Lonely Planet Writer

The tourist attractions in England with the best visitor experience

The official tourist board for England, VisitEngland, recently announced the winners of its 2018 Attractions Accolades. Voted for by members of the board’s Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme, the awards recognise the quality of visitor experiences across England. This year, 76 attractions have been awarded an accolade, highlighting all aspects of the visitor experience from story-telling to food and drink and from customer service to overall winners.

East Midlands

King Richard III Visitor Centre is a favourite among tourists. Image by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty

Six attractions bagged a spot in the East Midlands category, including a museum dedicated to writer and poet D.H. Lawrence, the National Space Centre in Leicester and King Richard III Visitor Centre which nabbed ‘Best Story’ award.

East England

Colchester Castle, Essex is a top tourist attraction. Image by Geography Photos/UIG via Getty

In total, 13 attractions were recognised, the majority of which were nature reserves that allow visitors to explore a wide range of natural habitats and wildlife. Other winners include Chilford Hall Vineyard, Sea Life Adventure in Southend-on-Sea and the historic Norman Colchester Castle in Essex.


Tower Bridge in London was named one of the city’s top attractions. Image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty

The ICE Infrastructure Learning Hub won ‘Best Told Story’ for offering visitors a creative way to learn how civil engineering affects all parts of society, while Tower of London and Tower Bridge Exhibition were both awarded ‘Gold’ for all-round services.

North East

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, in Gateshead, is a North East cultural gem. Image by Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty

The jewels of the North East were celebrated with eight winners, including the Gardens at Wynyard Hall in Billingham, home to the UK’s most dazzling rose garden. The Museum of Modern Art in Middlesborough  and family-friendly Adventure Valley in Durham were noted for their welcome, while BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead took home ‘Gold’.

North West

Dee Estuary (which straddles England and Wales) is a top visitor attraction in the North West. Image by Photo Library Wales/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty

Mersey Tunnel Tours in Liverpool, which takes guests behind-the-scenes of the famous Queensway Tunnel, was awarded ‘Best Told Story’. Dee Estuary in Burton Mere Wetlands was noted for its ‘Welcome’, while Chester Zoo and Lakes Distillery in Bassenthwaite Lake both won a ‘Gold’ accolade. In total eight attractions were recognised spanning history, art, nature, food and drink.

South East

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is among the best attractions in the South East. Image by Robin Millard/AFP/Getty

One of the best attractions in the South East is the museum dedicated to British/Norwegian author Roald Dahl. Located in Great Missenden, Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is a place where imaginations can run wild among rooms dedicated to the magic of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and more. Monkey Haven (a primate rescue centre) in Newport and the Historic Dockyard at Chatham were also among the 12 winners in the South East region.

South West

Highgrove Royal Garden, the royal residence of Charles and Camilla, is a popular tourist spot. Image by Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty

The South West has a diverse range of attractions from Aerospace Bristol and Plymouth Gin Distillery to Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. A standout star for tourists is Highgrove Gardens in Gloucestershire, home to Prince Charles and Camilla, which is open to the public for tours.

West Midlands

Chocolatiers at Cadbury World (one of the top tourist spots in the North West) prepare a chocolate Windsor Castle. Image by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty

There’s so much to see and do in this part of England; a total of 16 attractions won awards. Birmingham, in particular, had the highest concentration of tourist treats from Thinktank Science Museum and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to the Jacobean Aston Hall and Cadbury World (home to one of England’s biggest exports: Cadbury chocolate).


A tour of the Emmerdale soap set is a favourite among visitors to Leeds. Image by Tim Whitby/PA Images via Getty

The Emmerdale Village Tour, which goes behind-the-scenes of one of England’s longest-running soaps, was among the three Yorkshire attractions to be recognised. Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve in Goole was awarded as a ‘Hidden Gem’, while the  Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby was a ‘Gold’ winner.

Channel Islands

Jersey has a host of great things to see and do. Image by Michael Heffernan/Lonely Planet

One of the 10 oldest buildings in the world, La Hougue Bie in Grouville, Jersey was one of the three Channel Island winners. The Neolithic structure is a fascinating tourist attraction as it was built long before the Egyptian pyramids and is aligned with the equinox. Other winners include Hamptonne Country Life Museum in St Lawrence and Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, St Helier.

You can view the full list of 76 winners here.