Cheshire is well endowed with National Trust properties which include fascinating houses, large well-tended gardens and extensive parklands.
My most recent visit to Lyme was on a weekday in February (not school half-term week) and I was pleasantly surprised to find all of the property, including the hall, was open to visitors. Winter openings, or rather closures, can be a problem with both the National Trust and English Heritage, with many sites being closed or partially closed from November to March. See my article on Winter Openings for further details.
There is a steep path up from the car park to the hall, but less nimble senior travellers can take advantage of the free shuttle bus.
I’d not visited the hall before and found the intriguing history of the Legh family well illustrated, particularly the lives of the philandering Colonel Thomas (1753-1797) and his very capable illegitimate son, Thomas (1792-1857). Artefacts from the latter’s extensive European travels are to be found all around the house.
There are 15 acres of formal gardens around the hall with the Italianate Garden and Orangery being of particular note, as are the views of the house reflecting in the garden lake.
I opted in the end for the half mile walk up to the tower-like Cage (where poachers were once incarcerated) and enjoyed great views towards Manchester in one direction and Peak District hills in the other.
Grandchildren with you? No problem, there is a large, exciting children’s play area not far from the car park.
Although Dunham Massey has a fine Georgian Hall (being renovated at the moment) and 300 acres of deer park, for me its main attraction is its unique Winter Garden.
When I visited in February, I was amazed at the variety of flowers around the garden, including masses of daffodils, hellebores, snowdrops, cyclamen and irises. Apparently it contains over 700 plant species and 1600 shrubs and trees, arranged in a series of circular walks with views back towards the house.
I’d previously visited in December and in addition to viewing the gardens during the day, was able to wander around a Christmas light show in the gardens after dark.
After refreshment in the Stable Restaurant, I took a gentle stroll in the deer park on flat, well-surfaced pathways. And yes, there were plenty of deer to view.
Little Moreton Hall
There is no parkland or large gardens to wander around at Little Moreton Hall, but what you do have is an extraordinary moated, half-timbered manor house.
Built between 1504 and 1610, its irregular, top-heavy shape could be straight from a fairy-tale. There is relatively little furniture or decoration inside the hall, but its warm, cosy feel is a pleasant change from the some of the large austere rooms in properties like Lyme House.
There are activities available for the grandchildren, including dressing up in Tudor clothes, and the Hall’s small garden is a pleasant place for refreshments from the tea-room.
Other National Trust Sites in Cheshire
Quarry Bank is an industrial heritage site showing what life was like working in a cotton mill. There are picturesque gardens along the banks of the river Bollin and acres of woodland to explore.
Although Tatton Park is owned by the National Trust, it is managed and financed by Cheshire East Council. National Trust members get free entry to the neo-classical Mansion and some of the gardens, but pay for parking and guided tours of the Japanese Gardens, one of the finest in Europe.
Other National Trust sites include Alderley Mill, a restored, Elizabethan, working corn mill (open a few days a week April to October) and Hare Hill woodland garden.
English Heritage Sites in Cheshire
English Heritage has relatively few properties in Cheshire, but two of note are Beeston Castle, perched on a rocky crag giving great views on a clear day over several counties, and in Chester a Roman Amphitheatre.
You’ll need two or three days at least to visit Cheshire’s heritage sites, so if you do not live in the area, I can recommend the new Holiday Inn Express at TraffordCity as a smart and convenient base. I was given a very good flexible Senior Discount rate when I stayed mid-week in February.
National Trust and English Heritage
Taking out annual membership of the National Trust and/or English Heritage can save you money if you intend to visit more than about six sites a year. And, if you are a senior, you can get discounted rates with English Heritage.
Check out our special deals on annual membership in my article: English Heritage versus National Trust – Which to join?
POSTED 2nd MARCH 2019 by STEVE HANSON. Photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.