Having been fortunate enough to have recently visited several World Heritage Sites around the world, I was intrigued to see what British World Heritage Sites we might have, to match places such as the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Forbidden City.
The World Heritage List includes 878 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 679 cultural, 174 natural and 25 mixed properties in 145 countries.
In the UK, we have 27 recognised sites with just 5 in Scotland. These, then, are very special places and yet so often we locals fail to appreciate what is under our very noses. For instance, unlike the Grand Canyon, or Great Barrier Reef, we live and work in Edinburgh’s world heritage site, which comprises the “Old and New Towns of Edinburgh”.
Live sites are harder to identify than uninhabited ones as their future is less controllable and predictable, however, according to the World Heritage List, “The successive planned expansions of the New Town, and the high quality of its architecture, set standards for Scotland and beyond, and exerted a major influence on the development of urban architecture and town planning throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
Huxley and Smith’s Illustrated Guide to the 27 World Heritage Sites of Great Britain and Ireland gives much more information than the reasons for the adoption of these sites. It provides a tour guide covering the background social history of the city as well as the architectural history of the main buildings with current opening times (though not prices). It even goes as far as to include the 2004 Scottish Parliament.
Similarly it provides an informative guide to the Antonine Wall, New Lanark, Neolithic Orkney and St Kilda as well as the 21 sites in England and Ireland. There is ‘How to get there’ type information and a few selected ‘Places to Stay’ â€“ although why list 3 places out of all those available in Edinburgh?
Interestingly, the publishers have decided, despite the number and quality of the photographs, to keep the book pocket sized (if you have large pockets) rather than coffee table sized. In other words it is designed to be of real use during your travels, rather than flicked through before or after.
With more people holidaying in the UK this year, Huxley and Smith’s book can make a difference to your enjoyment of sites visited. There are munro baggers and corbett baggers and armed with this book I think I could become a world heritage site bagger.