For at least a decade now, we’ve been regular visitors to the parks, houses and places of beauty operated and owned by the National Trust (hereafter mostly referred to as the ‘NT’). To me, the NT is a British Institution as fundamental to our culture as the NHS, the BBC, and, Gawd Bless Her, the Queen.
We started in Norfolk, and then began exploring National Trust properties further afield. I won’t lie, we’ve had a wonderful time. Several the NT sites have become some of my favourite places to visit for days out with the family.
There are probably loads, but here are my 7 top reasons we *heart* the National Trust.
1. You can imagine you’re ‘Straight Outta Downtown’ for a day.
Make like the aristocracy and stride through formal Italianate gardens, mansions and parklands as if you were a character straight out of a Julian Fellowes script. Once upon a time, the only people who got to enjoy such luxury were well-heeled types named ‘Peregrine’ or similar (As an aside: what an AWESOME name. I’m tempted to have another child just so we can name him ‘Peregrine’. Really).
Luckily, the landscapes and houses of these lovely, rich, artistic and pleasure-loving folk found their way into NT care and now you can picnic on manicured lawns, admire their ornate statues and relax in the type of surroundings that one might otherwise enjoy very seldom access to.
2. They’re Family Friendly.
The NT has evolved to be ludicrously Family Friendly over the past decade or so. Want a trail map to help you enjoy and explore this massive, old house? Here! Want to run about all over the afore-mentioned manicured lawns? Fine with us. Fancy combining your visit to a Manor House with a visit to what must be one of the Countries’ most massive outdoor adventure playgrounds? With a little train running through it? Sure. Tell you what – we’ll throw in a café with an indoor play area too.
Some of the NT places we’ve visited boast more appeal to children than some purpose-built kid attractions and theme parks we’ve been to. It must be of course, at least in part, a brilliant ploy to engage and retain future NT members at an early age, while also encouraging families to join as members. And haven’t they done well. Bravo.
3. Scones and cakes. That is all.
As British as the NT itself, all the cafés and restaurants on NT sites serve an array of mouth-watering sweet delights (NT shortbread, anyone?). Scones feature highly. Some places even have regularly changing Scone Of The Month. Need we say more?
4. Second Hand Bookshops.
To me, a second-hand bookshop is like a treasure-trove of delight just waiting be explored. And nearly every NT site now seems to have one, with proceeds raised going back into the location. We’ve come away with some fantastic books from second hand bookshops on NT sites; and some incredible bargains.
5. Membership is great value.
From less than £10 a month for a Family of 4 (less if you’re a couple or individual), NT Membership is awesome value. Return to your favourite NT places time and time again all year round at no additional cost, or explore new places while on holiday in Britain. With access too over 500 ‘special places’ (NT’s description, but it’s true), including free parking at most sites, grand days out have never been so good. And all that extra money in your pocket means more scones. Marvellous.
6. You can get closer to Nature.
If you don’t fancy striding round like Lord or Lady of the Manor, and prefer instead to get up close with the Great Outdoors, NT spaces offer plenty of opportunities for exhilarating walks and general exploration.
The last time we went on a walk at Ickworth House, we got completely lost in the woods (owing, possibly, to our terrible map-reading abilities) to the extent where I feared we may actually have to call the Police or someone to find us.
With tracks, walks and trails ranging from a few miles to several miles that you can tackle on bikes, days out at National trust places aren’t all about the ‘inside bits’.
7. Your History.
While we’re on the subject of the ‘inside bits’, the indoor parts of a NT day out are pretty recommend-able too. The NT looks after hundreds of fabulous historic houses that you can explore, many of which are oozing social history and offer fascinating insights into our very own British past.
So, there you have it. 7 very good reasons to take a closer look at the National trust this summer. We certainly plan to visit a few of their places over the holidays.
Want more interesting NT facts? Here are Ten things you might not know about the National Trust.
Our top 7 NT places to visit so far
In no particular order – all superb, family-friendly days out which we throughly endorse.
- Ickworth House, Suffolk.
- Bolton House, Lincs.
- Sheringham Park, Norfolk
- Blickling Hall, Norfolk.
- Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk.
- Anglesey Abbey, Cambs.
- Rhossili Beach, Wales.
You’ll find more information about the National Trust and all the amazing places it looks after here.