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Holiday in Britain: Best for heritage

corfe castle_12_06_12What’s not to love about good old Blighty with its stunning coastline, awe-inspring views and quirky British eccentricities?

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Derbyshire

Derwent Valley Mills celebrates the fact that, back in the 18th century, it was the birthplace of the factory system. And rightly so, as this has earned it a place on the World Heritage Site list.

Stretching 15 miles down the river valley from Matlock Bath to Derby, you can visit a fascinating series of historic mill complexes, including some of the world’s first ‘modern’ factories. These new types of buildings were erected to house the new technology for spinning cotton developed by Richard Arkwright.

Sites to visit along the route include Belper North Mill, the forerunner of the modern skyscraper; Darley Abbey, a small historical village, and Masson Mills Working Textile Museum.

Don’t miss: The World Heritage Site Discovery Days Festival held in October half-term. Nine full-filled days are crammed with over 100 unusual, entertaining and informative activities.

Southwark Cathedral, London

The oldest cathedral church building in London, Southwark Cathedral is situated on a crossing point of the Thames and for centuries it was the only entrance to the City of London across the river. It has opened its doors and given refuge to princes and paupers, poets, playwrights, prisoners and patients and has undergone a number of restorations.

This magnificent building is still a centre for daily worship, with all welcome, and the bells of Southwark Cathedral are rung regularly for the major services, and for other special occasions. If you want to take a tour of the cathedral, it’s recommended that you book in advance.

Don’t miss: The Refectory which offers home-cooked, seasonal food, plus a choice of three set afternoon teas: The Organ Scholar, The Gentlemen of the Choir, and The Dean.

Skara Brae, Orkney

This Stone Age village on the beautiful island of Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland, is said to be the most complete in northern Europe and there are eight dwellings you can see, linked together by a series of low, covered passages. The first houses, dating back from about 3,200BC, are older than the pyramids and even Stonehenge.

The buildings and their contents are incredibly well-preserved due to the drifting sands that have covered them for 4,000 years. Not only are the walls of the structures still standing, and alleyways roofed with their original stone slabs, but the interior fittings of each house give an unparalleled glimpse of life as it was in Neolithic Orkney.

You can also see the stone boxes sealed with clay that were used to soak limpets and as fishing bait. And from the positioning of the drains, it seems that the houses had indoor toilets many millennia before they became commonplace in the rest of Britain!

Don’t miss: The whole village. But visit while you can because it remains under constant threat by coastal erosion and the increasing number of visitors to the site annually are causing problems – but everyone is still welcome!

This article was first published in at home with Lorraine Kelly in April 2012. [Read the digital edition here]

Photograph: Getty Images

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