Top sites to support GCSE study
To support a study of the historic environment as part of a History GCSE, we've put together a list of our top sites. With free access to these sites and dedicated GCSE resources, planning your visit is easy and stress free.
UPDATE ON SCHOOL VISITS: In line with government guidance, we’re now taking bookings online. For details on open sites, indoor spaces, and other facilities available for education groups, please see our what to expect page. Visitor numbers are limited, and all bookings must be made at least 14 days in advance. Our COVID-secure measures will remain in place until all restrictions are lifted.
1. Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
Over its 900 years of history, Kenilworth Castle has been a major military stronghold, a royal palace, and an inspiration to writers and artists. Study the history of the site from the first strategically important castle, through a transformation into a luxury home and status symbol, and later developments by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information about the site and suggested resources to support a study of the historic environment.
To help your students gain deeper knowledge and understanding of Kenilworth Castle, we offer GCSE tours led by our site experts.
2. Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Study this iconic monument, including the early significance of the landscape to the first builders of Stonehenge and the 3 phases of its construction, as well as the changing beliefs surrounding the site as a sacred place, influencing the ways in which different people used Stonehenge throughout history. More recently, the introduction of early archaeology and developing attitudes towards conservation have shaped the way we think of Stonehenge today. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and suggested resources to support a study of the historic environment.Find out more
3. Dover Castle, Kent
Dover Castle has played an important part in the defence of the coastline for 2000 years. Guarding the shortest crossing between England and Europe, it became known as the Key to England. No other site has features from Roman times through to the Cold War, nor shows the same level of adaptation to meet new challenges of defence. This rich history makes Dover ideal for studying changing attitudes towards defence and the evolving psychology of war. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and sources to support a study of the historic environment at Dover Castle.Find out more
4. Battle of Hastings Abbey and Battlefield, East Sussex
Relive this decisive moment in the Norman conquest of England. Explore how events leading up to the Battle of Hastings affected the outcome, and look at the contrast between conquest and religion in the aftermath. A castle building campaign across England established Norman power, while the foundation of Battle Abbey on the site of the battlefield was intended to atone for the bloodshed of the conquest. The abbey became an important part of the local community until it was suppressed in 1538.Find out more
5. Carlisle Castle, Cumbria
Carlisle Castle has dominated the landscape around it for 900 years, and was the focus of wars over territory between the kings and queens of Scotland and England throughout much of its medieval history. It was the base from which the Northern barons were oppressed, a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots, and a Royalist stronghold at the start of the Civil War. Carlisle was still in use by the military until 1959, making it an ideal study of both siege warfare and the continuing and changing use of castles in England. Download our free GCSE Guide to support a study of the historic environment.Find out more
6. Pevensey Castle
At Pevensey Castle, explore the site where the Norman conquest of England began. The landing site for William the Conqueror and his army, Pevensey's unique geography provided an ideal defensible location from which to launch an invasion. New fortifications were added to the original Roman fort, and later a medieval castle was built on the site, withstanding seiges from land and sea. Visit Pevensey Castle to study changes in defenses, and how its location is a key part of the history of this site.Find out more
7. Portchester Castle, Hampshire
An important coastal defence since the Roman period, Portchester Castle has been a major factor in the Solent's defences for hundreds of years. Starting life as a Roman Fort built to defend the coastline from Saxon pirates, it became a Saxon Stronghold protecting the kingdom from Viking attack, then a medieval Royal Castle and eventually a Prisoner-of-War Camp during the 17th and 18th centruries. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and sources to support a study of the historic environment at Portchester Castle.Find out more
8. Scarborough Castle, North Yorkshire
Visit Scarborough Castle to study the changing use of the site over time, from an important royal castle defending the north of England during the medieval period and the civil war, to a 16th century tourist destination driven by changes in society and the increasing popularity of taking spa waters. Today, the castle is an iconic Yorkshire landmark and an important primary source of information about the past. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and sources to support a study of the historic environment at Scarborough Castle.Find out more
9. Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire
Goodrich Castle was built at a crossing on the river Wye, once one of the major transport links between England and Wales, and a key defensive point against Welsh invasions during the medieval period. Today, Goodrich Castle is one of the best preserved of all English medieval castles. Rare evidence of the mechanism used to raise and lower the portcullis into the gate passage and the large communal garderobe tower make it an important primary source of information. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and sources to support a study of the historic environment at Goodrich Castle.Find out more
10. Old Sarum, Wiltshire
Old Sarum started life as an Iron Age hillfort, with huge earthworks that are still visible today. In 1066, King William I realised the potential of these existing defences, building a motte and bailey castle at the site, and in 1086, landholders from across England arrived at Old Sarum to swear an oath of alleigance to King William I. These key events early in the Norman Conquest make this site ideal for studying the establishment of Norman power in England through castles and religious buildings. Download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and sources to support a study of the historic environment at Old Sarum.Find out more
11. Jewel Tower, London
Jewel Tower was part of the original medieval Palace of Westminster. An extremely secure building, it was used to store royal treasures, and later, parliamentary records. By the mid 19th century, it was used by the Standards Department of the Board of Trade, who determined the values of weights and measures for the United Kingdom and the British Empire. Visit Jewel Tower to study the building's changing use through history, and download our free GCSE Guide for historical information and sources to support a study of the historic environment.Find out more