In praise of the UK’s hottest rocks

Corfe Castle x650

By Ray Bennett

I love London for its astonishing array of arts and entertainment and for the sheer zest of living in the capital, but when I get away I go in search of old stone.

I am enthralled by castles from Tintagel (my photo in the website header) in Cornwall to Corfe (my photo above) in Dorset to Lindisfarne in Northumberland, abbeys from Battle in Sussex to Tintern in south Wales to Dryburgh in the Scottish Borders.

Quoits, dolmens, neolithic burial chambers, earthworks, hill forts, and stone circles appeal to me from Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire to Maiden Castle in Somerset to Wayland’s Smithy in Berkshire to Callanish on Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland and the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney (pictured below).

Thankfully, many of these are protected and preserved by charitable organizations such as English Heritage and the National Trust. Membership of both is invaluable.

Neglect is always a concern however, so it’s good news that the British government has introduced a white paper that culture minister Tessa Jowell says will ensure the protection of these priceless treasures for generations to come.

The performing and visual arts require tax support too, but few things are as precious as the old stones of these beautiful islands. Here are the Top 24 sites the government plans to put on a new register of places to protect.

Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s favourite retreat on Isle of Wight

Carlisle Castle, Medieval fortress

Stonehenge, Britain’s most visited historical monument

Castle Howard, made famous by novel ‘Brideshead Revisited’

Kenilworth Castle, among the largest castle ruins in England

HMS Colossus, part of Nelson’s fleet

Holland No.5, first British-built prototype submarine launched in 1902 and sunk in 1912 off Beachy Head

London Wall, remains of Roman wall

Winchester Palace, remains of great hall of 13th century palace

Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship

Old Sarum, great earthwork site near Salisbury raised around 500BC

Whitby Abbey, ruined North Yorkshire monastery

Eltham Palace, inspired by Hampton Court, set in 19 acres of impressive gardens in southeast London, completed in 1936

Battle Abbey, site of 1066 battle of Hastings

Chesters Roman fort, one of a series of prominent military bases built along Hadrian’s Wall

Kenwood House, the 18th century house with grand gardens on London’s Hampstead Heath that was featured in ‘Notting Hill’

Lindisfarne Priory, important centre of early Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England founded in AD 635 on Holy Island

Iron Bridge Gorge, world’s first iron bridge now a world heritage site

Thornborough Henge, prehistoric ritual complex in North Yorkshire

The Jewel Tower, one of only two buildings of the original Palace of Westminster to survive 1834 fire

Whitely Court, Worcestershire country house surrounded by magnificent landscaped gardens

Ring of Brodgar x650


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