Beyond the towering skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of the capital, the UK boasts an incredible array of historic tales reflected through architecture, geography and iconic cities. Some of the most charming places have remained untouched for centuries, leaving behind a much slower and simpler pace of life. From the beautiful Georgian architecture in Bath to the quintessentially Medieval towns in the North, you are never too far away from a spectacular heritage site.
Here, Somerset-based period property and architectural joinery experts Artichoke recommend their five favourite historic towns and period architecture to indulge in around the UK in 2022.
Known as Eboracum to the Romans, York is exploding with history from every corner. The extravagant stone walls that border the city instantly reflect its rich historical past, as is the spectacular 7th-century York Minster, which towers over the city’s skyline.
After the Norman invasion, this quaint riverside city became William the Conqueror’s base for all operations in the North of England. A city of great economic importance, York has been defined over centuries by its large fortified stone walls reconstructed by William the Conqueror from old Viking buildings. Now a popular and beautiful city with secret passageways and cobbled streets, much of its medieval architecture remains persevered, and the city’s Shambles is one of the most well-preserved streets from that era in Europe.
Home to the oldest university dating back to the 11th century, history has seeped into every limestone brick throughout this beautiful city. From literary leaders and world-renowned scientists to centuries of politicians, countless significant figures have walked the corridors of Oxford’s medieval halls and spent an evening in its narrow pubs. In the summertime, be sure to stroll around the cobbled streets and honey-hued college buildings. Walk in the shoes of scholars by visiting the 15th-century buildings, such as the Bodleian Library – one of the world’s oldest public libraries, and Christ Church – the largest college in Oxford.
Whilst you can easily spend a day indulging in the town’s Medieval charm and architecture, Oxford is home to some of the most impressive museums and galleries. Buried within the winding streets and passageways is the Ashmolean, Britain’s oldest and well-preserved public museum.
Rye, East Sussex
With a delightful array of Georgian and medieval architecture, quaint alleys, networks of tunnels, secret passageways and caves, there is plenty of history to indulge yourself in. Rye was a Cinque Port in the Middle Ages before it was separated from the sea by marsh. Once a bootlegger’s paradise sprawling with illicit activity in the 17th & 18th centuries, this small town is now a relaxed and friendly place bursting with a quintessentially English village charm.
Mermaid Street is one of Rye’s most atmospheric landmarks with its cobbles and half-timbered houses. Here you will find the 15th-century Mermaid Inn – once a notorious smugglers’ inn for the infamous Hawkhurst Gang. Enter from the secret passageway and immerse yourself in the Medieval building. Just around the corner from sandy beaches, the nature reserve at Rye Harbour is another one of Rye’s postcard-worthy architectural spots.
Built on the Seven Hills in North Somerset, Bath has been a thriving centre for recreation for more than 2,000 years. Today, it is one of England’s most architecturally beautiful cities, adored for its honey-toned Georgian buildings and picturesque Regency-era streets. The Romans established Bath’s reputation when they founded the town Aquae Sulis near the banks of the River Avon in the 1st century AD after they built a series of bathhouses around the spring and dedicated a temple to the goddess Sulis Minerva. The baths have remained at the heart of Bath, and today you can still immerse yourself in the relics of the Roman Empire.
Aside from the baths, architectural lovers will appreciate Pulteney Bridge, the landscaped lawns of Prior Park and the Regency-era opulence of the Royal Crescent. Set out on the 10km Skyline Walk through hidden valleys and idyllic woodlands to get the most impressive views. So rich in history, the area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dubbed as the ‘Athens of the North’ in the 18th century, Edinburgh is a thriving hotspot of culture and architectural majesty. Settlers first ascended the rugged hillside towards the heights of Castle Rock in 900BC, where they used volcanic crag as a natural defence against potential intruders. Today, the city is now intertwined with its historic landscape, sprawling with narrow lanes in its Old Town, and medieval tenements with spectacular Georgian architecture in its New Town.
There are thousands of historic buildings in this captivating city to get lost in, but the one that exceeds them all is the castle, which towers over the rest of Edinburgh from Castle Rock. Built by King Malcolm III Canmore in the 12th-century, Castle Rock contains the city’s oldest surviving building – St Margaret’s Chapel. Evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have also been found on Edinburgh’s Castle Rock and Arthur’s Seat.
With such a rich history, the UK boasts thousands of architecturally significant period homes that require bespoke, authentic interiors which have been sensitively designed to marry their unique history and heritage. Follow Artichoke on Instagram for inspiring images of beautiful period interiors and architectural joinery, perfectly suited for the UK’s most beautiful period homes.
Which of the above UK cities will you be adding to your must-visit list?