Whether it's a prehistoric monument, 17th-century mansion or even a cold war bunker, English Heritage has a wealth of breathtaking properties to explore
We've chosen seven of the most impressive sites around the country for an awe-inspiring day out
1. Battle Abbey
This site marks the very place in which the armies of William the Conqueror and King Harold clashed in the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066 – a conflict that changed the shape of England's history. After he defeated Harold and became king of England, William founded the abbey as a memorial to those who died, and the altar of the abbey's church marks where Harold was killed. After you've explored the abbey's ruins, you can head up to the roof for spectacular views across the battlefield.
2. Birdoswald Roman Fort
It's incredible to think that, at its height, the Roman Empire was the dominant power across the Mediterranean basin, most of western Europe and large areas of northern Africa – yet was unable to hold and conquer Scotland. Instead, the northernmost part of the empire ended at Hadrian's Wall, a 73-mile long barrier that guarded against barbarian invaders. Birdoswald Roman Fort in Cumbria is the best place to see the longest continuous remaining stretch of the wall (now a World Heritage Site), and there are extensive remains too of the fort itself.
3. Bolsover Castle
Perched on top of a hill, this Stuart mansion – a romantic recreation of a Norman castle, begun in 1612 by Sir Charles Cavendish – was built to impress. And impress it does, thanks to its magnificent riding school, a fountain garden with 5,000 plants and flowers, and wall walk that provides a beautiful outlook over Derbyshire. The exquisite interiors are equally remarkable and feature carved marble fireplaces, gilded panelling, lavish wall art and opulent painted ceilings.
4. Dover Castle
Henry II began building this imposing castle, spectacularly located above the iconic white cliffs, in the 1180s. Its buildings and defences continued to be adapted over the next 800 years, and it even played a crucial role in the Second World War, when tunnels deep under the castle housed the command centre from which Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay masterminded the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. The tunnels, which you can see as part of a visit to the castle, were later transformed into a huge cold war bunker designed to house a regional government in the event of a nuclear attack.
The stone circle at Stonehenge was built in the late Neolithic period – and, some 4,500 years later, its 83 stones are still an amazing sight. It is thought that the monument was positioned to mark the summer and winter solstices. The circle is made up of sarsen stones weighing 25 tons, which it's believed were brought from the Marlborough Downs 20 miles away, and bluestones, which came from the Preseli Hills in south-west Wales. The monument is a masterpiece of prehistoric engineering and it's still not known how the bluestones were transported more than 150 miles to Salisbury Plain. It's little wonder that the mystery and the majesty of the monument continue to enthrall visitors to this day.
6. Tintagel Castle
Built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the 1230s, Tintagel Castle sits high on the rugged north Cornwall coast between Padstow and Bude. The site was of no military value, though. Instead, the earl seems to have been inspired by the myths surrounding the location: in his fictional History of the Kings of Britain, 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth named Tintagel as the place where King Arthur was conceived. Today, after visiting the breathtaking remains of the ruined castle, you can climb the 148 steps to Tintagel Island and take in the natural beauty of the dramatic promontory and be rewarded with the views along the rocky coast.
7. Whitby Abbey
From its position on a windy headland, the striking remains of this 13th-century Benedictine abbey dominate the local landscape. They were the inspiration for Bram Stoker's novel Dracula – and it's easy to see why. After the abbey was dissolved in 1539 on the orders of Henry VIII, its church began to collapse in the 18th century and, by the time Whitby became a popular seaside resort in the early 19th century, the Gothic ruins had become a tourist destination. With its fantastic views over the town and harbour, the abbey continues to captivate sightseers almost 800 years after building work first began on it.
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