10 SITES TO EXPLORE WITH ENGLISH HERITAGE
Affiliate Links Disclosure: I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. This is at no cost to you. For further information, read our Disclosure Policy
English Heritage is a charity, which lovingly looks after 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites including many world-renowned prehistoric sites such as Stonehenge, to grand castles, from Roman forts to Cold War bunkers.
From a personal perspective of years of visiting English Heritage sites, the thing that puts English Heritage in a unique stature is their ability to bring the story of England to life through their conservation and preservation efforts and priorities as a charity. It definitely sparked a huge interest in their work and something that I wanted to support by purchasing a membership.
Fortunately, in the East Midlands there are an array of English Heritage sites located around my home city of Leicester and I’ve featured some of these below together with some I’ve visited around Southern England.
Come and join me on a history through some of England’s most stunning sites…
KIRBY MUXLOE CASTLE
Off Oakcroft Avenue, Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire. LE9 2DH
Kirby Castle was built for Lord Hastings who the Plantagenet King Richard III had executed during his reign in 1483 but to this day the descendants of Lord Hastings still feel they have a direct line to the throne.
The castle is surrounded by a moat and boasts a gatehouse. English Heritage has extensively conserved the corner tower of the castle built from brick, restoring it almost back to its former glory!
It’s a great property for a walk around the moat and also perfect for a family day out accompanied by a picnic.
St Nicholas Circle, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 4LB
Please note that for the foreseeable future the Jewry wall is closed for restoration but can be viewed from the road.
The Jewry wall is one of the largest remaining masonry structures in Britain and the only remaining part of the Roman town of Ratae Coritanorum (Leicester) to survive. It was built in 160 AD as the entrance to the public baths.
The remains of the Roman baths were discovered by chance in 1936 when a factory was demolished to build a new swimming baths.
ASHBY DE LA ZOUCH CASTLE
South street, Ashby de la Zouch Leicestershire LE65 1BR
Ashby castle was a manor house in the 12th century and was given castle status in the 15th century. The castle’s history has been beautifully compiled into an audio tour charting how Edward IV’s Chamberlain, Lord Hastings added the chapel and the keep-like Hastings Tower, making this a castle within a castle.
You can still climb the tower, even after the huge damage it endured during the Civil War, which also makes for some fantastic vistas of the surrounding area. Don’t miss walking the underground passage between the tower and the kitchen.
HARDWICK OLD HALL
Doe Lea, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S44 5QJ
Hardwick Old Hall are the ruins of the birthplace of Bess of Hardwick, one of the most remarkable women of England in the Elizabethan times. She was married four times and with each marriage she acquired a great sum giving her a place at court and friendship with the Queen of England.
Walk through the four walls of the Old Hall for spectacular views of Derbyshire, with beautiful plaster worked walls and exhibitions on the site about the life and times of Bess of Hardwick.
Castle Green, Off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 1NG
For much of Kenilworth Castles 900 years, it has been at the forefront of England’s history.
It used to be a medieval fortress and later became an Elizabethan palace. Today a visit to Kenilworth Castle makes for a great day out with lots to do including, climbing the 18 metre staircase built especially for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I, strolling through the Elizabethan gardens, exhibitions at the Leicester Gatehouse and maybe even the Stable tearooms.
Near Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE
Unarguably one of the most famous of English Heritage sites has to be Stonehenge. It has been described as a wonder of the world, a spiritual and inspirational place, with a history spanning over 4,500 years.
It is clearly a masterpiece built by many people and solely by hand using the simplest of tools. You can take part in a Stone Circle Experience, which allows you to get up close and personal with the stones, however this experience has limited availability.
Whilst at the site, you can view the stone circle from a distance as well as visit the Neolithic Houses, the exhibition telling the story of the site, the museum and there’s a café too.
RUSHTON TRIANGULAR LODGE
Rushton, Kettering, Northamptonshire. NN14 1R
This triangular shaped building was designed by the father of one of the Gunpowder plotters, Thomas Tresham and was constructed between 1593 and 1597. It is a testament to Thomas’s Roman Catholic religion symbolising the Holy Trinity by the three-pointed triangular structure. There are three floors, which you can climb, with trefoil windows and triangular gables on each side.
This is more of a quick visit location so can be tied in with a visit to some of the English Heritage properties located nearby.
OLD WARDOUR CASTLE
Near Tisbury, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6RR
Set in the stunning Wiltshire countryside, Old Wardour Castle was once one of England’s most innovative homes, built in the 14th century as a fortified luxury residence for entertaining.
The castle was also featured in the Kevin Costner film, ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’.
Explore the grotto, castle rooms and climb the staircase to the top to look at the endless views overlooking the lake.
The audio tour will definitely take you back to the way life used to be at Old Wardour Castle and don’t forget to explore the woods and take a picnic to enjoy in the Wiltshire countryside.
LYDDINGTON BEDE HOUSE
Blue Coat Lane, Lyddington, Leicester, Leicestershire. LE15 9LZ
Lyddington Bede House is adjacent to the pretty ironstone village of Lyddington and was originally a medieval wing of a palace belonging to the Bishops of Lincoln. It was later converted to an almshouse.
Today, you can wander through the bedesmen’s rooms, with small windows and fireplaces and compare them with the bishop’s Great Chamber on the first floor. Note the carved ceiling cornice.
Off Kirby Lane, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 3EN
Once owned by Queen Elizabeth I’s Lord Chancellor, Christopher Hatton, Kirby Hall was once deemed one of England’s greatest Elizabethan and 17th Century houses.
Unfortunately most of the mansion is roofless, you can see from the elaborately decorated walls that all proceeding owners were people of society and much riches.
The actual Great Hall remains as it was but has been refitted to authentic 17th century style. There’s a very informative audio tour available about the preservation and conservation of the property. My top tip would be to go out into the extensive gardens, which give you a fantastic panoramic view of the hall. The free-roaming peacocks outside just adds to the graceful nature of this truly stunning property.
Hope you enjoyed the tour of some of the beautiful properties that English Heritage has conserved over the years and I do hope it inspires you to visit places right here in beautiful England.
For more information about English Heritage, including memberships, head over to their website
You can find out more information about English Heritage and their work in restoring Englands ruins and sites by right here
Have you visited English Heritage sites before? Which were your favourite? Let me know in the comments below…