If there’s one commodity in Britain that’s not in short supply, it’s heritage buildings and monuments. Around each crook in the road and over the crest of every hill lies a castle, cathedral, mansion, famous cottage or a monument significant to England’s past. There are haunted palaces, formal gardens and charming country towns like Bath, a salubrious sanctuary first popularized by the Romans and later frequented by literary luminaries like Jane Austen.

Venerable London, of course, is the ultimate fountainhead of magnificent memorials brimming with edifices that have prevailed through war, conquest, victory, royal coronations, pomp and circumstance weddings – with the most recent nuptials being exchanged between Montreal native Autumn Kelly and Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and the eldest grandson of Queen Elizabeth II.

Although the English landscape is legendary for its beauty, it is the country’s multitude of centuries-old buildings that communicates a history dating back to the Stone Age. While many sites offer free access, just as many require an admission fee, however, the path of the least resistance is the Great British Heritage Pass, a comprehensive ticket resembling a credit card that allows the bearer admission to 580 castles, abbeys, stately homes, palaces and formal gardens. Even if only a handful of properties are visited, the cardholder invariably saves money. A 7-day Pass sells for about CDN$85 and comes with a booklet listing sites of interest and brief descriptions of their histories. My first ever trip across the Atlantic was to England and I can personally attest to the fact the Heritage Pass is a terrific boon to people interested in historic places.

Beginning in the north, one of the most ruggedly handsome castles in the country is Scarborough Castle, a 12th-century structure perched on the east coast overlooking the wind-whipped North Sea. It sits alongside the town of Scarborough, a popular resort centre that has been inhabited since Viking times.

After touring the castle, don’t miss the small cemetery just outside the gates where Anne Bronte is the only member of the famous trio of Bronte sister authors to be buried apart from the family plot at Haworth, Yorkshire.

Another of many literary connections is found at Cockermouth in the county of Cumbria where Wordsworth House is the birthplace of poet William Wordsworth. This Georgian home was built in 1745 and today is a shrine for Wordsworth worshipers. Throughout England the country is dotted with literary memorial sites like Beatrix Potter’s Lake District home, the Bronte parsonage at Haworth, Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford and the thatched-roof home of Thomas Hardy at Bockhampton, Dorset. In fact, an entire trip could be spent visiting literary shrines to renowned authors like Keats, Tennyson, Kipling, Dickens and the Brownings – all of them included in the Heritage Pass.

Sites connected to royalty are equally prolific. The Pass allows visitors free admission to places like the West Kent childhood home of Anne Bolyne, second wife of philandering King Henry VIII who ultimately ordered her head lopped off in 1536. More Bolyne history is perpetuated in the Tower of London where she was beheaded. Here, her ghost is said to haunt the place and there are numerous accounts of seeing her apparition from visitors and staff alike.

In fact, Britain is the “ghosts R us” capital of the world, claiming more “ghoulies and ghosties” per square mile than just about anywhere. One example is 500-year-old Hampton Court near London, regarded among the finest royal palaces in the country, which is said to be haunted by Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, also former wives of Henry VIII.

However, scores of Pass sites have nothing to do with royalty. For instance the legend of Robin Hood can be visited in the middle England town of Nottingham where Robin and his band of merry men once roamed nearby Sherwood Forest robbing the rich to give to the poor. Today the forest is mostly gone but tours of lofty Nottingham Castle and its museum are among the Pass inclusions.

Also in middle England, in the city of Lincoln, Lincoln Castle is one of the eight Norman castles built by William the Conqueror. The 11th century castle ruins, however, are not the pinnacle of the town’s historic attractions. The cityscape is dominated by the triple towers of Lincoln Cathedral which many insist is Britain’s finest.

What’s so eternally engaging about England are its diverse layers of historical attractions. There’s a huge difference, for instance between ogling the wonder of Stonehenge and touring southern England’s Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill. Likewise, there’s an enticing disparity between viewing the Roman Baths at Bath and exploring Dover Castle with its secret Second World War tunnels. Situated dramatically on the renowned white cliffs, this is one of Western Europe’s most impressive medieval fortresses to which a concealed underground hospital was added during the war against Hitler.

The British Heritage Pass facilitates visits to these and hundreds of other celebrated monuments throughout England, including the bonanza of historical attractions that exists within the city of London such as the famed Tower of London and the British Museum. Whether exploring the capital city or Britain’s countryside, grand historical buildings would sometimes be diminished if it were not for English gardens. The National Trust, an organization dedicated to the preservation of heritage buildings and gardens, oversees a collection of more than 130 gardens dating from the 16th century onwards that are open to visitors.

To explore details of how the Great British Heritage Pass works and a listing of the properties it covers, go to www.britishheritagepass.com. A user feedback posting on the site pretty much sums up the value of the Pass: “I can’t believe how cheap it was for what we got. This has to be the best kept secret in Britain.”

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