World Heritage Sites - Castles and Cathedrals Spotlight
UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites shows 28 sites under the UK and three of those sites are castles and cathedrals.
The Dalai Lama said “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”. We like that sentiment. So, if you haven’t been to these three World Heritage sites, do plan a weekend or week long break to explore them. Naturally, Treasure Trails have murder mysteries, spy missions and lost treasure hunts close to all three!
Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd
Reason it is a WHS: The castles of Beaumaris and Harlech (largely the work of the greatest military engineer of the time, James of St George) and the fortified complexes of Caernarfon and Conwy are located in the former principality of Gwynedd, in North Wales. These extremely well-preserved monuments are examples of the colonization and defence works carried out throughout the reign of Edward I (1272 – 1307) and the military architecture of the time.
About the Trails:
We have a nice selection of Trails in North Wales with one each in Conwy and Caernarfon as well as one in Beaumaris. We’d recommend starting in Caernarfon and investigating the town dominated by its castle and then heading north east to Conwy to enjoy this medieval walled town also with a castle. Both towns are a delight to explore with their selection of independent shops and cafes along the Treasure Trails’ routes.
Another thing to do in North Wales:
A must do when in North Wales is to head to Snowdonia National Park and the biggest mountain in Wales and England. And the best thing of all is you don’t have to walk up it, but can catch the train! Top tip is to do what we did, buy a single ticket and walk down - the views are stunning.
Durham Castle and Cathedral
Reason it is a WHS: Durham City grew around the tomb of St Cuthbert. As many pilgrims came to seek healing at his shrine, the busier and wealthier the town became. When William the Conqueror was King, he recognised Durham's excellent situation on a rocky outcrop in a bend of the River Wear, and the building of the Cathedral and Castle together became of powerful political importance. The Prince Bishops of Durham were appointed as religious and military leaders, with all the powers of the King, to protect England from invading Scots.
The Cathedral was a glimpse of Heaven to visiting pilgrims and the Castle an imposing fortress, symbols of spiritual and military medieval power. Now a World Heritage Site and the greatest Norman building in Britain, a visit to Durham Cathedral is truly unforgettable.
About the Durham Trails:
There are five Treasure Trails around Durham City so families and groups are spoilt for choice! The one that will give the best views of the Cathedral and the Castle is the Murder Mystery, but if you want to head into the Cathedral, then we’d recommend the City of Durham Treasure Trail which starts outside the Gala Theatre in Millennium Place and is circular. There are numerous places to stop for refreshments, and there are public toilets halfway round and on Palace Green near the Cathedral. Each Trail will take a whole morning or afternoon if you aren’t diverted by the shops, cafes and attractions along the way, but hey why not take all day over it!
Another thing to do in Durham:
Talking of Heaven, the number one Trip Advisor attraction in Durham is the Peterlee Parachute centre! Obviously this isn’t something that all the family can do in an afternoon having completed a Treasure Trail in the morning, but I was fascinated that it scored so highly on Trip Advisor! For something to do that is more down to earth, or water, head to the sandy beaches of Seaham with its five star water quality and bracing air!
Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church
Reason it is a WHS: Canterbury in Kent, has been the seat of the spiritual head of the Church of England for nearly five centuries. Canterbury’s other important monuments are the modest Church of St Martin, the oldest church in England; the ruins of the Abbey of St Augustine, a reminder of the saint’s evangelizing role in the Heptarchy from 597; and Christ Church Cathedral, a breathtaking mixture of Romanesque and Perpendicular Gothic, where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.
About the Canterbury Trail:
The Trail starts and finishes in the Butter Market next to the Cathedral and wends its way amongst narrow medieval streets, through parks and water meadows and across millstreams. In addition to Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales reference, you will see tributes to dramatist Christopher Marlowe and Charles Dickens as you explore. It should take around two hours leaving lots of time to enjoy the wander.
Another thing to do in Canterbury:
Canterbury may be steeped in history, but it is bang up to date with an app available to download created for the tourists. With a wealth of things to do, there is bound to be something for your group whatever their ages. Our vote though goes for a trip round Canterbury Museum to see Bagpuss who slumbers in a display case there along with Professor Yaffle, Gabriel the toad and rag doll Madeleine. Also on display are Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine and the Clangers who are all from the worlds created by Oliver Postgate. Oh and there is a display devoted to Rupert Bear too as his creator is buried in Canterbury.
Look out for more posts on World Heritage sites in the future, but in the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on these three places – have you been? What did you like best about them or would recommend people did when they visited? Tell us about your experiences and share with us your photos. Head to our Facebook page and upload!