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Today we start a brief series of mobile app reviews, looking at those with a heritage or prehistoric remit. First up is the Heritage app, by Little Polar Apps, available for iOS devices only.


The Heritage app is essentially a gazetteer of around 2000 heritage sites across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Directions to a site can be obtained via the native Apple maps app, and registered users can leave a review of their visit to a site for others to read.

The app had it’s origins in a Cornish holiday when the developer, who struggled with the official English Heritage Member’s Guide, was trying to get a grip on how the sites related geographically to each other. Developed in less than 8 weeks, with over 1000 man-hours spent on collating information about the included sites, the app is a real labour of love. Sadly, although some National Trust properties were included, they later requested that they not be included – an odd decision, given that property listings are free, and effectively provide free advertising for the Trust. But English Heritage properties, the Churches Conservation Trust properties and many independent sites are included and another 500 properties are in the pipeline to be added soon.

So what do you get once the app is installed on your device? Opening up the app for the first time displays your current location (if available) on a map, and a column on the left shows the nearest sites.


Each site consists of a thumbnail picture and the approximate distance to the site from your current location, along with a series of icons.

Clicking on the right-arrow ‘>’ leads to a screen that displays information about the selected site. The same icons are displayed on this screen, and work in the same way. A back-arrow at top left returns to the original map view.


What do the icons do? The first, a Speech Bubble, displays contact details for the site, where available. This wasn’t working on my version, but the developer has been made aware of this and is investigating the issue.


Next, the Star icon allows a site to be added to a Favourites list. On the map view, the list of nearby sites can be switched to display any Favourites that have been saved, allowing quick access to those sites. The ‘Swirly Arrow’ icon provides access to directions via the standard Maps app. I found this only works if the site is within a reasonable distance from your current location – this distance can be set in the App Settings. Finally the Pen icon allows input and submission of a short review of the selected site for others to read. To use this facility you must be a registered user, and logged in – a simple enough process.

This last item is where the app could really prove very useful, given enough take up by the user base. At present, the app has not yet gained enough ‘traction’ with users within the marketplace.

Back on the map view as previously stated, a list of nearby sites is displayed by default. There is a search box, but this seemingly only searches on place names, and then in a somewhat eccentric way. A search for ‘Chipping’ (expecting to be asked to select between ..Norton, ..Sodbury, ..Campden, ..Barnet etc.) apparently centred results upon Stevenage in Hertfordshire! A similar search for ‘Burton’ centred on a small village in North Devon rather than offering the much better served (heritage-wise) Burton upon Trent as an alternative.

When results are returned, there seems to be no way to filter the list. Although there appears to be a good selection of sites listed, there is currently no control to, for instance, filter out the churches, or to look just at castles, or sites from a particular period (Pre-history/Roman/Medieval etc.) Sadly due to lack of development resource, this is not currently on the development plan (but if things change…)

Looking in the iPad Notification Centre, there are options to receive notifications from the app, of events at participating sites within a set distance of your current location. This feature is still under development and will only improve.

In conclusion, despite it’s obvious shortcomings, I still feel this is a useful weapon in my heritage searching armoury, as it appears to have a good range of sites (there are plans to include some sites in France next) and the ‘near me’ feature is useful. Yes, the info on individual sites is minimal – info about opening times, prices etc is very patchy and often missing completely but this is largely due to the lack of input from the various site management companies rather than lack of effort by the developers. Yes, the search facility is eccentric – but this could be a result of using the Apple Maps app, which has had it’s fair share of problems.

Whilst it will never earn the developer his fortune, it’s a laudable effort that deserves better user participation, and at just 69p this could turn out to be a very useful tool indeed for those days out where you say “I wonder what else around here is worth seeing?” I would strongly recommend as many people as possible to start using it, register and submit your reviews. And maybe contact the developer to say thanks!

Heritage App, by Little Polar Apps Ltd is currently available on iOS devices only (69p), via iTunes or the Apple store, and was tested by us on a 64Gb Apple iPad Mini with retina display.


June 2014

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