You can’t compete with a real-life visit to a treasured historical site. Or a leisurely stroll around your favourite museum.
But when needs must, the online world is a worthy substitute. And with virtual tours and online exhibitions, no closing time or far-away location will get in your way.
If visiting heritage sites, please follow the latest government guidelines and make sure you check the site’s website to find out their latest updates.
Roam the great outdoors
Thanks to the Canal & River Trust, you can immerse yourself in a variety of British waterside spots from the comfort of your own sofa.
Meander along the canals of London’s Little Venice with Google Maps or soar the skies above the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal.
Alternatively, head into the depths of England’s waters, with our virtual dive trails of protected wreckage sites. Using multi-image photogrammetric recording and virtual reality techniques, Royal Navy submarines and armed trawlers from the First World War are free for you to explore.
Visit a historic building
Dramatically straddling the Cornish mainland and a rugged island, Tintagel Castle is arresting in both appearance and history.
With the castle being named as the place where King Arthur was supposedly conceived, its intriguing past is tangled in myth. Even though you may be unable to visit in person, you can explore its enigmatic history online. Take an in-depth look at some of the site’s archaeological objects. Or explore Tintagel in the Dark Ages, with a reconstructed map of the castle in 700AD.
Or for a truly immersive experience, sign up for a 3D personal guided tour of the David Parr House in Cambridge. In the late 19th century, Parr worked as an employee of the Cambridge firm of craftsmen, F R Leach & Sons, decorating stately homes and churches with the Neo-Gothic designs of William Morris, George Frederick Bodley and more.
Parr’s passion for his work translated into his own terraced house, which he dedicated his life to decorating in the style of the buildings he worked on. Immaculately preserved by his family, his home is a unique example of the Arts & Craft movement.
For even more decadence, St Paul’s Cathedral is available to view on a tremendous 360° virtual tour. Zoom in and around architect Christopher Wren’s Baroque masterpiece to get up close and personal with elaborate carvings and mosaics in the world-famous Quire.
Delve into museum collections
World history is your oyster with The British Museum’s Museum of the World. Travel as far back as 2,000,000 BC through intimate studies of artefacts from the museum’s collections. Highlights include a silver lyre from 2600-3000 BC and an Anglo-Saxon glass beaker, one of the earliest examples of Frankish glass production.
If you’re after something a little more local, the Museum of English Rural Life has a variety of online exhibitions that explore the history of England’s countryside, farmers and craftspeople. Browse fascinating archival photographs and contemporary portraits of First and Second World War Land Girls; explore the history of the farm wagon; or discover the history of Britain’s oldest national conservation body, the Open Spaces Society.
Bringing together collections from nine cultural venues, the Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource is a rich library of historic paintings, sculptures and artefacts. Gorgeously populated with Pre-Raphaelite pieces, the entire collection is free for you to download and use as you wish under a Creative Commons Zero Licence.
Explore your local history
Heritage isn’t just part of our national identity, it’s local and personal. And Norfolk County Council Archive’s digital project History Begins at Home encourages people to connect with their family, friends and neighbours through conversations about the past. Download their question sheet, or use archival prompts from their Twitter or Facebook page to instigate nostalgic conversations with your loved ones. What’s your earliest memory of home? What smell makes you think of home?
For something only slightly further afield, discover the listed buildings, scheduled monuments and other protected heritage sites on your doorstep with The National Heritage List for England. Got pictures or knowledge to share about a historic place near you? You’re invited to submit your contributions for a listed site.
You can also discover more about archaeology, historic buildings and social history near you using the Historic England Archive. We hold over 12 million photographs, drawings, reports and publications from the 1850s to the present day, covering the whole country. Over a million of our records can be searched online.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite digital heritage projects in the comments below.