English Heritage versus National Trust – Which to join?

Use our unique code STEAF20 for 20% discount on English Heritage annual and gift membership.

Many of the most interesting heritage sites in the UK are under the stewardship of either English Heritage or the National Trust.

Brodsworth Hall - English Heritage
Brodsworth Hall, English Heritage in Yorkshire

You can choose to pay each time you visit a separate site, but at anything up to £20 per person, this can prove expensive. If you plan to visit four sites or more a year then it is probably better value to purchase annual membership which is offered by both English Heritage and the National Trust.

However this can cost £50 or more, so if you want to join just one of these two heritage organisations, which one should it be?

English Heritage

This government sponsored public body with a remit to manage the historic environment of England, owns over 400 sites. Many are ancient ruins, such as Stonehenge, Whitby Abbey (of Dracula fame) and Housesteads Roman Fort along Hadrian’s Wall. Sometimes ruined buildings are surrounded by superb landscaped gardens as with Witley Court in Worcestershire.

English Heritage has a few well preserved stately homes with gardens and parkland such as Audley End in Essex, Brodsworth Hall in West Yorkshire and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Currently adult annual membership is £69 for an individual and £120 for a couple. For seniors (60+) it is £63 and £96. Annual membership can be purchased online; it makes a great birthday or Christmas gift, but why not just treat yourself!

*** English Heritage Special Offer: For 20% discount on annual and gift membership paid by direct debit, click on English Heritage and enter code STEAF20 at checkout. ***

Caerlaverock Castle – Historic Scotland
Caerlaverock Castle – Historic Scotland

A useful membership bonus for those of you with grandchildren is that you can take up to 6 children under 19 years old with you free of charge.

Another bonus is that you get discounted entrance to properties under the stewardship of Historic Scotland, CADW (Wales) and Manx National Heritage. During your first year of membership entrance is at half price and subsequently free of charge.

English Heritage members can also get discounted entry to over 100 partner attractions across the  country – see under Benefits of Membership for details.

National Trust

This charity works to preserve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It owns over 200 historic stately homes (far more than English Heritage), many with fine gardens and extensive parklands, such as Osterley House in London and Cragside in Northumberland.

Day trips to historic house, Cragside
Cragside – National Trust

National Trust also has stewardship over 1,000 square miles of countryside including large tracts in the Lake District and Peak District. Recently it has broadened its activities to include historic mills and Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s childhood homes.

Annual adult membership is £84.00 for an individual and £139.20 for a couple. For an extra £7.20 you can include children (and grandchildren) under 18 – children under 5 are free anyway.

Seniors (60+) can only get a senior discount if they have been a member for at least 5 years out of the last 10, and then it’s about 25%. Overseas visitors can purchase a 7 day pass for £37.

*** National Trust Special Offer: To receive a £15 National Trust gift card with annual or gift membership paid by direct debit, click on the National Trust banner below. ***

Your National Trust membership also gives you free entry to all National Trust for Scotland sites including 26 castles and palaces, 16 islands and many fine gardens. And vice versa, National Trust for Scotland membership gives you free entry to all National Trust sites.

If you are over 60, you get a 20% discount on the standard adult membership of National Trust for Scotland. Hence for Seniors individual membership is just £54 per year and for a couple £84.

Which to Join?

In conclusion, if you enjoy visiting stately homes and gardens and normally you don’t have any children with you, then the National Trust comes out on top. On the other hand, if castles and ancient ruins are your forte and you often have children/grandchildren in tow, then English Heritage is the better choice. You could of course change between the two every few years or so – as I do. Alternatively, if you are a heritage fanatic, you could join both!

As an alternative to the National Trust you could also check out Historic Houses, see: Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?

Updated September 25th, 2023