The UK is the world’s eighth largest tourist destination. Over 35 million people visit here every year, and one of the main reasons people come is to experience our extraordinary ancient sites. Britain’s sites range from some of the world’s most enigmatic prehistoric locations like Stonehenge, to iconic remains of the industrial revolution at places like Ironbridge, with everything in between. In the 21st century, we rely on our phones for most of our information, so which apps can help you make the most of Britain’s history?
Not surprisingly, London has the biggest range of guide apps. Tripadvisor has a comprehensive survey of what is available. For guided audio tours try London Sights for a selection of highlights or a specialist area of interest recorded by an enthusiast.
Timeline Trip London has a clever twist, enabling you to download historical maps and place yourself in the London of the past, along with countless descriptions and pictures.
Across the UK
Most areas of the UK have their own official apps. Historic Environment Scotland’s app includes all the major attractions north of the border, while the Archwilio app for Wales claims to be the first app to include an entire country’s complete record of archaeological treasures.
For audio walks in cities all around the country (and indeed the world) Voicemap City Tours has a huge reservoir of introductory walks. There are tours in Oxford, Cambridge, and most of the cathedral cities of the country. The app and some of the walks are free, others require a small payment.
The UK is a smallish country and there is plenty of choice about how you travel. Unlike dedicated plane, rail or bus apps, Traveline combines all different modes to find the best way from A to B.
If flight delays and cancellations mess up your plans, don’t forget that you may be entitled to compensation. Bott & Co Solicitors have a handy flight compensation calculator on their website.
Major Conservation Organisations
National Trust is the biggest administrator of historic buildings in the country. Its app will tell you what is available near you, along with directions, opening times, prices and special events.
English Heritage is responsible for over 400 archaeological sites, castles and historic buildings. It has its own app with useful practical information along with “don’t miss” tips.
Of course, many major attractions have their own apps to guide you around. If you want to explore them in depth these would be well worth investigating. Although not a complete list, among them are:
- The British Museum
- The Tate Gallery
- Blenheim Palace
- Ironbridge Gorge
- The Victoria & Albert Museum
- The National Gallery
A New Era for Sightseeing
Although the glossy guidebook remains for many the only way truly to experience an historic attraction in depth, and the audioguide is still the easiest means to find your way around the highlights, the app is fast becoming the medium of choice to discover, travel to, and experience our heritage. With so many good apps out there, choosing what suits you best is the hardest part.
Patrick Lee writes for a selection of travel blogs sharing his destination guides and travel tips. He is a single 30-something year old who is a culture vulture.