5 Must-See Historic Sites in Northern England

5 Must-See Historic Sites in Northern England

Many people who visit England fly into London and then spend most of their time in the big city or its surrounding regions. However, in the northeastern part of the country there is a wide variety of spectacular historical monuments, castles, gardens and museums that are just waiting to be explored.

From the house where the famous literary sisters, the Brontes, grew up, or an 800-year-old medieval abbey, to a castle where the “Harry Potter” movies were filmed, or an ancient fortified border, there is plenty to be impressed by in this part of the world.

Read on for five historic sites you don’t want to miss on your next visit to England.

1. Hadrian’s Wall

One of the most popular attractions in northern England is Hadrian’s Wall, once the most heavily fortified border in the Roman Empire. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, the collection of turrets, forts, and milecastles extends for 73 miles.

The Wall was begun in A.D. 122 and took six years of strenuous building to complete. Constructed during the rule of Emperor Hadrian, these days much of the fortification still exists and can be followed along the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

Two of the best-preserved forts along the Wall are Vindolanda and Birdoswald. Vindolanda is one of the region’s most important Roman archaeological sites, and excavations are open to the public on an annual basis.

The Vindolanda Writing Tablets are also one of the key parts of the historical collection, being the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Also at Vindolanda, visitors will find a museum full of unique pieces such as ancient textiles, wooden artefacts, leather goods (the largest collection anywhere in the Empire), jewelry, weapons, and animal bones. At Birdoswald, travelers can explore the variety of interactive displays and artefacts, plus a model representation of the Wall at its full height.

2. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Another World Heritage-listed site that’s well worth taking a flight to England for is Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Water Garden. Here you’ll find the ruins of a medieval abbey, plus a still intact Jacobean mansion (named Fountains Hall), and a Georgian water garden.

The site is located on an 800-acre patch of land and encompasses 10 historic buildings.

Make sure you take a tour of Fountains Abbey, the largest monastic ruin in Britain that even runs across the River Skell in parts.  You can also see the 18th century water wheel in action within the Water Garden, and check out neo-classical temples, statues, bridges, and towers, plus lots of landscaped gardens. Animal lovers should also take a wander around the site’s medieval deer park where they can catch sight of the three different English species.

3. Castle Howard

Any travelers that are fans of the classic Evelyn Waugh novel “Brideshead Revisited” should take a trip to Castle Howard. Over 200,000 people visit this mansion each year, enjoying exhibitions such as “Brideshead Restored: The Story of Restoration and Brideshead Revisited at Castle Howard” and “Maids and Mistresses: The Women of Castle Howard.”

There are also guided tours, a number of gardens to explore, train rides, adventure playground, boat trips on the estate’s Great Lake, a garden center, cafes, and gift and farm shops.

Castle Howard is frequently named one of the world’s greatest mansions and grand houses, and a visit to this tourist attraction really does have something for all ages and tastes to enjoy.


4. Alnwick Castle

If you’ve watched the “Harry Potter” films then you’re sure to recognize Alnwick Castle. The sprawling fortress (that was built to protect the country’s northern border after the Norman Conquest) was used as the setting for Hogwarts in the first two films in the movie franchise.

The home is the second largest inhabited castle in England and features a stellar private art collection, with works including those by J.M.W Turner, Anthony Van Dyck, and Canaletto.

The current Duchess of Northumberland that lives at Alnwick has spent millions of dollars on a host of new features for the estate. These  include a glass wedding pavilion, a Poison Garden (it grows plants such as the opium poppy), a cascading fountain, and even a tree-house complex.

5. Bronte Parsonage Museum

Lovers of literature, in particular the works of the famous Bronte sisters, should plan a visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Located on the windswept bleak moors of West Yorkshire that were made famous in “Wuthering Heights,” the Parsonage was home to the Bronte sisters, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, in the 1800s.

These days the museum showcases the family’s pictures, furniture, clothes, and a variety of personal possessions. Travelers can take in the dining room where the ladies wrote most of their work, and the kitchen where they listened to a servant recount haunting stories around the area and its moors.


This is a guest post contributed by Jeska B, a North American traveler who is dedicated to seeking and exploring her very own continent to find all the hidden treasures it has to offer. You can follow her on Google+.

Photos were obtained via Shutter Shock. Click on the image to source the photograph.

About Traveling Canucks

Cam and Nicole Wears are family travel bloggers who live in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. A passion for travel and outdoor adventure has lead them to over 70+ countries on 6 continents in the past 10 years. Learn more about their story here. Follow them on Instagram and subscribe to their monthly newsletter.