Are you torn between the National Trust vs English Heritage? Can’t decide which is better: an English Heritage or National Trust membership?
We’ve got you covered with this detailed guide about both charities to help you decide which membership is right for you. We hope you find it helpful!
National Trust vs English Heritage: The Short Answer
While we’re not convinced one charity is better than the other, we do think their memberships suit different people.
If you’re really into history, then you’d probably be better off joining the English Heritage as there will be a lot more on offer to suit you.
But if you’re like us and are into a little bit of everything including history, culture and getting outside, then the National Trust is the one for you. Especially as you can also gain free entry to the Stonehenge and the museum at Hadrian’s Wall (two of the most popular English Heritage sites) even as an National Trust member.
However, we say all of this with one clear caveat! It also depends on what you live near or will be holidaying near.
Before you choose one of these memberships, we’d urge you to type your postcode into this page on the National Trust’s website and this page on the English Heritage website to find out what’s close by. This will allow you to truly gauge which membership you’ll get more out of.
That said, if you want to join both, there’s no reason why you can’t! But only do this if you think you’ll use both memberships.
Another idea would be to alternate membership between the two. You could see lots of National Trust places in your first year, then English Heritage sites in your second and keep switching as you see fit… there’s no reason why you can’t do this if you want to!
National Trust vs English Heritage By The Numbers
|National Trust||English Heritage|
|Number of places to visit||Over 500|
(plus 130 places in Scotland
and hundreds of
(plus hundreds of places
across the British
Isles and New
|Number of |
|5.6 million||1 million|
|Number of visitors per year||26.9 million||6 million|
National Trust Membership Benefits
By becoming a National Trust member, you’ll receive the following perks:
- Free entry to over 500 National Trust places across the country.
- Free car parking at those places plus lots of different coastal and countryside car parks owned by the National Trust. (This has helped us park for free at places like Croyde Bay in Devon where you’d typically pay upwards of £5 for all-day parking right near the beach).
- 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 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.
- A free pair of binoculars. The National Trust has also been running an offer for a few years where you’ll get a free pair of travel-sized binoculars if you join and pay by direct debit annually.
- Access to free events and activities around the country. There are usually free events happening throughout the year at various National Trust 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!
- The chance to help an important UK charity. Without National Trust donations and memberships, many of our beautiful places here in the UK wouldn’t survive and would become ruins and eyesores.
English Heritage Membership Benefits
Here’s what you can look forward to as an English Heritage member:
- Free entry to over 400 English Heritage sites across the country.
- Free parking at English Heritage-owned car parks.
- Useful member’s handbook, which is full of handy info, maps and photos to inspire your next day trip.
- Exclusive Member’s Magazine which gets delivered four times per year and has interesting articles, news and updates about English Heritage sites. You’ll also usually find exclusive discounts inside too for all kinds of things!
- What’s On guide to English Heritage events. You can use this free guide to discover events going on at English Heritage sites across the country, which you’ll also get free or discounted entry to (more on this below).
- Free or reduced entry to English Heritage events. From live music performances and history reenactments to informative walking tours, you’ll get reduced entry (and sometimes totally free entry) to various English Heritage events happening throughout the year.
- Exclusive members only events. Alongside general public events, you’ll also have access to ticketed members only events, which are very cool! This is where you’ll get the chance to see English Heritage sites after hours, attend unique workshops with other members or even handle original historic artefacts!
- Free or reduced entry to associated places. Alongside the 400+ English Heritage properties, you’ll also get free or reduced entry to places managed by Cadw in Wales, Historic Scotland, OPW in Ireland, Manx National Heritage on the Isle of Man and Heritage New Zealand. You’ll also get access to various independent attractions across England as well. Check them out here.
- The chance to help an important UK charity. Just like with the National Trust, an English Heritage membership helps this important charity to look after our historic buildings, ruins, castles and gardens that would otherwise fall into complete disrepair.
How much could you save with a National Trust or English Heritage membership?
How much you’ll save all depends on how often you use your membership each year.
But for both the National Trust and English Heritage (which have fairly similar one-off entry fees), we’ve worked out that you’ll only need to visit six standard places per year or three to four more expensive places (£15+ entry fees) per year to make your money back.
Any additional places you visit on top of these will mean you’re technically in profit.
And this doesn’t include car parking savings either, which all add up. Especially when National Trust members can also park for free in random countryside car parks and even ones close to beaches and coastal walks!
Another key thing to note is that there are lots of English Heritage places that are actually free to visit for everyone. So you will need to do your research in advance to make sure you’re visiting popular and expensive places as an English Heritage member to make the most of your membership costs.
Disadvantages With The National Trust
In truth, I found this section difficult to write as I believe the benefits of being a National Trust member far outweigh any cons. But if I had to note one thing, it would be:
- The National Trust allows licensed ‘trail hunts’ to take place on their land, which has sometimes been abused by illegal fox hunting groups. You can read the National Trust’s position on trail hunting here.
Disadvantages With The English Heritage
- Unlike the National Trust, the English Heritage only looks after places within England. Other parts of the country have their own historic charities and organisations. While there are lots of reciprocal agreements in place, your membership money will only go towards looking after places in England and not throughout more of the British Isles.
National Trust vs English Heritage Membership: A Quick Comparison
|National Trust||English Heritage|
|Best value for|
|Free entry benefits||Winner|
|Free entry to|
Where The National Trust Is Better Than The English Heritage
- Best value for money. The National Trust looks after more places than the English Heritage (500 vs 400) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are also reciprocal arrangements in place with properties looked after by the National Trust for Scotland as well. You can also get free entry to two of the most popular English Heritage sites (Stonehenge and the museum at Hadrian’s Wall).
- More places available to visit for free. In addition to reciprocal arrangements with the National Trust for Scotland, the National Trust also has the same arrangements with places all over the world – from Canada and the Bahamas to Australia and New Zealand. Check them all out here and use your National Trust membership on holidays too!
- More places to park your car for free. There are also lots and lots of National Trust-owned car parks dotted around the country – from woodlands and national parks to beaches and coastlines. Parking for free adds up; plus you’ll get free car parking at National Trust gardens, estates and houses too.
- More variety for days out. You also get more variety with a National Trust membership as they look after historic places as well as spaces for nature lovers. So whatever it is you fancy doing, the National Trust will have something on offer.
Where The English Heritage Is Better Than The National Trust
- Cheapest cost. As the English Heritage looks after fewer properties, the yearly membership fee is slightly cheaper (not by much though!) But remember: some English Heritage places are free for everyone, so do your research to make sure you’re definitely getting the most bang for your buck.
- Additional perks. Members only events are a really cool thing for the English Heritage to offer. You usually have to pay extra for these but the fact that they offer you the chance to see places after hours and attend unique workshops and even handle original historic artefacts are also massive bonuses! Plus, with every adult membership, six children can join you for free, which is great if you have children or grandchildren in tow.
You can also currently get 15% off an annual English Heritage membership by clicking this link and using the discount code: EH2021. Enjoy!
Ultimately, 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. You’ll discover 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 varied days out. From historic castles and museums to fun-filled beach days and coastal views to pretty gardens and epic walks and hikes through woodlands, fields and countrysides, there’s truly something for everyone with a National Trust membership.
- 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. And as a member, you can experience most of these for free!
- 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 to four more expensive places, 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! Get more tips for making your membership money back here.
Whereas An English Heritage Membership Is Right For You If…
- You love history. The English Heritage was designed for history buffs, so have fun visiting lots of castles, ruins, monuments and other historic places all over England and a few places further afield too.
- You have children. It takes a lot to keep children entertained these days, but with free entry for up to six children per adult English Heritage membership, you’ll have a lot on offer to keep the kids busy!
- You’re planning on visiting at least six places per year. Just like with the National Trust, your English Heritage membership is only worth it if you’re going to use it. If you visit just six places each year or three to four of the more expensive places, then you’ll easily have made the most of your membership. Any subsequent days out will technically put you in profit!
Must-See National Trust and English Heritage Places
Stonehenge near Salisbury in Wiltshire is one of the UK’s most famous landmarks. It’s owned by the English Heritage so EH members can visit for free. But because the National Trust looks after the surrounding countryside, they have a deal in place that also allows National Trust members to visit the Stonehenge for free too. Read more about the Stonehenge here.
Stourhead, also in Wiltshire, is one of our all-time favourite National Trust places to visit. The estate is home to beautiful walks surrounding a lake and autumn is an especially great time to visit! It’s also one of the more expensive places to visit, so just one trip here is worth around a third of your National Trust membership! Read more about Stourhead.
Perched atop a cliff in Cornwall, Tintagel Castle is an amazing English Heritage site. The views across the sea and Cornish countryside are incredible and it’s said that the legendary King Arthur was conceived and born here! Read more about Tintagel Castle.
Dunster Castle and Gardens
Dunster Castle sits on the edges of Exmoor National Park and is another one of our favourite National Trust places. The views from the top of the castle are stunning and the walks around the estate are so relaxing. It’s definitely worth visiting if you become a National Trust member. Read more about Dunster Castle here.
Lydford Gorge in Devon is another place steeped in legend; this time related to stories of the ‘Robin Hood of Dartmoor’ and his loyal band of Gubbins. It’s owned by the National Trust, and beyond legends, it’s a charming place to come for a riverside walk and to see a 100-foot-high waterfall. Read more about Lydford Gorge here.
Hadrian’s Wall is another must-see! It stretches for over 100 miles in Northern England and it’s famous for being one of the world’s best-preserved frontiers of the Roman Empire. Whether you choose a National Trust or English Heritage membership, you’ll be able to see the wall and visit the museum and Roman fort in Northumberland for free. Read more about Hadrian’s Wall here.
Corfe Castle in Dorset is another historic site well worth visiting; this time owned by the National Trust. It dates back over 1000 years and has been a Saxon stronghold, Norman fortress, royal palace and family home in its time. Find out more about Corfe Castle’s history here.
Bodnant Garden in Conwy, North Wales is another of our favourite National Trust places. There are over 80 acres of estate and landscaped gardens to explore; each with a different vibe or theme. There’s even a waterfall here too! It’s such a beautiful place to visit if you want an escape into nature. Find out more about Bodnant Garden here.
West Green House Garden
Scott and I are suckers for beautiful gardens so here’s another National Trust recommendation for you; this time in Hampshire, England. West Green House Garden has multiple walled gardens with lots of unique features like ornate bridges, mini waterfalls and flower-strewn archways. Plan your visit to West Green House Garden here.
Giant’s Causeway is one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks and it’s owned by the National Trust. The infamous basalt rocks are free to visit for all, but National Trust members can enjoy the full Visitor Experience and shuttle bus for free too. Learn more about Giant’s Causeway here, or read the legend of Giant’s Causeway here.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Within a 20 minute drive of Giant’s Causeway, you can also visit another fantastic National Trust site: the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This quirky bridge dates back to the 1700s and connects the mainland with a small island, which was once home to a fisherman. It’s a short walk over the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s a thrilling one as you’ll be walking across a narrow rope bridge swinging from side to side! Find out more about Carrick-a-Rede here.
National Trust vs English Heritage FAQs
If you’re still on the fence over whether you should join the National Trust or English Heritage, take a look at the following FAQs to help you make up your mind.
Which is the cheapest?
An English Heritage membership is cheaper than a National Trust membership (but not by much). This is likely because the English Heritage looks after fewer properties while some sites are free to visit whether you’re a member or not.
Which offers more value for money?
We think a National Trust membership offers more value for money than an English Heritage membership as they look after more places, have reciprocal agreements in places across the world and have car parks across the country for woodlands, countrysides, beaches and coastlines.
Which one will you make your money back with quicker?
This depends on how often you use your membership, but both the National Trust and English Heritage have fairly similar one-off entry fees on average.
Whichever membership you choose, if you use it six times at standard properties (where ticket prices are £10 or less) or three to four times at premium places (+£15 ticket prices) then you would have likely made your money back. Anything beyond that and you’re in profit.
Which is best for couples without children?
We’d argue the National Trust has more romantic places you can visit than the English Heritage – such as secluded coves and pretty gardens. There are also lots of events and activities that work well for adults you can get involved with too like archery, croquet and outdoor theatre performances or cinema nights.
Which is best if you have children?
Both charities offer lots for children to do, but because up to six children can visit for free with every adult English Heritage member, this saving really adds up!
Which is best if you travel with dogs?
Because the National Trust has more outside spaces, gardens and parklands to explore, this charity is definitely more dog friendly than the English Heritage who focus more on historic ruins and buildings. Check out our guide here to all the dog friendly National Trust places you can visit across the country.
Which is best for nature lovers?
Without a doubt, the National Trust is best for nature lovers because they look after woodlands, countrysides, beaches and coastlines alongside their houses and gardens.
Which is best for history lovers?
Although both memberships are great for history lovers, the English Heritage obviously wins this one as their portfolio focuses on historic castles and ancient ruins more than the National Trust does (which is more of a variety of everything). Also, English Heritage members can attend exclusive members only events, which can sometimes involve handling original artefacts.
Which offers more variety?
Definitely the National Trust. Whether you’re into history (e.g. houses, castles, ruins and mansions), culture (e.g. theatre performances and live music shows) or nature and the outdoors (e.g. beaches, coastlines, woodlands, hikes, walks and pretty gardens), the National Trust has a lot more to offer in terms of variety.
Which is best for overseas visitors?
Both the National Trust and English Heritage offer temporary memberships (of sorts) to overseas visitors, which allow you to get free entry to most places.
Check out the following if you’re visiting from overseas:
National Trust For Overseas Visitors
English Heritage For Overseas Visitors
National Trust vs National Trust for Scotland
Before we finish, we also wanted to quickly mention the National Trust for Scotland.
Many people choose to join the National Trust for Scotland. It’s cheaper to join than the National Trust, and thanks to reciprocal agreements, it also gives you free entry to all the same places and car parks that a normal National Trust membership does.
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 also won’t be able to vote in National Trust’s Annual General Meetings either.
We hope you’ve found this guide to the National Trust vs English Heritage helpful.
We’ve also got a few other blog posts you might like to read, which are all about the National Trust or English Heritage:
- National Trust Membership Review: How To Get Your Money’s Worth
- 14 Best English Heritage Sites For Your Bucket List
- 33 Best National Trust Places You’ll Love!
- National Trust Cotswolds: 10 Stunning Places To Visit
- National Trust Devon: 10 Incredible Places To Visit
- National Trust Dog Friendly Places (Listed By County)
- Tintagel Village, Cornwall: Legendary Home of King Arthur
- The Giant’s Causeway Legend (And Helpful Tips For Visiting!)
If you’ve got any other questions we’ve not covered then drop us a line in the comments below and we’ll reply asap! We’d also love to know which membership you choose 😀
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