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 One Day’… and that even includes enjoying a sparkling wine reception served in Shakespeare‘s schoolroom.
So, in no special order:
The ideal short tour for anyone looking to make the most of their brief visit to England… This full-day tour departs early morning from London’s Victoria Coach Station in order to explore the mysterious prehistoric monument that is Stonehenge.
The 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 sparkling wine reception complete with scones, at Shakespeare’s schoolroom.
This full-day private and bespoke tour of London is the ideal way to see the best historic sites the capital has to offer.
The following suggestions are just an example itinerary. Your personal and private guide will ensure that the day itself is tailored to your interests and conducted at a pace to suit you.
So the first stop on the tour could be a visit to Buckingham Palace in time to see the famous Changing of the Guards ceremony. Next, on to Westminster Abbey, since William the Conquerors coronation in 1066, all the kings and queens of England have been crowned here. Other popular stops include the Houses of Parliament and 10 Downing Street, before perhaps dropping in for lunch at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, one of London’s oldest and most atmospheric pubs.
At St Paul’s Cathedral, you can explore Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. Built between 1675 and 1710, it is the fourth cathedral dedicated to St Paul to have stood at the highest point in the City. And at the Tower of London you can find out more about its bloody history and perhaps sneak a peak at the Crown Jewels.
After a fun-filled and informative day tailored to your interests, there will be time to take some pictures of the iconic Tower Bridge which is right next to the Tower of London.
For other tours in and around London, please follow this link.
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.
For other tours in Wales, please follow this link.
The perfect way to explore the historic attractions and museums of York… This handy low cost tourism pass features a 24-hour City Sightseeing “Hop on Hop off” Bus Tour ticket. Create a personalised itinerary 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.
Enjoy unobstructed views from the open-top viewing deck, and with 20 possible stops around this medieval town, you can explore the best the city can offer. The on-board audio commentary is available in several languages.
For other tours in and around York, please follow this link.
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.
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.
For other tours in and around Edinburgh, please follow this link.
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.
For other tours in and around Liverpool, please follow this link.
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.
In our England in One Day Tour above, we made our way out of London first of all to the west and then to the north, in this tour we head out of the capital to explore the historic delights to be found to the south and east.
Starting with a tour of Henry VIIIs grand Tudor Palace of Leeds Castle, the next stop will explore the medieval city of Canterbury. After lunch take in the panoramic views from the mighty White Cliffs of Dover, before returning to London to discover more about Britain’s maritime history in Greenwich. Finally enjoy the sights from the River Thames as you cruise past St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge.
Disclaimer: The tours 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.