World Heritage Sites

 

Occasionally, you stumble across a place so magnificent that it instantly becomes etched on your memory. Many such places remain secret, but a number of them are enjoyed by people from all over the world and eventually earn their placing on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites - a collection of nearly 1000 spectacular locations worldwide, all with natural or cultural significance.

The following walks not only encounter the wonderful scenery that you expect from a Contours Walking Holiday, but they also visit a designated World Heritage Site, helping to turn your self-guided walking holiday into an experience that you will never forget.

Blenheim Palace - Shakespeare's Way


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The gates to Blenheim Palace and Park lie directly on the trail of Shakespeare's Way as it passes through the small town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Just a 10 minute diversion up the driveway will reveal one of Britain's finest buildings, surrounded by over 2000 acres of parkland, award-winning formal gardens and interspersed with majestic oaks, tranquil lakes and secret gardens. As well as being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace offers guided tours, exhibitions and unique glimpses into its rich history. Check the Palace's opening hours and consider spending an extra night in Woodstock so that you can fully experience Blenheim Palace and all of its treasures.

 

Canterbury - North Downs Way (via Canterbury)


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When the North Downs Way divides at Boughton Lees and adopts the Pilgrim's Way, the cathedral city of Canterbury becomes its next objective. Rolling fields give way to a horizon of ancient buildings including the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey, St Martin's Church and of course, England's oldest Cathedral. Being on foot is the perfect way to explore this captivating place and there are regular guided walks around the city. Of course, if you prefer to rest your feet, you can treat yourself to a meal at one of the many vibrant restaurants or quirky tea rooms, or simply hop on a boat and soak up the medieval atmosphere as you take a traditional punt down the river Stour.

 

Bath - Cotswold Way


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Bath has been attracting visitors for over 2000 years, most notably for its natural hot springs. Nowadays, you can still experience the Roman Baths, but the fabulous Georgian architecture, thriving museums, galleries, restaurants and collection of shops are just as attractive and make the city a must at the start or end of a walk along the Cotswold Way. The Royal Crescent, The Circus and Pulteney Bridge are amongst the sites that you must visit when exploring this World Heritage Site.

 

Hadrian's Wall - The Hadrian's Wall Path


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If you are looking to experience the wonders of a World Heritage Site, Hadrian's Wall is at the top of many people's list. It is also part of the 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire' World Heritage Site, which includes sites in Germany. With the remains of the Roman Wall reaching far into the distance, set against a backdrop of dramatic scenery and scattered with forts, mile castles and world class archaeology, there could not be a more varied example of Roman heritage. Hadrian's Wall Path is the perfect way to experience the Wall as it crosses the country, visiting superb locations such as the fascinating Roman Army Museum, the wonderfully preserved cavalry fort at Chesters and the stunning location of Housesteads Roman Fort. Consider spending an extra day at Once Brewed in order to visit Vindolanda, where there are live excavations during the summer.

 

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - Offa's Dyke Path & the Dee Way

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The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest cast-iron aqueduct in the world and at 126ft high, it is also the highest. Built by the celebrated civil engineer and architect, Thomas Telford, the aqueduct sports 19 impressive pillars that are said to have been made from lime, water and ox blood. Providing you have a head for heights, the views as you walk along the top of the aqueduct are unforgettable. Consider spending an extra night in the nearby town of Llangollen, where you can experience the aqueduct the traditional way, by taking a trip in a horse-drawn barge.

 

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Shakespeare's Way


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A visit to the world famous gardens at Kew should not be missed when walking Shakespeare's Way. Home to over 40,000 species of plants, Kew Gardens is internationally famed for its botanical research. There are 250 years of history to explore and 300 acres of World Heritage Site, with historic houses, fascinating glasshouses and exotic plants at every turn, offering an injection of colour all year round. There are free guided tours, a treetop walkway, shops, restaurants and the neighbouring Kew Palace is open from March to September. Make sure that you check the opening times and look for more information about special tours and events before you arrive.

 

Saltaire - Dales High Way


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Before you have even begun the Dales High Way, you encounter the Victorian village of Saltaire, a fascinating example of a purpose built Victorian village. Saltaire was named after Sir Titus Salt, who built the village to house workers for his new textile mill. Today, the beautiful architecture and industrial heritage has made it a fascinating place to visit. Salt's Mill is free to enter and is home to the paintings of local artist, David Hockey as well as housing various exhibitions and shops. Saltaire's Victoria Hall, the United Reformed Church and lovely park are also pretty places to visit, allowing you to soak up the village's Italianate architecture and charm.

 

Avebury - The Ridgeway


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A huge Neolithic stone circle and ditch dominate this quiet Wiltshire village and the start of The Ridgeway National Trail. Dating back to 2600BCE, it is the largest stone circle in Europe and much of the village of Avebury is contained within the circle. Often overshadowed by nearby Stonehenge, Avebury is an equally impressive, but lesser frequented location, making it a more peaceful way to experience the area's intriguing history. The landscape around Avebury is also overflowing with sites of archaeological importance, including the nearby West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

 

The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape - South West Coast Path


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The mining World Heritage Site of Cornwall and West Devon features the UK's largest mainland World Heritage Site. Scattered along the South West Coast Path, as well as inland, are substantial remains of the copper and tin mines that fed the progress of the Industrial Revolution, changing the face of Britain forever. As you walk along the cliff-tops with the ruins of old engine houses and visit old villages such as St Agnes, with its rows of neat miners' cottages, you will learn more about the area's fascinating mining heritage and the impact that it has had on the landscape.

 

The Dorset and East Devon Coastline

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The remarkable geology along The Jurassic Coast led to it becoming England's first natural World Heritage Site. Shaped over 185 million years, it is one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in Britain and by following it on the South West Coast Path, you can chart the story of how the coastline was formed, observing the fossils and remarkable colours and shapes of the cliff faces as you travel through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.