The UK has a diverse history and there are many places you can visit all throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that allow you to learn more about this fascinating country and its heritage.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s three great places outside of central London where you can learn more about the history of the British Isles:
1. Peace Walls – Belfast, Northern Ireland
The first Peace Walls in Belfast were constructed in 1969 to reduce violence, following a series of civil rights riots that marked the outbreak of the Troubles – a conflict between nationalists and unionists that spanned three decades. Nationalists (or Republicans), many of whom identified as Catholics, sought a united Ireland, while Unionists (or loyalists), many of whom identified as Protestant, wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. The original walls constructed at the time of the riots were only set to be temporary but were later replaced with more permanent structures. Following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which is the basis of Northern Ireland’s present-day government as well as its relationships with both the Republic of Ireland as well as the United Kingdom, additional peace walls were constructed, and many existing walls grew in height. Presently, there are talks to remove the walls, though many residents do not yet feel safe or secure enough to support these talks.
2. Hampton Court Palace – Molesey, England
Construction on Hampton Court Palace began in the early 16th century following its acquisition by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Chief Minister of King Henry VIII. The ownership of the palace was transferred to King Henry VIII following the disintegration of Wolsey’s relationship with the King. There was much rebuilding and expansion under King Henry VIII, who spent a great deal of time in the palace – in fact, his son Edward IV was born there! Following the King’s death in 1547, the palace was passed through the Tudors and the Stuarts, and more renovations and additions were made over the years. George I and his son George II were the last monarchs to have resided in the palace, leaving the palace in 1737 to be used for the housing of “grace and favour residents”. Eventually, in 1838, Queen Victoria ordered the opening of Hampton Court Palace to the public. Presently, the palace and its grounds are cared for by Historic Royal Palaces and are a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
3. Bletchley Park – Milton Keynes, England
Bletchley Park was the home of the secret Government Code and Cypher School and the main location for British and Allied codebreakers during World War II. The location was chosen as it was central to most of the country and allowed for easy travel between major cities as well as Oxford and Cambridge universities – from where many codebreakers were recruited. Codebreakers at Bletchley Park cracked Axis Power communications; the most well-known and influential were the Enigma and Lorenz cyphers. Many have heard of mathematician Alan Turing, whose work on the design of the bombe machines ultimately led to the deciphering of Enigma. It is believed that the work of codebreakers and intelligence obtained at Bletchley Park was a vital contribution that ultimately led to an Allied victory in World War II. While codebreaking at the location ceased in 1946, the building had various uses in the decades to follow. In 1992, after coming under threat for demolition, the Milton Keynes Council declared Bletchley Park a conservation area and the site was opened to the public in 1994.
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- Peace Walls: https://northernireland.foundation/projects/sharedfuture/peace-walls/
- Peace Walls Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferboyer/7317096774/in/photostream/
- Hampton Court Palace: https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/history-and-stories/the-story-of-hampton-court-palace/#gs.GqeDDlQ
- Hampton Court Palace Photo: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4434123
- Bletchley Park: https://bletchleypark.org.uk/our-story
- Bletchley Park Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bletchley_Park_-_Draco2008.jpg
- Across the Pond Contact: http://www.studyacrossthepond.com/node/17/