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Britain is blessed with a wealth of cities that are big draws for heritage tourists. In cities across the country, you’ll find towering castles, historic high streets, skyscraping cathedrals, marvellous museums, and other surprising relics of the past on every corner. This is a guide to some of the delights you’ll find if you go in search of history in our cities.
Simply click one of the locations on the maps to find out more about the historical point of interest. Cities are identified by large pins, attractions by small pins.
Superbly situated in southern England’s rural heartland, Salisbury stands serenely amid a landscape that is quintessentially English. The city’s water-meadows have been immortalised in the paintings of Constable, and the sight of the Cathedral rising up from these lush green fields has been described as ‘Britain’s Best View’.
This historic medieval city offers everything from cosmopolitan pavement cafés to traditional coaching inns, specialist independent retailers to major high street stores, a fine array of historic attractions to excellent year-round entertainment.
Salisbury is the perfect fusion of ancient and modern, and makes an unbeatable destination for day trips and short breaks alike.
The City of Glasgow owns a vast collection of fine art, objects and artefacts, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest civic collections in Europe.
There are more than 1 million objects, across a broad spectrum of art, natural history, human history and transport and technology – within each of these areas, there are objects of major international significance.
The fine art collection includes important examples from many of the key movements in art history including Italian Renaissance, French Impressionism and Dutch Old Masters, as well as a very significant collection of Scottish Art including the Colourists and the Glasgow Boys. There are masterpieces by major artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Whistler and Dali. There is also an internationally renowned collection of Chinese art, one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Europe.
In decorative art, there are very fine examples of stained glass, tapestry, ceramics, jewellery and furniture – including work by one of Glasgow’s most famous sons, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In fact, the material relating to Mackintosh is the best of its kind in the world, while European costume and textiles are amongst the best in the UK.
The natural history collection is the most outstanding of its kind in a civic museum in Scotland and is also one of the largest natural history collections in local authority ownership in the UK. Specimens range across a broad spectrum of zoology, botany and geology. Many of the specimens relate to Glasgow and the west of Scotland, while there are also extremely important collections from other parts of Scotland and all over the world.
Glasgow Museums’ human history collection encompasses a range of disciplines including ancient civilisations, anthropology, archaeology, religious studies, Scottish history and social history. It includes a very significant collection of arms and armour and an extensive collection in world cultures.
The transport and technology collection reflects the leading role played by Glasgow and the West of Scotland in advances made in scientific enquiry and industrial production. This includes an unrivalled Scottish car collection, a comprehensive collection of Scottish built railway locomotives, some very rare commercial vehicles and a collection of bicycles that includes almost certainly the oldest bicycle in the world.
This wonderful collection is housed in museums across the city, including Riverside Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, The Burrell Collection, the Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland Street School Museum, the People's Palace, St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Provand's Lordship and Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.
All of our museums are free to visit and welcome visitors of all ages. The majority of our venues have cafés and gift shops, and host regular events and temporary exhibitions. Many of our events and exhibitions are free, although an entry fee applies to most temporary exhibitions at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
To find out what's on when you are visiting, go to glasgowmuseums.com or get in touch with our museums directly using the contact details provided.
"The ladies of Cranford are quite sufficient. A man, as one of them observed to me, is so in the way in the house." These words set the scene for Elizabeth Gaskell's famous novel Cranford, based on observations of middle class life in her home town of Knutsford. She also cared deeply about the social issues surrounding the Industrial Revolution and her first novel Mary Barton pricked many consciences, making hers an influential voice in Victorian Manchester.
On the edge of Knutsford, Tatton Park, renamed Cumnor Towers in Cranford, was the country estate of the Egerton family. And it was Wilbraham Egerton of Tatton, then chairman of the Manchester Ship Canal Company, who at Eastham in 1887 cut the first sod in the construction of the great waterway that would connect Manchester to the sea and ensure the region's fortunes into the 20th century. Not far away at Ellesmere Port, on the junction of the Ship Canal and the River Mersey, the National Waterways Museum is a great day out for all.
Gaskell's connections continue in Styal, where her uncle, Doctor Holland, looked after the millworkers and apprentice children of Quarry Bank Mill. This is a fascinating National Trust property right in the midst of stunning beech woods and full of woodland and riverside wildlife. The huge Georgian mill, the Apprentice House where the children's stories are told by atmospheric costumed tours, the millworkers' village complete with school and chapels, all tell vivid stories. And for garden-lovers two very contrasting gardens are worthy of a day out all to themselves - one, at Quarry Bank House, the lavish landscaping of the mill owners; the other, at the Apprentice House, a huge kitchen garden growing food and herbal remedies for the child workers.
A journey along the Cheshire Ring of Canals will bring you to the Anderton Boat Lift. This amazing feat of Victorian engineering transports boats between the Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal, a height difference of 50 feet. The first boat lift in the world, known as the Cathedral of the Canals, you can take a boat ride here just for the fun of going in the lift! Nearby at Northwich, the Weaver Hall Museum (formerly the Salt Museum) and the Lion Salt Works tell the stories of Cheshire's salt industry. The Macclesfield Canal skirts the foothills of the Peak District to the Silk Museum in Macclesfield, once the centre of the silk weaving industry. And on the same canal is the Anson Engine Museum - a beautiful place where rhythmical engines, gleaming cogs and levers weave together to make intricate patterns, where everything is polished, balanced, and perfectly in place.
Liverpool. The very name conjures up images of a glorious maritime history, world-beating musical heritage, two of the Premiership’s biggest football teams and not one, but two majestically different Cathedrals. This Northwest city and the surrounding City Region is certainly all those things, but it is also so much more. Liverpool is undergoing a thrilling renaissance, jump-started by its hugely successful year in 2008 as European Capital of Culture.
It is now bulging with fabulous new shops, has buzzing new restaurants, hip hotels and trendy wine bars, as well as a world class cultural offering with more museums and galleries than anywhere outside of London. Plus its inhabitants, of course, who are famously friendly and will welcome you with pride. It is no surprise, in fact, that Liverpool is consistently voted as one of the top city break destinations by stylish travel bible Condé Nast Traveller.
Liverpool oozes culture and heritage. The city has a glorious past as a mercantile hub and gateway to the New World, but today it is also a key destination for art lovers, fans of the theatre and museumgoers.
Like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza, Liverpool is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its impressive Waterfront qualified the city for this status in 2004. The site stretches along the Waterfront from Albert Dock, which alone has the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the UK, through The Pier Head and up to Stanley Dock. Stroll around Albert Dock to drink in some of the history then take a trip across the Mersey on one of the river’s famous ferries to see the awe-inspiring view of Liverpool Waterfront, one of the most recognised waterfronts in the world.
Liverpool has a unique mix of contemporary and classic architecture too. There’s the soaring Gothic Revival Liverpool Cathedral, the biggest Anglican Cathedral in the UK – a climb to the top of the tower for the best views across the region is a must – and the modernist Catholic Cathedral, affectionately known as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ at the other end of Hope Street, whose vast stained glass crown floods the interiors with different colours. Then there is the stunning St George’s Hall, described by Prince Charles as the finest example of neo-classical architecture in the country, where you can explore the great hall, fascinating criminal court and judges’ chambers.
So come and enjoy a classic champagne cocktail at the Panoramic, check out the very latest world class exhibition at Tate Liverpool, or snap up something gorgeous at the gleaming new Liverpool ONE in the heart of the city centre. This city bursts with energy, life, humour, and so much to do.
Hills, Mills, Legends
Truly the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and of the great inventors and entrepreneurs who made it all happen, Lancashire is a charming mixture of loom-clattering mills, untamed countryside and fantastical tales. With award-winning local produce, pubs and restaurants in so many of its pretty villages, it has become a favourite destination for food-lovers. And then on the coast there's all the fun of Blackpool...
The eyes of the working classes are now fully opened, they begin to cry: Our St. Petersburg is at Preston!” Karl Marx 1854
Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Karl Marx all wrote about the events of Preston's lock-out and strike in 1853 in which "14,000 men and women, subsidized by the trades unions and workshops of all parts of the United Kingdom, fought out a grand social battle.”. The Harris Museum & Art Gallery is a grand monument to all this, named after the philanthropic Preston businessman who gave his money to turn the town's dream of having a free library museum and art gallery into reality. Today it is a lively, vibrant gallery which celebrates the town's history and its cultural riches. Nearby, no prizes for guessing what you might find at Leyland - the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, of course!
This really was the birthplace of the textile industry and its greatest inventors.. Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the water-frame, entrepreneur and developer of the factory system, was born in Preston and rose to become the richest commoner in the country. His story is told at Helmshore Mills Textile Museum, at the end of the East Lancashire Railway line - you can make the journey by steam train. The displays in the cotton and wool spinning mills here, along with the sister museum at Queen Street Mill Textile Museum- the last commercial steam powered textile weaving mill in the world - are designated as being of national importance.
The Weavers' Triangle at Burnley Wharf on the Leeds Liverpool Canal epitomises Lancashire's textile heritage in all its guises. It includes weaving sheds, spinning mills, weaves' cottages and one of the wonders of the canal world, the amazing "Straight Mile", the Burnley Embankment that carries the canal 60ft above the town. Bancroft Mill, with its working steam engine, is also nearby as is one of the very prettiest spots in all Lancashire, the little 15th century hamlet of Wycoller and its hall, used by Charlotte Bronte as a setting for Jane Eyre.
From here you could pick up the trail of the Witches of Pendle, through the stunning scenery and villages of the Forest of Bowland AONB to the historic city of Lancaster on the coast. And for something completely different it is a short drive south to Blackpool, the UK's favourite seaside resort and home of the iconic Blackpool Tower.
Always Ahead of the Game
A city of social reformers, liberal thinkers and visionaries, where grand Victorian architecture stands alongside tall, sleek monuments of the 21st century. Where great wealth that came with industrial success grew up hand in hand with social responsibility and patronage of the arts, creating the cultural legacy that we all enjoy today. And if today's Manchester is more fashion and football than cotton and canals, that same spirit lives on.
"There have always been ideas worth fighting for" (People's History Museum).
Beyond the grand, gleaming engines and textile machinery of the Museum of Science and Industry - MOSI - are the stories of the Manchester people who, each in their own ways, have changed the world. Great scientists and engineers-inventors to whom nothing seemed impossible; and who created a world capable of factory production, of computer technology, of ever quicker transport, of medical 'miracles'. And as if to prove that in Manchester the sky's the limit, within the museum you can stand on the platform of the world's first passenger railway station and look up to Beetham Tower, the tallest residential skyscraper in Europe and a potent symbol that this is truly a city of innovation - after all, Manchester University is home to more than its fair share of Nobel Prize winners.
Nearby, beautiful trade union and society banners fill the People's History Museum, every one of them a real, dazzling work of art, along with campaigning posters, satirical political posters and cartoons. From Industrial Revolution, the Peterloo Massacre, women's suffrage and the Welfare State to gay rights, anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigns - these are colourful stories, colourfully told.
Between the two museums, the magnificent John Rylands Library stands at the heart of the new Spinningfields area of Manchester - sleek, prosperous, businesslike. Visit the Royal Exchange Theatre - the largest room in the world when it was rebuilt in 1874 - and imagine the noise in here in 1921 when the Manchester Exchange controlled almost half the world's cotton production.
The opening of the Manchester Ship Canal may have sealed Manchester's fortunes - and you can cruise along the Ship Canal all the way to Liverpool's Pier Head to understand just how important this waterway was - but it was the earlier canal network that opened up the possibilities. Canals weave in and out of Manchester to this day and provide a lovely leisure route through the city whether you are on the water, on bikes or on foot. Explore the canal system on a narrow boat trip from the Portland Basin Museum on the junction of the Ashton Canal and Peak Forest Canal. The stories of Industrial Revolution continue at Salford Museum and Bolton Museum. Hat Works tells Stockport’s fascinating side of the textile story - and explains why the local football club is known as the Hatters! A steam train ride from Bury on the East Lancashire Railway line will take you straight to the heart of Lancashire's textile heritage that was so important to Manchester's prosperity.
Essex is truly a county of contrasts with a wealth of hidden treasures to be explored. Audley End House is just one hidden gem of Essex. It's a massive Jacobean house set deep in the Essex countryside and yet a short drive from London. Others include Hylands House in Chelmsford, a neo-classical style villa in around 500 acres of landscape; Layer Marney Tower near Colchester, which was built in the reign of Henry VIII; Ingatestone Hall, built in the 16th century by Sir William Petre, Secretary of State to no less than four monarchs, and whose family still live there today.
There are many more gems to be found in Essex, so why not explore the county by downloading some of the itineraries we have prepared for you and start your journey of discovery.
For more information please contact Visit Essex.
Portsmouth is packed with things to do and fast becoming Britain's favourite waterfront destination, with more and more to offer every year. Enjoy Portsmouth's irresistible mix of history and heritage, specialist shopping, lively arts, great restaurants and bars and a programme of year round events.
Exeter, the cultural heart of the West Country hosts a year-round programme of vibrant events and festivals. It’s an intimate city with fresh air, birdsong and hilltops on the horizon. Original Roman walls circle the centre and virtually every period of architecture over the last 2000 years remains in splendid evidence.
Exeter Cathedral is an imposing structure of antiquity and beauty in the heart of the city and its twin Norman towers dominate the horizon. It is one of the finest examples of Decorated Gothic architecture in the country, and its unbroken stretch of Gothic vaulting is the longest in the world.
Just a ten minute walk from the Cathedral is Exeter’s Historic Quayside, an important port during the 17th and 18th centuries due to the woollen cloth industry, through which Exeter became a very wealthy city. Today it is great place to go boating, cycling, walking, bird watching and shopping in antique and craft cellars. Exeter’s Quay House was built in 1680 at the height of Exeter’s success in the woollen industry, and was used to store cloth and other goods before they were loaded and transported down the canal. Today it is an interpretation centre telling the story of the Quayside. Another building important to the woollen cloth industry is Tuckers Hall, the medieval guildhall of the Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen since 1471, located in Fore Street.
Joining a free walking tour of Exeter with the Red Coat Guides is a great way to explore the city’s landmarks and learn about its rich history, or take one of three self-guided heritage trails of Exeter, allowing you to explore the city at your own pace. Brave visitors can explore beneath Exeter’s streets on a guided tour of the city’s ancient Underground Passages!
Walking around the city, visitors will discover historic buildings such as the Tudor House on Tudor Street and the House that Moved, a former Merchant House dating from around 1500, one of the oldest surviving houses in Exeter, which was moved on wheels to its current location in 1961 to make way for Exeter’s bypass!
Experience Tudor life at St Nicholas Priory, the 900 year old guest wing of a former Benedictine Priory now presented as the 1602 home of a wealthy Elizabethan family.
Today, Exeter is a popular destination for culture and shopping, with a packed calendar of events throughout the year and distinct shopping quarters within easy walking distance of each other. It is also well known as a foodie destination, with some fantastic independent restaurants, local produce stores, food markets and an annual food festival.
For more information on Exeter, please contact Exeter Visitor Information & Tickets, Dix’s Field, Exeter, EX1 1GF.
Tel: 01392 665700