Historic Buildings - the Best
Buildings are selected for overall splendour, historic importance,
architectural merit and interior collections. They are all generally
open to the public but do not include any 'museums' or 'galleries'.
Buildings are listed by county (like a state in the USA).
To find a county see our
does the UK have so many historic buildings?
UK is home to arguably the broadest range of architecture and decoration
to be found anywhere in the world.
These are the result of a long, rich British history and its adventurous,
curious, acquisitive inhabitants.
early Celtic inhabitants of the UK were invaded with varying degrees
of success by Anglo-Saxons, Romans and Normans.
As a result the UK has no shortage of variously ruined buildings
and ancient sites dating from at least 3,000 BC. These range from
prehistoric sites, (Stonehenge,
stone circles, stone-age forts like Maiden
Castle etc.), through Anglo-Saxon structures (churches,
monasteries and castles etc.) and Roman remains (Hadrian's
Wall, city of Bath
etc.), to Norman buildings (monasteries, castles,
cathedrals and churches).
In the middle-ages crusading knights brought back artefacts, tall
stories and stylistic cues from as far as Jerusalem, and from the
late 17th century the well-educated, affluent aristocracy travelled
as part of their 'education' on grand tours of the classical world.
During the Victorian era - with the world's largest and most efficient
navy and the biggest empire ever seen - British culture vultures
roamed the world.
Victoria's armed forces sent millions of men to distant lands, many
of whom had time on their hands - when the natives weren't restless
- and were possessed of a natural inquisitiveness about local lifestyles.
These varied wanderers brought back with them artefacts, knowledge
and inspiration from around the world and had the money to turn
their dreams into stone, with superb museums and grand houses containing
a huge variety of works of art and cultural relics.
Thousands of these historic buildings and sites are open to the
public throughout the country.
Around London and neighbouring counties:
North of London:
Buckingham Palace, residence of the Queen featuring part of the
Royal Collection and the Royal Mews stables.
Chiswick House, 18th century Palladian Villa, the finest example
in the UK.
Kensington Palace State Apartments, 17th century historic buildings
by Sir Christopher Wren, ceilings and staircase by William Kent,
royal costume collection, birthplace of Queen Victoria, King Charles
I beheaded outside its doors.
Kenwood House, 18th century house, work by Robert Adam, outstanding
art collection including Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner and Vermeer.
Spencer House, finest 18th century London townhouse.
St. Pauls Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, the most significant
places of Christian worship in the UK.
Tower Bridge, one of the most famous historic structures on, or
over, the River Thames.
Tower of London, 11th century castle built for William the Conqueror,
home to the Crown Jewels and the infamous 'Bloody Tower'. Beware,
Bloody Long Tower Queues.
Windsor Castle (Berkshire), one of the official residences of the
Queen with art from the Royal Collection.
Waddesdon Manor (Buckinghamshire), historically important French
Renaissance style house with the finest collection of French decorative
arts in the world outside of France.
Hatfield House (Hertfordshire), important 17th century building
considered to have been worked on by Inigo Jones, containing the
most famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth amongst other great works.
Knole (Kent), medieval and 17th century building with outstanding
decorative arts and an important art collection.
St. Augustines Abbey (Kent), 6th century - World Heritage Site.
Hampton Court Palace (Surrey), 16th century palace built
for Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII with outstanding collections and
Kew Gardens (Surrey), the UK's best botanical garden dating from
1844, particularly stunning is the Palm House.
Woburn Abbey (Bedfordshire), important art collection including
Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Velazquez and Canaletto; superb
18th century furniture and silver; 3,000 acre deer park with nine
species of deer, safari park.
University, especially King's College one
of the oldest university buildings in the UK and one of the finest.
Chatsworth (Derbyshire), 16th C. house including intact 17th C.
rooms, ceilings by Verrio, Laguerre and Thornhill, fine tapestries,
furniture by William Kent and Andre Boulle, fine sculptures and
old master paintings including Rembrandt.
Durham Castle and Cathedral (Durham), 11th C. including burial place
of St. Cuthbert - World Heritage Site.
Sudeley Castle (Gloucestershire), once a UK royal palace and with
Burghley House (Lincolnshire), 16th C. house built for Queen Elizabeth's
advisor including work by Grinling Gibbons and important collections
of Italian art, oriental porcelain and 18th C. furniture.
Holkham Hall (Norfolk), 18th C. house by William Kent including
classical statuary, fine art collection, furniture and extensive
Houghton Hall (Norfolk), 18th C. buildings designed by Colen Campbell
for Sir Robert Walpole with interior by William Kent including toy
soldier and militaria collection.
Althorp (Northamptonshire), family home of Diana Princess of Wales.
Boughton House (Northamptonshire), 16th C. house with superb collections.
Alnwick Castle (Northumberland), 11th C. castle with a superb Italian
art collection and fine Meissen porcelain. And host for the Harry
Potter film too!
Housteads Roman Fort (Northumberland), the most impressive part
of Hadrian's Wall.
Blenheim Palace (Oxfordshire), 18th C. house by Sir John Vanbrugh,
birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, outstanding interior including
the Marlborough Victory Tapestries.
University Botanic Garden and Colleges (Oxfordshire), superb
college buildings and the oldest botanic garden in the UK.
Arbury Hall (Warwickshire), 16th C. house with later work in the
Gothick style with excellent art collection and furniture including
(Warwickshire) 16th C. house, birthplace of William Shakespeare.
(Picture top left)
Castle Howard (Yorkshire), outstanding Baroque building by Vanbrugh
with an excellent art collection including works by Holbein.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal (Yorkshire), 12th C. Cistercian
Abbey, 16th C. mansion house, 18th C. water garden and 19thC. church
(by Wlliam Burgess). - World Heritage Site.
Harewood House (Yorkshire), 17th C. house with interiors by Robert
Adam including items by Thomas Chippendale and extensive art collection.
Nostell Priory (Yorkshire), 18th C. house containing the most extensive
range of work by Thomas Chippendale, including what is believed
to be his apprentice piece, a large dolls house.
Temple Newsam House (Yorkshire), 16th C. house with excellent collections.
For more, see: Historic Buildings
South of London:
Lanhydrock (Cornwall), outstanding 17thC house with a superbly
decorated long gallery.
Minack Theatre (Cornwall), astonishing 20thC open air theatre
built into the cliffs.
Tintagel Castle (Cornwall), extremely scenic medieval cliff top
castle with connections to the legend of King Arthur and overlooking
Castle (Dorset), one of the most picturesque castle remains
in the UK.
Castle, a monster iron-age fort near Thomas Hardy's home in Dorchester,
a few miles from the horny, enigmatic Cerne
Kingston Lacy (Dorset), 17th C. historic buildings with superb fine
art collection and Egyptian antiquities.
Castle Drogo (Devon), famous castle by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Saltram House (Devon), 18th C. house containing works by Thomas
Chippendale, Robert Adam and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Highclere Castle (Hampshire), Gothick buildings by Barry, diverse
interior with desk and chair belonging to Napoleon.
Osborne House (Isle of Wight), much loved island retreat of Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert.
Crescent and Roman Baths and Pump Rooms (Bath, Somerset), a
semi- circle of Palladian architecture by John Wood the Younger
and 2,000 year old Roman baths with 18th C. pump rooms.
Arundel Castle (Sussex), 11th C. castle with excellent collections.
Petworth House (Sussex), 18th C. house with outstanding art collection
including Titian, Bosch and Blake.
The Royal Pavilion, Brighton (Sussex), 18th C. villa built for King
George IV, with 19th C. work by Nash in the Chinese style.
Longleat House (Wiltshire), 17th C. house with superb art collection
and furniture, plus the UK's first and best safari park. But crowded!
Wilton House (Wiltshire), outstanding art collection and interior.
A group of huge megaliths (shaped stones) dating from 2100 BC, Stonehenge
was a centre for religious rituals.
The site is couple of hours SW of London by car, near Salisbury
and well organised, with a free audio tour included on entry.
Nearby are other prehistoric sites, particularly the great Avebury Stone Circle.