Fountains Abbey and Royal Yacht Britannia share the top spot in Which? survey of the UK’s favourite historic sites

Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire and the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh have tied in first place in Which?’s survey of the best historic attractions in the UK.

These two historic sites were the joint favourite attractions when ranked in a survey of almost 3,000 Which? members, which looked at nine criteria including overall value for money, helpfulness of staff and lack of crowds. Both achieved an impressive overall score of 88 per cent, beating well-known attractions including Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey and The Tower of London to the top spot.

This year marks the second time the Royal Yacht Britannia has achieved the accolade, after it first topped the consumer champion’s table in 2020.

Fountains Abbey is managed by the National Trust, and is one of the largest Cistercian abbey ruins in Europe. It was a thriving monastic community for 400 years until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Those who rated the attraction highly praised the ‘calm atmosphere’ and ‘leisurely walks’ on offer in over 800 acres of grounds, with the attraction scoring a full five stars for lack of crowds, as well as how accurately the description matched reality.

The Royal Yacht Britannia meanwhile continues to be a firm favourite with respondents, coming top for the second time. It achieved an almost clean sweep of five star ratings, dropping just one point to a respectable four stars for food and drink and helpfulness of staff. The ship served the Royal Family for more than 44 years, travelling over one million nautical miles and visiting 135 countries over its lifetime. Now docked permanently on the Firth of Forth in Leith, visitors can explore the state apartments, crew’s quarters and even the engine room, accompanied by a free audio guide, a facility highlighted as an especially ‘nice touch’ by one respondent.

Coming a close joint third in the consumer champion’s survey are Culzean Castle and Country Park in Scotland, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, and the Roman Baths and Pump Room in Bath, both achieving a score of 87 per cent.

Perched atop rugged Ayrshire cliffs, the magnificent Culzean Castle was designed by architect Robert Adam in the eighteenth century and boasts 40 buildings and secret follies across its extensive country park, as well as a Swan Pond, formal gardens, play areas and an icehouse. With so much on offer, it unsurprisingly scooped a full five stars for facilities, as well as a further five for how well the description matched the reality of the experience on offer. One respondent enthused that the castle ‘is not to be missed’, while others commended the ‘amazing views and walks’.

The Roman Baths meanwhile drew praise for the opportunity to explore the ‘fascinating’ and ‘well-preserved’ ruins in the heart of the honey-stoned city. The attraction scored an impressive five stars for its engagement and entertainment value, with several respondents telling Which? that they appreciated the high-quality video exhibits on offer.

Durham Cathedral was the highest scoring free attraction, with a customer score of 86 per cent. It ranked joint fifth in the table overall, tying with Stirling Castle. While Durham Cathedral was awarded a full five stars in five of the nine categories, including lack of crowds and value for money, it gained just two stars for facilities.

At the other end of the table was Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the playwright’s childhood home in Stratford-Upon-Avon, with a score of 63 per cent. While respondents praised the building’s cultural significance, it scored just two out of five stars for value for money and facilities, and rated no more than three stars in any category.

Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

This year two very different but equally impressive historic attractions topped our survey, and it’s easy to see why. Both Fountains Abbey and the Royal Yacht Britannia offer a unique day out with visitors telling us they enjoyed the opportunity to immerse themselves in a slice of history for the day.

Whether you’re looking to get back to nature or explore the hidden histories of our remarkable cities, Which?’s rankings of the UK’s best historic attractions have plenty to inspire you.

Harrogate Informer