World Heritage Sites: Parks and Palaces

The third in our series of World Heritage Sites in the UK covers Treasure Trails near the parks and palaces that appear in the UNESCO list.

Blenheim Palace

Reason it's a World Heritage Site

Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, stands in a romantic park created by the famous landscaper ‘Capability’ Brown. It was presented by the English nation to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, in recognition of his victory in 1704 over French and Bavarian troops. Built between 1705 and 1722 and characterised by an eclectic style and return to national roots, it is a perfect example of an 18th century princely dwelling.

Things to do in Oxford

Oxford has a whopping 5 Trails around the city. The Trails are totally independent of each other, and explore different parts of this beautiful, historical city. The one we’ve chosen to feature is Oxford University Parks which starts in front of the University Museum on Park Street, and follows a circular route through University Parks, across the River Cherwell to the suburb of New Marston, and back to University Museum via Mesopotamia Walk and South Parks Road. With much of the walk through green spaces, this is one of the more tranquil of Oxford's Trails.

Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church

Reason it's a World Heritage Site

Westminster Palace, rebuilt from 1840 on the site of important medieval remains, is a fine example of neo-Gothic architecture. The site - which comprises the small medieval Church of Saint Margaret, built in Perpendicular Gothic style, and Westminster Abbey, where all the sovereigns since the 11th century have been crowned - is of great historic and symbolic significance.

Things to do in Westminster

With its connections with Royalty and Government, Westminster is blessed with that extra 'Wow!' factor, and the Westminster Spy Mission shows off Britain's capital city at its most stunning.

World Heritage Sites: Parks and Palaces - Things do in London

The route takes you via some of London's favourite sights, and you will find yourself close to such iconic delights as Westminster Abbey and the Supreme Court, the beautiful and splendid St James's Park, the Mall, St James's Palace, Admiralty Arch and brushing past Trafalgar Square.

The Trail includes visits to a number of sculptures and memorials which you may have been aware of, but never before paused to appreciate, including a haunted statue, a General's nose, leaping hares and the scene of a duel. It finishes with a flourish - along Whitehall, the epicentre of British government, passing familiar favourites - Horse Guard's, Downing Street and the Cenotaph.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Reason it's a World Heritage Site

This historic landscape garden (popularly known as Kew Gardens) features elements that illustrate significant periods of the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The gardens house botanic collections (conserved plants, living plants and documents) that have been considerably enriched though the centuries. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant and uninterrupted contribution to the study of diversity and economic botany.

Things to do in Kew

The Strand on the Green Riverside Trail explores both banks of the River Thames between Kew Bridge and Chiswick Bridge, following The Thames Path National Trail and finishing at Strand on the Green, which must rank highly amongst the most interesting streets in London, with its quaint flood defences.

Kew Bridge railway station is a few short steps away, and amazingly for London there are no parking restrictions in the area at the start of the Trail. Some parts of the Trail are only open till dusk, but do you really want to be searching for a murderer in the dark?

Once or twice a month the riverside footpath at Strand on the Green is prone to flooding at especially high tides, and while very interesting to see, is not suitable for doing the Trail as several clues will be inaccessible. You can check for high tide dates and times at Tide times for Strand on the Green. If you do find yourself unable to complete the Trail while the footpath is under water, you can always pass the time at one of the three excellent riverside pubs which can be accessed from the rear. It only takes a couple of hours before the water recedes and the path is once again passable!

Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey

Reason it's a World Heritage Site

A striking landscape was created around the ruins of the Cistercian Fountains Abbey and Fountains Hall Castle, in Yorkshire. The 18th century landscaping, gardens and canal, the 19th century plantations and vistas, and the neo-Gothic castle of Studley Royal Park, make this an outstanding site.

Things to do in Ripon

World Heritage Sites: Parks and Palaces - Things to do in Ripon

The small historic city of Ripon has many delights to discover, including the cathedral, the riverside and several links to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland including some fabulous carvings in the Spa Gardens.

Discover all these and more on the Ripon – Hunt for the Missing Horns Treasure Hunt Trail. The back story to this Trail is based on the real life tradition of the hornblower which occurs in Ripon every evening at 9pm without fail. Every night, and for the past 1129 years, the ‘Setting of the Watch’ ceremony takes place with the hornblower sounding his horn to let the residents of Ripon know that the watch is set and they may sleep safely in their beds. If you are in Ripon, do make sure to be at the obelisk in the market place at 9pm. It’s an experience not to be missed!

If you enjoyed this post, you may like to read our first two posts in the World Heritage Sites series. City Spotlight featured Bath, Edinburgh and Liverpool and Castles and Cathedrals featured Gwynedd, Durham and Canterbury.

If you go to any of the places featured, do let us know in the comments box below or on facebook.