the castlerigg stone circle in englands lake district
Destinations, News, Reviews

Free English Heritage Sites to Visit Now

More than 180 of English Heritage’s free sites are open to visitors with all others to hopefully reopen by August.

England’s history can be discovered for free, including the Iron Age and Medieval, Saxon, Norman or Roman times through historic walls, castles, crosses, abbeys, stone circles, bridges and more at sites across the country that are cared for by English Heritage.

Avebury, Wiltshire

Said by English Heritage to be one of prehistoric Britain’s greatest marvels, Avebury covers more than 28 acres of banks, ditches and stones. Also cared for by The National Trust, their on-site amenities are currently unavailable.

There are many other sites in the area including Europe’s largest man made mound of Silbury Hill, the trail of West Kennet Avenue, the chambered tombs of West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill, The Sanctuary, Hatfield Earthworks and the thatched roofed Chisbury Chapel to really immerse in the history of this area with possible hidden tales of ceremonies, rituals and burials.

standing stones of avebury at wiltshires historical site

Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village, North Yorkshire

Sitting in the Wolds Valley and surrounded by picturesque scenery, this is one of Britain’s 3,000 deserted villages from medieval times. This well-preserved site has become the most famous of the deserted villages and has received a lot of interest from archaeologists.

Visitors get to enjoy a walk from the car park to the site during which farm animals can often be seen.

Burgh Castle, Norfolk

Standing in Great Yarmouth Burgh Castle was built in the 3rd Century as a part of the coastal defence system. Still well preserved, the site also offers visitors views of Breydon water and provides a home for many species of local wildlife.

burgh castle walls in great yarmouth

Nine Ladies Stone Circle, Derbyshire

The circle of ten stones dates back to the Bronze Age and said to be of nine ladies, turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday. Just a few miles away is Hob Hurst’s House, taking the name of a local goblin this is a square burial mound from prehistoric times.  

the ten stones of the nine ladies in derbyshire

Shap Abbey, Cumbria

Within the remains of this 15th Century abbey is the tower, still displaying its full height. Being a remote abbey, it is surrounded by the scenic views of North West Cumbria. Other sites that can make a day visit to this area include the Countess Pillar plus the Neolithic sites of King Arthur’s Round Table and Mayburgh Henge.

shap abbey in cumbria

Edlingham Castle, Northumberland

Situated alongside the river in Northumberland’s Alnwick, Edlingham Castle is the remaining ruins of a 14th Century manor house. Visitors to the site also get to see some of Northumberland’s countryside.

edlingham manor house ruins in northumberlands alnwick

Dunster Butter Cross, Somerset

The old, picturesque village of Dunster sits on the edge of Exmoor National Park. Butter Cross is a stone stump which was used as a meeting point for people to buy and sell butter. Within close proximity is the timber framed  Yarn Market hall, known for trading cloth in the 17th Century and the medieval Gallox Bridge historically used for pack horses to transport fleeces from Exmoor.  

A few miles away there is also Daws Castle, built to defend the area from Viking attacks during the reign of King Alfred.

Clun Castle, Shropshire

Sitting on a mound and surrounded by rugged countryside, Clun Castle was built during the 11th Century. Wigmore Castle is less than 10 miles away from Clun, being so close to the Welsh border both castles reflect the history of the two countries.

clun castle in shropshire

Hurlers Stone Circles, Cornwall

Another of England’s stone circles from around the Bronze Age, this is a unique site consisting of three separate circles formed in a row. Both the burial chamber of Trethevy Quoit and the inscribed King Doniert’s Stone lay approximately two miles away whilst the beautiful Dupath Well is around seven. The spring water of the well was used as a cure for whooping cough.

stones of one of the hurlers stone circles in cornwall

Egglestone Abbey, County Durham

Looking down on the River Tees are the ruins of the monastery of Egglestone Abbey. One of the main highlights of this site is that it still shows some of their toilet drainage methods, another is the stunning views.

egglestone abbey in county durham

Castle Acre Castle, Norfolk

Boasting a Norman settlement, this King’s Lynn village homes not only the Castle Acre Castle but also Bailey’s gate, the church and a priory.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria

The Lake District’s stone circle of Castlerigg is in the market town of Keswick. It is considered by English Heritage to be the most atmospheric and dramatically sited of them all within Britain. No doubt this is due to the backdrop, consisting of the fell of High Seat and mountain of Helvellyn.

the castlerigg stone circle in englands lake district

White Horse Hill, Oxfordshire

A prehistoric figure of a horse was formed from white chalk filled trenches on an Uffington hillside. It is one of three historical sites here, the others being the natural mound of Dragon Hill and the Iron Age hillfort of Uffington Castle.

Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria and Northumberland

Titled a World Heritage Site in 1987, sections of Hadrian’s Wall are currently accessible at sites across Cumbria and Northumberland. Each site is unique, with some boasting the remains of forts, turrets, bridges, milecastles or towers. All are surrounded by spectacular views including those of crags or earthworks. The highest point is at Winshields Wall in Northumberland.

section of hadrians wall

Garrison Walls, Cornwall

Visitors can walk around the coastal defence walls on the Isles of Scilly. If that isn’t enough, there are is also the unfinished artillery fort of Harry’s Walls nearby or various burial chambers and the ancient village of Halangy Down.

These are just some of the properties to visit now. Many of the castles and other sites taken care of by English Heritage are expected to reopen over the next couple of months, in the meantime you can still visit their shop online.

To receive a free English Heritage handbook worth £10.95, become a member.

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