Written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr
England is home to 17 of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, designated for their outstanding natural beauty or for significant contribution to cultural heritage. In the U.S., the list includes such places as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall. Seven of England's World Heritage Sites are convenient to London, of which, four are contained within Greater London itself. That's good news for those in the capital wishing to tick off items on their bucket list of must-see places that will provide memories for a lifetime.
Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London
Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London are located in Central London, so just hop on the tube to explore the realm of William the Conqueror and garner an incredible insight to English history from the 10th century onwards. One was the prison, and sometimes the execution place, of those fallen from grace. The other has been the coronation venue for 38 monarchs since 1066 and the final, glorious resting place for 17 of them, not to mention numerous royal weddings and funerals. The Tower is open everyday, but the Abbey reserves Sundays for worship. Truly unforgettable. The Abbey has Verger-led tours and audio-guides and the Tower has "beefeater" guides, officially called Yeoman Warders. Look out for the black ravens. Tubes: Tower of London at Tower Hill and Westminster Abbey at Westminster or St. James's. Tower of London admission is £18 adults and £9 children. Westminster Abbey admission is £16 adults, £6 children over 11.
Greenwich and Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
Have you ever wanted to stand on the Prime Meridien from where time is measured throughout the world, from where every day starts and every new year begins? Recommended is the scenic Thames River cruise with commentary from Westminster Pier in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, passing by the London Eye, Tower of London and Tower Bridge to the Royal Greenwich Observatory; boat ride is £10 adults, £5 children. Admission to the Royal Observatory is priced at £7 adults, £2 children. Open daily. Heading in the opposite direction, due west, are the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. The tube to Kew Gardens station can take you there quickly, or the Westminster Passenger Service Association, running a riverboat on the Thames from Westminster Pier, 1.5 hours journey. Kew Gardens is the world's largest collection of living plants. Stunningly beautiful. Take a free guided tour from the entrance at Victoria Gate at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Entry is £13.90, children are free. Don't miss the palace, the Victorian glass palm conservatory, treetop walkway and the leafy maze.
Bath, Stonehenge and Blenheim Palace
The gorgeous Georgian City of Bath on the River Avon with its Roman baths, Pump Room and abbey; the legendary, mysterious Stonehenge and its lesser-known, but thoroughly mesmerizing, sister pre-historic site called Avebury; and Churchill's birthplace, the picture perfect Blenheim Palace overlooking its swan-filled lake, round out the top seven of England's World Heritage Sites to be found within shouting distance by car or train from London for a convenient and enlightening day trip.
Weather words of wisdom
As the English would advise, don't wait for a fine weather day, just go for it! And if the weather is fine, pack a picnic.
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