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Palace is 'poor value for money'

Buckingham Palace heads a list of Britain's top heritage sites condemned for offering shoddy service and poor value for money in a Consumers' Association report published today.

High prices mean thousands of British children are being priced out of learning about their national heritage, while overseas visitors are encouraged with discounts, the Holiday Which? magazine claims.

The palace is one of the most expensive tourist sites in the country, raking in pounds 5m from an pounds 8.50 entrance fee since it opened to the public two summers ago. Yet it offers visitors little in return for their support, according to the report.

Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, Stonehenge and St Paul's Cathedral also fare badly in the survey, in contrast with the Royal Pavilion in Brighton which comes top of the bill for its "exciting and amazing" displays.

Dickie Arbiter, spokesman for the Royal Collection, which includes Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, dismissed the findings as "absolute nonsense".

The survey says of the Palace: "There is no labelling and no other information, and it is difficult to cross-reference everything you see with the guide- book, especially with the crowds around. There's not enough to justify the price."

Windsor Castle is described as having "impressive" state apartments but with a "poorly presented" picture collection. Too much of the information is about the fire, rather than the history of the castle, "which makes the guidebook essential".

But Mr Arbiter said customer surveys showed more than 90 per cent of the 420,000 people who flowed through Buckingham Palace last year considered it good value.

"The numbers speak for themselves. We're working to capacity and couldn't take any more," he said. Erecting notice boards would make the rooms look "very untidy" and would distract from the experience. "To find out about anything you buy a guide book," he added.

Patricia Yates, editor of Holiday Which? said the cost of visiting Britain's most historic sights had soared well above the rate of inflation and visits were a luxury for most families.

The top 14 heritage attractions

Site Cost for Star

family of 4 rating

Brighton Pavilion pounds 10 *****

Bath, Roman Baths pounds 13 ****

Dover Castle pounds 17.10 ****

Edinburgh Castle pounds 14 ****

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire pounds 10.95 ****

Hampton Court, Surrey pounds 19.30 ****

Osborne House, Isle of Wight pounds 20.35 ***

Polesden Lacey, Surrey pounds 16.70 ***

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex pounds 9 ***

Stonehenge, Wiltshire pounds 9 **

St Paul's Cathedral, London pounds 14 **

Tower of London pounds 21.95 **

Windsor Castle pounds 21.70 **

Buckingham Palace pounds 29.50 *

Most prices include the cost of a guide book. Where enough information is available on display, no guidebook price is included