest bodies of water in the country (Windermere and Wast Water).
Jodrell Bank Observatory (2019)
Located in a rural area of northwest England, free from radio interference, Jodrell Bank is one of the world’s leading radio astronomy observatories. At the beginning of its use, in 1945, the site housed research on cosmic rays detected by radar echoes. This observatory, which is still in operation, includes several radio telescopes and working buildings, including engineering sheds and the Control Building. Jodrell Bank has had a substantial scientific impact in fields such as the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics, and the tracking of spacecraft. This exceptional technological ensemble illustrates the transition from traditional optical astronomy to radio astronomy (the 1940s to 1960s), which led to radical changes in the understanding of the universe.