Heritage sites offer a fascinating insight into the history of not only the local area, but for the nation as a whole. Being an active member of English Heritage, I take time to visit as many sites as possible, with this page being a log of the sites I visited on my travels.

Heritage

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle, otherwise known as the "Castle on the Rock", is a 13th century castle built on a rocky crag approximately five hundred feet above the cheshire plain, approximately 10 miles south-east of Chester. It was built in AD1225 by Ranulph de Blondeville, the fourth Earl of Chester, although archaeological findings indicate that bronze age and iron age settlements existed there long before this, going back to approximately 800BC.

The views from the top of the castle, i.e. the inner bailey, are magnificent. On a clear day, it is possible to see Manchester, Liverpool, the Pennines to the East and the Welsh Mountains to the west.

The castle has an inner and an outer bailey, the entrance to the outer bailey is a magnificent gatehouse, which now contains the visitor's centre and shop.

See this Wikipedia entry for further information.
Beeston Castle Beeston Castle Beeston Castle

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch (a.k.a. Constitution Arch) is a superb stone arch located at Hyde park corner in Central London. It was originally commissioned by George IV in 1825AD, and was going to be one of two arches (the other being Marble Arch) in a grand entrance to Buckingham Palace. This plan didn't materialise and it was moved to it's present location in 1882.

A lift takes you to one of three floors, each of which holds exhibitions and artwork. You can also wander onto the balcony to take in lovely views of Constitution Hill (with the London Eye and Houses of Parliament in the background) and the other balcony looks onto Hyde Park and Knightsbridge.

On top of the arch lies the "Quadriga", the largest bronze statue in Europe, an image of the Angel of peace descending onto the chariot of war.

Opposite Wellington Arch, lies another English Heritage site, Apsley House, home of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and his descendants.
Wellington Arch Wellington Arch : View looking towards Constitution Hill

Pickering Castle

Pickering Castle is a wonderful example of a motte-and-bailey fortification in Pickering, Yorkshire. Located within a few minutes walk of the town centre, it has some wonderful features and views of the surrounding countryside, including the popular North Yorkshire Moors Railway which goes between Pickering and Grosmont.

It was first constructed in about 1069AD by the Normans, initially earthwork, and then re-fortified in stone in the 13th and 14th century. The motte (central mound) is the most striking feature, with the impressive views of the surrounding area from the keep on the top, but there are many towers, gatehouses and internal domestic buildings to explore. See here for a full list and historical information.
Pickering Castle - View from the keep Rosamund Tower - Northernmost defensive tower Pickering castle chapel

The only surviving intact building at the castle is the chapel, which was built around 1226AD.

Knights Templar Shield Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle lies close to the centre of the market town of Helmsley in Yorkshire, UK, and was built (initially in wood) in 1120AD by Walter Espec, who, as mentioned later, also built Rievaulx Abbey and Kirkham Priory (both English Heritage sites).

It was converted to stone in around 1186AD by Robert De Ros, Walter Espec's nephew, member of the Knight's Templar and one of the 25 barons appointed to ensure King John observed the Magna Carta.

The most striking features are the 12th century East Tower, and the castle's chamber block (now, a mansion house).
Helmsley Castle East tower Chamber block / mansion
During the Elizabethan period, the castle chamber block was converted into a luxurious mansion by the Manners family. This building now houses a "hands-on" exhibition of finds made in and around the area.

Uffington White Horse & "Castle"

One of the oldest geoglyphs in the UK, the Uffington White Horse is 374 feet long and is estimated to have been created sometime between 1400 and 600BC, the creators being the subject of some speculation, either Anglo-saxons, or the Atrebates amongst many other theories. Contrary to popular belief, it's not simply cut into the natural chalk, the trench is cut and then filled with chalk (continual English Heritage maintenance is required for this). For a stunning aerial picture of the white horse, see here.
Uffington White Horse
Nearby, lies Dragon Hill, a small flat-topped hillock, where local legend says that St George defeated the dragon, the spilt blood of which prevents any grass from growing on the top (indeed, there is a bare patch on the top), and "The Manger", a dry valley with beautiful ripple formations, where local legend says that the white horse feeds at night.
Dragon Hill Uffington manger
Uffington "castle" really is the remnants of an iron age hillfort, with only the earthworks, ditch and embankment standing.

Stonehenge

Well, the "granddaddy" of them all, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the whole world, and easily "older" than most of the others (early structures being built around 3000BC), Stonehenge is an absolutely stunning site. Located just off the A344 near Salisbury in Wiltshire, it's instantly recognisable.

I'm sure it needs no introduction, but for those who haven't lived on planet earth before, it's a relatively large stone circle, all that's remaining of a large circular structure, almost certainly built to celebrate the midsummer solstice (the longest day, 21st June), where the sun rises "over" the so-called "heel-stone", and is wonderfully framed by the trilithons (the three lintel bearing upright stones).

It's not the biggest stone circle in the world, but is the only one to have intact stone lintels on the top of some of the stones, making it totally unique.

The henge itself is what is remaining of a bigger structure, circular in shape with horseshoe structures contained within the main circle. What isn't obvious, from the "ground" at least, is that the famous stones are only a small part of the complete site stretching over a large area, with an "avenue" leading away from the path of the midsummer solstice shadow (or towards it, depending on which way you're going), unfortunately bisected by the modern A344, although, there are ambitious plans to rectify this in the future.

Look at the area in an aerial view (such as via Google Earth) and you'll see the avenue and surrounding burial mounds, or you can use the "official" English Heritage Stonehenge Interactive Map.
Stonehenge close-up Stonehenge from distance

Knights Templar Shield Rievaulx Abbey

Without doubt my favourite English Heritage site, so far, is Rievaulx Abbey, an absolutely astonishing 12th century cistercian abbey, located near Helmsley in North Yorkshire, the castle of which (under the auspices of Walter Espec) offered significant protection to the abbey, and gave the abbey much of it's land.

This was the first Cistercian abbey in the north of England, founded in 1132 by the french Cistercian, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the original proponents of the Knights Templar. Indeed, the name "Rievaulx", combines the name of the local river "Rye" with that of the old french word "vals", meaning valley.

An interesting fact is that the monks of Rievaulx, as part of a land dispute with nearby Byland Abbey, changed the course of the River Rye to greatly increase the amount of land available. The channels of the original river course can still be seen.
Rievaulx Abbey Rievaulx Abbey

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey is a ruined Benedictine abbey, originally founded in 657AD by Oswy, the Anglo-Saxon king of Northumbria, and refounded in 1078 on the command of William De Percy, after a 9th century Viking attack, dedicating it to St. Peter and St. Hilda. Lady Hilda was the first abbess of the abbey in the 7th century. It was destroyed by Henry VIII (well, his armies!) in 1540AD as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

It stands on a magnificent headland overlooking both the town of Whitby and commands magnificent views of the River Esk and North Sea.
Whitby Abbey Whitby Abbey