Top 10 Famous UK And Ireland Stone Destinations

The UK Government finally lifted all remaining Covid restrictions this week, and if like us, you can’t wait to get out again to explore, this week’s blog may be able to offer a few interesting ideas.

We’ve rummaged through thousands of TripAdvisor reviews to find the UK and Ireland’s top 10 visitor attractions – with a twist.

Most of these well-loved destinations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are famous for their spectacular stone.  Yes, stone!  Selected by a cast stone producer, what else would you expect!?

So, read on and let us know if your favourite landmark is listed below.

Tower of London

Recently voted the #1 thing to do in London by TripAdvisor reviewers, the Tower of London is one of the world’s oldest and most famous prisons.  Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was originally built as an 11th century fortress to protect London from enemy invasion.
The Tower of London was one of the first royal buildings to be constructed from stone, replacing timber, which many Norman castles were built from.  The White Tower, the structure to give the whole castle its name, was originally constructed from white limestone and was imported from Caen in northwestern France.  Kentish ragstone and local mudstone were also used to build the White Tower, but in the 17th and 18th centuries, these materials were replaced with stronger Portland limestone.
King Henry VIII ordered the beheading of Anne Boleyn at the Tower in 1536 and it’s rumoured that her ghost still haunts the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, where she is buried.  
See if you can spot Boleyn’s ghost, marvel at the Crown Jewels and meet the Tower’s famous ravens.  The Tower of London is open daily.

Big Ben, London

Keeping a watchful eye on the politicians scurrying around the Houses of Parliament beneath, Big Ben is one of London’s most treasured tourist attractions.  The Great Bell inside the Elizabeth Tower, or Big Ben as it’s more fondly known, attracts thousands of visitors each year and is one of the world’s most famous clocks.  TripAdvisor has over 30 thousand unique reviews of this London icon and it’s estimated that over 75,000 UK residents alone visit Big Ben annually.

Standing 316 feet tall, this Grade I listed building and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Big Ben’s 13.5 tonne four-faced striking and chiming clock is accurate to within two seconds of the actual time.  It can even be heard as far as nine miles away.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were built by the Victorians using Yorkshire Anston stone and Cornish granite, both of which provide their distinctive yellow-ish brown façade.

Currently undergoing a £29 million restoration, Big Ben chimed for the last time in August 2017 – the longest period of time it has been silent in its 158 year history.  This does mean that it is closed to visitors, however for the best views of this much-loved  building, hop over Westminster Bridge and view Big Ben from the other side of the Thames.  

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Ask anyone to think of a famous UK stone structure and chances are their first answer will be none other than Stonehenge.  Work started on Wiltshire’s colossal Neolithic circle of standing stones some 5,000 years ago, taking over 1,000 years to complete.

Stonehenge may be one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, but its purpose remains a mystery to this day.  Legend has it that giants placed the stones on a mountain in Ireland before a wizard magically moved them to their final location on Salisbury Plain.  And a little magic would have certainly helped to build this huge structure, which is constructed from sarsen sandstone and a mix of igneous rocks and sandstones collectively known as “bluestones”.  The mighty sarsen stones weigh around 22 tonnes each, the equivalent weight of four African elephants!

Join the 20,000 people who gather at Stonehenge every year to celebrate the Summer Solstice, or simply wander around this intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland and Cumbria

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hadrian’s Wall took 15,000 men six years to build, creating the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for almost 300 years.  The emperor Hadrian instructed his army to build the wall in AD 122, following his visit to Britain that year.  
Stretching 84 miles across northern England, Hadrian’s Wall joins the east coast at Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne with Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to the west.  Walking the entire span of the wall takes between five to ten days, with most hikers opting for Hadrian’s Wall Path, a moderatly easy route that takes in all of the major historial sites, and a few decent pubs, along the way.
Hadrian’s Wall was mainly constructed of locally-quarried cut stone blocks and turf, rising up to six metres tall and nearly three metres deep in places.  Visitors to the wall can still see the inscriptions carved into the stones, left by the Roman stone masons who painstakingly built the barrier which separated the Romans and the Picts tribes in Scotland.
Over the course of thousands of years, much of the original wall has been removed, buried or destroyed, with many stones being taken and repurposed to build churches and other buildings in the local area.  Visitors can however still see around 10% of the original wall peeking out of the landscape, as well as many Roman attractions and two museums.  Booking is advisable.

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Magnificent Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano and the highest mountain in Edinburgh’s craggy Hills.  Nestled within the royal Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat stands a staggering 251m above sea level, offering one of the best views of Scotland’s capital city.

It’s no surprise that TripAdvisor’s reviewers have voted Arthur’s Seat the #1 thing to do in Edinburgh – its view is a must see for city’s residents and visitors alike.

Some comfort to the thousands of walkers and hikers that visit the volcano each year, Arthur’s Seat last erupted around 340 million years ago.  Only half of the original elevation now remains and visitors can explore the layers of sandstone formed following its numerous eruptions, many millenia ago.

Dating back 2000 years, Arthur’s Seat has been a popular filming location over the years and has featured in many novels, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to countless works of fiction by Ian Rankin.  And this Scottish landmark is also the stuff of legends, seemingly gaining it’s name from Camelot, the court of infamous King Arthur.

An old Celtic myth has it that Arthur’s Seat was actually formed by a flying dragon that terrorised Edinburgh’s locals and ate all their livestock.  One day the greedy dragon ate so much that he lay down to sleep and never woke up again.  Visit Arthur’s Seat yourself if you dare.

Ben Nevis, Fort William

Firmly on every hikers’ bucket list, Britain’s highest mountain towers 4,406 feet above the small Scottish town of Fort William.  First scaled in 1771, the mountain is known as the ‘Venomous Mountain’ in Gaelic, most likely because of the treacherous storms that blanket the summit.  Poor visibility doesn’t however deter the 150,000 people who hike to the peak of Ben Nevis each year.  Their efforts are rewarded, on a clear day anyway, by panoramic views that stretch all the way across to Northern Ireland.

Once an active volcano, Ben Nevis is made of granite, a rock that resists erosion well, and it’s estimated that Ben Nevis, like much of the Scottish Highlands was formed approximately 350 million years ago.

There are two walking routes suitable for beginners or experienced climbers.  But if that feels like too much effort, why not take in the awe-inspiring sights from the comfort of the Nevis Range mountain gondola?  Suitable for wheelchair users, you can also take your four-legged friends.  Now that’s what we call walkies!

The Jurassic Coast, Dorset

The Dorset and East Devon Coast is England’s first and only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, awarded for its outstanding geological interest.

The Jurassic Coast forms part of this coastline and stretches 95 miles from Exmouth to Studland in Devon.  Noted as one of the finest coastlines in Europe, the Jurassic Coast embraces natural rock formations, pretty coastal villages and spectacular beaches.

Geologists and visitors flock to the Jurassic Coast every year, where 185 million years of the Earth’s natural history are sequentially exposed along this stunning coastline.  Ammonites, marine reptile skeletons and fish fossils nestle amongst the golden limestone, yellow sandstones and grey clays that create the coastline.

Durdle Door is perhaps one of the Jurassic Coast’s most famous finds and it’s no surprise that it’s also one of Dorset’s most photographed and iconic landmarks.  It’s predicted that Durdle Door’s natural coastal arch was formed approximately 140 million years ago when the sea eroded the cliff’s softer layers of rock, leaving the harder limestone stack still in place to this day.

The Jurassic Coast offers something for everyone.  Take a trip along this beautiful coastline and you’ll be in the company of history enthusiasts, nature lovers, beachgoers and ramblers alike.

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late ’80’s, the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.  Almost a million people visit the attraction annually to marvel at, and climb, the fascinating hexagonal ‘steps’ that make up the causeway.

According to legend, the ‘steps’ were created by a giant who wandered around the area many millions of years ago.  For those of you looking for a more scientific take, it’s believed that the 40,000 interlocking ‘steps’ were created by an ancient volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago.  The honeycomb-shaped basalt columns were formed when the volcano’s lava cooled rapidly as it flowed into the sea.

After several million years of weathering, some of the basalt columns now resemble various objects and have been fondly named by the locals and visitors to the site.  Look out for the Giant’s Boot, Giant’s Harp or the seastack fondly known as the Camel’s Hump.

There are three walking routes around the the Giant’s Causeway and the National Trust now manage the site.

St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount, or “Karrek Leeo yn Koos” as it’s referred to in Cornish, is a rocky outcrop in Mount’s Bay, Cornwall.  At high tide, the man-made causeway of granite setts that link the island to nearby Marazion is unpassable and can only be reached by boat.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, St Michael’s Mount includes a small harbour and village which are owned by the National Trust.  However, crowning the top of the mount is a chapel and castle which are still owned by the Levan family, who bought the unique residences in 1659.  The island’s ancient rocks release heat at night and family have been able to create beauiful subtropical gardens, comprising unusual plants, cacti and rare horticultural finds.
Like the Jurassic Coast, St Michael’s Mount is a geologist’s dream.  The craggy rock exposures around the island are made from granite and Devon mudstones or pelites.
Locals have passed down tales of the island for thousands of years.  It’s said that St Michael, the patron saint of fishermen, guides boatmen to safety onto and away from the mount – a legend that has helped usher monks and pilgrims to the island for centuries.  Walk in their footsteps by visiting this extraordinary island for yourself.

Blarney Stone, Cork, Ireland

No visit to Ireland would be complete without a trip to Blarney Castle in Cork.  The castle attracts over 300,000 visitors annually and its infamous Blarney Stone is its main draw.  Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone endows the kisser with the ‘gift of the gab’, bestowing them with greater eloquence.  Over time, the word ‘blarney’ has become used colloquially to mean clever and flattering talk.

The stone itself is a block of carboniferous limestone which was installed into the battlements of the castle back in 1446.  It’s thought that millions of visitors have scaled the castle’s 128 narrow stone steps to take their turn and kiss the Blarney Stone, which is located, rather inconveniently, 85 feet above the ground below.  Once face to face with the stone, visitors must lean backwards over the parapet’s edge – a ritual that is traditionally achieved with the help of an assistant at the top.

Not for the fainted hearted or those susceptible to a severe case of acrophobia, kissing the Blarney Stone may be require effort, but if its legend is true, it could be one of the most useful stones in the world!

Where will you visit next?

We hope this week’s blog has inspired you to discover new places or return to your favourite UK and Irish destinations.

And whilst our cast stone Home and Garden designs may not be quite as famous as the places listed above, they certainly have their own beauty and charm.

For more information about our range, or to book an appointment to visit our inspirational Show Gardens contact our ffriendly and experienced team.

Call:    01604 770 711

Email: [email protected]

Request A Call Back

Speak to our team

Whether you’re working on a private residential or large commercial project, or if you are interested in home and garden products, our friendly and expert team are happy to discuss your requirements.

  Request a call back