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National Trust Membership Review: How To Get Your Money’s Worth

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Casting my mind back to when I first became a National Trust member, I knew that I wanted to see more of the UK. But I wasn’t 100% sure if I would really make the most of a National Trust membership and whether it was right for me. 

Yet after just a couple of day trips to beautiful National Trust places, I was a very proud member and already bookmarking even more pages in my handbook that I was desperate to visit.

Newark Park
Newark Park is just one of the beautiful places you can visit for free as a National Trust member!

It’s now been five years since I became a member and I even convinced my husband Scott to join as well! 

With all that said, we both thought it was time to finally put pen to paper (so to speak) and write this National Trust membership review. We hope you find it helpful and full of tips on how to truly get your money’s worth as a National Trust member.

Skip ahead links if you need them:

Is A National Trust Membership Worth It?

The short answer is yes, National Trust memberships are certainly worth it. But only if you actually use your membership.

If you visit just six places each year or three or four of the more expensive places we’ll mention shortly, then you’ll easily have made the most of your membership. Any subsequent days out to National Trust places will then basically put you in profit!

Not only that, but you can also enjoy free car parking at lots of National Trust places across the country, as well as free entry to various locations overseas.

All in all, there’s so much to love about being a National Trust member. 

Not to mention you’ll be supporting a worthwhile charity that helps to keep the places the UK is most known for in action for many more years to come. 

Plus, if you’re like us, and you love nature and getting out and about outdoors, or you enjoy history, then the National Trust is pretty much made for you. 

Don’t just take our word for it though! Here are some other National Trust membership reviews to take a look at.

National Trust Membership Benefits & What You’ll Get

There are many benefits of being a National Trust member, including the perks that every standard National Trust membership includes, such as:

  • Free entry to hundreds of National Trust places across the country.
  • Your own personal National Trust membership card to gain free entry to NT places. (You also sometimes have to show this card at popular National Trust car parks).
  • Free car parking at those places plus lots of different coastal and countryside car parks run by the National Trust. (This has helped us park for free near places like Croyde Bay in Devon where you’d typically pay upwards of £5 for all-day parking right near the beach).
  • A branded car sticker to show you have access to free parking. (The colour of this sticker changes every year so the NT can keep tabs on who has renewed their membership or not). Note: This sticker is slowly getting phased out, so in future, you may need to scan your membership card at the ticket machine to get free car parking.
  • Useful member’s handbook, which is full of handy info, maps and photos to inspire your next day trip.
  • A fun magazine that gets delivered a few times a year and has interesting articles and interviews throughout plus some fun puzzles and quizzes.
  • A handy ‘special events’ leaflet that gets delivered with your magazine to show upcoming events in your area and surrounding areas. (This is how we found out about a couple of outdoor theatre shows of Shakespeare plays run by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men at Dyrham Park, which were fantastic evenings out during the summer! You usually have to pay extra for events like this, but as a member, you’ll often be one of the first to know they’re taking place!)
  • A vote in National Trust’s Annual General Meetings (AGM), which discusses different topics each year. As a member, you’ll get the chance to have your say. While we’ve never used this perk ourselves, we know many members who do make the most of this on issues that are important to them.
  • Free entry to associated places overseas. This is one fewer members know about, which is that the National Trust is linked with various similar organisations in countries overseas! As a National Trust member, you’ll be able to get free entry to various places all over the world to make your next trip even more memorable. Check out which countries are included here.
Puffins on Lundy Island in Devon
Did you know you can see puffins on Lundy Island near Devon? The National Trust helps to look after this charming wildlife haven!

Psst! Have children? Check out National Trust’s new junior membership, which offers free entry to under-18s plus a fun (age-appropriate) welcome pack!

Perks aside, though, one of the most important National Trust membership benefits is the fact that you’re helping such an important charity. 

The places that the National Trust looks after are often what help put the UK on the map and make this such a beautiful country to explore. Without the National Trust, many of these places wouldn’t survive and would become ruins and eyesores.

A National Trust membership also encourages you – no FORCES you – to get out and about on weekends and days off – and probably to lots of places you would never have thought about visiting. 

When you become a member, spend some time flicking through your handbook and we guarantee you’ll end up bookmarking several pages straightaway!

If you pay for your membership by Direct Debit, then you can also receive a £5 e-gift card, which is valid at several stores.

Another benefit of being a National Trust member is that there are usually free events happening throughout the year at various places, which are great fun to get involved with during your day out! 

This has allowed us to try things like archery and croquet when all we were expecting was to see some pretty gardens or wander around a historic house!

You should also keep an eye on various Christmas events at places like Tyntesfield and Kingston Lacy.

You sometimes have to pay extra for these, but not always! Either way, you’ll be treated to fun things like workshops, Christmas carolling, beautiful Christmas displays and light shows – and even the chance to see actors wandering around fully in character.

A National Trust Membership Is Right For You If…

  • You want to see more of the UK. A National Trust membership gives you a great excuse to get out and about and explore more of this beautiful country we call home. Whether you’re flicking through your National Trust magazine, handbook or reading blogs like this one, you’ll find all kinds of places that you never knew existed. And you may even be surprised to find out how close some of them are to your hometown.
  • You love history. If you love history, then the National Trust is practically made for you. There are all sorts of castles, mansions, manor houses and museums that the National Trust looks after, so you can easily brush up on your history during a fun day out.
  • You love beach days. The National Trust also cares for various coastlines around the UK and even some beaches. If you fancy a day out at the beach, why not use your National Trust membership to grab free car parking for a day of fun in the sun?
  • You love nature and wandering around pretty gardens. Your National Trust membership will give you the perfect excuse to get out in the great outdoors! Of all the incredible National Trust places you can visit, there are such stunning landscape gardens, estates, forests and coastlines that are all crying out for you to wander around! 
  • You love unique experiences. From learning how to make Victorian Christmas crackers to having a go at archery, you’ll be able to find all sorts of activities to get involved with during a day out to a National Trust place. As a member, you can experience most of this for free as they’re often included in entry fees!
  • You have children. It takes a lot to keep children entertained these days, but a National Trust membership will allow you to do just that – whether you’re going on a family walk, a fun scavenger trail or a festive Christmas event. There’s a lot to keep the kids busy!
  • You’re planning on visiting at least six places per year. Obviously, your National Trust membership is only worth it if you’re going to use it. If you visit just six places each year or three or four of the more expensive places that we talk about below, then you’ll easily have made the most of your membership. Any subsequent days out to National Trust places will then basically put you in profit!

Have we convinced you to join yet? Click here to check current National Trust membership prices.

Still not convinced? Read on for yet more tips on how you can truly get your money’s worth as a National Trust member!

Hidcote Gardens
Hidcote is another spectacular National Trust garden well worth visiting!

National Trust Places You Must Visit When You Become A Member

With over 500 places to visit, it can be hard to narrow down where to go first.

We’ve already written a blog post about the top places to visit, but if we had to narrow it down even further and give you just a handful of absolute must-sees, they would be:

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The unique Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland is well worth a visit!

But don’t just take our word for it! Here are five of the most popular National Trust places to visit and here’s a list of the National Trust’s greatest houses

If you have dogs, then we also recommend checking out our National Trust dog friendly directory, which includes all of the National Trust dog friendly places (listed by county).

National Trust Membership Tips: How To Get Your Money’s Worth

Although we think being a National Trust member has lots of benefits, we do understand that it’s a bit of an investment when buying a year’s membership in one go. 

Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your National Trust membership and your money’s worth!

1. Visit at least six places per year

The average National Trust entry fee is about £10 so you only need to visit roughly six places per year to make your money back. 

Anything beyond that is a bonus and you’re now in profit! 

Whether you choose to plan a National Trust day out or not, it’s also fun to visit National Trust places in the middle of a long drive somewhere.  

Scott and I have done this several times when visiting family in London, which has seen us stopping at various places en route across Wiltshire, Hampshire and further afield.

These are also usually places we wouldn’t normally have visited as they’re too far away for a typical day trip but have turned into wonderful afternoons together to help break up a long drive.

West Green House Garden
West Green House Garden is one of our favourite National Trust gardens, which we visited en route to London!

2. Visit the most expensive National Trust places to get your money back even quicker

While you’ll easily make your money back through free entry and parking for lots of places, you’ll make it back a lot faster when visiting the most expensive National Trust properties. 

These places usually have entry fees of £15 and over; some even as high as £22 per adult, so you’d only need to visit three or four as a member per year to make your money back. 

Once again, anything beyond that is a bonus and you’re in profit again!

Here are a couple of examples that we know are quite expensive to visit when not an NT member:

Fancy a challenge? Check out our National Trust bucket list challenge – it’s full of ideas on where to go and what to do throughout the year!

Stourhead in autumn
Stourhead looking amazing in the autumn months!

3. Head to certain English Heritage places and get free entry as a National Trust member

We’ve already mentioned the fact that you can visit Stonehenge for free as a National Trust member despite it being managed by the English Heritage. 

But there are also other places across the country where this exception applies (not all, but some), such as the Housesteads Roman Fort & Museum at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

4. Use your NT car parking sticker for beach days and non-National Trust days out

Remember we told you about the time (or multiple times) we’ve parked near the beach for free as National Trust members rather than paying upwards of £5 for all-day parking? 

Make the most of this throughout the year – for beaches, coastal areas, woodlands and the like – and you’ll quickly start making your money back even when not visiting a National Trust house or garden!

We parked at Baggy Point (the hill in the distance) for free so we could spend the day at this beautiful sandy beach (Croyde Bay)!

5. Take part in free experiences and National Trust activities

Have you ever wanted to try archery? What about learning to make Victorian Christmas crackers? Or how about taking your children on a fun scavenger hunt? 

These are just a few examples of the free events and activities that you’ll often find at National Trust places all across the country. 

And they’re not just for kids! 

We’ve often had a lot of fun exploring gardens and old manor houses, only to find that there was the chance to have a go at archery for free as well!

6. Take note of all the little extra perks you get with a National Trust membership

There are lots of little perks of being a National Trust member beyond what we’ve already discussed – and it pays to keep an eye out when you’re travelling around the UK!

For example, if you’re visiting Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, did you know that National Trust members can get the shuttle bus for free by flashing their NT membership card to the bus driver?!

This is great if you don’t want to walk up the hill after your visit and it’s even better if you’re visiting as a family as you’ll save even more money catching the bus as members!

Scott at Giant's Causeway
You can hop on the Giant’s Causeway shuttle bus for free by flashing your National Trust card!

Also, keep an eye out when reading your National Trust magazine as they sometimes also include various discounts and offers inside for their online shop or money off National Trust Holidays.

7. Look for discounts National Trust members get elsewhere

Speaking of discounts, keep an eye out on various companies that are not affiliated with the National Trust per se, but who still offer members exclusive discounts. 

As an example, Cotswold Outdoor, an outdoor clothing shop, offers discounts to National Trust members, which is perfect if you plan on buying some new hiking gear or camping accessories! 

I’m sure there are lots more examples just like this so be sure to keep an eye out and let us know what you find. 

You can also occasionally save money when booking National Trust holiday cottages. We’ve recently shared an exclusive 15% discount code with our email subscribers (the offer is no longer running, but there could be other promotions in the future!)

Anyway, we used our discount code to book a 2-night stay in Devon with our dog and we only paid £238 in total (with our dog going free!)

In case you’re wondering, here’s the cute little cottage we stayed in. It’s called The Lodge and it sits on the edge of the National Trust’s Parke estate in Dartmoor National Park.

It actually used to be the entrance to the estate in the 1800s, but it’s been completely refurbished inside. Not too shabby, eh?

8. Use your National Trust membership when travelling overseas

Did you know that the National Trust is associated with other historic organisations and charities in countries across the world?

Places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Italy and more all have their own version of the National Trust or something similar. 

As a National Trust member, you can also visit various places within these countries for free!

9. Consider investing in life membership

If you’re planning on being a National Trust member for many years to come, then it’s worthwhile to take a look at life membership

It’s a larger upfront cost, but once you’ve been a National Trust member for over a decade, you’ll have found that the life membership would have pretty much paid for itself while still giving you many more years of exploring.

Views from Dunster Castle
How many times would you pay to see views like the ones from the top of Dunster Castle? Could a life membership be worth it for you?

10. Take your carer or assistant with you for free

Since I posted this review, so many of you have gotten in touch to tell me how helpful you’ve found it or that you’ve got some extra tips to share. Thank you for all of your messages – it’s so great to hear from you especially when you’ve got some juicy info to share that others will find helpful.

The latest tip comes from Mel who told me about the Essential Companion card, which allows people with carers and assistants to take them with them free of charge.

The card isn’t specific for an individual, so you can use it across your network of carers or even ask a friend or family member to join you each time you visit a National Trust place.

Mel says there are some other perks such as free or reduced price entry for some of the special events too, so keep a lookout for those! Thanks, Mel! 🙂

11. Consider joining the National Trust for Scotland to get a cheaper membership

By joining the National Trust for Scotland, which is a different charity from the main National Trust, you can save some money but still gain access to National Trust places all across the UK. More on this below.

Get more tips on how to make your membership go further in this article.

National Trust vs National Trust for Scotland Memberships

As mentioned, many people choose to join the National Trust for Scotland so they can save a little on their membership – including life memberships. 

Just remember that the money spent on an NTS membership won’t go towards looking after places in England, Wales or Northern Ireland – you will only be supporting National Trust places in Scotland.

You’ll get most of the same benefits as being a National Trust member, including free entry to places in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and across the world, as well as free car parking.

You can still visit other NT places around the UK with a National Trust for Scotland membership – like Bodnant Garden in Wales!

But you won’t be able to vote in AGM meetings and won’t be sent the complete National Trust handbook. 

Instead, you’ll be sent the National Trust for Scotland magazine and a guide to properties in Scotland. 

This is less of a worry if you’ve already been a National Trust member in the past and have kept your handbook from previous years as you can still use this for inspiration on where to go. 

National Trust vs English Heritage Memberships

If you’re wondering how a National Trust membership differs from an English Heritage membership, then the first thing to note is these are two very different charities looking after different places (although there is occasionally some overlap).

The English Heritage is usually the charity looking after historic castles, palaces, Roman ruins and fortresses. They look after some gardens – but only when they are really historic places.

There are some 400 English Heritage places to visit (so less than the National Trust), but this is reflected in the price of membership also being cheaper.

Views from Tintagel Castle
Places like Tintagel Castle await with an English Heritage membership!

Alongside free entry to English Heritage properties, you’ll get free car parking at those places and you’ll also receive an English Heritage handbook and magazine throughout the year.

Another bonus of an English Heritage membership is exclusive discounts off members’ only events, which allow you to explore some places after hours to handle original artefacts or join walking tours of restricted-access areas.

An English Heritage membership is great for history lovers, but we would argue it’s not as worthwhile for nature lovers or those who like exploring pretty gardens and estates.

In that case, the National Trust offers more variety and a better balance of the two.

Views from Corfe Castle
National Trust’s Corfe Castle – views AND history… what more could you want?

Ultimately, if you can join both, awesome! But only do this if you think you’ll use both memberships.

If you can only afford one or only want to join one, we’d suggest going for the National Trust.

Especially as some popular English Heritage places allow free entry for National Trust members like Stonehenge and the museum at Hadrian’s Wall.

Also, don’t forget to check which charity has more places near where you live or where you’re holidaying as this will also be a good gauge of which membership will give you the most value throughout the year.

Check here for which National Trust properties are near you and this page for nearby English Heritage sites.

Or read our full National Trust vs English Heritage article here.

National Trust Memberships For Overseas Visitors

If you’re visiting the UK from overseas and plan on making trips to lots of different National Trust places as well as Stonehenge, it might be worthwhile to check out the National Trust touring pass, which allows overseas visitors to become honorary National Trust members for either 7 or 14 days and visit most NT places for free during your trip.

The National Trust is also associated with the Royal Oak Foundation in America, which enables US citizens to join the National Trust for a full year and gain reduced admission for various history lectures and events in the USA as well. 

Lydford Gorge White Lady Waterfall
We can’t wait to visit places like Lydford Gorge in Devon again!

National Trust Membership FAQs

Still have questions? Check out these National Trust membership FAQs…

What is the National Trust? And what does it do?

The National Trust is a UK-based charity, which is responsible for looking after lots of historical places within the country and a whole host of incredible outdoor spaces, including National Parks, estates and gardens, beaches, coastlines, forests and woodlands. 

National Trust memberships are how this incredible charity can help care for these iconic places that help to make the UK unique and such a great place to explore – for day trips, weekend getaways or longer breaks.

Which is the most visited National Trust property?

It’s probably not a surprise to hear that Giant’s Causeway is the most visited National Trust site. But here are a few more popular ones as well:

View of the rocks and sea at Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway is the most popular National Trust place to visit… and with views like this, are you really that surprised?!

Can I visit National Trust places without my membership card?

Although there’s nothing stopping you from visiting National Trust places without your membership card, you won’t be able to gain free entry without it. 

Keep your card in your wallet or purse at all times so you never forget it during day trips.

Can you join the National Trust on site?

You most certainly can! 

And the best bit is that you’ll get access to that particular National Trust place for free on the day, helping you to get one step closer to making your money back. 

This is actually how Scott joined as a member in his first year when he realised that he and I would be going to lots of National Trust places together during our early dating days. 

Scott joined the National Trust on site at Knightshayes

Does National Trust membership mean free entry?

Yes. As a member, you’ll have access to hundreds of different National Trust places all over the country – from castles and manor houses to mansions, museums and other historic buildings – provided you’ve remembered to bring your National Trust card along with you on the day.

Is parking free for National Trust members?

Usually yes. There are lots of car parks all over the country owned by the National Trust – whether they’re linked to estates and historic buildings you might already be visiting – or even just random places out in the countryside or along coastlines that are also looked after by the National Trust. 

Don’t get caught out so always check whether the car park is owned by the National Trust!

This happened to us when we were visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland as we didn’t realise the car park near it was owned by the National Trust for Scotland and so we missed out on saving £3 during this particular visit.

Harry Potter Train, Scotland
Seeing the Harry Potter train speed past at Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland

Can I take a guest on my National Trust membership?

If your membership card says “+ guest” on it, then you can bring a guest with you. Otherwise, they’ll need to either pay to visit or also become a National Trust member.

*Please note that the “+ guest” option is likely only applicable if you were a lifetime member before January 2023.

Can I get a second National Trust car sticker?

You can. You just have to contact the National Trust to request a second car sticker so that you can swap cars or add your sticker to a new car if that’s the case. But you’ll still need a valid membership card!

Can National Trust members visit English Heritage sites for free?

There are a couple of English Heritage sites that you can visit for free as a National Trust member, such as Stonehenge and the museum near Hadrian’s Wall

These are just a couple that we’re aware of. There could be more, but remember that these are the exception rather than the rule. 

If you want to visit most English Heritage sites for free then you’ll need to also be a member of the English Heritage.

You can visit Stonehenge for free as a National Trust member even though it’s owned by the English Heritage!

What’s the difference between the English Heritage and National Trust? 

This is a very good question. There are lots of similarities between the two charities such as the fact that they both look after and care for historic places.

The main difference is that the English Heritage looks after historic places in England only. Whereas the National Trust looks after some historic places, as well as countrysides, coastlines, forests, woodlands and even some National Parks such as the Lake District throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lake District Views - Living in England Pros
Lake District is a beautiful National Park looked after by the National Trust

Although being a member of both charities is a good idea, if you were to pick just one, then we would always recommend the National Trust as we feel that it offers more variety in the places that you can visit.

And the free car parking more than makes up for anything else because there are lots of car parks all across the country that are looked after by the National Trust, such as random car parks you’ll find next to various woodlands and beaches. 

Discover More National Trust Places

Whether you’re already a member or have decided it’s time to join, we think you’ll love reading these other National Trust articles on our blog:

We hope you’ve found this National Trust membership review helpful! If you’ve got any questions about the National Trust that we haven’t covered, then please feel free to leave us a comment below or send us an email and we’ll reply asap!

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National Trust Membership Review: How To Get Your Money's Worth
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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