Wherever you go on a family holiday in the UK there are always plenty of sights to see, activities to do and attractions to visit. But maybe you’re thinking of incorporating a more historical flavour into your next outing? If you have kids in primary school, it’s very likely they will have studied the Romans. And castles are not just fun, they are very educational too.

Throughout the British Isles, there are a wealth of historical places to explore, from the days of the Romans or the Victorians, to sites out of prehistory. The only real question is which ones you’d like to see most, and where you are visiting.

That’s why we’ve put together our own list of the best historical landmarks that the UK has to offer, perfect for inclusion on the itinerary of any upcoming family getaways UK.

stonehenge in the day time
Stonehenge is free for English Heritage and National Trust members, although you can also stand the other side of the fence
  1. Stonehenge, Wiltshire SP4 7DE

Of all the choices here, Stonehenge is possibly the most impressive historic site, which is not bad for a stone circle. Nobody really knows quite how this ancient monument came to be, and theories are abound about how these massive stones were transported and erected in prehistoric times.

It’s hard not to be impressed and inspired as you wander the perimeter of this ancient circle and its towering stones. This monument has weathered countless centuries and is a feat of engineering from a time before any of our modern building methods. Incidentally, carbon dating puts Newgrange in Ireland approximately 500 years older than Stonehenge, with both pre-dating the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

The nearby visitor centre is a great addition to any visit, with its interactive exhibits that help to bring the Neolithic era to life and explain the current theories surrounding Stonehenge’s construction.

Sycamore Gap Northumberland. Hadrians Wall
The famous Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s wall, where the 150 year old tree was felled by vandals in 2023
  1. Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland and Cumbria

You can’t walk around this one quite so easily! Hadrian’s Wall stretches for more than 70 miles along the ancient border between Scotland and the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire. Built in the 2nd century on the orders of Roman Emperor Hadrian, naturally, the wall was intended to guard against potential invasion from the Picts of Caledonia in the North.

Wandering along the well-preserved fortification, your family can imagine yourselves in the footsteps of the Roman soldiers who once patrolled this distant outpost. There are the ruins of forts, turrets and milecastles to examine along the way, along with some awe-inspiring views out over the surrounding countryside.

For some extra information and excitement, pay a visit to one of the interactive museums and visitor centres that can be found at points along the wall’s length. This one is a must for any kids who are fans of the Romans and that particular period of history.

If you do make it up this way and in the area, look at visiting Bambugh Castle in Northumberland (main image). For fans of the Last Kingdom like me, it’s the home of the fictional Uhtred of Bebbanburg and on my bucket list as a region I haven’t visited much.

Edinburgh Castle on the hill
Edinburgh Castle is one of many fine castles in the UK
  1. Edinburgh Castle EH1 2NG

Crossing over into Scotland, Edinburgh Castle is a sight to behold as it towers over the Scottish capital from the top of an extinct volcano. This ancient fortress dates back to the 12th century and has witnessed plenty of military conquests and royal intrigue since its building.

There’s a lot of history to explore here, not to mention some stunning architecture. You can even take a look at the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny that featured in the crowning of Scottish monarchs like Mary Queen of Scots.

For a little bit of extra excitement, the traditional daily firing of the One o’clock Gun isn’t to be missed. You’ll certainly hear it, even if you don’t see it!

In general, Scotland has some stunning castles which are worth a visit in their own right. If  you go, check out Stirling, Eilean Donan, Urquhart, and Dunnottar.

Edinburgh itself might be better for older kids as it’s a lot of walking, but the ghost tours are quite fun.

The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths date back to around 70 AD and are in the city centre
  1. The Roman Baths, Bath BA1 1LZ

Another relic of the Roman age, the Roman Baths are famous enough to be behind the name of the surrounding city. These ancient thermal baths are one of the most well-preserved examples of their kind outside of Italy, with beautiful mosaics and architecture to marvel at.

The baths once formed a bustling hub of social activity for the occupying Romans, where they gathered to bathe, converse and worship Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Take your time strolling through these ancient buildings and interact with costumed Romans inspired by the very people who once used the site.

Of course the Romans did plenty for us, leaving an indelible mark with aqueducts, roads, architecture, legal system, language, and the Roman calendar. But I have to say, the baths didn’t enthral my son who was 5 at the time.

The city of Bath is home to over 5,000 buildings classified as historic or architectural significance, including Bath Abbey.

Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle, one of many sites in the UK for history lovers
  1. Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd LL55 2AY

For a touch of Welsh culture, try a visit to Caernarfon Castle in the north of the country. The imposing stronghold was built in the 13th century for King Edward I and has seen its fair share of politics and action.

Climb to the top of the castle’s massive stone walls, which were inspired by the designs of strongholds in Constantinople, and enjoy views out over the river Seiont. And there’s no shortage of history to find inside those walls, with plenty of interactive exhibitions explaining Caernarfon’s heritage and importance.

As Wales is often dubbed the country of castles, with more than 400 of them in total, you can easily fit in a visit to more than just one on your family holiday here! Depending on where you are staying, see how close you are to Conwy, Pembroke, Harlech, Laugharne, Cilgerran and Caerphilly. Pembrokeshire is the place to visit to see some of the best.

Tower of London a castle and a former prison
The prison at Tower of London has seen a fine list of historical figures
  1. London

Okay, so naturally the capital has more best historical places to shake a stick at, so I’ve deliberately bunched these famous landmarks together. There is the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, The British Museum and many more.

You can visit places like Cheapside, Pudding lane where the Great Fire of London started, the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Plus on the outskirts is Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace to name but two. And of course, there is the UNESCO world heritage site of Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

And there is so much more I could list that my family and I have visited and the kids loved. Like Corfe Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, and Blenheim Palace which are must-see. Personally we love Cornwall too, with standouts being Tintagel Castle, St. Michael’s Mount, Pendennis Castle, Bodmin Moor and the Minack Theatre on the coast.

The legacy of William the Conqueror

The Duke of Normandy was the first Norman king thanks to his successful leading of thousands of Norman, French, Flemish, and Breton troops in the conquest. In the ultimate example of history being written by the victor, he commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry to document this.

He built or commissioned at least 84 castles to quash any potential rebellion as he took the country, including Warwick Castle, Pevensey, Hastings, and Dover. Exact numbers are unknown, although 48 are mentioned in the Doomsday book.

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