National Trust – our answer to help care for and protect the land and buildings that help give Great Britain its heritage.
When you think about the UK, it is more often than not the quintessential chocolate box landscapes that will spring to mind. You will think about the green rolling hills, the farm lands, the bluebells and the historic castles.
National Trust own a large proportion of these lands and buildings and help to care for them. As a charity in its own right, the majority of their funds come from membership fees and donations.
I’ve been a member myself for several years – not just because I like giving to charity, but because I genuinely enjoy the National Trust places I’ve been to.
Whether it be walking out in the countryside, learning about historic buildings or just saving money on car parking fees, being a member of the National Trust brings so many rewards. Find out more here.
In my few years of membership, I’ve been to a lot of places owned or part-owned by the National Trust. This is my pick of the best National Trust places and why you should visit them…
Best National Trust Places for Nature & Wildlife Lovers
1. Dunster Castle and Gardens, Somerset
Dunster Castle has been here for over 600 years and is situated on top of a hill, offering panoramic views across the surrounding countryside and Bristol Channel.
The gardens offer a beautiful riverside walk where you will see pretty rose bushes, bright green fields and ancient bridges.
And if you climb to the gardens at the top of the house then this is where you will find the 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside that will take your breath away.
The National Trust is also renowned for bringing history to life at its places. A spot of archery was happening in the gardens when I visited so you might also be lucky to see something extra special during your visit!
2. Newark Park, Gloucestershire
Nestled in the English countryside of Ozleworth is a secluded Tudor estate, which offers stunning views across the surrounding countryside of the Cotswolds.
This estate is quite large in size and offers a few different walks to suit beginner ramblers, families and seasoned hikers alike.
When walking throughout the estate in the summer months, look out for bluebells and the whiff of fresh garlic in the woods. You’ll also get the chance to walk through a field full of sheep – mind your step!
Once you’ve finished exploring both the ins and outs of this estate, you can laze under a tree next to the pond (preferably in the sunshine).
3. Woolacombe, Devon
Down in Devon live a variety of sandy beaches and this is just what Woolacombe will offer you, but it’s also a perfect spot for surfing decent waves and rock-pooling.
With Croyde Bay also nearby, you can take a long walk from Woolacombe to Croyde if you’re a keen hiker. Or you can just chill out on the beach at Woolacombe or catch some waves – the choice really is yours.
4. Heddon Valley, Exmoor
There are a variety of walks on offer in the stunning Heddon Valley and some of them offer fantastic views across the sea.
One of the walks to the top of the valley has quite a steep, narrow path so be careful here and wear some proper walking boots. But if you do decide to venture up to the top, then you will certainly be rewarded with some of the best views (despite the possible rain)!
5. Lydford Gorge, Devon
Lydford Gorge is by far one of my most favourite of all the National Trust places. It offers some of the best walks I’ve been on as you follow the River Lyd.
From the river twisting and turning through the gorge for so many thousands of years, there are some amazing features for you to find. There’s the 30-metre Whitelady Waterfall (as shown in the photo above), and the turbulent Devil’s Cauldron potholes to name just a couple.
If you have children with you, don’t forget to tell them all about the magical legends of this gorge!
6. Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire
Hidden away in the heart of Gloucestershire, Woodchester Park just had to be on my list. For a start, it’s where I met my other half so it’s no surprise that this National Trust place holds some very special memories for me.
There is the opportunity to take tranquil woodland walks around the large lake. Look out for the boathouse – it’s quite a charming place to come to for an afternoon picnic.
You can even take the children’s trail and hop on swings and see-saws, just like the big kid I know you can be!
7. Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Most come to Cheddar for the caves and to learn about how the cheese is made. I admit the caves are very cool to explore, so make sure you do take a look if you get the chance.
However, if it’s another top National Trust place you’re after, then there’s the gorge walk you can venture on. It offers fantastic views across Cheddar, woodland walks and a chance to see the “Lion’s Head” rock up close and personal.
8. Brecon Beacons, Wales
The Brecon Beacons are an iconic image when thinking about the UK. There are so many different kinds of walk you can take – from hiking across the grassy plains, to walking behind waterfalls, to rambling near reservoirs.
Two of my favourite walks have been in the Brecon Beacons.
The first was the Four Waterfalls Walk near Ystradfellte, which involves woodland walks and the opportunity to walk behind a large waterfall (for free)! This was a lot of fun … and very wet, obviously!
My second favourite walk in the Brecon Beacons was around Pontsticill Reservoir. The water was a stunning shade of blue, and there were little, secluded areas by the waters edge, perfect for picnicking in.
You could also walk across the bridge in the middle of the reservoir to get perfect 360 degree photos of all sides of the reservoir.
9. Lake District, Cumbria
Although the National Trust only part-owns some land in the Lake District, it just had to make it on this list of the best National Trust places given how stunning it is here.
The lakes are vast and are surrounded by the rolling green hills that every true Brit loves. They make for ample picture perfect moments and offer so many different countryside walks – well worth a visit!
10. Stourhead, Wiltshire
…and once in the Autumn when the towering trees had turned golden.
Stourhead offers you the chance to visit the house and learn about the history behind who lived here. But what most people will come to see is the world famous landscape garden.
Surrounding a large glistening lake is a woodland walk with the chance to explore classical temples and a magical grotto with the most unique view across the lake. And The Temple of Apollo was even used as a Pride & Prejudice 2005 filming location!
11. Leigh Woods, North Somerset
When it comes to zen places in nature, the National Trust has a lot to offer. Leigh Woods is a perfect walking spot and offers great views over the Clifton Suspension Bridge right here in Bristol!
Personally, I’d say come here with your dog, take a long walk and ensure you wind up at the bridge viewing platform. Now that’s a perfect Sunday in my books! And if you’re visiting in April or May, lookout for the masses of bluebells you’ll also find here.
12. Lundy Island, Devon
Although Lundy Island is maintained by the Landmark Trust, the National Trust play a large part in ensuring Lundy Island continues to be an unspoiled haven for puffin and seal watching.
Found off the coast of Devon, this tiny little island has just one small village, but an abundance of wildlife. It’s super easy to get here by ferry from several Devonshire towns – Bideford being one of them and it’s well worth the effort!
As mentioned, Lundy Island offers fantastic walks and amazing scenery, as well as plenty of locations to spot puffins and seals in the warmer months.
Quick Tourist Tip: If you like buying souvenirs on your travels, I’d recommend buying Lundy Island stamps. Yep, they have their own stamps! And they certainly make for a unique souvenir for your scrapbook…
13. Brownsea Island, Dorset
Found just across the bay from Poole in Dorset, Brownsea Island is an awesome place to head to for a day out. You just need to hop on a 30 minute ferry and you’re there.
Sadly even National Trust members have to pay for the ferry, but entrance to the island itself is free for members.
Views from the island are fantastic on a nice day, and you may even be lucky enough to spot peacocks, pheasants and red squirrels during your walk around the island.
You can easily see most of the island in one day, although expect your feet to properly ache by the end of it!
Either way, this is an amazing place to come to and is highly recommended.
14. Watersmeet, Devon
Watersmeet is a beautiful place to come to for a walk in the Spring and Summer months. Here, you have the opportunity to follow a winding river, chill out in foxglove fields and look for birds in the many trees.
But if you’re keen on paddling your feet in the river, be prepared for it to be super cold though! (I learned this the hard way)!
Best National Trust Places for History Buffs
1. Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire
Since as far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the Ancient Roman culture and historic period. Chedworth allows you to see original Roman mosaic floors and original artefacts, which makes it perfect for anyone else also drawn to this era.
The villa houses the exhibits and these are often changed, ensuring your visit here each time is slightly different from the last.
I’d recommend the free walking tours as you really do learn a lot about what Chedworth was used for during Roman times and how the mosaics were discovered.
2. Montacute House, Somerset
Montacute House holds a kind of Elizabethan grandeur about it. Here you will find oak-panelled rooms, tapestries and historic portraits. A couple of my favourites were ‘Possibly Lucy’ and ‘Probably Mary’, which helped add a touch of humour to our historic visit.
The lawns surrounding the house are sprawling and flat – just perfect for a spot of croquet to help transport you back in time!
3. Corfe Castle, Dorset
A pinnacle of English history, Corfe Castle stands atop a vast hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. With 1000 year old ruins found here, it’s a history buff’s dream!
As mentioned before, National Trust are big advocates in bringing history to life, so expect to see live reenactments of wars taking place in the fortresses’ grounds, making this a huge hit with both adults and children.
4. Avebury, Wiltshire
There’s loads to see at Avebury, from the traditional manor, to an archaeological museum, quaint English village and interesting stone circle akin to what you’ll find at the Stonehenge.
Avebury Stone Circle is actually a World Heritage Site and dates back over 4,000 years!
Anyone can see the stone circle for free – yes, even if you’re not a National Trust member. But if you want to explore the manor house, then there is a fee for non-members. The archaeology museum is free for English Heritage members, which is a different group from the National Trust.
If you’ve never been, I’d recommend you have a look at everything here as it’s all super fascinating!
And if you’re visiting in December, it’s going to be extra special for you with the house decorated with Christmas decorations and festive events happening in the grounds.
5. Tyntesfield, North Somerset
Found on the outskirts of Bristol, Tyntesfield is a great place to come to for history, luxury and beautiful gardens.
The house really is exquisite with its Victorian Gothic Revival style – it almost feels like you’ve stumbled across an old vampire’s lair or something. And their Victorian Christmas event is also pretty special!
6. Chastleton House, Oxfordshire
Built between 1607 and 1612, Chastleton House is an incredible looking Jacobean manor house with lovely gardens.
During your visit, you can spend your time investigating the house, parklands, museum and book shop. There’s even a chapel onsite that frequently sells tea and homemade cakes.
If you’re after a typical English manor, Chastleton House is one of the best around. Learn more about it here!
7. Bath Assembly Rooms, Somerset
Bath is an incredible place to come to, packed full of history and an absolute must for Jane Austen fans.
One of the best things to do when in Bath is to head to the Bath Assembly Rooms. In the past, this would have been used as a music room, ‘walkabout’ or function room for high society – particularly during Jane Austen’s day.
Entry to the Assembly Rooms is free (even to non-National Trust members). There’s also the Fashion Museum on the lower levels of the building, which are well worth a look (but are not free to enter).
Best National Trust Places for Theatre & Movie Fanatics
1. Lacock Abbey and Village, Wiltshire
Lacock Abbey and village are the epitome of quintessential England.
The village itself is absolutely charming – with real thatch roofed houses and little bakeries calling for you to come inside. It’s no wonder some episodes of Downton Abbey were filmed here!
The Abbey looks just how you’d imagine an English abbey or church to look. With archways, ancient stonework and secret doors, you can understand why some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here.
One last note on your visit – remember to take a walk in the abbey grounds. You may just find a rope swing in an old tree… for the big kids out there!
2. Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire
Dyrham Park is actually one for both nature lovers and theatre fanatics.
The grounds here offer some fantastic country walks with the chance to see hundreds of fallow deer and the landscaped gardens are so tranquil to walk through and sit in.
But what some people might not know is that Dyrham Park is also one of the best places I know of to come to for an outdoor play.
During the summer months, The Lord Chamberlains Men can be found showing a Shakespeare play in traditional dress and even with men playing women – just like during the original Elizabethan era.
I personally have seen Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night played here and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it each time. If you love the idea of sitting out in the cool evening with a blanket, wine and picnic, while watching some excellent acting, then Dyrham Park is a cool place to come to.
Insider Tip: You have to book your tickets in advance as there are no tickets sold on the door. Make sure you book early though as tickets can sell out quite quickly!
Best National Trust Places for Avid Gardeners
1. Barrington Court, Somerset
Barrington Court houses a rich piece of history as well as stunning gardens, which are made up of a few smaller gardens.
To name a few are the walled White Garden, Rose and Iris Garden and Lily Garden; each containing beautiful flowers, working fountains and intoxicating scents. For the herbalists among us, there is even a Kitchen Garden!
2. Bodnant Garden, Wales
This is Wales’s answer to vast, sprawling gardens (80 acres to be precise), which are full of mystery and intrigue. The garden is also home to many different and rare species of plants and shrubs from around the world.
From traditional roses, to towering conifers, to charming magnolias, this garden is a botanist’s dream!
Throw in a waterfall, picturesque bridges and a few hidden secrets, and you will also find this garden to be full of intrigue, just perfect for whiling away a Sunday afternoon in. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best things to do in Wales!
3. Castle Drogo, Devon
With the castle currently undergoing major conservation work to make it watertight, it is the gardens that you will most likely have come to see.
The landscaped gardens are quite vast and do allow for many hours to be spent here. Whether you’re interested in botany or enjoy lawn games, this is a great place to come. You may even find a hidden house or two!
4. Knightshayes, Devon
When finding somewhere new to explore, it was the name that stood out to me – Knightshayes.
It was the thought of ancient, aristocratic families roaming the halls that made me think it would be a place of grandeur and wealth.
I wasn’t wrong, but what I found most unexpected was the marvellous gardens I found here. It was only later on that I found out that the gardens are thought to be the finest in the South West of England and that it has the only existing ‘garden in the wood’.
Alongside every continent’s most beautiful and unique plants and flowers, there are also hidden glades and views across the Exe Valley. Come and while away a few hours here and you will leave feeling ever more rested and peaceful.
5. Hanbury Hall and Gardens, Worcestershire
Hanbury Hall is a marvellous English manor dating as far back as the 18th Century. It comes complete with landscaped gardens, which really do look incredible during the Spring and Summer months.
The Hall itself is stunning, and you have the opportunity to explore inside where old English grandeur meets sophisticated style.
6. West Green House Garden, Hampshire
For this one, my first advice is to not let the name fool you – you won’t be going inside a house at this National Trust place.
Instead, you will be able to roam through acre upon acre of beautiful landscaped gardens, which also include a lake with pretty little bridges to walk across.
You are able to see West Green House in one corner of the gardens, but only through a fancy looking fence. Still… it’s pretty to see from the outside for you to take a quick photo.
There’s also some cute little greenhouses near to the exit/entrance, which are home to beautiful orchids and a whole array of garden ornaments. You can even hire these out for functions!
Come on… who wouldn’t want to eat a delicious dinner inside a greenhouse? Find out more now!
7. Basildon Park, Berkshire
Found near the outskirts of Reading, Basildon Park is a super fine estate. The parklands are huge, and are great fun to walk around. During the spring months, you can expect to find bluebells as far as the eye can see.
You’re also able to wander around inside the manor house too, which has some very interesting rooms. One of them well worth a look is the Shell Room, which is decorated top to floor in real seashells! The manor was even used as a Pride & Prejudice filming location.
If you’re planning on taking a look inside the house, they’ll want you to leave your bag in your car, which is a little frustrating. However, if the staff are feeling particularly kind, then they may allow you to take your bag in if you keep it in your hand… if you’re lucky.
8. Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire
Hidcote is one of England’s most spectacular gardens. Vast in size, beautifully laid out and packed full of interesting photographic opportunities for nature and garden lovers.
A few of my favourite highlights from this stunning National Trust place are the fruit and vegetable patches, woodland areas and hedged walkways.
But really for this one, I’m always going to suggest coming to see it yourself as its beauty is very hard to describe!
Psst! Whilst you’re in this area, don’t forget to check out some of the prettiest towns and villages in the Cotswolds. Chipping Campden is the closest, and is most definitely in the top 5!
Best National Trust Places for Travellers to Northern Ireland
1. Giants Causeway, County Antrim
There is not a traveller alive who hasn’t heard of this iconic and legendary place.
Follow in the footsteps of giants and marvel at the basalt rocks. Step into deep legends and look out across the blue waters. Walk the countryside of Ulster and triumph at the stunning sights.
However you may want to spend your time at Giants Causeway, I can assure you that it will be an unforgettable one. It may even inspire you to read all about the legend itself.
2. Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim
Not too far from Giant’s Causeway is Carrick-a-Rede, home to an ancient rope bridge that is perfect for adrenaline junkies.
With the bridge swaying side to side and you seeing that there is a fairly long fall into icy waters, you will not only be rewarded with a sense of excitement about the walk across, but you will also marvel at the coastal scenery around you.
As there is a bit of a walk from the car park to the bridge, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to gaze out across the sea and do a spot of bird watching, so take your time getting to the bridge … if you can hold your excitement in, that is!
After being a member of the National Trust for a few years, it’s obvious that I’ve spent many hours, days, weeks trawling through the British countryside looking for new places to visit.
And with there being so many places to see with my membership, I have a feeling this list of the best National Trust places is just going to grow and grow!
How about you? Are there any places on this list that you wish you could visit? Are there any National Trust places you’ve been to that you think I might like? Let me know in the comments…
Did you know that a lot of these National Trust places also accept dogs? Check out this free directory!
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