The National Trust is an incredible organisation, founded in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. It was created with the view to preserve and protect places of historical value to our country and to society. Since its creation, it has grown to become one of the UK’s largest charities. It now owns over 500 heritage properties. This not only includes country manors and estates but also gardens, pubs, workhouses and some of the most picturesque landscapes. Most of their properties are open to the public for a small charge, the landscape of course being free to explore. Other properties are leased to tenants on terms that they manage and preserve the property and are open to the public at set times.
The National Trust has been the beneficiary of many large donations and bequests, however is mainly funded by membership subscriptions and entrance fees. If you love visiting historic country houses and estates as much as I do, then it would well be worth investing in a membership, which start from £72 for an individual and go up to £126 for a family of 2 adults and up to 10 children/grandchildren. You get access to hundreds of properties across the UK and even if you just visit a couple then it has paid for itself. If you are visiting just for a short holiday then a membership will really help to keep the cost of family days out down whilst still allowing you to see a superb selection of English country houses. Most of them have children’s parks and playgrounds which our little Heidi loves!
The National Trust conserve such fantastic properties. I genuinely can’t imagine not having my membership card. I visit dozens of properties each year. If you have followed me on Instagram for a while then you will know that I absolutely adore the work they do and can’t recommend them or the properties they maintain highly enough. You can find more information on becoming a member and supporting the superb work they do here or if you just want to read more about The National Trust and what they do then click here.
I have visited over 75 National Trust properties and thought I would compile a list of my favourites for you. Read on to discover 30 of the best National Trust properties to visit!
This is not a sponsored post. This is an organisation I value very highly and use myself to visit properties in its care on a monthly basis. This post contains affiliate links. That means I may earn a small commission to help with the running of this website, at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclaimer Page for more information. Thank you for your support!
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The quaint little town of Avebury is home to some of Wiltshire’s most visited historic attractions, from its manor house and garden to the prehistoric monuments that surround it. The stone circles surrounding Avebury are one of the greatest marvels of prehistoric Britain and really shouldn’t be missed. But for me, the best part of a visit to the village is a look around Avebury Manor. The current manor house dates back to the mid 16th century, however the site in which the house stands is considerably older dating back to the 1100’s. The earliest record of a building on this site dates from 1114 when King Henry I granted the estate to his chamberlain, William de Tancarville.
This property is slightly different from some of the others, in that you get to pick up and touch everything that is on display – particularly good if you are visiting with young children. This is because it was used by the BBC in a tv series called ‘The Manor Reborn‘. A four part series recreating that manor house as it would have been centuries ago.
Baddesley Clinton is one of only a couple of surviving examples of a medieval moated manor house here in the UK. For that we have the Ferrer’s family to thank, who occupied this home for some 500 years. They were a moderately well off family, but thankfully didn’t have quite enough pennies to rub together to spare for making many modernisations to the house. If they did then we wouldn’t have this perfectly preserved example of medieval life.
I love all the tales that come from this property. Towards the end of the 16th century Baddesley became a haven for those fleeing religious persecution. There are a number of priest holes dotted about the property which were used to hide Catholics when the authorities came knocking. The most notable one of these is the one in the kitchen at the bottom of an old drain where 9 men hid while the house was being searched for them. If hiding men from the law wasn’t bad enough, then there was the incident involving former owner Nicholas Brome. It is said that he killed the minister of Baddesley Church after finding him in the parlour choking his wife. Not to worry though, to pay for his crimes he built the church ten foot higher and raised the steeple and was forgiven by Pope and King. There are tons more stories like this to discover!
My particular favourite time to visit this property? End of April/early May when the cherry blossom is out and the wisteria is in bloom.
Read my full post on a visit to Baddesley Clinton here.
A short ten minute drive away from Baddesley Clinton is Packwood House. Packwood dates back to the mid 16th century and began life as a tudor farmhouse constructed by the Fetherston family. In the late 1800’s the Fetherston’s died out and the house passed into the hands of Mr. Ash who saw to it that Packwood underwent extensive renovation to become what we see today.
Inside this property lies an impressive collection of 16th century furniture and tapestries, some of which came from nearby Baddesley Clinton. Packwood House was donated to the National Trust in 1941, who later went on to purchase neighbouring Baddesley Clinton in 1980, after much debate about how close the two properties are to each other. Thankfully, they didn’t pass up on the opportunity and both properties are worth visiting when you are in this part of Warwickshire.
One of the most impressive things about Packwood House is the gardens. The grass is immaculately maintained, the borders looking like they were cut with a knife they are so straight. I fell in love with the wisteria creeping up the walls of the house and thoroughly enjoyed walking amongst the renowned yew trees. You could sit and enjoy this garden for hours. If you are planning a visit you should certainly pack a picnic and sit by the water and take it all in.
Read my full post on a visit to Packwood House here.
The stunning Wiltshire property of Stourhead was created in the 19th century by a banking family, the Hoares. The Hoare family had a successful career in banking, which enabled them to buy Stourhead. Hoare’s Bank is in fact the last independent bank and the family is still in charge and running it today. It was created in the 17th century by Sir Richard Hoare and its funds aided the development of Stourheads garden, house and estate under several owners from the family, until it passed to the National Trust in 1947.
I can’t even begin to describe how magnificent the gardens are! The rhododendron were all in bloom during my visit and reflected magically on the water. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful gardens as these. What do you think? To catch the rhododendron in bloom, plan a visit around the middle of May. I would love to see these gardens again in Autumn though!
Further reading: 3 Days In Wiltshire – The Perfect Road Trip Itinerary
A fantastic Tudor house, home to the Throckmorton family who have lived there since 1409. John de Throckmorton, Under Treasurer of England to Henry VI, acquired Coughton in the early 15th century through his marriage to Eleanor de Spiney. Their descendants have held it for over 600 years and although the National Trust has owned the house since 1946, the family still live here. The present resident, Mrs. McClaren-Throckmorton, and her family enjoy occupancy of the house under a 300 year lease. The origins of Coughton Court lie in pre-conquest times and there is evidence of a house on this site from the 14th century. The present building was begun in the 15th century and has since survived in a family who for much of that time were impoverished, persecuted or imprisoned for their adherence to the Catholic faith. And as with a good Catholic house, there are priest holes to be found. A double priest hole in fact, set over two floors. You will enjoy exploring this one!
Any Pride and Prejudice fans should recognise Belton House. In the 1995 BBC TV version of Pride and Prejudice (the only version of Pride and Prejudice you should watch in my opinion!!), Belton House played the role of Rosings, home to Lady Catherine De Bourgh. As Mr Collins would attest, “no greater honour can be bestowed than an invitation to dine at Rosings”. Belton also featured in the scenes leading up to Mr Darcy’s first excruciating proposal to Lizzie. But this isn’t Beltons only appearance on the big screen. It has also appeared in the likes of Jane Eyre and Bleak House to name but a few.
If you are an Austen fan like myself, you can read more on how the National Trust have helped bring her magnificent stories to life by clicking here.
The home of Beatrix Potter. Need I say more?
If you are as much as fan of The Tales of Peter Rabbit as I am, then Hill Top is a must visit. Beatrix bought this house with the royalties from her first ever tales of Peter. I was astounded how you could literally see her pictures from the stories in every corner you looked. We were lucky in that we visited during the Easter weekend so we got to do an egg hunt around Peter Rabbit’s garden, a delight for little Heidi. We really cherished our visit to Hill Top and the Lake District.
Located just outside of the delightful village of Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds, Hidcote Manor is a real gem. This Arts and Crafts garden was created by the talented American horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston. He filled the gardens with colour for every season and intricately designed outdoor ‘rooms’ that make each corner of the garden different from the next. I visited Hidcote in April when the tulips were in bloom and again in the middle of June when the roses were out. Both visits were absolutely stunning and I was amazed at the transformation of the garden in just two months. I would love to see this property in the Autumn!
Further reading: The Most Beautiful Villages In The Cotswolds
“Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”.
Home to Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury – for who we have to thank for the word Shrew in the English language. She was a formidable woman who rose from very humble beginnings as a yeoman farmers daughter to become one of the most wealthy, powerful people in the country. Second only to Queen Elizabeth I herself. Inside Hardwick Hall, is home to one of the finest collections of tapestries in the world, each wall being covered in them. Along with her massive display of glass windows, her tapestry collection was a mass display of wealth. Each tapestry costing on average £1000 back in the 16th century, more if woven with silk and gold which most of hers were. That would be around £200,000 in today’s money.
When the last descendent to live here died in 1960 the hall passed into the hands of the government when the surviving family couldn’t afford to pay the £7.5 million death duty tax and so handed over the property in return for clearing the tax bill. The government gave this wonderful property to the National Trust to care for and preserve.
You will find Ightham Mote tucked away in a valley in the Kent countryside. Built nearly 700 years ago, Ightham has been described as ‘one of the most beautiful and interesting English country houses’ and I can’t say I disagree. If I were to compile a list of my top 5 National Trust properties then this would make that list. Cannot recommend this property enough! I absolutely fell in love with it.
This is a 16th century Elizabethan jewel. The hall is a fine example of Elizabethan architecture and for that we should be grateful that the owners of Benthall were staunch Catholics. As a result of the severe penalties incurred by recusant Catholics, they were financially unable to renovate the house with the changing tides of fashion. As a result, Benthall is blessedly unchanged from its late Elizabethan roots. A reminder of the Benthall family’s religious leanings are five marks on the two-storey entrance porch. These marks being the secret symbol essentially meaning ‘priests welcome here’. There is also a priest hole in the room directly above the porch.
This property has a fascinating history, culminating in the family selling the property in 1844 only to purchase it back again several generations later before passing it to the National Trust on condition that the family continue to live here.
East Riddlesden Hall
East Riddlesden Hall is a 17th-century manor house in the Yorkshire countryside. The property was built in 1642 by James Murgatroyd, a wealthy clothier from Halifax. I adore the uneven floors, dark timber wood, large open fireplaces and general wonkiness that this home has in abundance. The gardens were particularly beautiful to explore and when we visited there was a bee trail for children to enjoy! Not to mention a fantastic playground.
This property is just a 20 minute drive away from where I live so I visit here often. Kedleston Hall has been used in quite a lot of films, the likes of The Legend of Tarzan and The Duchess, so it may look familiar to you. I really love visiting this grand property for walks across the parkland and really enjoy when they have evenings with the open air cinema. The interior is stunning, with a wonderful marble entrance hall and pantheon style dome. I have a post with more information and further photos of Kedleston (a very old post now I might add so excuse the photos – I will update them soon!) so I won’t say too much about this one, but I highly recommend a visit here if you are ever in Derbyshire.
This Grade I listed beauty lies in the idyllic village of Ticknall in the Derbyshire countryside. Formerly the site of an Augustinian priory in the 12th century, the present building that is Calke Abbey, did not begin life until 1701. The house was owned by the Harpur family since 1622 until they handed it over to the care of The National Trust in 1985. An aristocratic family, characterised by their isolated, withdrawn manner. This solitary nature left its mark on Calke Abbey and presented us with the house as it is today.
This is a lovely property which is a little bit different from the rest. When the trust inherited this house they decided to leave it as they found it, with the neglect laid bare for all to see. The last of the Harpur-Crewe family to live here was a complete recluse and in his later years lived only in a handful of the rooms. Some of the unused rooms fell into decline, rooms covered entirely in dust sheets, wallpaper hanging from walls, possessions strewn across the floor. When the National Trust inherited the property in 1985 they did work to halt the decay of the building but did not restore it, and through this depicts a story of this once grand house which fell into decline. Well worth adding to your list! You can read my post on the a visit to Calke Abbey and find more photos here.
Lacock and Lacock Abbey
A prime example of a quintessential English village. Lacock looks like it has been trapped in time, left behind by the modern world. This is what made me fall in love with it. Quaint cottages, a medieval tithe barn, a babbling brook and the cutest bakery I ever did see! This village is tiny, consisting of 4 main streets and an abbey. There is a village shop, two pubs and a restaurant but that is about as modern as it gets. Lacock has been used in countless movies and tv series, most notably in Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey. This place really shouldn’t be missed, it is a rare gem.
Along with the village of Lacock, the thirteenth century abbey is also in the care of the National Trust. This place started life as an abbey and nunnery before becoming a Tudor family home. The cloisters are magical and for all those Potter fans out there, another location that was used in the movies. Those enchanting corridors that you see Harry walking down on his way to class, they were filmed here! Lacock Abbey was also the birth place of photography. To avid lovers of photography like myself, it was amazing to see the window where the first ever photograph was taken.
Moseley Old Hall
Here is the beautiful Moseley Old Hall. A historic Elizabethan timber-framed house that provided a hiding place for Charles II during his escape following the Battle fo Worcester in 1651. When Charles was fleeing from Parliamentary troops after the battle, he sought refuge at Moseley Hall. You can go and see the bed in which the King slept and the priest hole where he hid.
From the outside the house doesn’t look particularly old. It is only from the inside with all the higgledy piggledy floors and beams that you realise the house is much older than you first think. The three-storey timber house was built in 1600 but was later remodelled with brick cladding covering the timber beams, which is why at first glance you don’t get a sense of the buildings true age.
Moseley Old Hall is a fascinating property, rich in history.
Scotney Castle is a 14th century moated manor in Kent and is as pretty as a picture. This property has a new house and an old. The new home was built at the top of the hill overlooking the old manor house after the owner decided he didn’t want to live in an old turreted castle anymore. He then purposely destroyed the old castle and turned it into a garden feature. And one extraordinary garden feature it is!
This alluring seven acre gardens was created in the early 20th century and is another place that has passed into the hands of the National Trust. The land is divided up into separate ‘rooms’, each with a different theme, flowing one into the next. Orchards, spacious lawns, garden pools, well maintained topiary. The house is now rented by private tenants and not open to the public but I got some wonderful views of the exterior, decorated in wisteria.
This Victorian gothic revival house near Bristol was the home of the Tynte baronets who owned land in the area since the 15th century. The house ended up being sold to William Gibbs who made a fortune selling guano and it was lived in by his descendants until 2001 with the death of Richard Gibbs. The house was put up for auction and sold to the highest bidder. Amongst those competing are rumoured to be Kylie Minogue, Madonna and even Andrew Lloyd Webber. In the end Tyntesfield was purchased by the National Trust who undertook mammoth conservation work to preserve the property for us all to enjoy.
Wentworth Castle is home to 50 acres of grade I listed gardens, which have recently been restored to their full glory. Created in the 18th century by the Earls of Strafford, they make up one of the most important historic gardens in the country. They include the Union Jack Garden, the Victorian Secret Garden, the Ha-Ha Bridge and a fantastic castle folly which provides unparalleled views across the surrounding countryside for mile upon mile. On top of this, Wentworth is home to three national collections of plants – magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias. I particularly enjoyed the wild flower gardens to the side of the property. I think Heidi would have to say, she particularly enjoyed the playground! It was brilliant for little ones. I’ve added a couple photos of her cheery face in play mode.
This is a remarkable survival of a former Victorian horticultural masterpiece. Created by its visionary owner, James Bateman, the garden and geological gallery express his attempts to reconcile his religious convictions with his passion for botany and geology. His plant and fossil collections come from all over the world. Exploring these gardens you pass through multiple ‘rooms’. You go on a journey from the Italian terrace through hidden tunnels, into the most magical Japanese garden, the Chinese garden, an Egyptian pyramid, an English cottage, a fairy glen..these gardens really are mesmerising.
The wonderful medieval manor house at Brockhampton, complete with moat and wonky timber framed gate house is a must visit. As society changed during the medieval period when this place was built, it became more important for the owning family to live separately from their servants and estate workers as was traditionally the case. Eventually in the Georgian period, and under the care of Bartholomew Barneby, the owning family moved out from the ancient timber framed building and into a grander mansion house at the top of the estate. I suppose we should thank them for that as it meant that this stunner was left for the workers to live in and didn’t undergo any modernisations. Leaving it perfectly preserved for us all to enjoy today.
Further reading: A Glimpse Inside The Brockhampton Estate
This 16th century country house is situated just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon, next to the river Avon. Home to the Lucy family for the last 900 years, I first visited this beautiful estate with my friend Lucy about 4 years ago. Since this time I have returned on multiple occasions. One of the highlights for me is the fabulous working kitchens which are still very much set in the past. Alongside the brewery and laundry. Also the stables, complete with more than a dozen of the Lucy family original carriages. This place is an ideal place to spend the day with the family and pack a picnic to enjoy next to the river views.
The National Trust describe Chastleton House as ‘a rare gem of a Jacobean country house’. And that it is. Chastleton House was built between 1607 and 1612 by a prosperous wool merchant as an impressive statement of wealth and power. Owned by the same increasingly impoverished family until 1991, the house remained essentially unchanged for nearly 400 years as the interiors and contents gradually succumbed to the ravages of time, with virtually no intrusion from the 21st century. It really is like walking through the front doors into a time warp and visiting the past. From the ancient dust that has settled on the picture frames to the soot blackened kitchen ceiling. I love it all!
Great Chalfield Manor
I utterly adore this place. Set just off the road, we came upon it completely unexpectedly after driving down long winding roads, getting further and further into the Wiltshire countryside. There aren’t many places like this found just driving along a country lane so it was a surprise. This 15th century manor house comes complete with moat and parish church. As well as some exquisite gardens. Over the years, different owners have adapted and changed the manor, with the Great Hall being turned into a farm house. In 1905 Major Robert Fuller restored and refurnished the house to its former glory. In 1943 he gave it over to the care of the National Trust and to this day his grandson Robert Floyd and his family live in the manor.
You may have seen this place before as it has been used in a number of films and tv shows, including The Other Boleyn Girl, Tess of the d’Ubervilles (one of my favourite books!) and most recently it starred in Wolf Hall as Thomas Cromwell’s house. I also spotted it being used in Poldark.
The Kent garden of Sissinghurst was made on the site of a medieval manor and was designed in the Arts and Crafts style, creating was has come to be known as one of the best gardens of the 20th century. It has a rich history from being a prison in the 1700s all the way through to being a family home. The gardens today use some of the ruined architecture and original buildings, my favourite being the tower, which offers fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.
Snowshill Manor is a property I always try and visit when I’m back in The Cotswolds exploring all my favourite villages in the area. Snowshill Manor, until 1539, was a possession of Winchcombe Abbey. In 1919 it was purchased by Charles Paget Wade – an architect and antique collector from Suffolk, with a private income from family estates in St Kitts in the West Indies. Mr. Wade embodied his family motto ‘Let nothing perish’, spending his life and inherited wealth amassing a spectacular collection of everyday and extraordinary objects. The manor is literally packed to the rafters with 22,000 or so unusual objects, from tiny toys to splendid suits of Samurai armour.
Mr. Wade did not live in the manor himself, preferring the small barn in the garden. Instead, he used the manor to house his eclectic collections and to entertain his many guests, including writers and artists such as F L Griggs, Edwin Lutyens, John Masefield, J B Priestly, Virginia Woolf and Queen Mary. In 1951, Wade presented the manor and its contents to the National Trust, in whose hands it remains today.
I love to visit this property in spring when the apple orchard is in bloom!
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is stunningly beautiful! Situated just off the shore of Marazion, this is a definite must see whilst in Cornwall. We timed it so we were there bright and early and were able to catch the boat over to the island while the tide was still in at a cost of £2 per adult or £1 per child. This takes you into the little harbour where you can have a stroll around the small village located at the foot of the island. A small number of families still live on the island and if you want, you are able to take a guided tour and find out a bit more about village life. There is a small cafe on the island where you can stop and have a bite to eat before making your ascent up the steep windy track up to the castle perched high above. The castle is owned by the National Trust, however the original family have a 999 year lease which allows them to still live here.
Stoneywell has grown to be one of my all time favourite National Trust properties and I visit it in every season.
Originally it had a thatched roof, but after a fire in 1938 it was re-roofed in slate. Sydney’s son Humphrey made the only alterations to the property to make it inhabitable all year round and in 1930 installed electricity (which caused the fire that destroyed the thatched roof!) but it didn’t have running water until the 1960’s. Instead, the family would have to walk down to the stone well at the bottom of the garden and bring all the water they needed back to the house. Inside, the house is completely open plan and free flowing, with white-washed walls throughout. Very unusual for a Victorian Era home. But the Gimsons weren’t your usual Victorian family. A wealthy industrialist family, Sydney would cycle all the way to Leicester to work every day and when they got cars in the early 1900’s, it was Mrs. Gimson that did most of the driving. Quite rare in those days!
This beautiful house remained lived in by third generation Donald up until 2012 when he decided that he could no longer look after it. After family discussions it was decided to pass the property to the National Trust to care for.
If you are planning a trip here, just be aware that as it is a very small property, you will need to make sure to book a time slot as they are only allowed a limited number of visitors per day.
Built by Sir John Vernon in the mid 17th century, Sudbury Hall is a fantastic British example of a restoration mansion. The interior of which was used as the rooms for Pemberley in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The gardens are beautiful, overlooking the lake – but my favourite part to this property is the long gallery. Sudbury is also home to the museum of childhood, which somehow I am still get to visit. I guess that just means that I need to pay this beauty another visit.
So there you have it, my list of the 30 best National Trust properties to visit. This is only a small handful of the properties that they have in their collection. I still have a list of houses I want to visit which is a good 100 properties strong! Needless to say, my National Trust membership is on auto renewal each year and that won’t be changing.
If you would like to become a member and help to support the National Trust in the care and preservation of places of cultural and historical importance like those in this list, then click here for all the details on how to join.
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