English Heritage: 5 must-sees
English Heritage celebrated its centenary in 2013, 100 years since a government act was passed recognising the importance of saving historic sites. Unlike the National Trust, most properties are unfurnished and many are ruined castles and ancient sites that give a glimpse of the breadth of England's history. English Heritage only has properties in England; CADW (www.cadw.wales.qov.uk) and National Trust for Scotland (www.nts.orq.uk) manage historic properties in Wales and Scotland respectively.
1. Dover Castle, Dover, Kent, south-east England.
Situated on the south-east coast, this spectacular castle and its surroundings have played a central role in defending Britain for 2,000 years. Alongside exploring the dramatic building, explore the Secret Wartime Tunnels exhibition that recreates the Dunkirk evacuation, and the Great Tower, where medieval courtly life is on show with costumed actors and period furnishings. Web: english-heritaqe.org.uk
Getting there: Dover is around a two-hour drive south-east of London, trains from London Charing Cross to Dover Prior y Station take just under two hours.
2. Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, south England.
Most famous as the place where Charles I was imprisoned in 1647-1648 after his defeat in the Civil War, Carisbrooke is remarkably well-preserved for a building that has withstood sieges and battles for 800 years. Kids will love the chance to dress up as Norman soldiers or meet the castle's famous donkeys, while the new Edwardian-styled garden is a lovely place to sit on a sunny afternoon. Web: english-heritage.org.uk
Getting there: The Isle of Wight is accessible by ferry from Lymington or Southampton, both around 90 minutes' drive south of London. Trains from London Waterloo to Southampton take one hour and 20 minutes.
3. Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, south-west England.
Clinging to the Cornish cliffs, Tintagel is a ruin with stories to tell. Its dramatic and commanding position is the perfect place to learn about its connections with the tale of King Arthur, who, as legend has it, was conceived here. Beneath the castle walls are Tintagel Beach, and the mysterious Merlin's Cave, only exposed at low tide.
From spring 2016, you can learn more about Tintagel with new interactive outdoor displays that will bring the history of the castle to life. Web: english-heritage.org.uk
Getting there: Tintagel is around five hours' drive west of London, the nearest station is a 40-minute taxi ride away at Bodmin Parkway (four hours from London Paddington with a change at Plymouth).
4. Lindisfarne Priory, Berwick upon Tweed, north-east England.
Steeped in myth and history, Lindisfarne Priory was first formed in AD635, although the ruins date back to the 11th century. Situated on Holy Island, linked to the north east coast of England by a causeway, it's a wonderfully atmospheric place, with extensive ruins of the monastic living quarters to explore along with the spectacular 'rainbow arch' and walls of the priory.
The visitor centre has interesting displays on Viking history, as the island was subjected to repeated Viking raids in the eighth and ninth centuries. Web: english-heritaqe.org.uk.
Getting there: Lindisfarne is one hour's drive north-east of Newcastle and around a 90-minute drive south from Edinburgh, but is hard to reach by public transport.
5. Middleham Castle,Yorkshire, north England.
Once the childhood home of Richard Ill, there has been a castle at Middleham since 1069, although the present building was begun in 1170. Although a ruin, there is still much to explore, from the impressive keep, which gives stunning views of the surrounding Dales countryside, to the towering walls. A permanent exhibition tells the stories of the castles most famous residents. Web: english-heritaqe.org.uk
Getting there: Middleham is around one hour 20 minutes' drive north-west of York, but is not easy to reach on public transport.
Author: Visit Britain