Before moving to the UK I had never heard of The National Trust and now the phrase is music to my ears. Similar to some ways to the National Park Service in the United Statues The National Trust is a charity organization whose aim is heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. One can pay each time they visit a site or get an annual membership which Mark and I received from my in-laws for Christmas in 2019.
I do not think anyone knew what 2020 was going to look like a that time but outdoor parks were one of the few things we were able to do that year and we really took full advantage of our membership. While these days we have not visited as many it is still worth it and we even put a membership on our wedding registry!
As memberships go a single adult can get an annual pass for £77 a year ($94 given the current exchange rate) or a joint membership for two adults living at the same address is £126 a year ($158). We certainly get our money’s worth but the savings really vary as some have admission fees to entry the property – £12 per person for Little Moreton – and some are free, like Aria Falls, but there is a fee for parking which is free with National Trust membership.
The 500+ places that the National Trust looks after really vary, from houses and buildings to gardens and coastlines and while I had trouble counting how many Mark and I have been to, here are some of my favorites:
Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire
While the picture below shows a stately home you can really only go in one room to grab a coffee or use the bathroom but that’s okay as you come for the gardens. You can more details in my post The Biddulph Grange Garden in Staffordshire but these landscaped Victorian gardens really are worth a visit especially with the influences from all of over the world including Italy, Egypt, the Himalayas, and China!
The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent
The official description, a “magnificent coastal site overlooking the English Channel” and that is spot on. Mark took me to the Cliffs on one of our first dates and its geographical position on the in English coast made my phone think I was actually in France (even though it is more than a hundred miles away). The sheer cliffs are more than 350 feet tall which you can see in the photo below and also in my post on The White Cliffs of Dover.
Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
While not a castle I do love a historic home and this one dates back to 1504. It was built by a prosperous landowner and his family owned this timber house for more than 450 years before giving it over to the National Trust for preservation. I have seen it described in so many ways from “lifted straight from a fairy story, a gingerbread house” to “arguably the finest half-timbered manor in England” and whichever description you choose, it is worth a visit.
Palladian Bridge, Somerset
As seen in my post, An Insiders Guide to Bath the Prior Park Landscape Gardens really are gorgeous. And for me, the highlight of this 18th century estate is Palladian Bridge, aptly named after the 18th century architecutal style, Palladian architecture, in which it was built. Even though it only dates to 1755 – practically brand new for England – you can see the influences of the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans.
The Cotswolds is one of the prettiest places in England and within it you can find the town of Blbury. Only 600 people live in this tiny town but you do not visit for the people, this row of tenanted 17th-century weavers’ cottages is a sight to behold!
The Lake District National Park, Cumbria
While the Lake District spans nearly 1,000 square miles it is a bit hard to call it a National Trust site. However, the charity does care for over 20% of the Lake District National Park and it has now been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have posted about a number the beautiful locations in the Lake District but two of my favorites are shown below – the mountain Helvellyn and the National Trust Bridge House a 17th Century Home in Ambleside on the North edge of Lake Windermere.
Corfe Castle, Dorset
Years ago I dedicated a whole post about the ruined castle 1,000 years of history when Mark took me as part of my birthday weekend in 2019 and it was a fun walk down memory lane to read it again this week. It was a Saxon stronghold and dominating force for centuries now and while a ruin, still filed with a ton of history! And while it has nothing to do with the National Trust I highly recommend a vist to the Pig on the Beach, a hotel and restaurant only five miles away.
Runnymede and Ankerwycke, Surrey
While you may not have heard of either of these locations Runnymede is quite famous as the site of the sealing of Magna Carta over 800 years ago. Mark and I visited on a day trip as his brother lives in a nearby town and I had fun posing in the monument constructed to mark the location. And while there make sure you make the trip across the river to Ankerwycke to see the Ankerwycke Yew is the National Trust’s oldest tree dating back 2,500 years.
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire
Only a 20 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s house in Derbyshire is an absolutely stunning country estate. The medieval village no longer exists as the owner of this manor house demolished it to build this neo-classical manor house. You can read more about it as I included it in my Derbyshire Long Weekend post but it is worth a visit, even if the house is closed and you can only explore the gardens!
Aira Force and Ullswater, Cumbria
While in the Lake District which I mentioned above, I wanted to specifically call out Aira Force. This is the most famous of the Lake District waterfalls and is surrounded by a Victorian park. It is only a 15-minute walk from the parking lot to see this waterfall which falls 70 feet from below a stone bridge. If you visit, make sure to walk over the bridge as it provides a completely different vantage point.
Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, East Sussex
While the photo below may look a bit like the White Cliffs of Dover the Seven Sisters cliffs are more than 60 miles East along the Southern Coast of England. These cliffs are considered both prettier and whiter plus the seven peaks (hence the name) make for a fantastic hike and the cliffside walk up and down creates a magical experience. If you are planning a visit I have recapped my recommendations in my Hiking the Seven Sisters post but proper attire is highly recommended!
Box Hill, Surrey
Box Hill made the list of my London Day trip recommendations and it also deserves as spot on this list. Located about 20 miles Southwest of London it’s west-facing slope offers a great hike to the summit or you can drive nearly all the way up and simply visit for a leisurely picnic.
And it turns out I have been to the most popular National trust property is a place I visited before I had a membership – in-fact before I even lived in Europe. In Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom) I took a day trip to Giant’s Causeway which is a popular spot according to the BBC, with close to 700,000 visitors per year pre-COVID.
Putting together this made me realize how many more places I want to visit and I actually made a list via Google Maps as I put together this post which already has 15+ spots. Weekend trips, here we come!