27 April 2012

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Seven Things To See Before You Die – Without Leaving The UK


Is it just me, or does it seem that dying happy costs a lot of money these days? Niagara Falls, the Great Wall, the Pyramids; if you legitimately took the time and expense to visit all the sites you are supposed to sea before you die then you’d better be prepared to shuffle off your mortal coil a penniless pauper.

It seems like such a tremendous waste when there are so many marvels of the world available on your very doorstep. Forget the Seven Wonders of the World in all of their overseas extravagance, here are Seven Wonders of the United Kingdom, all of which can be appreciated with nothing more than a train ticket and some good quality walking boots.

Stonehenge

Existing over 500 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza, Stonehenge is one of the world’s oldest prehistoric landmarks. Over thirty-million hours of labour went into the erection of the seventy-nine standing stones, the purpose and history of which has puzzled denizens of the UK since the dawn of civilization (civilization being defined as a society that can support historians).
Stonehenge is commonly listed as one of the wonders of the world, is rich is history, folklore and myth, and can be sampled for roughly the same cost as a trip to the cinema. If you’re anywhere close to the UK’s most enigmatic landmark then you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Tips: Unless you’re really interested in the mythology behind the henge then I advise timing your visit to avoid the summer or winter solstices, when the stones have a tendency to be invaded by legions of neo-pagans; doubtless a sight worth seeing in its own right, but liable to distract somewhat from the spectacle of the stones themselves.

Dunluce Castle

Ok, this one will probably require getting on a boat, but trust me, it’s worth it. There are many ruined castles scattered across the UK, but none offer quite the same spectacle as the keep at Dunluce. Built in the 13th century, the castle sits on a craggy headland on the north Antrim coast, with a sheer drop to the sea below.
Tips: The castle is tremendous to explore, but for history buffs I cannot recommend the guided tour enough. Dunluce is thought to be the site where sailors from the ill fated Spanish Armada were buried, the castle has been besieged numerous times, it’s even the site where the Exmouth sank in one of the UK’s worst ever shipwrecks. There’s over half a century of history on offer to be explored, and the guided tour is worth every penny.

The White Cliffs of Dover

One of the finest coastal walks that the world has to offer, on a clear day you are treated to a truly jaw dropping visual of the English Chanel, coupled with the sweeping sight of Dover’s three-hundred-and-fifty foot high chalk cliff face. The walk along the coast is easy for the inexperienced; around ten miles over easy terrain, and comes with the added benefit of being almost impossible to get lost on.
Tips: The White Cliffs are truly sight to see before you die, but unless you want to speed that process along it is advised that you don’t stray too close to the edge. Remember, these cliffs are only made of chalk. At least a centimetre of coast makes its way back into the sea every year, and larger chunks (some as large as a football field) have been known to topple seawards unexpectedly.

Hadrian’s Wall

It’s hard to believe, but for a time, Hadrian’s Wall was probably the most heavily fortified border in the entire world. It was the Middle Age equivalent to the Korean DMZ, and like the Korean DMZ is has gone on to become a popular attraction with tourists (I wish I was kidding folks).
Fortunately the border between England and Scotland comes with almost no risk of getting shot, but it does boast a collection of truly splendid walks and cycle routes. There’s a full hundred and twenty kilometres of wall to explore, and dozens of circular trails have been established to cater for all levels of ability.
Tips: For the keen cyclist, the newly established 174-mile Hadrian's Cycleway goes through the entire World Heritage Site. The Cycleway takes cyclists near many major Roman sites, and other attractions are just a short distance from the main route. If you’re looking for the full Hadrian’s wall experience then this is the trail to go with.

Scafell Pike

The Lake District’s greatest treasure, England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike is a more challenging climb than Snowdon, but the view from the peak is more than worth it. You can see the Mournes is one direction and Snowdonia in another.
Tips: If you’re up for it then the Corridor Route is easily the most scenic path to the summit. It’s quite a taxing walk though (stretching all round the western flank of the mountain), so make sure you’re prepared before setting out.

Mount Snowdon

Ben Nevis may be taller, but Snowdon is the mountain that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Far more hospitable than its Scottish brethren, Snowdon is very accessible to the “common man”, and is surrounded by engaging walks, stunning views and fascinating flora and fauna.
Of all the locations in this list, Snowdon is the one that you’ll want to visit again and again. There are half a dozen different paths to the summit, and this coupled with the extensive nature reserve surrounding the peek guarantee that there is always something new to see.
Tips: If you’re feeling tired time you reach the top, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is definitely worth experiencing. The 4.7 mile rack and pinion railway (the only one of its kind in the UK) will carry you to or from the summit at a leisurely pace, allowing you to view the scenery in comfort. Definitely worth checking out.

Pistylle Rhaeadr

Just look at the picture, seriously. Two hundred and forty feet of ceaselessly plummeting water surrounded by lush greenery; Pistyll Rhaeadr is my favourite of the UK’s waterfalls. Accessible via a short hike from Oswestry, the fall also offers parking and accommodation at its foot which makes a great base for those looking to explore the surrounding Berwyn Mountains.
Tips: I heartily recommend checking out the trail that runs by the old lead and silver mines. It’s a short, easy walk that offers spectacular views of the valley whilst the falls echo all around you. There’s something about forty fathoms of falling water that provides a place with a tremendous sense of peace, and the walk along the valley is not to be missed.

About today's Guest Writer:
Neil Park is a walking enthusiast who owns more outdoor clothing and outdoor gear than is reasonable. He’s seen all seven of these landmarks and is still unenthused by the prospect of his own mortality.