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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 LondonThe 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.

World Heritage Sites: Parks and Palaces - Things to do in Ripon
Our local Trail Writer with the man himself!

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.

4th February 2015

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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

World Heritage Sites - Castles and Cathedrals Spotlight - North WalesReason 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

World Heritage Sites - Castles and Cathedrals Spotlight - DurhamReason 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

World Heritage Sites - Castles and Cathedrals Spotlight - CanterburyReason 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!

20th August 2014

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