This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Visit a Protected Wreck Site

Of the 52 Protected Wreck Sites off England there are currently five (and more to come) that you can access on a protected wreck dive trail. For those who prefer to stay dry, there are virtual tours of some fascinating wrecks, or you can visit a wreck that lies above water.

A map of the locations of wrecks with legal protection around the coast of the UK dated October 2016
There are currently 52 wrecks designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 in England © Historic England

Dive trails

Run by licensees and charter boats skippers, dive trails enable interested divers to get responsible access to protected wreck sites. Historic England has supported the development of these dive trails and the interpretation materials they include. Divers visiting the trails get the benefit of the insight and orientation provided by the trails and also the experience of the licensed teams and their archaeologists.

Follow the links below to find out about the wrecks and how to access the dive trails that are currently open:

A new trail will open on Thorness Bay in early 2017 and we have plans to establish additional trails over the coming years. Follow #HEDiveTrail on Twitter for updates on their development.

A selection of documents available on the Iona II dive trail including underwater booklets, leaflets and specialist information sheets.
An example of the materials available on a visit to the Iona II dive trail © Wessex Archaeology

How divers rate the dive trails

The feedback from all of the trails has been very positive. Divers tell us that the trail booklets really help get orientated underwater and help them understand what they are seeing.

An archaeological diver takes measurements of the structure of protected wreck site
A diver visits the Colossus protected wreck site dive trail. Copyright: CISMAS © Kevin Camidge

How your dive helps us to care for the wrecks

We ask divers to share the photos they take of protected wreck sites with us. The photos you supply help us to monitor the condition of the wreck site as part of our Heritage at Risk work. Photos can be shared with @HE_Maritime on Twitter using the #HEDiveTrail hashtag or added to the wreck's List entry. Find out how to share your dive photos on the The List.

Your visits to wreck sites accompanied by licensed divers also deter those thinking of illegally accessing the wrecks.

Want to see wrecks without getting wet?

Not everyone can dive and indeed not all of historic wreck sites are underwater. At low tide you can walk to these three historic shipwrecks in Devon.

We have also recently commissioned a series of virtual dive trails that you can tour without getting wet:

The Colossus virtual dive trail showing the wreck and dive points depicted against a black background.
The Colossus virtual dive trail © CISMAS

Coming soon are virtual dive trails for:

  • London
  • Thorness Bay
  • Coronation

These trails use new technologies such as multi-image photogrammetric recording, 3D printing of geophysical survey data and virtual reality and augmented reality techniques. These new techniques allow viewers to see a clear 3D image of a site. Not only do they bring maritime archaeology to life for the non-diver, they’re a lot easier to interpret than more traditional geophysical survey techniques or photographs taken in poor visibility. They can even aid archaeologists’ work on land by allowing measurements to be taken and analysis to be carried out post-dive.

On 1 April 2015 the part of English Heritage represented on this website changed its name to Historic England. You may notice that some of our content still refers to English Heritage. We are in the process of rebranding, but in the meantime please be assured that all our content and guidance is still current.

Was this page helpful?

Related publications

Related News