The United Kingdom, made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is an island nation in northwestern Europe. England – birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles – is home to the capital, London, a globally influential centre of finance and culture. England is also site of Neolithic Stonehenge, Bath’s Roman spa and centuries-old universities at Oxford and Cambridge.
One of top tourist attractions in England, Stonehenge is among the most important prehistoric sites in the world. It was produced by a culture that left no written records so many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate. Evidence indicate that the large stones were erected around 2500 BC. It is not known for certain what purpose Stonehenge served, but many scholars believe the monument was used as a ceremonial or religious center.
The 150 year old Big Ben Clock Tower is one of London’s top attractions. The name Big Ben actually refers not to the clock tower itself, but to the 13 ton bell housed within the tower and takes its name from the man who first ordered the bell, Sir Benjamin Hall. It is the 3th largest free-standing clock tower in the world. The clock has become a symbol of the England and London and has appeared in many films. In the movie Mars Attacks! for example the Big Ben is destroyed by a UFO attack.
Located about an hour west of London, Windsor Castle is often called the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world. It is one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II who spends many weekends of the year at the castle, using it for both state and private entertaining. The earliest surviving buildings at Windsor date from the reign of Henry II who came to the throne in 1154. Much of the castle, including the magnificent State Apartments and St Georges Chapel can be visited.
One of the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe (alongside Cologne Cathedral in Germany), York Minster dominates the skyline of the ancient city of York. York Minster incorporates all the major stages of Gothic architectural development in England. The present building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. The “Great East Window” inside the cathedral is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.
Durham Cathedral, in the city of Durham in northeast England is the greatest Norman building in England and perhaps even in Europe. It is cherished not only for its architecture but also for its incomparable setting. The foundation stone of Durham Cathedral was laid on August 12, 1093. Since that time, there have been major additions and reconstructions of some parts of the building, but the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman design. In a nationwide BBC poll held in 2001 Durham Cathedral was voted England’s best-loved building.
Now home to the British Crown Jewels, the Tower of London served as a prison from 1100 to the mid twentieth century. The castle was founded in the winter of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England and served as a royal residence before it became a prison. The Tower of London is reputedly the most haunted building in England. There have been tales of ghosts, including that of Anne Boleyn, inhabiting the tower.
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