From Hastings in 1066 to Culloden in 1746, a great number of battles have been fought on UK soil. And while we can read about them, visiting battlefields can shed new light on what it would’ve been like amongst the action.
While the location of some battles are unknown, there are various well-known battlefields you can visit – many of which are accompanied by impressive visitor centres and interactive displays.
With that said, here are 11 battlefield sites you can visit in the UK.
1. The Battle of Hastings (1066), East Sussex
Probably the most famous and well-known battle in English history is the 1066 Battle of Hastings, where William the Conqueror’s victory against King Harold ended Anglo-Saxon rule in England. And today, you can visit the site where it’s believed to have happened.
Walking the battlefield trail, you’ll follow in the footsteps of both armies – encountering carved wooden sculptures of soldiers, which help to bring the story to life along the way.
Soon after his victory, William also built Battle Abbey in the area where King Harold was killed. Today, a memorial stone, known as the ‘Harold Stone’ can be found in the grounds, marking the exact spot where he died.
The Battle of Hastings visitors centre also has an interactive museum and a vivid retelling of the battle. And guests can test whether they’re strong enough to carry a Norman shield into battle or head to the gatehouse roof for views over the battlefield.
A re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings is also held on the battlefield every year in October.
2. The Battle of Towton (1461), North Yorkshire
This quiet, unassuming field between York and Leeds is the site of what many consider to be the biggest, most barbaric, and bloody battle in British history.
On 29th March 1461 during the Wars of the Roses, Lancastrian and Yorkist forces stood amidst blustering wind and a blinding snowstorm ready to fight.
An estimated 28,000 soldiers – around 1% of the entire population at the time – died here, in what was later named Bloody Meadow. Knowing that this otherwise peaceful stretch of farmland was the last thing seen by thousands of people is enough to send shivers down your spine even on the sunniest of days.
One of England’s last original standing crosses sits on this battlefield, and there are a number of signposts and information boards that document the battle dotted along a battlefield trail. There are also a number of reconstructions and artefacts housed at York’s nearby Richard III Experience, which makes an ideal accompanying visit.
3. The Battle of Culloden (1746), Inverness
The Battle of Culloden was fought near Inverness in Scotland on 16th April 1746. It marked the end of a series of Jacobite risings and a contest for the monarchy that had lasted almost 60 years.
Culloden was an attempt by Prince Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites to regain the throne for his father – exiled King James II. James had been deposed in 1688 (largely due to his pro-Catholic policies) by Mary II and her husband William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution.
The Jacobites suffered a brutal defeat at the hands of the British army in what became known as one of the most harrowing battles in British history.
Today, you can experience the battle first-hand at the Battle of Culloden visitor centre, which features a 360-degree battle immersion theatre. There are also unique weapons and artefacts on display, as well as storytelling of the battle from both Jacobite and Government perspectives.
On the battlefield itself, you can walk along the battle lines and see the graves of soldiers beside the large memorial that stands in its centre.
4. The Battle of Tewkesbury (1471), Gloucestershire
Another decisive battle in the Wars of the Roses was the Battle of Tewkesbury, fought on the 4th May 1471. Ending with the death of Edward, Prince of Wales, the battle marked the Yorkist’s final defeat of Lancastrian forces – leaving the Yorkist King Edward IV free to continue his reign unopposed.
Today, much of Tewkesbury battlefield remains open and untouched, and there’s a useful 45-minute waymarked route fitted with information panels that’ll take you through areas of particular significance to the battle. This includes the infamous ‘Bloody Meadow’ where many Lancastrian forces became trapped while fleeing, as well as Tewkesbury Abbey itself.
Tewkesbury Battlefield Society also holds monthly guided walks which you can join. And Tewkesbury Medieval Festival – now largely recognised as the largest medieval gathering of its kind in Europe – is held every year in July.
5. The Battle of Bannockburn (1314), Stirling
The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 marked a key turning point in Scottish history. It was here that Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II’s English army and put Scotland on the road to full independence.
The Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre near Stirling has worked hard to create the multi-award-winning experience to help people learn more about Bannockburn. With cutting-edge 3D technology, it puts visitors at the heart of the action with a digitally recreated version of the battle.
You’ll also learn how warriors, knights, pages, and just regular civilians became involved in the conflict and what role they played. And outside, you can wander the battlefield itself, which is home to Pilkington Jackson’s iconic bronze statue of Robert the Bruce.
Note: Tickets for the Battle of Bannockburn Experience need to be purchased in advance for a specific time slot.
6. The Battle of Edgehill (1642), Warwickshire
The Battle of Edgehill took place in a large open field between Kineton and Radway in Warwickshire on the 23rd October 1642. It was the first major battle of the English Civil War and kickstarted a decade-long conflict between Crown and Parliament.
A permanent exhibition is held in St Peter’s Church Radway nearby the battlefield, offering information and insights into the Battle of Edgehill – as well as the effect that the English Civil War as a whole has on the rural population of Warwickshire.
There’s also a four mile Edgehill Battlefield Walking Trail, which is a great way to connect with key parts of the battle.
7. The Battle of Bosworth Field (1485), Leicestershire
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is a multi-award-winning interactive exhibition dedicated to telling the story of the Battle of Bosworth. Henry Tudor’s (later Henry VII) defeat of King Richard III here brought the 30-year-long Wars of the Roses to an end and began the Tudor dynasty.
The exact location of Bosworth battlefield was previously debated, until various unique artefacts, including cannon balls and items lost by soldiers (such as the iconic Bosworth Boar badge), were discovered in Leicestershire’s south west countryside.
Today, you can walk the 2.2km battlefield trail, which has audio guides and visual information stations – or join a guided walk with an experienced leader.
In the heritage centre itself, there are a number of artefacts on display, as well as films, images, activities, and retellings from characters who lived through the battle – like Henry Tudor’s stepfather, Thomas Stanley. Visitors can also get a taste of the battle themselves by stepping into armour and trying their hand at a medieval archer’s bow.
8. The Battle of Flodden (1513), Northumberland
Over 500 years ago, on the 9th September 1513, around 14,000 Scottish and English soldiers died within just a few hours at the Battle of Flodden.
In what was one of the bloodiest battles in English history and the largest ever Anglo-Scottish battle, King James IV of Scotland was heavily defeated by English forces under the Earl of Surrey. James became the last British monarch to die in battle in Britain.
A monument, which was erected in 1910, pays tribute to those who died at Flodden, and the battlefield trail – which features information boards documenting the battle – covers the ground where the two armies fought in combat.
Visitors have free and open access to the battlefield site year-round.
9. The Siege of Derry (1689), Londonderry
The walls of Derry – or Londonderry as it became known in 1613 – were the central target of the 1689 Siege of Derry, at the hands of exiled British King, James II.
After being deposed by his Protestant Mary II and her husband William of Orange during the 1688 Glorious Revolution, James II landed in Ireland – hoping to incite support and regain the British throne.
On 20th April 1689, James’ forces surrounded Derry, where many Irish supporters of Britain had fled, and began attacking the fortified city. However, the people of Derry refused to surrender and after 105 days of siege, British forces arrived to relieve the city, and James was forced to retreat.
The Siege of Derry precluded the Battle of Boyne in eastern Ireland 11 months later. Here, James suffered a final defeat against the forces of William and Mary.
Visitors can wander around the city, reimagining the scenes of the siege, or pay a visit to Londonderry’s Siege Museum to delve deeper into the history.
10. The Battle of Naseby (1645), Northampton
Fought on a foggy morning of 14th June 1645, the Battle of Naseby is considered one of the most important battles of the English Civil War – and of English history as a whole.
After almost three years of fighting, a 14,000 strong Parliamentarian army defeated King Charles I’s Royalist army of around 9,000 soldiers. Naseby was the final key battle of the Civil War and established Parliament’s right to a permanent role in government.
Today, the Naseby Battlefield Project provides information about the Civil War itself, and the political and social history of the era. There are also battlefield tours available.
Apart from the addition of farm buildings and field fences, the battlefield remains largely untouched. There are also no uncertainties over the location or timeline of the battle, so visitors can confidently stand on the exact ground where democracy in England was born.
11. The Battle of Sedgemoor (1685), Somerset
The Battle of Sedgemoor took place in the early morning of 6th July 1685. It was the final stage of a rebellion led by the Protestant Duke of Monmouth who was attempting to overthrow the Catholic King James II of England.
Sedgemoor is cited by many as the final battle fought on English soil – and is also one of the best understood and accurately located battles in English history.
While the landscape might look different to how it did in 1685, a tour of the battlefield provides visitors an excellent grasp of what the battle would’ve been like and how it was fought. There are a number of information boards and a battlefield monument to see too.
The nearby St. Mary’s Church in Westonzoyland Village (home to The Battle of Sedgemoor Visitor Centre) also has close associations with the Battle of Sedgemoor, as some 500 prisoners – many wounded – were incarcerated here overnight following the battle.
It’s fascinating to look back on our nation’s rich history – and standing on the very soil where some of the significant battles occured can help to bring us one step closer to our past.