When planning days out with the kids you may be forgiven for overlooking the National Trust, presuming that stately homes full of antiques are no place for bored children at the weekend. But if these are your thoughts then you are seriously missing a treat, because the National Trust has expanded and now offers some fantastic family days out that the kids will love!
Ok, there are still the stately homes to explore but there are also Wild Child activities such as pond dipping and bug hunting; Rainy Day Fun with indoor treasure trails; spooky goings on with Halloween Happenings as well as woodland walks, quizzes, ice-cream treats and adventure play areas. In fact there is something for everyone!
The National Trust currently have over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments all over the country that they look after and protect as well as entire villages, forests, beaches, castles and nature reserves! As well as help to care for and protect these important sites for future generations they also open them up to the public so we can learn about our history and appreciate the wonders that are often right on our doorstep!
So if you think you know what the National Trust has to offer, think again. They offer fantastic family days out for an annual membership fee that is less than the price of a family ticket to Alton Towers. And with an annual membership card you can visit all of their attractions – yes I do mean all of them – absolutely free as often as you like! Just think of how many days out that will give you!
Now when the kids are moaning that they are bored and there’s nothing to do, just visit the website, click on events and find a whole list of things going on in your local area. And if you fancy travelling around the UK, take your card with you and discover even more astonishing places; from castles to secret hidden gardens; mystical stone circles to entire medieval villages.
Here’s just a taster of some of the unique places you can explore:
Ham House, Surrey – Just outside of London there is a house that is a ghost-hunters dream! So get the kids to put on their GhostBuster outfits and head on down to Ham House – one of the most haunted houses in Britain! Nestled alongside the River Thames, Ham House has 400 years of history to tell including the bloody civil war.
Among its ghostly residents is Elizabeth, Duchess of Lauderdale who was also reputed to be a witch and her footprints sometimes appear in her bedchamber; another is a young man who threw himself to his death from the house after a maidservant broke his heart, his weeping is said to be heard from the terrace where his body lay.
Family ghost tours for the brave-hearted take place around Halloween, there is a also a Discovery Room full of interactive things for kids to do and an explorer pack for the many family garden trails.
Erddig in Wales – A large 18th century country house; hands-on tours of Victorian life; formal gardens; woodland walks; bike trails and the chance to sample some local produce.
Children can find out what it was like to be a servant in the country house, they can compare the fine furnishings of the upstairs gentry quarters to the more basic accommodation of the downstairs servants quarters. They can also explore the stunning landscape park in a series of trails and take a carriage ride through the estate. Events include Christmas markets, craft fairs, family fun days and open-air theatres.
Hill Top – If your child is a Beatrix Potter fan then they will love exploring her little house at Hill Top in the Lake District. It is kept exactly as it would have been when Beatrix Potter herself lived there, complete with sketches of Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle. There is also a garden trail for children to explore and get involved with the life of everyone’s favourite children’s author.
Lacock Abbey – I couldn’t resist mentioning Harry Potter! Fans of the Harry Potter films may know that various scenes inside Hogwarts School were shot in Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire. Also Professor Slughorn’s home and various street scenes from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince were shot around the 16th century village of Lacock itself.
The entire village is largely owned by the National Trust and when you visit you can see why. Many of the houses and streets remain untouched, transporting visitors back in time to Tudor England. It is little wonder then that many other television productions have been filmed in Lacock such as Wolverine and Larkrise to Candleford.
Children will love spotting the various film locations of Harry Potter around the 750 year old Abbey and the winding streets of the village. A children’s play area is also located in the village along with several quaint family pubs that serve up a fantastic meal. There are events on all year round but the village is at its most magical during Christmas at the popular ‘Christmas in the Cloisters’ event.
Every one of the Trust’s hundreds of properties and special places provides a great family day out that will educate, entertain and enlighten you!
If you join not only do you get free unlimited entry to their hundreds of historic houses, beautiful parks and country gardens but you also get free car parking at most National Trust sites, including coastal and woodland car parks; a free handbook with full details of each National Trust property and site; copies of the National Trust magazine full of articles, features, views and news; regional newsletters covering your area and what’s on locally.
Family membership costs £104 for a year (or £8.25 by monthly direct debit) which is cheaper than a family day out at a theme park. And, you can choose from hundreds of days out and visit as often as you like!