15 Places Across Britain to Capture Glorious Photographs

Most travelers to Britain visit London at least once.

Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey … what’s not to love?

But Britain is so full of beauty and history that it’s just as exciting outside of London as in it.

There are hundreds of places to take amazing photos but we’ll take a look at fifteen of the best that are sure to keep you snap happy!

1. Cambridgeshire

Founded in 1209, the world-renowned university dominates the skyline of Cambridge.

Running through the very heart of the city, the River Cam provides amazing views of the “Backs”—a picturesque area where several of the colleges back onto the river.

Punting past Trinity College Wren Library, Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr
Punting past Trinity College Wren Library, Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr

Snap away as you glide along on one of the many punts for hire, past the great monuments to education including the Old Court of Clare College (below left), and King’s College Chapel.

Founded in 1441 by King Henry VI, the college’s buildings are a magnificent symbol of the power of royal patronage.

Get up at dawn and you’ll be rewarded with views like this.

View from the Backs to Clare College and King's Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr
View from the Backs to Clare College and King’s Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr

Cambridge — the ancient city of colleges and scholars.

Founded in the 7th century with the building of an Anglo-Saxon abbey that was later destroyed by the Danes, Ely is a beautiful cathedral city about 14 miles northeast of Cambridge.

Dating from the 12th century, the current Cathedral was constructed from stone delivered by boat to Ely and paid for with eels from the surrounding fens before they were drained.

Meaning “Isle of Eels”, the slippery critter is thought to be the source of Ely’s name.

Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner called the Octagon, built over Ely Cathedral’s nave, the greatest individual achievement of medieval architectural genius.

The Octagon at Ely Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
The Octagon at Ely Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

Grantchester is said to have the world’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners, most of whom are current or retired academics from the nearby University of Cambridge.

Students and tourists often travel from Cambridge by punt to picnic in the meadows or take tea at The Orchard tea room.

The banks of the River Cam at Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
The banks of the River Cam at Grantchester, Cambridgeshire

2. Cumbria

Serving as inspiration for artists, writers, and musicians, the Lake District lies at the heart of Cumbria’s predominantly rural landscape.

Considered one of England’s most beautiful scenic areas, the Lake District National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Living in Grasmere for 14 years, the poet William Wordsworth described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”

Grasmere, The Lake District. Credit Jorge Franganillo, flickr
Grasmere, The Lake District. Credit Jorge Franganillo, flickr

Meaning “river with oak trees” in the ancient Celtic language, Derwent Water is fed by the River Derwent and is surrounded by hills and densely wooded slopes.

Conveying the fertile nature of the land at both ends of the lake, Buttermere takes its name from the Old English “butere mere”, meaning “the lake by the dairy pastures”.

Derwent Water, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson
Derwent Water, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson

10 Fascinating Facts About the English Lake District.

Local folklore tells of a Norse leader named Jarl Buthar who ran a resistance campaign in the 11th century against the Norman invaders from a stronghold at Buttermere.

Buttermere, The Lake District. Credit James Whitesmith, flickr
Buttermere, The Lake District. Credit James Whitesmith, flickr

Formed by glaciers 13000 years ago during the last major ice age, Windermere is England’s largest natural lake.

Popular for holidays and summer homes since 1847, Windermere has several steam-powered boats operating along the whole 10-mile length, with one dating back to 1891.

Windermere, the Lake District. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Windermere, the Lake District. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

3. Dorset

With its rolling green hills, grazing cows, pretty stone walls, and Norman village church, Abbotsbury could be heaven on earth.

Viewed from St Catherine’s Chapel, a 14th-century pilgrimage chapel that stands on a hill overlooking Abbotsbury, you can expect to capture beautiful views like the one below.

According to local tradition, up until the late 19th century, the young women of Abbotsbury would pray to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters and virgins, to help them find a good husband.

Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Described as “one of the most romantic sights in England”, Gold Hill in the town of Shaftsbury has provided the setting for film and television, as well as appearing on countless chocolate boxes and calendars.

Appearing in Britain’s favourite TV advertisement, the 1973 “Boy on a Bike” advert for Hovis bread was directed by Ridley Scott and featured Dvořák’s nostalgic Symphony No. 9.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset

18 Gorgeous English Thatched Cottages.

Like a giant petrified dinosaur turned to rock, Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch on a dramatic stretch of coastline called the “Jurassic Coast”.

Spanning 185 million years of geological history, coastal erosion and contrasting rock hardness shaped this World Heritage Site and photographer’s dream.

Durdle Door, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Durdle Door, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

One of the world’s finest examples of an oval coastal inlet, Lulworth Cove—close to Durdle Door— is a popular tourist attraction with over half a million visitors a year.

Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Credit Lies Thru a Lens
Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Credit Lies Thru a Lens

4. East Sussex

Gradually being eroded by the English Channel, the massive white chalk cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters, are remnants of dry valleys in the South Downs.

Each of the cliff peaks has its own name: Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Point, Flat Hill, and Baily’s Hill.

Seven Sisters, East Sussex. Credit Miquitos, flickr
Seven Sisters, East Sussex. Credit Miquitos, flickr

Reportedly haunted by smugglers, the Mermaid Inn (covered in Ivy on the right) has a long and turbulent history dating from the 12th century.

One of the best-known inns in southern England, the black and white timber-framed buildings and the sloping cobbled Mermaid street provide a beautiful setting for a timeless photograph.

Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex. Credit BazViv
Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex. Credit BazViv

Built in 1385 by a former knight of King Edward III, its purpose was to protect the region from a French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453).

Surrounded by a moat, and of a quadrangular plan with crenelated towers, it provides a perfect photographic subject at any time of day, but especially in the warm late afternoon sunlight.

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex. Credit Adrian Farwell
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex. Credit Adrian Farwell

Opening in 1899, the Palace Pier is the only one of three piers still in operation at Brighton.

Featured in many works of British culture including the gangster thriller Brighton Rock and the Mods and Rockers film Quadrophenia, against a sunset sky, it takes on a sublime quality.

Brighton Pier, East Sussex. Credit Chris McGeehan, flickr
Brighton Pier, East Sussex. Credit Chris McGeehan, flickr

5. Gloucestershire

Depicted on the inside cover of UK passports, Arlington Row is a series of cottages converted from a 14th-century monastic wool store, becoming weaver’s homes in the 17th century.

Used as a film and television location, it has been featured in the movies Stardust and Bridget Jones’s Diary and attracts thousands of tourists hoping to capture a shot like this.

Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Swan Hotel, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Swan Hotel, Bibury, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Inhabited since the 11th century, Lower Slaughter is a beautiful village in the Cotswolds with a river running through it spanned by several small stone footbridges.

Glorious Gloucestershire.

At the west end of Lower Slaughter sits a 19th-century water mill with a chimney that, together with nearby honey-colored stone cottages, provides a lovely photograph with near perfect reflections.

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr

Straddling the River Wye on the county border between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, Symonds Yat is an English village within the Forest of Dean and a popular tourist destination.

The name is said to come from Robert Symonds, a 17th-century sheriff of Herefordshire, and “yat” meaning a gate or pass.

Symonds Yat on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Credit Nilfanion
Symonds Yat on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Credit Nilfanion

6. Cornwall

Popular with tourists and painters alike, the dramatic stretch of rocky coastline known as Bedruthan Steps is one of the most popular destinations in Cornwall, providing spectacular clifftop views.

According to legend, the massive granite rocks rising from the beach are stepping stones for the Giant Bedruthan.

Notice the scale of the huge rock stacks compared to the people on the beach.

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Fans of British TV may recognize Port Isaac as the backdrop for the comedy-drama Doc Martin about a belligerent London surgeon who develops a fear of blood and moves to a backwater Cornish village to begin a new life as the community doctor.

With a history dating back to the time of Henry VIII, this picturesque fishing village is one of the delights on the South West Coast long-distance footpath which provides perfect views of the harbour like this one.

Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Centered around the steep-sided valley of the River Looe, the small coastal town of Looe dates to the 12th century.

During the Middle Ages, it was a major port, exporting local tin and granite, as well as a thriving fishing and boatbuilding center.

40 Stunning Images of Cornwall in 1895.

But by the 19th century, the Victorians recognized its charm as a seaside holiday town for which it remains popular today, with dozens of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, pubs, and vendors of traditional regional specialties like Cornish ice-cream and pasties.

Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Situated on the Lizard peninsula—the most southerly tip of the British mainland—the ruggedly beautiful Keynance Cove became popular with Victorians including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Stunning views over Keynance Cove like this one can be enjoyed from the South West Coast long-distance footpath.

Rugged Cornish coast near Kynance Cove. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Rugged Cornish coast near Kynance Cove. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

7. Isle of Wight

Winding its way through Shanklin Old Village, the High Street is lined with charming thatched cottages, traditional tea rooms, and restaurants with names like Pencil Cottage, the Village Inn, and Strawberry Thatch.

Shanklin Old Village ranks as one of the best chocolate box photographic opportunities in Britain.

Shanklin, Isle of Wight. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Shanklin, Isle of Wight. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Overlooking the village of Godshill stands the medieval All Saints Church which is fronted by a row of pristine thatched cottages as seen from Church Hill road.

Noted for its medieval wall painting of a Lily crucifix—one of only two in Europe—it was whitewashed during the Reformation to save it from destruction, remaining hidden until the 19th century.

Church Hill, Godshill, Isle of Wight. Credit Phil Sangwell
Church Hill, Godshill, Isle of Wight. Credit Phil Sangwell

Built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer house for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Osborne House is a must-see on the Isle of Wight.

Designed by Prince Albert himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, it became the place of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901.

Osborne House, Isle of Wight. Credit Antony McCallum
Osborne House, Isle of Wight. Credit Antony McCallum

Queen Victoria’s Beloved Pomeranians.

Rising nearly 100 feet out of the sea off the Isle of Wight’s western coast, three giant stacks of chalk called “the Needles”, with a Victorian-era lighthouse at the outer edge, make a dramatic photograph from the clifftop viewing spots.

Taking their name from a fourth needle-shaped chalk stack that collapsed in 1764, the name stuck even though the remaining stacks are not needle-like.

The Needles, Isle of Wight. Credit Mypix
The Needles, Isle of Wight. Credit Mypix

8. Norfolk

Built in 1816 for miller Edmund Savory, Burnham Overy Staithe Mill is one of almost 200 surviving mills across Norfolk county.

Converted to holiday accommodation, the mill is a protected building of historical importance and provides beautiful photographic opportunities, especially at sunrise.

Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating from 1912 and built on the foundations of an 18th-century mill, Horsey Windpump is a drainage windmill in the beautiful Norfolk Broads near the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth.

Horsey Mill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Horsey Mill, Norfolk. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating back to the Tudor period, the historic cobbled lane of Elm Hill is a famous landmark in the city of Norwich.

Named after the old elm trees that once stood in the town square, Elm Hill was home to wealthy 15th-century merchants in the city’s weaving industry.

Like Gold Hill in Dorset and Mermaid Street in East Sussex, Elm Hill makes a beautiful photographic subject.

Elm Hill, Norwich. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Elm Hill, Norwich. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Constructed out of flint and mortar and faced with cream-coloured limestone from northwestern France near Caen, work began on Norwich Cathedral in 1096 and took another fifty years to complete.

Exceeded only by Salisbury Cathedral, the cloisters are the second-largest in the UK, through which a beautifully framed image of the second-tallest spire can be photographed.

Norwich Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
Norwich Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

9. Northern Ireland

About three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills in County Antrim lies an area of ancient lava flow comprising some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns known as the Giant’s Causeway.

Legend has it that the columns were built by the Irish giant Finn MacCool from Gaelic mythology, who was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner.

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Tony Webster
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Tony Webster

Upon seeing Benandonner was much larger than himself, Finn hides and his wife disguises him as a baby, thus fooling Benandonner into thinking Finn’s father must be a true giant of giants.

Benandonner flees back to Scotland and destroys the causeway behind him.

Identical basalt columns from the same lava flow can be found on the Scottish side of the causeway at Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa.

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Voytazz86
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Voytazz86

Linking the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede, a famous rope bridge spans the 66-ft gap, with a drop of nearly 100 feet to the rocks below.

Designated an area of outstanding beauty, it makes for stunning photographs, but be wary of crossing the bridge if you’re afraid of heights—some people cannot stomach the return journey and have to be taken off the island by boat.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland. Credit RafalZabron
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland. Credit RafalZabron

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you may recognize this remarkable avenue of beech trees used as a location in the fantasy drama television series.

40 Beautiful Images of Ireland in 1895.

Celebrating the completion of Gracehill House in 1775, James Stuart planted over 150 beech trees along the approach road to create an imposing corridor.

According to legend, the ghost of the Grey Lady haunts the road, flitting from tree to tree.

Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Colin Park
Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit Colin Park

10. Oxfordshire

Founded around 1096, the University of Oxford—the oldest university in the English-speaking world—dominates the “city of dreaming spires”.

If you’re lucky enough to take a hot air balloon ride over Oxford, incredible views like the one below are yours to savour.

38 constituent colleges are scattered throughout the city centre, forming a beautifully preserved architectural wonder.

Aerial view of Oxford. Credit Chensiyuan
Aerial view of Oxford. Credit Chensiyuan

Viewed from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, the neo-classical Radcliffe Camera looks resplendent in the golden evening sunlight.

Built between 1737 and 1749 to house a science library funded by wealthy local doctor John Radcliffe, it is considered the most magnificent structure in Oxford.

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 Reasons to Love Oxford—the City of Dreaming Spires.

Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a monumental English Baroque country house originally granted as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough for his military triumphs in the Battle of Blenheim of 1704.

Larger than Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, or even Versailles, the sheer scale of Blenheim has to be seen to be appreciated and is difficult to squeeze in the frame.

With its richly colored stone columns against a dramatic sky, Blenheim is a photo gem.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Known as the “gateway” to the Cotswolds, Burford is a delightful medieval town on the River Windrush in West Oxfordshire.

It was the scene of a great battle in AD 752 between Cuthred, king of the West Saxons and Æthelbald, king of the Mercians, in which the Saxons vanquished the Mercians.

Local legend tells of a ghostly apparition of an unpopular 16th-century Lord and his wife riding a fiery coach through the town and bringing a curse upon all who see it.

Fortunately, the ghosts were corked in a glass bottle during an exorcism and cast into the river!

Burford, Oxfordshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Burford, Oxfordshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

11. Scotland

“Bonnie” meaning “pretty, attractive” is the perfect word to describe Scotland’s dramatic landscape.

Covered by ice sheets during the ice age, Scotland has been shaped by glaciation, forming towering mountains, deep glens, glittering lochs, thick woodland, and rolling pastureland.

Steeped in history and the struggle for freedom, Scotland is dotted with romantic historic castles and ruins that take your breath away.

One of the most iconic landmarks is Eilean Donan Castle in the western Highlands.

Eilean Donan, Scotland. Credit Nessy-Pic
Eilean Donan, Scotland. Credit Nessy-Pic

Eilean Donan—a place to live forever?

Fictional setting of Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake and the opera La donna del lago by Rossini, Loch Katrine is a popular scenic attraction within reach from Glasgow on a day trip.

Loch Katrine in the Trossachs of Scotland. Credit John McSporran, flickr
Loch Katrine in the Trossachs of Scotland. Credit John McSporran, flickr

Forming the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands, Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water in Britain by surface area.

Surrounded by hills, Loch Lomond is popular as a leisure destination and is featured in the song “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, a well-known traditional Scottish song first published in 1841.

Loch Lomond, Scotland. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Loch Lomond, Scotland. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dominating the skyline of Edinburgh from its position atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress and one of Scotland’s most-visited attractions, with over 2 million visitors a year.

A Tour of Magical Victorian Scotland.

Princess Street Gardens makes a superb location from which to capture the castle, featuring the Victorian Ross Fountain, once exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1862 in Kensington, London.

Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street Gardens. Credit Gustavo Naharro, flickr
Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street Gardens. Credit Gustavo Naharro, flickr

12. Somerset

Crafted from honey-coloured stone, Bath became a popular spa town in the Georgian era as word spread of its curative natural spring water.

Designed by Robert Adam, one of the most successful and fashionable architects of the 18th century, his Palladian-style Pulteney Bridge is exceptional for having shops built across its entire span on both sides.

On a still day, the much-photographed bridge reflects almost perfectly in the River Avon.

Pulteney Bridge, Bath. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pulteney Bridge, Bath. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built around a Roman site for public bathing, the Roman Baths complex is a major tourist spot, attracting over a million visitors a year.

The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 of the Best Things To Do in the City of Bath.

Attracting about half a million visitors a year is a deep limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills of Somerset known as Cheddar Gorge.

Rising almost 450 feet with near-vertical cliff-face sides, a dramatic photo opportunity is from the top looking down on the road snaking its way along the bottom of the gorge.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Credit Pablo Fernández
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Credit Pablo Fernández

Built between 1175 and 1490, Wells Cathedral is a dominant feature of the city of Wells and the surrounding Somerset countryside.

Called “the most poetic” of English cathedrals, the style is pure Gothic and thought to be the first truly Gothic structure in Europe.

The Pillars of the Earth – Inside England’s Medieval Cathedrals.

Displaying more than 300 sculpted figures, the façade has been described as “the supreme triumph of the combined plastic arts in England”.

It is a superb opportunity to capture in detail the fruits of medieval English craftsmanship.

Wells Cathedral, Wells, Somerset. Credit seier+seier
Wells Cathedral, Wells, Somerset. Credit seier+seier

13. Wales

Known as the “land of song” thanks to a centuries-old Welsh festival of literature, music, and performance, this Celtic nation of valleys is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain.

Pen-y-Gwryd is a mountain pass close to the foot of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.

The famous mountaineering hostelry, Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, is located in the pass and is where the first successful Everest expedition team of 1953 stayed to train in the mountains of Snowdonia.

Pen-y-Gwryd pass, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Pen-y-Gwryd pass, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Formed by a post-glacial massive landslide that dammed the lake within the glaciated valley, Tal-y-llyn Lake is the most-photographed lake in Wales.

Tal-y-llyn Lake, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Kevin Richardson
Tal-y-llyn Lake, Snowdonia, Wales. Credit Kevin Richardson

For a long time from the 13th century on, Llanrwst’s wool trade was so important that it set the price of wool for the whole of Britain.

Across from Pont Fawr—a narrow three-arch stone bridge built by famed 16th-century English architect Inigo Jones—sits the beautiful ivy-covered Tu Hwnt I’r Bont Tearoom.

40 Beautiful Images of Wales from the 1890s.

Originally a farmhouse, the building predates the bridge by about 100 years and creates a perfect chocolate box photograph.

Tu Hwnt I'r Bont Tearoom, Llanrwst, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Tu Hwnt I’r Bont Tearoom, Llanrwst, Wales. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Formed from Carboniferous Limestone, the Green Bridge of Wales is a natural arch on the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline

Described as the most spectacular arch in Britain, at around 80ft high, the Green Bridge is a popular tourist attraction and makes for a superb photo opportunity from the coastal footpath above.

The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembrokeshire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr
The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembrokeshire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr

14. Wiltshire

Best known for the prehistoric monument of standing stones called Stonehenge, Wiltshire has much to offer the avid photographer.

Constructed between 3000 and 2000 years before Christ, each stone is around 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighs around 25 tons.

Surrounded by myth, exactly how Stonehenge was built and what it was used for remain a mystery.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Quintessentially English, and often considered the prettiest village in England, Castle Combe is unsurprisingly popular as a filming location, having featured in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and the original Dr Doolittle film.

Unmistakably Cotswold, with its honey-coloured local stone, beautiful photos are all but guaranteed.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Castle Combe, Wiltshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

If you enjoyed the 2005 movie Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, then you’ll love the gardens of Stourhead’s 2,650-acre estate where some of the filming took place.

One of the best views is across the bridge towards the Pantheon, thought to be the most important visual feature of the gardens.

Stourhead Gardens, Wilstshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stourhead Gardens, Wilstshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Perched on a perfect green lawn, Salisbury Cathedral is a true wonder of medieval architecture.

Not only has it the tallest spire in Britain at 404 feet, but the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close.

Containing the best surviving copy of the Magna Carta—the founding text of Liberty—and one of the oldest working clocks in the world, Salisbury Cathedral is a must-see and a sight to behold.

Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire. Credit Bellminsterboy
Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire. Credit Bellminsterboy

15. Yorkshire

Largest of all British counties, Yorkshire is home to the historic city of York and to vast areas of unspoiled countryside.

Sometimes nicknamed “God’s Own Country”, the Yorkshire Dales comprises river valleys and hills with pastures separated by dry-stone walls and grazed by sheep and cattle.

Swaledale is a typical limestone Yorkshire dale, with narrow valley floor, glacier-formed valley sides, green meadows, and fellside fields.

Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales from the Pennine Way. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales from the Pennine Way. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Opened in 1875 to carry the Settle-Carlisle Railway across Baty Moss in the valley of the River Ribble, the Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the great feats of Victorian engineering and complements the scenery with its graceful curve of arches.

Ribblehead Viaduct, Yorkshire Dales
Ribblehead Viaduct, Yorkshire Dales

10 Fun Facts About the Yorkshire Dales: England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

Overhanging timber-framed buildings dating back as far as the 14th century characterize the medieval street known as “the Shambles” in the city of York.

Once home to 25 butchers’ shops, its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels meaning “flesh shelves”.

Today, the Shambles is a mix of eateries, souvenir shops, a bookshop, and a bakery that make for a delightful photograph, especially in the early light of dawn.

The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

The Shambles—York’s Famous Medieval Street.

Dramatically set into a rocky gorge, Knaresborough is a historic medieval market town and spa.

Weaving up from the river, a maze of cobbled paths and stone staircases begs to be explored.

Built in 1851, the castellated viaduct with its soaring arches spanning the River Nidd makes an excellent photo taken from the ruins of Knaresborough Castle.

Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 Reasons to Love Winchester—the Ancient City of Kings and Knights

Steeped in history and legend, Winchester is a reminder of Britain’s mythical past.

Soak up the gothic splendor of Winchester Cathedral, stroll along ancient river walks, laugh at street theatre, or relax over wine or a fine ale.

Winchester is an adventure in time.

Here are 10 reasons you’ll fall in love with Winchester.

1. Ancient Capital of England

Honored by a huge statue 17 feet high, Alfred the Great stands watching over the city he built on top of the old Roman settlement of Venta Belgarum.

Today it is known as Winchester—the Anglo-Saxon capital of England before London.

King Alfred's Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea
King Alfred’s Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea

Venta Belgarum means “Town of the Belgae”—a confederation of tribes mostly living in present day Belgium, but some living in southern England.

Following the Roman invasion of Britain, the Romans founded the settlement in around 70 AD and developed it into a major trading center with city walls, before withdrawing from Britain some 340 years later.

During diggings at the corner of Little Minster Street and Minster Lane in 1878, a beautiful Roman mosaic was discovered.

Depicting a dolphin, you can see the mosaic on display at the Winchester City Museum.

Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr
Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr

But Winchester’s history goes back much further to the Iron Age (1200 BC – 1 BC), with the remains of three hill forts all in the nearby vicinity—Oram’s Arbour, St. Catherine’s Hill, and Worthy Down.

St. Catherine's Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Catherine’s Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

One day in 2000, a retired florist was out in the fields of Winchester hoping to get lucky with his metal detector and perhaps find something interesting.

Striking one of the most important Iron Age gold hoards for fifty years and valued at £350,000 ($457,000), he was a little more than lucky.

Housed in the British Museum, the Winchester Hoard is thought to be a lavish diplomatic gift dating from about 75-25 BCE.

Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr
Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr

2. Winchester Gothic Cathedral

Having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe, it comes as little surprise that Winchester Cathedral is the major landmark of the city.

Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Originally founded in 642 and known as the “Old Minster”, it was demolished by the Normans in 1093 and a new cathedral built in its place.

Squat and square, the tower is 150 ft tall which pales in comparison with Salisbury Cathedral’s 404 ft spire—just 25 miles to the west of Winchester.

Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com
Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com

Some speculate that Winchester Cathedral may have later had a spire if funds had been available since spires were highly desirable.

But the current tower is the second after the first collapsed in 1107—an accident blamed on the impious William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s heir) who was buried in the Cathedral.

It’s possible this “bad omen” halted any plans for a spire that would reach to the heavens—which might have looked like the image below.

What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff

Honored as a beautiful statue, Saint Joan of Arc stares in vain at the Chancery Chapel of Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, a man who helped condemn her to death by burning at the stake in 1431.

The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

Spire or no, Winchester Cathedral is beautiful inside and out, and whether out for a stroll in the grounds or a guided tour, the setting is absolutely magical.

Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

3. Winchester Castle and King Arthur’s Round Table

At one time, Winchester had a castle, of which only the Great Hall still stands, but it houses one of the greatest artifacts from Arthurian Legend—The Round Table.

Symbolizing equality since a round table has no head, by the close of the 12th century, it came to represent the chivalric order of King Arthur’s court and the Knights of the Round Table.

Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Normal poet Robert Wace said that Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others.

Arthur increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.

King Arthur's Round Table at Winchester Castle
King Arthur’s Round Table at Winchester Castle

In Celtic lore, warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior.

British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth says that after establishing peace throughout Britain, Arthur “increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.”

The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d'Espinques, 1475
The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d’Espinques, 1475
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903

4. Winchester College

Claiming the longest unbroken history of any school in England, Winchester College was established in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and chancelloer to Edward III and Richard II.

Founded in conjunction with New College, Oxford, it was meant to prepare students to attend Oxford University.

Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge would later follow the same model.

The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Be sure to pop into the Wykeham Arms pub for a bite to eat and a pint of delicious local ale.

You can even sit at old school desks from the college, complete with ink wells.

Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr
Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr

An independent boarding school for boys in the British public school tradition, according to Tatler Magazine, 35% of leavers in 2015 had places at Oxford or Cambridge; most of the rest attended other universities, including those in North America.

Performance like that doesn’t come cheap, with fees of £38,100 per year (almost $50,000 per year).

The 14th century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th-century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

5. Jane Austen’s House

Living in Chawton, Hampshire, about 18 miles north-east of Winchester, Jane Austen started feeling unwell early in the year of 1816.

When her uncle died leaving nothing of his fortune to his relatives, her condition deteriorated and by mid-April she was bed-ridden.

Jane Austen's house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Suffering agonizing pain, her sister Cassandra and brother-in-law Henry brought her to Winchester for treatment in May.

She lived here, at 8 College Street, Winchester for the last few weeks of her life.

Jane Austen's house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen's House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen's House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Click here to see Jane Austen’s House in Winchester

On 18 July, at the age of 41, Jane Austen, one of the most prolific writers of the Regency Era, passed to another place free from pain.

She is buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen's memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
Jane Austen’s memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

6. Ancient City Walls, Streets, and the River Itchen

When you enter Winchester through one of the medieval arched gateways, you get a buzz—a feeling that this is going to be special, that you are traveling back in time to a land of Anglo-Saxon Kings, Knights, Bishops, and peasants.

In short, Winchester has atmosphere.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk

Parts of the medieval city walls still stand, strong and imposing, forever protecting the city inhabitants.

Sat here, time stands still, allowing your mind to wonder how many travelers passed this way on pilgrimages to the magnificent cathedral.

Winchester's Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester’s Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Fortunately, advances in city architecture have left Winchester largely free from blight.

It’s a city with relatively few brutal buildings from the 60’s and 70’s and has remained beautiful for hundreds of years.

High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell
High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell

The town clock still reminds you what time it is regardless of how many carry mobile phones.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

There’s time to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

The Victorians appreciated aesthetics—their gothic revival architecture blended with the medieval to keep the mythical past alive.

The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. Swithun's Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Swithun’s Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

Powered by the River Itchen, the old City Mill is probably the country’s oldest working watermill, with over a thousand years of history.

Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

7. Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty

Founded in the 1130s by Henry de Blois—the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Winchester, and grandson of William the Conqueror—the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr

Built on the scale of an Oxbridge college, the almshouses are the largest medieval examples in Britain.

St. John's almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. John’s almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Since at least the 14th century, and still available today, a ‘wayfarer’s dole’ of ale and bread has been handed out at the chapel.

The sustenance was supposedly instigated to aid pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.

Handing out Wayfarer's Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Handing out Wayfarer’s Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

8. Street Theatre, Fairs, and Farmers Market

Just as our medieval forebears enjoyed street entertainments, so too do Winchester residents who gather on the cathedral lawns or the High Street to celebrate street theatre during the summer festival season.

Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Winchester hosts one of the UK’s largest farmers’ markets, with about 100 stalls of fresh locally grown produce.

The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

During the Christmas holiday season, hundreds of children holding paper lanterns process along the High Street to the Cathedral Close to mark the opening of the Christmas Market and Ice Rink.

The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

9. Walking, Cycling, and Surrounding Countryside

Whether you’re working off a big evening meal with a pleasant stroll or engaged in a more active pursuit, Winchester’s walks are a delight for the senses.

From the City centre, there is a lovely 20-minute walk along the riverside footpath to the ancient Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse.

The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

How much more enjoyable does it get to soak up Winchester’s sights than on a bicycle made for two?

A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire’s countryside, towns, and villages are some of the prettiest in Britain, with fields of green and bright yellow stretching for miles.

An ancient Roman road that is now a footpath will take you on an adventure from Winchester Cathedral to Salisbury Cathedral—this is “Pillars of the Earth” country.

Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire is one of the best counties to see gorgeous thatched cottages.

Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Click here to see thatched houses in East Stratton, near Winchester
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

10. Cafes, Pubs, and Restaurants

Winchester boasts some of the oldest pubs in Britain.

From debating the best way to grow prize roses to who will win the county cricket championships, there’s not much beats a glass of wine al fresco.

Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Pubs
Winchester Pubs

Delightful pubs and restaurants abound in Winchester.

Whether you’re looking for a delicious lunch at the Chesil Rectory—Winchester’s oldest house—or something French for evening upscale dining at the Hotel du Vin, Winchester is sure to be one of your best and favorite memories.

Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin

York Minster – the Magnificent Medieval Cathedral of Northern England

The Largest Gothic Cathedral in Britain

In 1215, Archbishop of York, Walter de Gray ordered the construction of a Gothic structure for the north of England to rival Canterbury Cathedral in the south.

Gothic style was about soaring to the sky, and therefore Heaven, with pointed arches, lots of light and ornamentation.

Instead of starting from scratch, the new Gothic form was built on and around the existing Norman Minster dating from 1080—the foundations of which can be seen today.

Declared complete and consecrated in 1472, York Minster has survived wars, plague, political upheaval, structural crisis, and local rebellion … and lived to tell the tale.

South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell
South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell

To this day, the most significant building rising above York is the 800-year-old medieval Minster.

York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski

The term “minster” is given to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches. Today, it’s used as an honorific title.

York Minster. Credit Saste
York Minster. Credit Saste

Developed during the Gothic period (12th—16th c.), “flying buttresses” were arched structures used to support the walls of medieval cathedrals.

York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged
York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged

The Largest Expanse of Medieval Stained Glass in the World

When it comes to stained glass, York Minster is in a class of its own, with some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass in the world, dating as far back as the 12th century.

Completed in 1408, the Great East Window in the Lady Chapel is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.

The size of a tennis court, the Great East Window was created between 1405 and 1408 by master glazier John Thornton and shows intricately detailed scenes from the book of Genesis.

The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr
The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr

In the below detail, Saint John (bottom left) is instructed by an angel to write down what he saw in his vision and send it to the seven churches of Asia.

John Thornton’s clever design combines all seven churches into one image, each represented by an archbishop standing in a shrine-like building.

The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott
The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott

Commemorating the union of the royal houses of York and Lancaster following the Wars of the Roses, the Rose Window in the south transept dates from about 1500.

The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett

The Five Sisters Window in York Minster’s North Transept is the only memorial in the country to women of the British Empire who lost their lives during the First World War. Each lancet is over 52 feet (16 m) high.

Dating from the mid-1200s, the window was removed during the First World War to protect it during German Zeppelin raids.

The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12
The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12

The Great West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as ‘The Heart of Yorkshire’.

Built between 1338 and 1339, it shows the hierarchy of the Church as you look up the window.

At the base level are eight Archbishops of York, with their Apostles above, followed by panels showing the life of Christ and the Virgin—the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, and Ascension. The top panels show Mary sitting beside Christ in Heaven.

The window is known as ‘the heart of Yorkshire’ due to the shape of its upper stonework.

The west window. Credit David Iliff
The west window. Credit David Iliff

The Widest Gothic Nave in England

York Minster’s nave is the widest Gothic nave in England and has a wooden roof (painted so as to appear like stone) and the aisles have vaulted stone roofs.

The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff

The Chapter House

Windows cover almost all of the upper wall space of the highly decorated Chapter House, filling it with light.

Innovative design and a light wooden roof meant that the buttressed walls could support the ceiling without the need for a central column, creating a beautiful open space.

The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House

Grotesques

Grotesques are fantastical or mythical figures used for decorative purposes. Gargoyles are forms of grotesque that include a drainage spout to help prevent heavy rainwater running down the face of the building.

York Minster is covered with grotesques inside and out.

York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff

Current stonemasons working on the finishing touches of the York Minster restoration have carved sometimes amusing grotesques doing unusual things.

This chap will eventually be baring his derriere to all and sundry from a lofty position above the city, affixed to York Minster.

The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell
The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell

The 11-ton Great Peter Bell

The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime and Great Peter strikes the hour.

York Minster. Credit Manuamador
York Minster. Credit Manuamador

Great Peter is the name of the northwest tower’s bell, weighing in at almost 11 tons. The six other bells that ring every quarter of an hour weigh 3 tons each.

Before Evensong each evening, hymn tunes are played on a baton keyboard connected with the bells, but occasionally anything from Beethoven to the Beatles may be heard.

York Minster's 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
York Minster’s 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff

Reformation and Restoration

The English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral’s treasures and the loss of much of the church lands.

Queen Elizabeth I was determined to have all traces of Roman Catholicism removed from the cathedral. Tombs, windows, and altars were destroyed.

York Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson
Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson

During the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1644, but York Minster was spared damage thanks to the influence of parliamentary general Thomas Fairfax.

In the 1850s services were suspended as the cathedral slumped deeply into debt.

York Minster, late 1800s
York Minster, late 1800s

To date, tens of millions of pounds have been spent on restoration work, but the results speak for themselves. York Minster will continue to reach to the skies for millennia to come.

The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft
The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft

10 of the Best Things To Do in the City of Bath

Nestled in the picturesque Avon Valley surrounded by gently rolling hills, Bath is a World Heritage city with elegant neoclassical buildings blending harmoniously with Roman baths.

Here are 10 of the best things to see and do in Bath.

1. Bath Abbey

Founded in the 7th century, Bath Abbey is one of the largest examples of Perpendicular Gothic
architecture in the West Country.

The abbey is a Grade I listed building, which means it’s listed by the statutory body “Historic England” as being of exceptional historic and architectural interest.

Bath Abbey. Credit: Joanna Penn, flickr; Lee, flickr
Bath Abbey. Credit: Joanna Penn, flickr; Lee, flickr

Of particular note are the fan vaulting and stained glass. Beautifully bright inside, windows cover 80% of the wall area.

2. Roman Baths and Grand Pump Room

One of the finest historic sites in Northern Europe, the Roman Baths is a bathing complex around the source of three natural hot springs. 257,000 gallons (1.2M litres) of water at 115°F (46°C) rises from a geological fault every day.

There are four main things to see: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and a Museum of Roman artifacts.

Roman Baths. Credit David Iliff; Neil Howard; flickr; Treye Rice, flickr
Roman Baths. Credit David Iliff; Neil Howard; flickr; Treye Rice, flickr

You can even taste the water in the Grand Pump Room—a Georgian-era Grade I listed building made from the honey-colored stone that gives Bath its distinctive character.

The Pump Room was featured in Jane Austen novels, including Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

It has an elegant restaurant which is very popular for afternoon tea.

The Pump Room restaurant. Credit Richard Allaway, Glitzy queen00, Stan Zurek
The Pump Room restaurant. Credit Richard Allaway, Glitzy queen00, Stan Zurek

3. Pulteney Bridge

Completed in 1774 in a Palladian style, the bridge spans the River Avon and is one of only four bridges in the world to have shops on both sides of its entire length.

The bridge is named after Frances Pulteney, wife of wealthy Scottish lawyer and Member of Parliament William Johnstone.

Pulteney Bridge, Bath, England. Credit Diego Delso
Pulteney Bridge, Bath, England. Credit Diego Delso

Take a virtual walk across the bridge and do some window shopping.

4. Royal Crescent and the Circus

Georgian architecture is characterized by grand tall houses with symmetrical facades and box sash windows.

The Royal Crescent is a superb example of this classic Georgian style, forming a sweeping crescent of 30 elegant terraced houses—the same today as it was in 1780.

The Royal Crescent in Bath by Thomas Malton 1780
The Royal Crescent in Bath by Thomas Malton 1780

No. 1 Royal Crescent is a museum—a must see for anyone interested in how the wealthy furnished their homes in the late 18th century.

Drawing Room at No. 1 Royal Crescent. Credit Roger W, flickr
Drawing Room at No. 1 Royal Crescent. Credit Roger W, flickr

Following the same theme is “The Circus”—a complete ring of Georgian townhouses.

Composed of three equal segments, it is divided in such a way that whichever road you approach on, you are presented with a glorious Georgian facade.

5. Bath Street

Another must see for lovers of architecture is Bath Street.

Built in 1791, the 2-story buildings have French-influenced Mansard roofs, pedimented windows, and decorative friezes. The two upper floors overhang the lower, supported by rows of white pillars and providing an attractive covered walkway.

Bath Street. Credit harry_nl, flickr
Bath Street. Credit harry_nl, flickr

6. Jane Austen Centre

Fans of Jane Austen will appreciate the writer’s home museum—the Jane Austen Centre—representing her life in Bath and how it affected her writing.

The showpiece of the centre is a life-size wax model of Jane Austen that took three years of painstaking research to create.

Jane Austen Centre. Credit Shelley Rodrigo, flickr
Jane Austen Centre. Credit Shelley Rodrigo, flickr

The Jane Austen Centre also has a tearoom. With a “Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence” award, the Regency Tea Room has a period atmosphere and serves loose-leaf tea, coffees, and Belgian hot chocolate, in addition to soups, cakes, and toasties.

7. The Bath Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum

Where did the nobility, socialites and celebrities like Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens go to mingle, to see and be seen in Bath society? They went to the Assembly Rooms—an elegant venue for balls, concerts, and even gambling.

This was the place for well-to-do mothers and chaperones to bring their daughters for the social season, hoping to find suitable husbands.

When not being used for private functions, admission is free.

18th century illustration of the The Assembly Rooms
18th-century illustration of the The Assembly Rooms
Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum. Credit: Heather Cowper, flickr; Lisby, flickr
Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum. Credit: Heather Cowper, flickr; Lisby, flickr

8.Theatre Royal and Garrick’s Head Pub

Described by the Theatres Trust as “one of the most important surviving examples of Georgian theatre architecture”, the Theatre Royal was built in 1805, making it one of the oldest working theatres in the country.

Theatre Royal. Credit Michael Maggs
Credit: Garrick’s Head Pub

9. Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House and Museum

One of the oldest houses in Bath, the medieval building is now a tearoom and museum. It’s also home to the original Bath Bun—based on the recipe of Sally Lunn. Legend has it that Sally Lunn was a French Huguenot refugee who brought the recipe to Bath in 1680. The Sally Lunn bun is mentioned in Charles Dickens “The Chimes” (1845).

Sally Lunn's House, the oldest house in Bath, home of the Sally Lunn Bun. Credit Fahdshariff
Sally Lunn’s House, the oldest house in Bath, home of the Sally Lunn Bun. Credit Fahdshariff

10. Royal Victoria Park

Opened in 1830 by the 11-year-old Princess Victoria, the Royal Victoria Park was the first park to carry her name.

Featuring a 9-acre botanical garden, golf course, boating pond and open-air concerts, it is on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Suggestions that are highly rated on TripAdvisor.

Tea Rooms

The Pump Room Restaurant
The Regency Tea Room at the Jane Austen Centre
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
Hands Georgian Tearooms
Sally Lunn’s Museum

Restaurants

Sotto Sotto (Fine Dining, Italian)
Menu Gordon Jones (Fine Dining, British)
The Circus Restaurant (Fine Dining, British)
Burgers and Barrels (Barbecue, American)
The Real Italian Pizza Co (Gourmet Pizza, Italian)

Pubs

The Garrick’s Head Pub and Dining
The Crystal Palace Pub
The Raven
Marlborough Tavern
The Bath Brew House

The Shambles—York’s Famous Medieval Street

We can learn a lot about the history of a place just from its name.

“Shambles” is an archaic term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market.

Aptly named The Shambles, this beautiful medieval cobbled street in York was once lined with butcher’s shops and stalls, or benches, for displaying meat known as “Shamels” in Anglo-Saxon.

The Shambles, Heritage Plaque, York. Credit Peter Hughes
The Shambles, Heritage Plaque, York. Credit Peter Hughes

As you walk down the ancient street and look up, the overhanging timber-framed buildings—some dating from the 14th century—appear to almost touch in places.

Jettying was a building technique used in medieval times in which the upper floors projected beyond the lower floors, thus increasing available space without obstructing the street.

It had the added benefit of not raising property taxes, which were based on the ground floor area.

The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Shambles' overhanging buildings. Credit Nilfanion
The Shambles’ overhanging buildings. Credit Nilfanion
The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Shambles, York. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

In 1872, there were twenty-five butchers’ shops lining the street, but now there are none.

The Shambles, York. Credit Chris Combe
The Shambles, York. Credit Chris Combe
Shambles in Snow. Credit Matt Cornock
Shambles in Snow. Credit Matt Cornock

Today, the Shambles is a wonderful place to stroll, to shop, and to eat.

Quaint little shops, cafes, tea rooms, and restaurants line the street—winner of Google’s Most Picturesque Street in Britain for 2010.

No. 1 Shambles. Credit Tim Green
No. 1 Shambles. Credit Tim Green
Shop window in The Shambles, York. Credit Jhsteel
Shop window in The Shambles, York. Credit Jhsteel
Shopping in the Shambes. Credit Poliphilo
Shopping in the Shambes. Credit Poliphilo
The Shambles. Credit Jhsteel, Richard Croft
The Shambles. Credit Jhsteel, Richard Croft
The Shambles Tea Rooms, The Shambles, York. Credit Poliphilo
The Shambles Tea Rooms, The Shambles, York. Credit Poliphilo

And with street signs like this, you won’t have to worry about losing your way.

Signpost at the bottom of The Shambles. Credit Peter Whelerton
Signpost at the bottom of The Shambles. Credit Peter Whelerton

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Several “snickelways” lead off the Shambles. In his book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, author Mark W. Jones coined the word Snickelway from the words snicket (a passageway between walls or fences), ginnel (a narrow passageway between or through buildings), and alleyway (a narrow street or lane).

Take a little snickelway off the shambles called “Little Shambles” (they thought of everything), and you walk into Shambles Market, a historic and vibrant open-air market complete with fresh produce, unique crafts and essential merchandise. Sample the street food and enjoy courtesy seating and even Wi-Fi!

Little Shambles, York. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Little Shambles, York. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Shambles Market, York
The Shambles Market, York

The Shambles Street View. Take a virtual walk back in time to medieval York.