Asked to guess what the UK’s favourite attractions were, you might be expected to say Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London. But it’s Fountains Abbey and the Royal Yacht Britannia that have tied first-place in a survey by the consumer body Which?.
The poll of nearly 3,000 Which? members ranked sites in April and May according to value for money, staff helpfulness and lack of crowds. Fountains Abbey, a famed monastic ruin in North Yorkshire, and the Royal Yacht Britannia, a decommissioned royal yacht moored in Edinburgh, emerged as joint favourites.
The consumer group said it was “easy to see why” the historic sites topped the survey at 88%. “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,” said Guy Hobbs, editor of Which? Travel.
Eight-hundred years ago, 13 Benedictine monks seeking refuge set up Fountains Abbey beside the River Skell. Last year, foundations of a medieval tannery at the abbey were discovered at the UK’s largest monastic ruin now managed by the National Trust, revealing a “missing link” and providing further insight into the abbey’s history.
“It is so easy with a place like Fountains to think this is exactly as the monks saw it. What we are finding is that there is a whole unrecognised history,” said Mark Newman, a trust archaeologist, said upon the discovery in October 2021.
Topping the consumer body’s survey for the second time since 2020, the Royal Yacht Britannia has belonged to the British royal family since 1660, when Charles II bought a small coal ship, named HMY Royal Escape, on which he had fled for France a decade prior. In 1953, and 82 ships later, Britannia was launched and later heavily used by the royal family in nearly 1,000 state visits.
Due to increasing maintenance costs, the yacht was decommissioned in 1997 by Tony Blair, and has since become a lucrative political tool for successive prime ministers.
In 2021, Boris Johnson announced a new national flagship would be built, “reflecting the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation”. His anticipated successor, the foreign secretary Liz Truss, sought to strengthen her leadership campaign by pledging support for another large, national ship.
“I do support the idea of promoting our trade around the world,” Truss said in July, adding that she would turn to the private sector for investment for the projected £200m price tag.
Following the pair, the Roman Baths and Pump Room in Bath, scored third, alongside the Culzean Castle and Country Park in Scotland, managed by the National Trust for Scotland.