PUBLISHED BY Paula
A s well as New Year resolutions, the new year brings a clean slate that’s just brimming with travel opportunities. But instead of pledging to hit the gym or eat less chocolate, why not make a resolution that you’ll actually want to keep: visiting some of the most stunning and historic landmarks in the UK (you know, the ones you keep telling yourself you’ll visit ‘one day’).
Whether you’re looking for a romantic summer getaway or a last minute break, we’ve put together a list of 5 of the UK’s most popular tourist sites and historic attractions that you can (finally) cross off your travel bucket list in 2019.
Warwick Castle, Warwick
As old as it is beautiful, Warwick Castle is a must-visit for the Medieval-lover in you. The castle has a rich history, first having been built over 1,100 years ago as a Saxon fortification by Ethelfleda (daughter of Alfred the Great) to having been developed by William the Conqueror in 1068. The castle has also been owned by various royal figures and key individuals in British history.
We asked Melissa, Head of History at Warwick Castle, why this fantastic structure should be on your bucket list in 2019. “Today, we bring Warwick Castle’s history to life through spectacular shows and self-paced discovery. Climb the towers and ramparts for views of Warwick and peer down towards the moat – once filled with human excrement to keep invaders at bay, now it’s home to our Bowman archery displays.
“Marvel at the majesty of avian creatures in our Birds of Prey show during winter. Discover the story of Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick and known as the Kingmaker, who played a pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. Watch the world’s largest trebuchet fire as it would have done in a siege generations ago. Uncover the modern secrets with an overview of parties hosted by Daisy Greville in the Royal Weekend Party or hear the tales of knights with a tour by the expert History Team.”
Seasonal events at Warwick Castle
No matter what time of the year you decide to visit, there are lots of seasonal activities and displays to get involved in. “Visit at various times of the year and you can discover seasonal delights,” says Melissa. “From spooktacular celebrations at Halloween and festive fun at Christmas, to the epic Dragon Slayer show on a summer’s evening: blending pyrotechnics, light displays and real-life action, Dragon Slayer tells the story of local legend Guy of Warwick.”
If you’re a fan of age-old structures with an air of mystery, then a visit to Stonehenge will be right up your street. Although built in stages, it’s thought that the first monument of the stones was erected as long as 5,000 years ago, with the stone circle-shape we know today having been built 2,500 years ago.
Although believed to be one of the world’s oldest monuments, there is something else extra special about the Stonehenge: nobody knows exactly how it got there. There has been many speculations about how this extraordinary circle of stones came to be , but so far, Stonehenge still remains one of the world’s greatest mysteries right on our doorstep.
“A visit to Stonehenge is a great experience at a not-to-be-missed iconic ancient English monument,” says Vene, a member of the team at Visit Stonehenge.
“The experience starts with the visitor centre with its informative displays and immersive circular cinema room. It feels as though you’re standing right in the middle of the stone circle and you can see exactly how the stones are lined up with the summer solstice.
“In the museum itself, you can find out more about the site’s history and how Stonehenge has changed over time.
“Outside of the centre, there is a reconstructed Neolithic village, where you try pulling one of the stones to test your strength. Next, you can board the land train to visit Stonehenge Circle about a mile away. You can sense the mystery of the Stones and the awe of the site.”
Seasonal events at Stonehenge
Stonehenge is open every day except Christmas Day, and holds its magic all year round from dark and chilly winter days to summer’s sunny, cloudless skies. Although a spellbinding experience during winter and the festive season, most people prefer to visit in the summer months as there are longer visiting hours and warmer temperatures.
Both the winter and summer solstices are also popular times to visit; where people flock to witness the stone’s rich magical history in marking the alignment of the sun’s movements.
The Roman Baths, Bath
You will probably have heard about Bath’s most popular historic attraction, the Roman Baths . Right in the city centre, you’ll find the Roman Baths surrounded by shops and the hustle and bustle of both Bath’s inhabitants and tourists alike.
But through the doors, you’ll be transported back nearly 2,000 years and have the chance to walk around the steaming Great Bath, which still flows with naturally hot water, as well as the ruins of Temple of Sulis Minerva where worshippers once gathered.
We spoke to a member of the team at the Roman Baths, asking them why a visit should be on your New Year itinerary. “Costumed characters bring to life the stories of past inhabitants. You might meet a Roman lady called Flavia, slave girl Apulia, stonemasons Sulinus and Brucetus, or a travelling merchant named Peregrinus.
“During the 18th century Bath became a fashionable place for the wealthy to visit and the Grand Pump Room was built above the remains of the Roman baths to enable visitors of the time to meet and take the waters.
“Today, the magnificent Pump Room restaurant serves coffee, lunch and afternoon tea accompanied by live music. The Pump Room Trio, which performs daily, is believed to be the longest-established resident ensemble in Europe. The Roman Baths Kitchen opposite offers bistro-style food and drink in an original Georgian townhouse.
“Visitors can taste the famous spa water (containing 43 minerals) from a fountain in the West Baths, or alternatively from the traditional fountain in the Pump Room above.”
Seasonal events at the Roman Baths
If you’re wondering about the best time to visit, during the summer evenings, the Roman Baths is open until 10pm, and offers visitors the chance to wine and dine in the Pump Room Restaurant or Roman Baths Kitchen.
Snowdon, Gwynedd (Wales)
As the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon mountain reaches a stunning height of 1,085m (3560 ft). Not only does Snowdon offer breath-taking landscapes to feast your eyes upon, but it’s also the perfect day out for taking in the fresh air, hiking up its rugged pathways and marvelling at its variety of lakes.
If you’d rather not hike, then alternatively you can get the Snowdon railway through the rocky crevices and foliage off the beaten track in what is sure to be a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Enjoy lunch or just a coffee at the summit, take in the view and then you can journey back down to land on the railway too.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
If you’re planning on heading to Scotland in 2019, a day trip to Edinburgh and its beloved castle is a must. Edinburgh Castle was built 1,000 years ago or so, with the hill it rests on (Castle Rock) thought to have first been ‘occupied’ by civilians during the Iron Age.
We spoke to the castle’s Executive Manager, Nick Finnigan, about why Edinburgh Castle should be on your Scottish bucket list. “Edinburgh Castle’s history goes back 1,000 years. For centuries, the Castle Rock - the extinct volcano it sits atop - had been used as a military base and royal residence. It wasn’t until the 12th century that the edifice we now know as Edinburgh Castle began to take shape with the addition of St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building, around 1130.”
“The castle has witnessed many of the defining events in Scotland’s history, says Nick. “Royalty lived and died within the walls; pirates and prisoners of war have been held captive over the years, and sieges were fought here. In fact, Edinburgh Castle has been besieged more than any other castle in the UK, something we look at closely in our newest permanent exhibition ‘Fight for the Castle’ in the Argyle Tower.
“Edinburgh Castle is a national icon and houses museums, memorials and countless treasures, including the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. It should be on any visitor’s bucket list when they visit Scotland.”
Take a look at our exclusive 2019 breaks today, so you can start finally ticking these amazing places off your bucket list.
Image credits: Warwick Castle, the Roman Baths, Edinburgh Castle