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Britain, places to visit, attractions, heritageThis is the place to search for places to visit and things of interest in Britain, by name, location, type, keyword – or just have a browse.  It is a growing directory – over 780 entries have been listed as of July 2020.  Most entries have links for further information.


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This is, allegedly, the only place in the world where you can visit a colony of nesting Mute Swans. (Trust me, they are not mute).  A Benedictine monastery was established at Abbotsbury in the 11th century and the monks began farming swans - which often featured at medieval banquets. The monks have long gone, but the swans are still there (different ones, obviously). If you visit Abbotsbury Swannery these days, you'll find about 600 swans, all free to roam. The colony is established adjacent to a shallow lagoon, the Fleet, which lies behind Chesil Beach. It's a unique location.

Location/Address: New Barn Road
Nr Weymout
County: Dorset
Post Code: DT3 4JG
Main Historic Period: N/A
Useful Website Address: Abbotsbury Swannery website.
Tip/Nearby: Abbotsbury Abbey (remains) and St Catherine's Chapel
Primary Management: Private - open to the public
CS LEWIS Nature Reserve

Small community nature reserve, formed from part of the garden once owned by author and academic Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963). It is said the woods and pond helped inspire his books that featured the imaginary land of Narnia. The nature reserve is adjacent to Lewis' home for more than 30 years, The Kilns.

Location/Address: 5 Lewis Close
County: Oxfordshire
Post Code: OX3 8JD
Tip/Nearby: The Kilns
Primary Management: Other

The seat of the Duncombe family since 1711, when the house was built by Thomas Duncombe (born Thomas Browne). His descendent, Charles Duncombe, was created Lord Feversham in 1826. The house is not open to the public, but 450 acres of parkland, gardens and nature reserve are. There is also a bird of prey centre on site.

Location/Address: Helmsley
County: North Yorkshire
Post Code: YO62 5EB
Main Historic Period: Georgian
Useful Website Address: Duncombe Park's website
Tip/Nearby: Helmsley Castle, Rievaulx Abbey, Castle Howard
Primary Management: Independent – Historic Houses member

The Farne Islands are located a few miles off the Northumbrian coast and are known for their wildlife and association with St Cuthbert. In summer, the islands are home to some 150,000 breeding pairs of seabirds – most famously, puffins; but razorbills, guillemots and eider ducks are also among the around 23 different varieties of birds that can be seen there. The islands are also home to the largest breeding colony of grey, or Atlantic, seals in England; about 1,000 pups are born there every autumn. There are 28 islands but only 3 can be visited – Inner Farne, Staple Island and Longstone Island. Inner Farne and Staple are owned by the National Trust. St Cuthbert, who is pretty much patron saint of the North of England, lived on Inner Farne as a hermit in the 7th century; his chapel on the island dates from the 14th century. Young Victorian heroine Grace Darling lived with her family on Longstone Rock, where her father was lighthouse keeper. It was from there that she and her father set out in their small open boat to rescue survivors from the stricken SS Forfarshire which had struck Big Harcar rock in 1838.

To visit the Farne Islands, you need to take a boat from the village of Seahouses. There are several private boat operators, each one offering slightly different options, but as of June 2020 only one is able to land visitors on Longstone. You must wear warm clothing, sensible footwear and a hat to protect your head from diving birds.

Location/Address: North Sunderland Harbour
County: Northumberland
Post Code: NE68 7RN
Main Historic Period: N/A
Useful Website Address: Visit Northumberland website
Tip/Nearby: Bamburgh is just up the coast
Primary Management: National Trust

Lindisfarne – also known as Holy Island – is a tidal island and village packed with history, as well as being famous for its mead.  It 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.  St Cuthbert joined the monastery sometime in the 670s and went on to become Lindisfarne’s greatest monk-bishop and the most venerated saint in northern England in the Middle Ages. The Lindisfarne Gospels were created here in the early 8th century. The monks left following violent Viking attacks and today's visible priory ruins (English Heritage) date from the early 12th century.  Next to the old priory is the fascinating parish church of St Mary the Virgin. On the south east corner of the island is Lindisfarne Castle (National Trust), which began life as a defensive fort in the mid-16th century and was bought by Edward Hudson, the owner of Country Life magazine in 1901, who had it completely refurbished by Sir Edwin Lutyens as a holiday home.  Beyond the main attractions are views and walks and places to eat – but beware: Holy Island is only accessible at certain times via a causeway across the sea that is covered twice a day and the tides come in very quickly.

Location/Address: Nr Berwick upon Tweed
County: Northumberland
Post Code: TD15 2SE
Main Historic Period: All
Useful Website Address: Visit Northumberland website
Primary Management: Other

Orford Ness is Europe's largest shingle spit, approximately 10 miles long running between the River Alde and the North Sea in Suffolk. It is an internationally important area of shingle habitat, home to a huge variety of wildlife, much of it fragile and precious. It was also used for secret military testing and experimentation, including for aircraft, radio, radar, ballistics and atomic weapons, since the First World War until after the Cold War. Limited access is available via National Trust Ferry from Orford.

Location/Address: Orford Quay
County: Suffolk
Post Code: IP12 2NU
Main Historic Period: Modern
Link to featured article: What really happened at Orford Ness?
Tip/Nearby: Orford Castle, Havergate Island (RSPB)
Primary Management: National Trust

One of Britain's largest colonies of common and grey seals is at Blakeney Pont, a 4 mile spit that sticks out into the North Sea. It is a national nature reserve, and a favourite spot for birds, native and foreign, as well as seals. Various companies run boat trips to see the seals. The trips last about an hour and tend to depart from Morston Quay.

The link below will take you to one operator - but there are others - no recommendation is implied.

Location/Address: Morston Quay
Nr Blakeney
County: Norfolk
Post Code: NR25 7BH
Main Historic Period: N/A
Link to featured article: Seals at Blakeney
Tip/Nearby: Blakeney village, Cley
Primary Management: Other
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