Membership of Historic Houses gives free entry to over 300 heritage sites in the UK, including some of the finest stately homes in the country and most impressive gardens. However the majority of these are closed during the winter period from November through to February.
The good news for hardy winter travellers is that about 60 sites are fully or partly open during this time. But which ones are they?
The answer is more complicated this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with some Historic Houses sites not opening at all in 2020. It also means that even when a site is open during the winter period, it may be that only the gardens and grounds are accessible.
I’ve researched region by region which sites are open during the winter period and below are the results.
However, before travelling, please check with the Historic Houses website or better still directly with the website of the property you intend to visit, as opening times can change at short notice. Also please check whether you need to book a time slot before visiting.
The gardens/grounds are open at a several sites including Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Castle Hill Gardens, Cirencester Park Grounds, Lydiard House, Sezincote, and Sudeley Castle.
A couple of castles are also open during much of the winter period: Highcliffe Castle and Lulworth Castle.
London and South East
Several exceptional gardens are open in this region during the winter period, including Blenheim Palace Park & Gardens, Englefield House Gardens, Painshill, Waddesdon Manor Gardens and West Dean Gardens.
A few houses can be visited including Chawton House, Limnerlease and Michelham Priory. For something a bit different, try the Hook Norton Brewery.
The house and grounds at Kelham Hall are open throughout the winter period as are the gardens at Elsham Hall. The dramatic hill-top Belvoir Castle and the gardens at Renishaw Hall are open some days in November and December.
There are just a couple of sites with winter openings in this region: Hedingham Castle and its gardens open two days a week and the Manor Gardens, Hemingford Grey open every day.
Not too much is open in this region, although Winterbourne House gardens in Birmingham are well worth visiting. The house is not open at the moment.
North West and Isle of Man
There are plenty of gardens open in the region including Askham Hall Gardens and Morland House Gardens, and Miltown Gardens on the Isle of Man.
Some houses are also open including Holker Hall, Lytham Hall and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester.
For something a bit different, then the massive ruins of Lowther Castle are worth a visit, not forgetting its gardens.
Visitors to this region during the winter period are spoiled by having two magnificent castles to visit, Bamburgh Castle and Raby Castle. There are also two fascinating gardens to explore, Wynyard Hall Gardens and Ushaw. Additionally Preston Tower house and gardens are open.
Four gardens are open for some or all of the winter period: Golden Grove, Plas Brondanw Gardens, Gregynog Gardens and Picton Castle Gardens.
The gardens/grounds are open at a few sites including Dumfries House, Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Scone Palace and Abbortsford. For something a bit different, then the spectacular, ruined cliff-top Dunnottar Castle might appeal.
Sorry, none of the three sites is open during the winter period.
If visiting gardens and grounds, rather than houses, is your forte, then there are plenty of Historic Houses sites still open during the winter period. There are not that many houses open, partly because of the pandemic, but those that are open include some of the finest properties in the country.
If you intend to visit one of these properties, then it is worth thinking about taking out membership of Historic Houses. Your year long membership will of course also cover you for the spring/summer/autumn period when all the sites should be open.
Individual membership is £56 a year, joint membership is £89 a year and child membership (3-16 years) is £25 a year. However if you click on Historic Houses and then enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’, you will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.
Once again, it is stressed that before travelling you should check directly with the website of the property you intend to visit about their current opening times and whether you need to book in advance.
A similar pattern of reduced winter openings also applies to English Heritage and the National Trust, see: English Heritage and National Trust – Winter Openings.
POSTED 6th OCTOBER 2020 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.