I used to think that having a National Trust membership, meant that you were either old, boring or a family.
However, I have held a National Trust membership for the past two years, and I can now revise my opinions.
What is the National Trust and where is it?
The National Trust is one of the UK’s largest charties, and was founded in 1895. Its purpose is to “look after places of historic interest or natural beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
The trust owns over 350 heritage properties across the UK, ranging from historic houses and gardens, as well as world hertitage sites on some of the most beautiful coastlines in the country.
So with that in mind, there is bound to be several incredible sites near you that you can explore.
We have already visited a number of the local sites to us, and they have become firm favourites. However, we do also like to make a stop off at few when we are elsewhere in the country.
Here are some places we have visited over the past few years.
Places to visit
Northern Ireland is my homeland, and so of course it is a great place to start. The National Trust has at least 18 different sites in Northern Ireland, but sadly I have probably only been to half of those.
Northern Ireland has gained a lot more tourist traffic in the past few years, thanks to the Game of Thrones series, a lot of which was filmed in and around my home county. So if you are heading to Northern Ireland for your GOT fix, then you should really consider stopping by at some of these places too:
The Giants Causeway, County Antrim
Arguably one of the most famous spots in Northern Ireland. In fact, when I tell people that I am from Northern Ireland and they ask where abouts (often asking if I am from Belfast). I will ask them if they have heard of the Giants Causeway, and then tell them that I went to school about 10 minutes from there. Amazing right?
To be fair, my love of the Giants Causeway and the north coast has increased since I left my homeland.
Now each time I return, I fall even more in love with it again.
Having a husband from England, the Causeway was one of the first National Trust spots I took him to. He loved it and we both captured some amazing shots.
You can access the Causeway for free. However National Trust members will get free parking and access to the visitors centre. You can also pick up a free audio guide, or book in with a tour guide to take you around.
Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry
This beach has been where I have virtually grown up. Portstewart strand is an approximately 3 mile long beach, with a concrete jetty at the end (known as the barmouth).
The beach has golden sand, and incredible dunes which are great for sand surfing down.
I spent many of my childhood days, eating takeaways, building sandcastles, sand surfing, body boarding and going on long walks with family.
Downhill and Mussenden Temple, County Londonderry
Another spot famous from the GOT series is the Downhill Demesne. It is another great spot for a walk. The beach (where filming took place) is a smooth sandy beach. On the hill you will see Mussenden temple, which is a stunning circular temple building. The Temple can be booked out for weddings or photoshoots.
We had a small wedding photoshoot back in May last year when I came to see extended family after our wedding (photograph by my husband)
Carrick-a-reede rope bridge, County Antrim
Another fantastic landmark on the North Coast is the Carrick-a-reede rope bridge. There is a long walk down to the bridge with many steps, (so you should wear some sturdy shoes!) but it is worth it when you get there.
In the days of my childhood, we paid a 50p entry fee, and I used to run across the bridge and bounce on it to make my other sisters scared (forever the risk taking adventurer!)
I don’t think that jumping or running is allowed now for health and safety reasons. In fact, there are only a certain number of people allowed on the bridge at any given point.
England has a bucket load (otherwise known as – I don’t actually know, or haven’t looked up) of places to explore as a National Trust member. Here are some of my favourite places I have seen over the past few years.
South East of England
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
Bodiam Castle is ‘just up the road’ from us and we have spent many days out here. The Castle is an open one, rather than one with restored rooms with artefacts. However, it is still as grand as ever. It has a moat (all the best castles have one!) and a drawbridge to enter. You can climb up into the towers and see for miles.
There are often events, and lots of wildlife around too. During one of our visits we captured this little fella below on one of our outings (how scary are those eyes?)
Sheffield Park and Gardens, East Sussex
Sheffield Park is a great place to visit thoughout the year. I love visiting in the Autumn though, when all the trees are turning a beatufiul golden colour.
Sheffield Park is a vast park, great for walking in and around. There is also a grand gothic country house in the grounds.
There is a woodland walk area too, with plenty to keep your little ones entertained.
Scotney Castle, East Sussex
Scotney Castle is located just outside Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It is less of an actual castle, and more of a beautiful country house.
Nevertheless, it is stunning, and a brilliant day out.
There are two ‘castles’ on the site – an old and a new. The new castle can be explored inside. For your little explorers there is a mini treasure hunt to find items in the house.
Bateman’s, East Sussex
Bateman’s is another one of our local National Trust sites. It is located in Burwash, in the high weald area of East Sussex.
Bateman’s was a new discovery for us, and is the former home of Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book.
There are beautifully managed gardens to explore, as well as an Old Mill, which use to power the house.
Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, East Sussex
Around National Trust location just ‘up the road’ from us is the beautiful Birling Gap and Seven Sisters. As a National Trust member, you can park here for free. Otherwise it is pay and display.
Belle Tout lighthouse sits at the top of Birling Gap, which has spectacular views over the South Down’s and the Seven Sisters. You can actually stay at this lighthouse – how awesome is that?
I haven’t spent quite enough time in this area as I should have, but it is in the plan. You can actually walk all the way to Seven Sisters country park (near Seaford), on the cliff top walk – a mere 6.4 miles!
Nyman’s Gardens, West Sussex
Nymans is located a little south of Crawley in West Sussex.
It is a quintessentially english garden, with wonderful grounds to meander around. We have been fortunate to have gone during great weather, and captured some lovely flowers and bee life.
South West of England
Corfe Castle, Dorset
When we visited Corfe Castle, we really felt that we should have signed up to be National Trust members. A gift aid entry is £11.20 per adult. Whereas a joint membership is £9.50 per month for 2 adults – so it is totally worth it.
Corfe Castle is perching on a hill, and has a little incline to reach it. The castle is ruins, but has great views from the top.
Stourhead is located in Warminster, not far from Glastonbury and Sailsbury. It was a picture perfect location for us, after attending a summer wedding nearby. We visited on a warm summers day, and enjoyed walking around the expansive grounds.
There were plenty of ducks roaming around in the sunshine, and we enjoyed basking in it ourselves.
The grounds contain the palladian mansion, a man made lake, farm, woodland and gardens, and are just glorious.
There is also a little tea room and ice cream shop in summer months.
Lanhydrock is a country estate and manison located near Bodmin in Cornwall. We visited, whislt on route from Dorset to Cornwall earlier last year.
There is a great house, which dates back to victorian times, which you can tour around.
The grounds are expansive, and great for a sunday (or any day stroll)
Carnewas & Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall
The Cornish coast is one of the most stunning regions in the country. You could honestly mistake it for being in France or Spain at times.
The carnewas & bedruthan steps are located in between Newquay and Padstow, and the steps take you down to bedruthan beach. There are quite a number of steps to get to the beach, and they can be quite slippery. However, it is worth the climb down (and up again) to see the stunning sandy beach.
The National Trust own the cafe and car park to the steps, so members get to park for free.
Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
Hardwick Hall is located in Chesterfield in Derbyshire, and is a elizabethan country house.
It overlooks the beautiful derbyshire countryside, although on the day we visited, we couldn’t see much of the countryside as it poured it down with rain.
We therefore spent the majority of our time in the house, or in the tea room.
The North of England
Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire
Brimham Rocks is located just outside Harrogate in North Yorkshire. They are a balancing rock formation, with beautiful views of the yorkshire dales.
It reminded me somewhat of the Punakaiki rocks in New Zealand (minus the water)
The walk around the area is lovely, and if you are brave enough you can climb all over them.
There is a small cafe in a hut, shop and toilets. It is free to visit the rocks, but pay and display parking (free to NT members).
Speke hall and gardens, Liverpool
Speke Hall is a Tudor sytle manor house, located in Speke, Liverpool. In fact, it is really close to Liverpool John Lennon airport.
The building is a grade one listed building, and one of the finest surviving examples of the tudor times.
As always, the grounds are beautiful – incredible for picnics, playing games and smelling the flowers.
You can also see planes take off from the airport (if you are a plane geek like me).
Why become a National Trust member?
- You are supporting an incredible charity and helping to perserve wonderful sites around the country.
- You will never run out of things to do at the weekend or those sunny or rainy bank holidays.
There are so much more places in the NT network I have yet to discover, and so glad I have my membership in which to do so.
There are a number of membership options, including single, joint, family andn senior memberships. Joining can be done online, or at a National Trust site. You’ll get a pack in the post shortly after signing up with a handbook of places, as well as the important car park sticker and membership card.