Okay, so maybe it shouldn’t be a ‘versus’ question but, if you’re planning to buy an annual membership for the National Trust or English Heritage and want to get your money’s worth, the question is: which should I choose?
We have had both NT and EH membership for a few years now and I can honestly say that we are regular (and keen) visitors to NT places. Before we trundle off on our UK trips, I can be found fastidiously checking the NT and EH apps on my phone to see what’s near by or en route.
English Heritage ‘attractions’ are excellent and they do so much great work conserving and preserving history and bringing it to life for modern-day audiences. The places to visit tend to be further away from home and include a fair few historically significant ruins and monuments that, alas, my kids are not ready for (or interested in) yet. According to a recent family poll (my family) the ‘big ticket’, must-see English Heritage places are: Dover Castle and Walmer Castle in Kent- Walmer has a new natural play trail for 2019, Battle Abbey in Battle (next to Hastings), Tintagel Castle in Cornwall is ‘awesome’ – the new bridge is due to open this summer which will make access so much easier- and Stonehenge is clearly a must.
We have a few places left on our list: Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight are must-sees. As you can tell, we’re in London and tend to gravitate to the South West, but we also plan to visit the Elizabethan Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire.
The National Trust membership is used regularly. There is so much choice and loads to explore close to home. An hour’s drive towards Kent or Surrey from Wandsworth gives you a whole host of options. Woodland, commons and the Surrey Hills AONB are great for a long walk in the fresh air – Winkworth Arboretum is a great place to have a walk , explore nature and unwind- our favourite country house and garden combos are Hatchlands Park and Polesden Lacey. Kent has loads to offer too: Chartwell (Churchill’s gaff) for history, Emmets Garden for outdoor, natural play, Ightham Mote is gorgeous for a summer picnic (bring a change of clothes as the kids paddle in the stream) and the herds of deer at the mighty Knole are very impressive!
Morden Hall, Ham House & Gardens and Osterley Park & House are good local places to visit on a fine day for a picnic and play, and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire is a super day out – if it’s good enough for Meghan Markle (she stayed there the night before her wedding to Prince Harry) it’s good enough for us! To be honest, we often give the house a wide berth as a highly-strung four-year-old who can’t contain his hands is often more hassle than it’s worth! We are very happy in the gardens and Cliveden has beautiful grounds and a gorgeous fairytale-themed play area. Another NT bonus is that you can use your National Trust membership to visit Stonehenge.
Whether you have EH or NT membership, or both, you’ll have hundreds of opportunities to make magical memories and, whether you visit regularly or rarely you’ll be doing an excellent thing as you’re helping EH and NT to protect and preserve special places for future generations, so well done you!
Enjoy, Amy x