When you think of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you may imagine visiting the Taj Mahal or Great Wall of China, seeing Machu Picchu, Mont St Michel or the Great Pyramid of Giza. But the UK has its own Wonders which have been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status – some well-known and some less so.

So here are our top picks for the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – how many have you visited?


Official name: Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 1986
Where to stay: North Wales destinations such as Llandudno, Criccieth, Llanberis

The castles of Beaumaris, Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon form a UNESCO World Heritage Site in North Wales, and are recognised as the finest examples of military architecture from late 13th and early 14th century in Europe. The castle were built as part of King Edward I’s conquest and suppression of the Welsh, and were designed by James of St George, who was the greatest military architect of the age.

Although several other castles were constructed or rebuilt by Edward I, the four recognised as the World Heritage Site are the most complete and are some of the most famous in Wales

Today the castles are looked after by Cadw, and are open to the public. Caernarfon Castle is also home to the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum


Official Name: City of Bath / Great Spa Towns of Europe
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 1987 / 2021
Where to stay: Bath, Bristol, Weston-super-mare

Bath was awarded originally World Heritage Status for its Hot Springs, Roman archaeology, Georgian Buildings and natural landscape in 1987. However, it is exceptional in having a second inscription from UNESCO awarded in 2021, as part of the Great Spa Towns of Europe – fashionable spa towns laid out around natural springs which were used for health and wellbeing.

The City of Bath offers plenty of history for you to explore and discover – it is easy to spend a weekend or longer immersing yourself in 2000 years of history – from the Roman Baths complex and Temple of Sulis Minerva, to the Georgian buildings with their neo-classical Palladian architectural style: the Royal Crescent and Circus as well as many squares and terraces forming iconic, internationally recognisable structures

Well worth a visit!


Official Name: Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 1999
Where to stay: Thurso, Wick, Kirkwall

Skara Brae is located on the Orkney Isles and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which also includes the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe. Collectively, they form a major prehistoric cultural landscape which depicts life in this remote archipelago around 5000 years ago.

Skara Brae itself is a neolithic settlement consisting of ten clustered houses located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, the largest island of Orkney. It was occupied from roughly 3180 BC to 2500 BC and is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza. It lay buried beneath the sands for centuries until a severe storm in 1850 uncovered the remains of the village. After an amateur excavation, the site was undisturbed until 1913, when a party raided the site and took away many artifacts, and then a storm washed away part of one of the houses in 1924. It was then it was decided the site should be protected and investigated.

Today it forms one of the major visitor experiences on Orkney, and gives us insight into how prehistoric people would have lived in this sparse environment


Official Name: Dorset and East Devon Coast
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 2001
Where to stay: Sidmouth, Exmouth, Swanage, Weymouth, Poole, Bournemouth

The Jurassic Coast runs from Orcombe Point near Exmouth to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage, a distance of 96 miles. Coastal erosion has created a continuous rock formation covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and is an area rich with fossils.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises eight segments of coast, and was the first wholly natural World Heritage Site to be designated in the United Kingdom.

There are plenty of opportunities to explore the Jurassic Coast by visiting coastal towns such as Sidmouth, Exmouth or Weymouth, or by taking a boat trip along the coast from Exmouth or Poole


Official Name: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 2009
Where to stay: Llangollen, Llandudno, Wrexham

The Ponycysyllte Aqueduct and Canal runs 18 kilometres through the North Wales countryside, and is a feat of the engineering of the Industrial Revolution. Building it required bold civil engineering innovations as it traverses a difficult geographical landscape, and it is a masterpiece of monumental metal architecture, engineering and creative genius conceived by Thomas Telford.

This magnificent structure can be seen from the local landscape, or you can experience it from onboard the boat, with canal trips available from Llangollen. Boat trips can be horse-drawn or motorised, and longer journeys will pass over the stunning aqueduct itself


Official Name: The Forth Bridge
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 2015
Where to stay: Edinburgh

The Forth Bridge is an iconic landmark in the wider Edinburgh area, and has the world’s longest spans at 541 metres when it opened in 1890. It remains one of the greatest cantilever trussed bridges, and marks an important milestone in bridge design and construction at a time when railways came to dominate long distance travel. The bridge itself is 2529 metres long and has an unadorned industrial style.

The Forth Bridge is an ideal stopping point for a photo stop, or you can take a boat trip with Forth Boat Tours, departing from South Queensferry, for their iconic Three Bridges cruise.


Official Name: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 2003
Where to stay: Richmond / Brentford / Chiswick, London

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are a historic garden landscape which demonstrates significant periods of the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th century. The gardens include work by internationally renowned garden architects including Bridgeman, Capability Brown and Nesfield, and since their creation in 1759 they have made a significant contribution to the study of plant diversity and economic botany.

Kew Gardens are an incredible place to visit – experience the seasonal changes of these magnificent gardens throughout the year as well as the wonderful Kew Gardens Christmas Light Trail, which is an incredible and different way to experience the gardens.


Official Name: The English Lake District
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 2017
Where to stay: Windermere, Ambleside, Grange-over-Sands, Morecambe

The Lake District is a self-contained area in the mountainous region of the North West of England, where there is a harmonious interdependence between the landscape and the distinctive agro-pastoral traditions of farming. An early recognition of the spectacular natural beauty of the area led to an appetite to protect scenic landscapes. Stately homes and estates were designed to augment the landscape and work with natural features.

Today the Lake District is a stunning area and National Park, which is managed by the National Park Authority, and is popular with walkers and tourists alike. There are many mountain towns and villages to visit, Grasmere and Ambleside being two of the popular destinations and famed for connections with poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. Several lakes also offer lake cruises for you to appreciate the stunning scenery from the water


Official Name: Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast
Date World Heritage Status Awarded: 1986
Where to stay: Derry/Londonderry, Coleraine, Donegal

The Giants Causeway is a site of global geological importance, with the most unique feature being the 40,000 basalt columns, cut into polygonal shapes and forming a pavement of rock which has given rise to legends of giants striding out to sea towards Scotland.

The features in this area has been key to understanding the Earth’s geological history. Much of the area is in the care of the National Trust, but is open to visitors and is a popular tourist attraction

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