Ian Weightman

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Our National Treasures...

While the likes of Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench clearly are National Treasures, Private Eye has been having some mischievous fun recently - naming-and-shaming the media who have recently dubbed everyone from Eddie Mair, Steven Gerrard, Charlotte Green, Billy Connolly and even Madness as “National Treasures”.

It’s all subjective, of course.  And there will always be as many people for naming (say) Danny Boyle a “National Treasure”, as there are against.

But the same can be applied to UK tourist attractions.  Which of them are our real National Treasures?  And what would you base your arguments on?

Is it simply a matter of longevity?  Travel gazetteers from as early as the 12th century - such as Henry of Huntingdon - have long been naming their ‘top ten’ lists and up to the 19th century they all seemed to be agreed on one thing: that the top four “wonders” (or National Treasures) were (and possibly still are) Stonehenge, The Lake District, Peak District and Cheddar Gorge.

Now I don’t begin to claim to have enough knowledge of the British Isles to even start a definitive list of our National Treasures.  But I’d certainly agree that those four are a pretty good starting point.  After that, however…well, there’s bound to be room for debate.

At what point do 20th century attractions (including some of our favourite seaside resorts) start to be included, for example?  And do you categorize “London” as a visitor attraction, or would that need to be broken down into individual attractions within the capital (The Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The British Museum, and The Natural History Museum, and so on). Is it about visitor figures?  Longevity?  Or simply a “fondness” for the place!

It can’t simply be a top 10 list either.  Can it?

Oh dear – I’m so glad I started this…

But in addition to Stonehenge, The Lake District, The Peak District and Cheddar Gorge, I’d also like to nominate another couple of “National Treasures” myself: The Cotswolds (whose age, beauty, and enduring sex appeal makes it the Helen Mirren equivalent of UK visitor attractions); The Isle of Wight for which we give thanks to another National Treasure – Queen Victoria – for helping to make it what it is today); and “The Potteries” (an unfashionable choice, maybe, but just think about all of the famous names which – to this day - help to carry the words “Made in England” around the world).

But then again, I really will need to insist on some kind of “declaration of interest” for anyone wanting to propose a visitor attraction as a National Treasure.

In my case that’s a declaration that I - ahem! - appear to be representing more than half of the “National Treasures” on my list.

And I’m not sure whether that’s a coincidence.  Or simply very good fortune.

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