8 Iconic Landmarks to See in Northern England


The sweeping moors and lakes of Northern England have inspired generations of romantic authors. The contrasting landscapes also inspire children’s stories like Swallows and Amazons.

Follow in the footsteps of the Roman’s by exploring Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers 73 miles of breath taking scenery. The wall is punctuated with Housesteads and museums to explore.

1. Bamburgh Castle

Sitting astride a dramatic outcrop of Whin Sill overlooking the Northumberland coastline Bamburgh Castle oozes history. As a medieval citadel, Norman stronghold, Royal seat and the first castle in the world to suffer from gunpowder, this landmark has been at the heart of British history for thousands of years.

Its earliest record dates back to 547 AD when the site was occupied by the Votadini tribe. The earliest fort was likely to have been a wooden stockade built by Ida, the Flamebearer King of Bernica (Northumbria). Later, the name changed to Bebbanburgh in honour of Queen Bebba, wife of Aethelfrith of Northumbria.

The Saxon domination of Northumbria came to an end in 867 with the arrival of full-scale Viking invasions. The castle served as a key hub of conflict for centuries, and its craggy robust grandeur is still very much in evidence today. The castle also houses some remarkable artefacts including the Bamburgh Beast, a 7th century sword that is decorated with what would have been revolutionary metallurgical techniques. During the Wars of the Roses, the castle was the seat of the rival Yorkist and Lancasterian royal houses, and the first castle in England to suffer from cannon fire.

2. Durdle Door

Located along the coast of Dorset, Durdle Door is one of England’s most famous natural landmarks. This breathtaking coastal arch is a testament to the power of natural erosion and is a truly fascinating place to visit.

The name “Durdle” derives from the Old English words duru and thirl, which mean to pierce or drill (as in nasal). The iconic coastal arch was formed by the erosive action of the sea on the soft Purbeck Limestone resting on top of the harder Portland Freestone. Over time the sea punched through the softer layers and created the twenty-meter high arch. The area is also a popular spot for stargazing since its remote location ensures minimal light pollution.

Durdle Door is also home to a picturesque pebble beach that is popular among tourists and locals alike. Visitors who avail of Mountain Goat tours can enjoy a day of swimming, sunbathing, and admiring the stunning coastal scenery. There are also a number of caves that can be explored beneath the coastal arch, adding an element of adventure and mystery to the visit.

3. Snowdon Mountain

Snowdon Mountain is the highest mountain in Wales and the highest point in the British Isles south of the Scottish Highlands. The mountain is also one of the most visited places in the country, with around half a million people climbing it every year. Despite its popularity, the mountain is still an important habitat and is home to a number of species of animal, plant, and fungus of international importance.

The distinctive summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) was once part of the seabed, as shown by fossil shell fragments that can be found on its rock faces. These rocks were later shaped by volcanic activity and glaciers, which are responsible for many of the park’s valleys.

The mountain was first climbed by people with a professional interest in plants, such as botanists and geologists, but by the middle of the 19th century it had become an attraction for well-educated and financially independent tourists. In order to cater for their needs, mountain guides were employed to provide information and assist visitors.

4. Calanais Standing Stones

The ethereal Callanish Standing Stones, or Cailleachlann in Gaelic, are an astonishing cruciform-shaped arrangement of stones that were erected over 5,000 years ago on the west coast of the island of Lewis. Often referred to as the Scottish equivalent of Stonehenge, the site is an incredible place to visit, especially at sunrise or sunset on a wild winter’s day.

The monument consists of a ring-cross configuration with a long avenue of 19 standing stones, a central monolith and a small chambered tomb. It is situated on a ridge with a commanding view over Loch Roag and many other prehistoric sites lie within the wider area.

It is a complex, multi-faceted and significant monument. It is a key component of an extensive ritual landscape that expresses a profound, probably cosmological belief system of some 5000 years ago and its early date means it is a forerunner of other stone circles in Britain. This is supported by archaeological evidence from surveys and excavations. The monument has considerable potential for future research, particularly into the construction and uses of a prehistoric landscape.

5. White Cliffs of Dover

There’s a reason this stunning coastline is an official icon of England. Its dazzling white chalk face and layers of wild grasses rise 350 feet up the English Channel toward France. To the British, it’s a symbol of home, hope and freedom. It’s the very edge of the nation, the place where home begins and the wide world ends.

The cliffs are made of permeable chalk, making it easy to carve out structures and lookouts. They’ve been defended by two Napoleonic forts (the Western and Drop Redoubts) and were used by British commandos in World War II. Churchill called them “the gateway to Britain.” They appear in poems and songs, including Dame Vera Lynn’s renowned wartime classic, There’ll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover. They’re also mentioned in William Shakespeare’s King Lear.

The cliffs are best seen on a clear day. You can walk along the cliffs or explore the Deep Fan Bay Shelter and South Foreland Lighthouse, which are open April-October. You can also visit the Gateway Building, a National Trust visitor center, which includes an exhibition on the history of the White Cliffs.

6. Tyne Bridge

Known to locals as simply ‘the bridge’, the tall green steel arch looms over the Quayside area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and connects the city with Gateshead. It’s a symbol of the North’s industrial past and technological present.

The bridge carries a road and railway across the river with a span of 531 feet. When the bridge was built in 1928 it was the longest single-span bridge in the world. Its approach spans carry the roadway over streets and houses.

It’s not only a landmark for humans; kittiwakes (types of seagull) have been nesting alongside the bridge for decades. They live on the underside of the bridge’s support beams and in little crevices around the structure.

7. Avebury Stone Circles

Although less famous than Stonehenge, Avebury is an extraordinary monument of Neolithic Britain. It features a huge henge (bank and ditch) with an outer stone circle and two smaller circles. Its purpose is still unknown, but archaeologists believe it was likely associated with pagan rituals and ceremonies.

The site was first recorded by antiquarians such as John Aubrey and William Stukeley in the 17th century, but many of its stones were destroyed during the following centuries, possibly for religious or practical reasons. Fortunately, the stones were saved by Alexander Keiller, who acquired the area in the 1930s and spent decades restoring the monuments.

In addition to the stone circles, there are other features at Avebury, including a sarcophagus, the ruins of a cottage and the remains of the Cove, a curious arrangement of rocks that was once thought to represent female energy. Visitors can explore all of these attractions during a day trip, which is especially easy because the village of Avebury is so small. Parking and admission are free for National Trust or English Heritage members.

8. The Major Oak

As the legendary hideout of Sherwood Forest’s famed outlaw, Robin Hood, The Major Oak is one of the most famous landmarks in England. The mighty oak’s crooked limbs supposedly shelter the outlaw and his merry men.

This impressive ancient oak was formerly known as the Cockpen Tree because its hollow interior was used to hold cockerels before they were used for cock fighting. It took on the name Major’s Oak after it was featured in a 1790 book by local historian Major Hayman Rooke, though he had no connection to the tree.

The name caught on and the Major Oak became a tourist attraction, even before railways came to England. A man was employed as a guardian to look after the tree and take in tips from visitors.

Over time the weight of visitors compacted the soil and threatened the tree, so it was fenced off. Despite this, wannabe rogues can still visit The Major Oak and dream of their own woodland hideout. Located near Edwinstowe, it’s just a short walk from Sherwood Forest.