Offa's Dyke, the Forth Rail Bridge and the Jodrell Bank Observatory are among nearly 40 places which will compete to become World Heritage sites.

The 38-strong list also includes Brunel's Great Western Railway, the Bronte Landscape and Haworth Village, West Yorkshire, Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, the city of York and the Dover Strait, which will all compete to be nominated by the Government next year.

Overseas territories and crown dependencies are also involved, with applications from the Caribbean Turks and Caicos islands and St Helena in the Atlantic, where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled after the Battle of Waterloo.

The Government plans to submit a tentative list of sites to Unesco next year with a view to making nominations in 2012.

There are more than 800 Unesco World Heritage sites, including the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty.

The Tourism and Heritage minister, John Penrose, said: "What all 38 sites have in common is a wow factor and a cultural resonance that makes them real contenders to sit alongside the Pyramids and Red Square in this most distinguished of gatherings."