Tourists’ most embarrassing questions revealed by English Heritage


English Heritage has released a list of the most embarrassing questions asked by visitors to the country’s historic sites and the worst is an unwitting insult to one of Britain’s most sombre monarchs.

A young visitor to Queen Victoria’s summer palace Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, was told that she had nine children and asked: “Did they all have the same dad?”

Another visitor appeared disappointed when he learned that the lavishly decorated building was once home to a Queen, and not the current residence of rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his television presenter wife Sharon.

The series of questions were released to mark the start of an English Heritage campaign to encourage shy tourists to ask guides if they have a query about the building they have come to see.

The organisation’s hope is that more questions will mean that the buildings make more of an impression, which will encourage the visitors to tell others of what they have experienced and could boost visitor numbers.

Other faux pas include the tourist who asked why the English seemed so keen on erecting ruined castles around the country.

One visitor to Whitby Abbey, in North Yorkshire, asked a guide whether they were looking around Dracula’s castle.

Castles appear to have confused tourists from countries without a tradition of giant stone fortresses. One young girl gazed at Clifford’s Tower, in York – built after the Norman Conquest – and asked her guide: “Is this a bouncy castle?”

Children at other sites have made amusing errors, such as at Cleeve Abbey in Somerset, where one group were told to look out for monks when what they had hoped to see were monkeys.

But it is not only children who are prone to the occasional lapse of logic while strolling through England’s historic buildings.

One anonymous visitor was interested in becoming a supporter of English Heritage and asked: “How long does life membership last?”

Another asked: “Are the tunnels underground?”

A tourist at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, who was looking at a 300 million-year-old rock formation, asked: “Is that a manmade jetty?”

Tina Corrim, head of education at English Heritage, said: “We’ve all had the experience of wanting to ask a question and regretting not doing so when the moment has passed.

“When it comes to topics such as history, people can often be embarrassed to voice their queries, but the only way to learn is to ask.

“Learning about history should be fun as well as educational. It is important that children and parents ask us their questions about the properties. You might find out something amazing.”


“Is this where Sharon and Ozzie actually live?” – a visitor to Osborne House, Isle of Wight

“What time do you switch the mist off?” – a visitor to Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels, in Kent

“Where are the monkeys?” – a group of children at Cleeve Abbey in Somerset

“Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?” – a tourist at Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

“Is it a bouncy castle?” – a little girl at Clifford’s Tower, York

“Can you tell me where I can see the Hobbits?” – a visitor to Kenwood House, Hampstead

“Did they all have the same dad?” – a visitor to Osborne House, Isle of White, who learned of Queen Victoria’s nine children

“How many bricks are there?” – a visitor to Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire

“Does my ferret need to be on a lead in this area?” – a visitor to Kenwood House, Hampstead

“How long does life membership last?” – a visitor to Osborne House, Isle of White

“Did Lady Rachel ever de-bone her fish before eating it?” – a visitor to Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire

“Are the tunnels underground?” – a visitor to Dover Castle and Secret Wartime Tunnels, Kent

“Is that a manmade jetty?” – a visitor to Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, pointing at a 300 million-year-old rock formation

“Is this Dracula’s Castle?” – a visitor to Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire.