From Victorian engineering feats to today’s sky-piercing mega towers, Britain is awash with stunning towers that reach into the sky. We take a look at just 10 of these remarkable achievements in both engineering and construction.
Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth, England
This 170 metre-tall tower resembles a billowing sail fluttering elegantly over the South Coast of England. Taller then Big Ben, Blackpool Tower and the London Eye, it offers far reaching views over Portsmouth, the Channel and the Isle of Wight. Its View Deck 1 incorporates the largest glass floor in Europe where you can ‘walk on air’.
The Gherkin, London, England
The real name of this sci-fi cucumber is 30 St Mary Axe, but its affectionate nickname looks like it's here to stay. Designed by celebrity architect: Norman Foster, the London tower is constructed from interlocking glass 'diamonds', and is 180 metres tall – that’s more than three times the height of Niagara Falls. And, despite its rounded form, it uses only one piece of curved glass – the lens at the top of the building.
Blackpool Tower, Blackpool, England
Opened to the public in 1894, the Blackpool Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower that opened in Paris in 1889. Constructed from steel and iron, it soars above the seaside at a height of 158 metres and comes complete with its own ballroom, a circus, an adventure playground, and even a dungeon!
Perrott’s Folly, Birmingham, England
This brick-built folly, constructed in 1758, is unremarkable but for the fact that the young J. R. R. Tolkien grew up in its shadow on nearby Stirling Road in Birmingham. Perrott’s Folly, and the nearby Waterworks Tower, were the inspiration for the two towers after which the author's second 'Lord of the Rings' book was named. Today the tower is being carefully restored and hosts regular events and exhibitions.
National Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland
A must for those interested in Scottish history, this vast, craggy tower that emerges from a lush forest commemorates Scotland’s famous hero, William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace. See his fearsome broadsword and dramatic reconstructions of his struggle for Scottish freedom, before enjoying the views that look out across the countryside from the ‘crown’ atop the tower.
Castle Coch, near Cardiff, Wales
In a land of castles, it takes something a little bit special to stand out from the crowd. This former 13th-century wreck, just west of Cardiff, was completely rebuilt by William Burges in the 1870s, embodying the ultimate Victorian fairytale fantasy. Castell Coch’s Disney-style turrets poke mysteriously from a wooded hillside and the interiors are lavish, multicoloured and hopelessly romantic.
St Michael’s Tower, Glastonbury, England
Glastonbury is awash in supernatural associations and stands at the junction of ley lines, the supposed mystical motorways of spiritual energy. It's also said to be the final resting place of King Arthur. Slap-bang in the middle of this new age Eden is Glastonbury Tor, topped by St Michael’s Tower. Nobody can quite separate the facts from legend, but one thing’s for sure – the view from the top that stretches across three counties is gorgeous.
Glasgow Tower, Scotland
Standing at 127 metres tall, the Glasgow Tower is currently the tallest tower in Scotland. It holds a Guinness World Record for being the tallest tower in the world which is capable of rotating 360 degrees. It turns into the prevailing wind so Glaswegians can always tell which way the wind is blowing! At the time of writing it is closed for repair.
Big Ben, London, England
This one really needs no introduction. Big Ben is an icon of British democracy: it's the clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, the home of English politics. Technically, Big Ben is, in fact, the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg) and strikes out the hours over the capital. The tower itself is called the Elizabeth Tower, after Her Majesty The Queen. To visit the tower you have to be a UK resident and apply in advance through your Member of Parliament.
The Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield, England
This 14th-century church in Chesterfield is instantly recognisable for its twisting crooked spire. Corkscrewing into the heavens its shape is said to be caused by the absence of cross-bracing in the spire and the use of green timber. We prefer the traditional explanation that the spire was so amazed when a virgin was married in the church that it tried to spin round to get a better look.