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Britain, places to visit, attractions, heritageThis is the place to search for places and things of interest to visit in Britain, by name, location, type, keyword – or just have a browse.  It is a growing directory – well over 700 entries as of February 2020.  Most entries have links for further information.

Abbeys

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Lindisfarne Priory

Lindisfarne – also known as Holy Island – is one of the most important centres of early English Christianity. King Oswald invited Celtic monks from Iona to spread Christianity in Northumbria and St Aidan founded a monastery on Lindisfarne in 635 AD. A monk named Cuthbert joined the monastery sometime in the 670s - he went on to became Lindisfarne’s greatest monk-bishop and the most venerated saint in northern England in the Middle Ages. The whole place is packed with history. The Lindisfarne Gospels were created here in the early 8th century. The monks left following violent Viking attacks in and today's visible ruins date from the early 12th century.

NB Holy Island is only accessible at certain times via a causeway across the sea that is covered twice a day. The tides come in very quickly; check carefully before setting out and be sure you have time to cross.

Location/Address: Holy Island
Berwick-Upon-Tweed
County: Northumberland
Post Code: TD15 2RX
Main Historic Period: Dark Ages
Useful Website Address: Entry on English Heritage's website
Tip/Nearby: Church of Mary the Virgin, Lindisfarne Castle, museums and mead shop and walking all on the island.
Primary Management: English Heritage
MUCHELNEY ABBEY

Muchelney Abbey was a Benedictine house, founded in 939AD - though religious buildings were on the site as early as the 8th, or possibly 7th, century. It was dissolved in 1538 and many of its materials were re-used in the adjacent parish church of St Peter and St Paul, and other local buildings. Most abbey buildings survive in outline only, but the monk's thatched lavatory building (reredorter) is exceptionally complete, there is a section of cloister and the abbot's early Tudor lodgings are virtually intact. Spot the Tudor rose painted on a ceiling more than 400 years ago.

Region:
Location/Address: Muchelney
Nr Langport
County: Somerset
Post Code: TA10 0DQ
Main Historic Period: Tudor
Tip/Nearby: Priest House in village, Montacute House
Primary Management: English Heritage
NATIONAL MOTOR MUSEUM & BEAULIEU

Beaulieu is a stately home as well as home to the National Motor Museum. The estate has been in the hands of the Montagu family since the 16th century and is based around the ruins of the medieval Beaulieu Abbey. The National Motor Museum tells the story of motoring and the collection includes some 250 vehicles, old and not so old, cars, motor cycles and racing cars. As well as the museum and the abbey, a visit to Beaulieu can include the palace/house, the extensive gardens, at least two exhibitions - at the time of writing there are exhibitions of 'the World of Top Gear', featuring many original vehicles from the TV show, and an exhibition about SOE - the secret Special Operations Executive - who used Beaulieu for training during WW2. On top of that, there's a monorail and loads of things going on, like a vintage bus chugging about, offering rides.

Location/Address: Beaulieu
New Forest
County: Hampshire
Post Code: SO42 7ZN
Main Historic Period: Modern
Useful Website Address: Beaulieu's website
Tip/Nearby: Buckler's Hard
Primary Management: Private - open to the public
PALACE OF HOLYROODHOUSE

The Palace of Holyroodhouse was built around an abbey founded by King David I in the 12th century, which had royal chambers attached to it. James IV (1488-1513) decided to upgrade the chambers to a palace, and this work was added to by subsequent monarchs. The Palace is the British monarch's official residence in Scotland and Her Majesty Her Majesty The Queen visits during Holyrood week, at the end of June/beginning of July. When The Queen is in residence, the Scottish variant of the Royal Standard is flown.

Parts of the Palace are open to the public, though opening arrangements are subject to change, sometimes at short notice, and you should check before making a special journey. Highlights of a visit include the magnificent State Apartments and the fascinating Mary, Queen of Scots', chambers. You can also walk round the ruins of Holyrood Abbey and parts of the gardens.

Region:
Location/Address: Canongate
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh
County: Lothian
Post Code: EH8 8DX
Main Historic Period: Stuart
Tip/Nearby: Opposite the Scottish Parliament building. You may also want to pop into the Queen's Gallery.
Primary Management: Royal Collection Trust
RIEVAULX ABBEY

The evocative and immense remains of the abbey church, as well as other monastic buildings, stand as a memorial to the white-robed Cistercian monks who once lived and worked here, making Rievaulx one of the wealthiest monasteries in medieval England. The monastery was founded in 1132 and at one time supported a community of 600. It was dissolved in 1538. There is a fascinating exhibition on site.

Tip - there is a good circular walk which takes in Helmsley Castle, Rievaulx Abbey and Rievaulx Terrace.

Location/Address: Rievaulx
Nr Helmsley
County: North Yorkshire
Post Code: YO62 5LB
Main Historic Period: Medieval
Tip/Nearby: Helmsley Castle, Rievaulx Terrace
Primary Management: English Heritage
SAWLEY ABBEY

Ruined Cistercian abbey founded in 1148, probably on a riverside location (the river is some way away now). It was a poor house and dissolved in 1536. Its last abbot, William Trafford, was hanged for taking part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. There's little to see now, but it is a quiet spot and it is possible to mentally reconstruct the buildings with the help of useful information boards.

Location/Address: Sawley
County: Lancashire
Post Code: BB7 4NH
Main Historic Period: Medieval
Tip/Nearby: Clitheroe
Primary Management: English Heritage
SHAP ABBEY

The fairly remote and sometimes muddy ruins of Shap Abbey will be found some distance from Shap itself, along narrow minor roads adjacent to a farm and beside the river Lowther. It's a lovely spot. Shap was an abbey of the Premonstratensian order, known as 'the white canons' because of the pale habits they wore. It was founded c1200 by Thomas, son of Gospatric, a local baron. It was a small community, quite wealthy, raided by the Scots in the 14th century and dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. The impressive 15th century tower dominates.

Location/Address: Shap
Penrith
County: Cumbria
Post Code: CA10 3NB
Main Historic Period: Medieval
Tip/Nearby: Keld Chapel
Primary Management: English Heritage
St Andrews Cathedral

Even in a ruinous state, the remains of what was Scotland's largest cathedral, and home to the shrine of St Andrew, are impressive. It is still an enormous site and is said to have been used for worship since the 8th century. The ruins date from the 12th century and the cathedral was 'cleansed' and abandoned in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The remains of St Rule's church are still there and it is possible to climb to the top of its tower. There is also an excellent exhibition. The cathedral is now surrounded by a more modern graveyard. Just outside the walls are the remains of St Mary on the Rock, overlooking St Andrews' harbour.

Region:
Location/Address: The Pends
St Andrews
County: Fife
Post Code: KY16 9QL
Main Historic Period: Medieval
Tip/Nearby: St Andrews Castle, Blackfriars Chapel, West Port
Primary Management: Historic Scotland
Remains of the abbey church of St Mary's, York

The remains of St Mary’s Abbey in York lie in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum.  The abbey was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England, its abbot as influential as the Archbishop of York, whose Minster Church is a neighbour.  The abbey was built by William the Conqueror soon after the Conquest of 1066, to help reinforce his grasp on the rebellious north and it was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII in 1540. The buildings were used by him during his visit to York in 1541.

All that is visibly left of this enormous complex are the remains of the abbey church, part of the cloisters, the abbey walls and the gateway, on Marygate, next to St Olave’s Church.  This was the main entrance into the abbey and is now the headquarters of York Museums Trust. The walls were built in the 1260s and are the most complete set of abbey walls in the country. Further remains are under the main Yorkshire Museum building.

Location/Address: York Museum Gardens
York
County: North Yorkshire
Post Code: YO1 7FR
Main Historic Period: Medieval
Useful Website Address: WEbsite of York Museums Trust
Tip/Nearby: York Minster, City Walls
Primary Management: Local Authority
SWEETHEART ABBEY

The evocative ruins of Sweetheart Abbey, a Cistercian house. It was founded by Lady Dervorgilla de Balliol as ‘New Abbey’ in 1273, in memory of her dead husband, John. The name evolved to ‘Sweetheart’ in honour of the husband and wife. John and Dervorgilla de Balliol were a powerful pair, and parents of the John Balliol who was, albeit briefly, King of Scotland. John Balliol senior is also credited with founding Balliol College, Oxford.

There's a good cafe, Abbey Cottage, next door.

Sweetheart Abbey is on the A710, about 7 miles south of Dumfries.

Region:
Location/Address: New Abbey
County: Dumfries & Galloway
Post Code: DG2 8BU
Main Historic Period: Medieval
Link to featured article: Dervorgilla's Sweetheart
Tip/Nearby: Caerlaverock Castle, New Abbey Mill
Primary Management: Historic Scotland
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