If you live in the UK, chances are you’ve heard of the National Trust. If you haven’t, it’s a large nationwide charity that cares for places of historical or natural interest, including castles, grand houses, and national parks. We have been National Trust members on and off for around nine years and we have really benefitted from our membership, especially since having our children.
The membership is really useful in the school holidays, in particular when we are travelling in England. Plus, we get free parking at most National Trust sites, which saves us a lot of money. We are very lucky to have some fantastic National Trust properties on our doorstep. Here are a few of our favourites.
Quarry Bank, Styal
I’ve written before about my love for this old mill and estate, which is within 30 minutes’ drive from our place. It is one of our go-to places during school holidays because there is just so much space for the kids to run around. There are also two play areas – one with slides and a swing, and one with natural wood and den-building. In good weather, we rarely visit the mill or house because there is so much to do in the outdoor space. Last time we went, the meadow (my favourite place at Quarry Bank) had traditional garden games like croquet and skipping ropes.
Lyme Park, Disley
This gorgeous estate is the reason we first joined the National Trust. It’s right on the edge of the Peak District and only 20 minutes’ drive from our home. The house alone is worth a visit and we can easily while away an afternoon exploring the Regency-style rooms. The cultivated gardens are beautiful, and the view of the house from across the lake is breathtaking. But my favourite part of this property is the ‘wild’ estate. Deer roam freely along the tracks through fields and woodland. There is a wonderful adventure play area tucked up a hill, leading to a trim trail and sculpture walk. You’ll also find a number of locations used to film the BBC’s adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (including that Colin Firth lake scene). If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the estate, join Lyme Runners on one of their bi-weekly trail runs.
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
If we fancy doing some wild exploring and natural play, we head to Dunham Massey. This estate near Altrincham is a little further afield for us but has so much to interest the kids that it’s worth the 45-minute trip. We love feeding the ducks and geese on the lake on the way in (buy food from the visitors’ centre). The grounds of the house are extensive and mainly comprised of woodland. Our kids can spend hours climbing trees, building dens, and looking for rope swings among the trees. If you’re lucky, you will spot some fallow deer wandering freely around the grounds.
Little Moreton Hall, Congleton
This was the destination of one of our first days out as a family of three. Guy took some time off when Lucas was around five weeks old and we headed to Little Moreton Hall, around a 50-minute drive from our place. The house at this property is what really stands out. It’s a Tudor manor house with iconic white and black exterior and is absolutely stunning. Inside, the rooms are higgeldy-piggeldy and immensely fun to explore, with period decor and even dressing-up clothes. The gardens are especially lovely in spring and summer when the many flowers are blooming.
Mam Tor, Castleton
You might be surprised at this choice because it’s not a typical ‘house and garden’ estate. However, I could not leave it out as it is such an incredible place to visit. Unlike the other four properties in this post, there is no admission fee because Mam Tor sits in an area of the Peak District looked after by the National Trust. The car park is free for members and pay-and-display for non-members. There’s a variety of walks you can do from the car park, depending on the distance you want to cover. We climbed up to the top and admired the view while we ate our picnic, then trailed down and made a circular route back to the car (approximately 3 miles).