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The National Trust owns over five hundred historic houses, castles, archaeological and industrial monuments, gardens, parks and nature reserves in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and includes UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Fountains Abbey and The Giant’s Causeway. But which are the best to visit for senior travellers?
As retired seniors, with plenty of time on our hands, we have managed to visit many National Trust sites in the last few years, but the twenty listed below are the ones we have most enjoyed visiting.
All have provided us with a great day out. As well has having something of great interest to see and explore, all of them also have good facilities and all are accessible for less nimble senior travellers, even The Giant’s Causeway site.
Our list is by region rather than in order of preference. Selecting the twenty in order would have been very difficult as all Our Top Twenty National Trust Sites have their own unique attractions.
We just give a very brief description of each of them here, but if the site name is in blue, then click on it to get more information from previous articles.
The good news is that all these sites have now reopened, although some Covid-19 precautions will still be in place and prior booking may be required. So now is a good time to take up our Special Membership Offer.
Tyntesfield House near Bristol has extensive formal gardens and parkland to explore, plus interesting house interiors. The impressive chapel is styled on a medieval church in Paris.
Killerton near Exeter has an 18th Century house whose interior commemorates the intriguing life of the politician and benefactor, Sir Richard Acland. The hillside garden and parkland have sweeping views over the valley below.
St Michael’s Mount is an iconic tidal island in South Cornwall that combines a castle with terraced gardens containing unusual plants and seaside meadows to relax in. But take care! We were nearly caught out by the rapidly incoming tide.
Botallack Mine in the North Cornwall along the so-called Tin Coast is completely different. Here the Engine Houses perched precariously on a cliff face provide a stark, atmospheric reminder of the tin and copper mining industries.
London & the South East
The Vyne in Hampshire has a lakeside Elizabethan house, that was converted into a 17th Century family home, set in gardens, woods and wetlands. But be warned, we managed to get completely lost exploring the woodland area!
Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire is one of the most visited of National Trust properties. It’s large art collection, built up by the de Rothschild family in this their extravagant weekend retreat, being a key attraction, but also the extensive formal gardens and hillside parkland provide much to explore.
Chartwell in Kent is an interesting memorial to Churchill with many of his paintings and also the brick wall that he built. There is much else to explore in the hillside gardens and woodland.
Calke Abbey near Derby is a curiosity in that many of the rooms have intentionally been left in a bad state of decoration and are overflowing with masses of intriguing bric-a brac. However we find it a great antidote to stately home fatigue and enjoy the attractive parkland walks.
Baddesley Clinton near Warwick is 13th Century manor house completely surrounded by a moat. There are many fascinating internal features including a well hidden priest hole.
Belton House near Grantham has been our destination on many occasions and we have never been disappointed with the fine Carolean House and its attractive formal gardens and quiet lakeside walks.
Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire is a lasting memorials to two formidable ladies, Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608) and Evelyn Cavendish (1870-1960). Their influence shaped the house, extensive gardens and parkland.
East of England
Anglesey Abbey a few miles north of Cambridge has nothing to do with Anglesey in Wales and is not an abbey, although the country house is on the site of an Augustinian priory. When we visited on a frosty winter’s day, we were surprised by the abundance of colourful plants in the gardens and on the woodland walk.
Blickling Hall in Norfolk is one of the finest houses under National Trust stewardship, with Anne Boleyn’s connection with the Hall adding an extra dimension. We spent a whole afternoon visiting the hall then admiring the landscaped gardens and following the woodland and lakeside walks.
Quarry Bank in Cheshire provides something rather different for the National Trust. An abandoned textile mill gives a vivid insight into industrial life 200 years ago. There are formal gardens within the site and attractive woodland and riverside walks.
Lyme in Cheshire consists of 1400 acres of landscaped parkland, 15 acres of formal gardens and the imposing house which dates back to the 16th Century, but with many modifications.
Fountains Abbey is our favourite of the many fine National Trust abbeys and castles in Yorkshire. In addition to the dramatic abbey ruins, there is a spectacular water garden and a deer park.
Wallington Hall in Northumberland has everything to satisfy the discerning heritage enthusiast. In addition to a fascinating house with large wall paintings capturing 2,000 years of local history, there are extensive gardens with an Edwardian conservatory and a large area of parkland with woodland and riverside walks.
Lindisfarne Castle is striking in appearance, but relatively small inside and quickly explored. However there is much else to see on Lindisfarne Island itself and its approach over the tidal causeway from the Northumberland mainland can be quite an experience.
Wales and Northern Ireland
Dyffryn Gardens on the outskirts of Cardiff is, for us, the pride of the National Trust sites in Wales. There is a series of terraced gardens, including Italian, Australasian, Mediterranean, physic, and Pompeian. The Victorian House provides an impressive backdrop.
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, we found to be far more impressive when visited than any pictures can suggest. As well as the hexagonal basalt columns flowing out to sea, there are massive columns forming the cliffs behind. This is a place to sit and listen to the waves splashing in as you contemplate the giant striding across to Scotland.
If you intend to visit several National Trust properties in a year, then taking up annual membership could save you a lot of money and we have a Special Membership Offer, which also applies to membership given as a gift.
To receive a £5 M&S Gift Card and free binoculars with annual or gift membership paid by direct debit, click on National Trust. This Special Membership Offer also includes other £5 Gift Cards which you will you see when you click on the link.
POSTED 25th JUNE 2021 by BARBARA HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA and STEVEN HANSON.