They will be considered for the honour by Unesco - the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation - and could join the ranks of world-famous monuments like the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon.
If the sites are selected they will get no special benefits but it could help them to attract more tourists.
UK sites hope to join the Taj Mahal
The shortlist of 25, of which three are in overseas territories, is the result
of a widespread consultation exercise, involving 500 authorities and individuals.
The focus is on natural sites and industrial heritage in a move away from palaces, castles and historic towns which are felt to be over-represented in western Europe.
The Forth Rail Bridge has been nominated as a work of creative genius, while sections of the Paddington-Bristol railway line and Chatham Naval Base in Kent are also included.
Hopeful: Shakespeare's Stratford-on-Avon
To meet Unesco standards, sites must be of "outstanding universal value".
The Culture Secretary Chris Smith announced the candidates to be considered for the accolade in the next five to 10 years.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I believe we've got now a very good list which includes something we've never had before which is some strong landscape contenders like the Lake District and the Cairngorms and some of our industrial heritage too."
But not everybody was happy with the list of nominees. E-mails sent to BBC Radio 4's Today programme complained of omissions such as Bletchley Park - birthplace of the modern computer - the Needles off the Isle of Wight and the UK canal system.
On the canal system, Mr Smith pointed out that parts of the Manchester and Salford canals were already on the list but that it would be inappropriate to nominate the whole canal system.
Although he recognised the importance of Bletchley as the nerve centre that cracked the German secret code during World War II and then became the home of the modern computer, he said there were not enought artefacts to justify its nomination to Unesco.