Top Ten English Heritage Sites

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English Heritage has stewardship over 400 heritage sites in England, including stately homes, castles, abbeys and World Heritage Sites like Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall. But which are the best to visit for senior travellers?

Top Ten English Heritage Sites: Osborne House
Osborne House

As retired seniors, with plenty of time on our hands, we have managed to visit many English Heritage sites in the last few years, but the ten listed below are the ones we have most enjoyed visiting, with attractive gardens and parkland and interesting buildings.

Our list is in alphabetical order. Choosing an order of preference would have been very difficult as all our Top Ten English Heritage Sites have their own unique attractions and all provide a great day out.

The good news is that all these sites have now reopened, although some Covid-19 precautions will still be in place and prior booking is advised. So include one or more of them in your staycation plans this year! And don’t forget to claim our special 20% discount on annual and gift membership of English Heritage – see below!

• Audley End, Essex

Top Ten English Heritage Sites: Audley End House and Garden
Audley End

In addition to the beautifully furnished Jacobean house and parkland with water feature, we enjoy meandering around the large Walled Garden with its orchard house, vinery and massive range of fruit and vegetables. The horses in the stables are a major attraction for our grandchildren.

• Belsay Hall, Northumberland

Although the Regency style Hall is unfurnished it often features exhibitions and is a great backdrop to the gardens and parkland. The winding walk from the Hall to the semi-ruined Belsay Castle passes through the Quarry Garden which features many exotic plants. We’ve visited many times and there always seems to be something new to see.

• Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire

Brodsworth: Rock Garden walkways
Brodsworth Hall, Sunken Garden

Although the grounds are relatively small, the gardens are immaculately kept and the Victorian Hall provides a fascinating insight into Victorian life, both above and below stairs. Our favourite parts of the gardens are the rockery, the rose garden and the sunken garden with its towering tree ferns.

• Eltham Palace, South-East London

Whenever I visit Eltham Palace, I think of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and indeed the Art Deco rooms in the Mansion at Eltham often featured in the television series. Add on the attached medieval Palace and some attractive and unusual surrounding gardens and you have everything you need for a great day out in the outskirts of London.

• Framlingham Castle, Suffolk

Top Ten English Heritage Sites: Framlingham Castle in Suffolk
Framlingham Castle

This imposing castle has a long and rich history. The curtain walls around the castle grounds, with thirteen towers, date back to the 12th Century, but can still be walked around a slightly precarious 30 ft above the ground. An exhibition outlines the castle’s history and its involvement in affairs of state such as Mary Tudor being proclaimed Queen at the castle in 1553. A tour the old workhouse within the castle walls is interesting before exploring the attractive market town of Framlingham.

• Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire

Okay we are cheating a bit here to include two English Heritage sites. However they are only about two and a half miles apart and provide a pleasant walk for more nimble seniors – there are a couple of steep gradients along the way. We find that the new Visitors Centre and restaurant at Rievaulx Abbey provide a great refreshment break when walking from Helmsley to Rievaulx and back.

• Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

Kenilworth Castle, Elizabethan Garden
Kenilworth Castle, Elizabethan Garden

In addition to the castle itself with its interesting connections with Queen Elizabeth I, there is a faithfully restored Elizabethan Garden to wander around, as maybe Elizabeth herself did over 500 years ago.

• Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Even getting there via a ferry from the mainland is part of a great day out. Osborne House can be seen on the hill as you approach the harbour at Cowes. This was Queen Victoria’s favourite retreat and you can immerse yourself in her life and times in the interior of the House. But there is so much more to explore in the parkland overlooking the Solent and we take advantage of a refreshment outlet by the beach where Victoria and her family had her bathing machine, still in situ.

• Warkworth Castle, Northumberland

Warkworth Castle
Warkworth Castle

Of the ten or so of English Heritage’s castles in Northumberland, this is our favourite. The castle itself, overlooking the River Coquet, has much of interest to view and a short walk and a boat ride away is a medieval Hermitage in a cage. The historic village of Warkworth below the towering castle is well worth exploring.

• Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

We visit Wrest Park to enjoy the stylish gardens, with the impressive Long Water feature, and the 90 acres of parkland, partly designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The parkland walks have surprises around every corner including forty statues, a Chinese temple and bridge, a Baroque pavilion and, on our last visit, entertainment by a group of Muntjac deer. The State Rooms in the House are open to visitors, although being unfurnished, their main attractions are the ornate wall coverings.

So that’s our Top Ten English Heritage Sites. We hope you enjoy your visits as much as we have.

If you intend to visit a few English Heritage properties in a year, then taking up annual membership could save you a lot of money. We have a special offer on new annual and gift membership. For 20% discount, click on English Heritage and enter our unique code STEAF20 at checkout.

Keep checking this site as we may have other special English Heritage offers in the near future.

UPDATED 25th September 2023 by BARBARA HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA and STEVEN HANSON.