Top 10 History Tours in Britain
The team at Historic UK have searched high and low to compile our favourite ten short tours for history fans. These scenic tours include visits to some of Britain’s most beautiful cities, iconic places and landmarks.
From the 5,000 year old prehistoric monument that is Stonehenge, to the Georgian splendour of Bath and right up to the swinging 1960s of downtown Liverpool, we have found an historic era to suit everybody.
Some of the tours you can organise yourself, others are so well planned that you can discover ‘England in a Day’… and that even includes enjoying a champagne reception served in Shakespeare‘s garden.
So, in no special order:
The ideal short tour for anyone looking to make the most of their brief visit to England… This twelve-hour day tour departs early morning from London’s Victoria Coach Station in order to explore the mysterious prehistoric monument that is Stonehenge.
The Discover England in One Day Tour then goes on to visit to the historic Georgian city of Bath before a scenic drive through the heart of the picturesque Cotswolds leads to the charming market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Once there, enjoy a champagne reception complete with strawberry scones in the garden at Shakespeare’s birthplace.
This full day tour of London is the ideal way to see the best historic sites the capital has to offer.
The first stop on the tour is the Tower of London, where, during a private guided tour by a Yeoman Warder, you will find out more about the bloody history of the Tower, as well as sneaking a peak at the Crown Jewels.
The next part of the tour includes a private and exclusive sightseeing cruise down the River Thames, before heading over to Buckingham Palace in time to see the famous Changing of the Guards ceremony.
At St Paul’s Cathedral, you will explore Christopher Wren’s masterpiece with the assistance of a professional guide. Built between 1675 and 1710, it is the fourth cathedral dedicated to St Paul to have stood at the highest point in the City.
A collection of 15 sightseeing tours that unlock the past, with specialist guides to help to bring the nation’s history to life.
From the castles and forts of north Wales to the industrial valleys of the south, you can learn about the Tawe River’s role in Welsh history, a time when 90% of the world’s copper came from Swansea.
The Royal Anglesey experience will transport you back to the 7th century in a tour of historic sites with connections to the princes and princesses of Wales.
Those folk with Welsh roots may opt for the family tree and heritage tours, which can be tailored to suit your individual requirements.
The perfect way to explore the attractions, tours and museums of York… This handy tourism pass includes a free 1-Day City Sightseeing “Hop on Hop off” Bus Tour ticket to explore York and discover all of its iconic attractions including the JORVIK Viking Centre, York Minster, Clifford’s Tower, York Dungeon, York’s Chocolate Story and many more.
Entry to over 30 attractions in York and the surrounding areas, including Castle Howard, one of Britain’s finest stately homes.
With many trains starting at the main London stations, view the very best of Britain aboard a special excursion train.
The UK Railtours programme features an eclectic variety of destinations and routes, taking in many of the country’s historic towns and cities.
You don’t need to be a railway enthusiast to gaze from the window of the traditional coaching stock and enjoy the wonderful countryside, as you explore scenic rail routes many of which lost their regular passenger trains decades ago.
Most tours include a licensed buffet car, with First Class Dining available for that extra special occasion, freshly cooked on board by the elite team of chefs.
As night descends experience a chilling tour into Edinburgh’s dark history. Not for the faint hearted, prepare to see some ghostly goings on as you explore the long abandoned Blair Street Underground Vaults and the incredibly creepy Canongate Graveyard, the final resting place of some of the city’s most famous figures.
Described by the BBC as “possibly one of the most haunted places in Britain.”, the dark and dank Edinburgh Vaults were home to the very poorest and most disreputable sections of society. Bodysnatchers were said to have stored their corpses there overnight.
Accompanied by an expert tour guide you will hear hair-raising tales of grisly murders and stories of the lost souls who still haunt this spooky city.
Whether your historic interests are literary, political or perhaps a little more sinister, you can enjoy your favourite tipple in some of London’s oldest pubs.
So check out this list and choose for yourself a ‘pub crawl to remember’. With 10 of the oldest pubs in London included, this self-planned tour is obviously best seen on foot and includes such gems as the London institution that is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Over the centuries, this fine tavern has served a host of literary Londoners including Samuel Pepys, Dr Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens (who even mentions it in A Tale of Two Cities), Thackeray, Yates and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
A little more modern maybe, the Viaduct is the last surviving Victorian gin palace in London. However, perhaps of more interest to history buffs, is what sits below the bar. For this pub has been built on the site of the former medieval prison of Newgate, and in the basement it is still possible to see the remaining prison cells.
This must-do experience for fans of the ‘fab four’ explores the journey of how The Beatles became worldwide superstars.
The award-winning The Beatles Story attraction is dedicated to the lives and times of the world’s biggest pop group, and is located in their hometown of Liverpool. Be transported on an incredible journey and see how these four young lads were propelled to the dizzy heights of fame and fortune from their humble childhood beginnings.
Using the sights and sounds of the 1950s and 60s, visitors are transported from Liverpool via Hamburg to the USA, following The Beatles meteoric rise to stardom.
Whilst we recognise that the Red Coat Guided Tours are the best way to learn about the heritage and history of all of our major towns and cities, we have selected the Exeter tours for two reasons… 1. Of all the major cathedral cities in Britain, we believe that the beautiful city of Exeter is oft neglected… and 2. Because these tours are generously funded by Exeter City Council they are free for all to enjoy!
Most tours start from outside the magnificent 900 year old Exeter Cathedral, one of the great cathedrals of England, and the one that boasts the longest stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world.
Explore the walls that enclosed the Roman city of Isca that are in-the-main, still visible and walkable. Atop these, you can see the sections that were added by the Anglo-Saxons when they sought to protect the city from the marauding Vikings.
At Exeter’s historic quayside, popular with locals and visitors alike, you can see the warehouses that once stored the wool that brought immense wealth to city. These warehouses have been carefully adapted and are now home to antique shops, lively pubs and restaurants.
This Multi Palace Pass will provide you with an excellent way to explore three of the greatest historic attractions in London, with a hotel stay included. Find out about the lives of the British monarchy through the ages with entry to the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace.
You will discover the amazing 900-year history of the Tower of London as a royal palace, a prison and a place of execution.
Set in the extensive grounds of Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace was the favourite royal residence until 1760; it was also the birthplace of Queen Victoria.
The utterly majestic Hampton Court Palace was of course, the former home of Henry VIII. The ghost of Henry’s fifth wife Catherine Howard is said to still walk the Haunted Gallery.
Disclaimer: The properties listed above are only suggestions from Historic UK, and Historic UK takes no responsibility for any facilities and descriptions that may have changed since the writing of this article.