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NOW CLOSED Did you visit a National Trust place on their free weekend? Add your review, or tell NT what you think about their places in general to be in with a chance of winning £100 of NT vouchers

(198 Posts)
TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 17-Apr-12 17:07:37

The National Trust have asked us to tell you about their free weekend, happening this weekend at selected properties (21st and 22nd Apr) and find out what you think about visiting National Trust houses and gardens in general. Here's what they say about the free weekend: "Our free weekend gives you the opportunity to explore over 200 houses, castles and gardens for free, as well as all the countryside spaces we care for. What better excuse to visit your local place?"

Download your voucher here to take part in the free weekend.

Whether or not you can go to the free weekend, The National Trust would like to know what you think about family days out - here are a few questions to start you off but please add any other comments you have. Everyone who adds their comments will be entered into a prize draw to win £100 of National Trust vouchers.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

If you haven't ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family, why is that? Is there anything that you think would make you more likely to go?

If you're planning to go along to a National Trust house or garden as part of the free weekend on 21st and 22nd April, you can also be entered into the prize draw if you add your feedback on the free weekend to this thread (once you've been of course!). Let us know which National Trust place house or garden your family visited, and your general opinions on the day - highlights, any lowlights(!) etc.

Thanks and good luck with the prize draw!
MNHQ

mrspnut Tue 17-Apr-12 21:33:29

If anyone is within travelling distance of Grantham then could I recommend Belton House. It has the most fantastic adventure playground that children up to mid teenage can use. The house is mildly interesting and the grounds are quite nice for a wander but the playground is well worth the trip.

We have membership and sometimes just visit for a few hours in the afternoon when the crowds are going home.

newlark Tue 17-Apr-12 21:34:16

We bought NT life membership with money from various wedding gifts from family members and it has been brilliant. We have lots of places within 45 mins drive of us in Kent and a few within 10-20 mins. It is a fairly regular activity at the weekends - a short walk with the children (3 and 5) round the gardens - a bit of colouring or part of a trail if there is one. Cup of tea and a piece of cake in the cafe smile. We usually holiday in the UK and plan to be in a part of the country with a few NT properties and maybe pass some on the way there or back - last year we went to Northumbria and visited Souter lighthouse (probably one of the best NT places we have ever been with the children), Lindisfarne Castle, Cragside (which had lots of interesting gadgets in the house, a great adventure playground and lovely walks including a woodland labyrinth), Wallington (another good adventure playground).

Being members means we don't have to worry if the kids get bored quickly - we can just leave and don't feel we have to get our moneys worth - I think the individual entry prices would seem too expensive for us.

The properties we've enjoyed most as a whole family are those with something specific for the kids - mine are at the age where a trail with things to spot and tick off is good - an adventure playground is a big attraction for us as the children can let off steam a bit after being shepherded quickly round the house smile

ScorpionQueen Tue 17-Apr-12 21:37:30

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

We love to go out walking and recently got a dog. As we are becoming more 'outdoorsy' I am considering NT membership. I keep meaning to find a good deal.
Our best day out recently was a trip on the train to Dawlish Warren.

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

I haven't visited any NT houses but this will change with the free weekend. If DH and the kids enjoy it I'll join.

If you haven't ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family, why is that? Is there anything that you think would make you more likely to go?

The children are old enough to appreciate them more now, and hopefully they won't spend the day moaning and bored. The gardens are more of a draw than the houses. Are NT places dog-friendly?

We have visited a couple of properties when friends wanted to go. We have no interest in the inside of houses so to us they were essentially well kept parks with good loos. On balance the entry price is not worth it for us when we have so many good outdoor spaces near us anyway.

The thing that probably tips the balance against joining is the fact that, while you expect the food to be expensive, you also expect it to be served in generous portions and of good quality and that has certainly not been our experience.

We like outdoor days out, but also like knowing that there is somewhere to park, toilets etc. We've been NT members since the DCs were about 3 and 5, ie out of pushchairs, we didn't find NT properties very pushchairs friendly (we were members before they were born but dropped it when they were babies).

We visit Hinton Ampner maybe 5x a season, Mottosfont Abbey once or twice, Uppark and The Vyne maybe once a year, Winkworth Arboretum once or twice (always in April for the bluebells and azaleas). Also use it on UK holidays. We hardly go in the houses, just love wandering round the grounds and looking at the gardens/views/exteriors of houses.

The DCs are 6 and 8 now, they like the treasure hunts, didn't terribly enjoy this year's Easter one at Mottisfont as it was a series of activities rather than a hunt. We haven't tried any of the grown up activities.

Things we like - being able to picnic in the grounds, as at Mottisfont, as opposed to the car park (The Vyne, Hinton Ampner). Simple activities for the children (fallen trees to walk along, climb on etc), treasure hunts, child-friendly maps and information signs.

I would hate to see the introduction of play areas as these are everywhere else and the the children would probably want to stay there and not go round the rest of the property.

MirandaWest Tue 17-Apr-12 23:01:20

I have membership of the National Trust and drag DS and DD along to places quite often. We live in York and like Nunnington Hall, loved Rivaulx Terrace recently, have been to Fountains Abbey several times, beningborough hall is good and when were on holiday it's great to find a new national trust place to visit. We like trails and quizzes especially where they change quite often.

Food is expensive but we normally take picnics wherever we go anyway. Am off to the Isle of Man in the summer and looking forward to making use of the reciprocal arrangements the national trust has there.

The prices if you're not a member do seem pretty high but being a member makes you feel ok about short visits. Although we are often in places near the end of the day grin.

Probably won't be going this weekend as lots of other people will be smile

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

We like the National Trust places, farm parks, museums, that sort of thing. Quite outdoorsy, weather permitting. We love a bit of geocaching, so that gets us out. Best day out is probably The Forbidden Corner for being totally different and unexpected and for scaring the kids silly!

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

We are members of the NT, though will probably give it a miss on the freebie weekend as it'll be too darn busy! It's been great value for us, even though there isn't a huge amount of properties locally, we use it when we are away and as stop-offs on journeys. Calke Abbey is nearby so have been there a bit. Other highlights are Belton House, Chirk Castle, Fountains Abbey, Clumber Park, Brownsea Island, Dunham Massey, Houghton Mill and Sudbury Hall.

The kids love the spotter sheets in the houses and exploring the gardens/parks. And anything with a tunnel, like the Brewhouse Tunnel at Calke.

I find the staff helpful and friendly, nice with the kids but the cafes are a nightmare. Service can be really slow so we never rely on getting anything there. If we can manage to grab coffee for me and dh and an ice cream for the kids its a bonus.

TINKERBELLE33 Wed 18-Apr-12 00:02:21

We have NT family membership and visit properties quite often. We love Fountains Abbey (went twice at Easter) and Nostell Priory as they are relatively close, have good playgrounds and plenty of space to run around in. We also love Clumber Park and Cragside though this is a long drive for us. We do like to be outdoors mostly, though do enjoy visiting houses, but can't really do them justice as kids are very young and get bored. I have always found NT staff to be very friendly and helpful, especially towards the kids.

We enjoy taking part in the children's activities, most recently the egg hunts and coloured glasses art project. At fountains Abbey art activities are indoors which are great when the weather turns.

One improvement would definitely be to improve picnic facilities. Having a picnic on the grass is fine when the weather is good, but not much fun if not so nice. Last week I had to eat in the car with 3 kids as the heavens opened and there was nowhere to shelter. We did have fun walking in the rain after (and the lovely NT volunteer apologised for the weather and listened to DD trapping on for 15 mins about her first sleepover!)

DisBoCo Wed 18-Apr-12 07:34:46

We are members (so would avoid this weekend in case it's too busy!). Our main gripe is the few places we can take our dog. Lots of places say "dogs on leads in car park only" - fat lot of use that is! For an 'outdoorsy' sort of organisation they aren't really very dog-friendly. The other thing is some sort of playground, even a small one does help the day along with DC's. Some places have brilliant ones but many have nothing. Can't really comment on the service because we always take our own food.

golemmings Wed 18-Apr-12 08:13:11

We bought nt membership when on holiday in the sw a few years ago. For a while we barely made enough visits to justify the expense. A loyalty card type thing would have been ideal in those days - either visit 9 properties and get a 10th for free or a pay £40 and get to visit 10 properties kind if deal which is a perfect introduction to membership and runs over a couple of years. Great for people holidaying in the UK.

We have always been outdoorsy but with 2 small children have reduced our activities (less climbing and kayaking) and look for slightly tamer environments. Our nearest nt place is Attingham and it is our daughter's favourite place to go. We walk round the deer park, play in the play area (looking forward to the new one!) And have something to eat. Perfect for the toddler. Perfect for the baby.

One thing I do mean to do is go with the family and leave them to go to the swings whilst I enjoy a traffic-free, child-free run in attractive surroundings. I will do it one of these days...

We probably ought to explore other places near us but quite frankly dd asks to go to attingham so often we are there most weeks and never seem to get any further...

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

We like a mix of both. Over the Easter holidays we discovered a couple of NT places which were within an hour's drive but I'd somehow missed them

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

We are NT members and have visited lots of them, nearly all the ones in the Midlands and most of those along the M5 corridor to the South West. DD is only two so she just enjoys coming along and meeting people. She usually charms the volunteers in the rooms. She does like the boxes where there are things for her to play with. Also the nursery at Wightwick Manor where she could play with some toys. The tea rooms are always our first port of call, though I agree with the above comments that sometimes the service is a bit slow and inefficient. Maybe there is a venue where this doesn't happen who could share best practice throughout the Trust? I know it's a bit difficult given the huge variation in facilities but I think there are improvements that could be made. We usually love the food, it always tastes homemade and made with 'proper' ingredients. Afternoon cream tea is my bit favourite but please stop making scones with raisins or offer a choice of plain

We love the Christmas events, had great fun doing the Easter Egg trail too. Personally I'd love more costume/lifestyle exhibitions and maybe a bit about architecture too.

We have always found the NT to be incredibly family friendly and really rate your volunteers. We've had special lifts in golf buggies when I was pregnant, seats to breastfeed half way around properties, glasses of water brought over, etc. Your volunteers are amazing.

And a big thank you to the NT for doing what they do - without the NT we would have lost so much of our heritage.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

More outdoorsy - popular family days would be woods/picnic/parks; NT properties/gardens (we live near Wisley & go there a lot too); bike riding etc. Best recent visits were to Pennywell Farm in Devon (adorable animals, lots to do/good mix of fun and vaguely educational) and the letterbox trail at Buckland Abbey (NT)

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

We are NT members and have been for a few years now. We get less value for money from it now as kids are 6 & 8 and there is more pressure on weekends but go regularly to our favourite local ones (Polesdon LAcey, Claremont Gardens & Winkworth Arboretum). We also go regularly to a few in Devon near where we visit family (Buckland Abbey, Cotehele, and lots of beach/coastline) We go more in Spring/Summer/Autumn as we tend to focus on the outdoors stuff/walks - the indoors stuff is enjoyable too but we're more of a outdoors family.

We love it when the NT do trails that are a bit different - my two aren't that engaged by 'find the answer to x question' stuff, but spotting things (I think the Cothele house trail was esp good for this) and hands on stuff is always great - letterbox trail at Buckland was a HUGE hit - my two (6&8) romped round the course without pausing for breathe. We also love special days - eg Polesdon Lacey has apple days/punch and Judy/Victorian games day; or Medieval day at Buckland Abbey, or Llama walking. DS also started talking last week about the 'putting the house to bed' talk we went to at Clandon (about 3 years ago!) - still remembered the name of the specific clothes moth you were trapping...

wigglesrock Wed 18-Apr-12 09:59:50

I'm in NI and have NT membership. It was a baby present after dc3, my Mum thought the entrance fees for days out may start to bite grin.

We love Castle Ward, was there last week. My children are still very young but love the "barn" with the ride along tractors, diggers etc out the back and also the upstairs where you can dress up as animals. The colouring in facility is also really good.

I think they would love it even more if you could see the pigs/sheep more clearly. You can't really get a good view from the path. They also love the "Secret Garden" beside the cafe etc although it is a nightmare to negotiate with a buggy!

On the cafe note, we usually bring food but would always go to the cafe for something hot especially with the weather lately grin However when I went in last week (Good Friday actually) there was very little choice and no chips and sausages I was told by a lovely girl that the NT had taken over the cafe and changed the menu. I usually go with a few other families and we would all get a hot sandwich etc and the children a few plates of chips to share. We wouldn't bother with cafe otherwise.

My daughter (6) has been to Mount Stewart a few times - she loves it and the staff.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
We like farms, other places we can see animals/fish etc, places that the kids can get 'hands on' with stuff

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
We like outdoor stuff and it's often cheaper but it's also nice to have indoor places for when it's bad weather

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?
The best place we've been in Sundown Adventureland. We could easily have spend a couple of days there. Both kids loved it. We'd definitely go back. There was just so much for kids to do and yet it was very simple too - I thought there were lots of things that other places could easily incorporate in their grounds.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
No new destinations but we did go to Eureka (had been once before) and the kids loved it so we'll definitely be going back more often.

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family?
I don't think we have

If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?
n/a

If you haven't ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family, why is that? Is there anything that you think would make you more likely to go?
I think if we knew there was more for the kids to really get involved with. I always get the impression it's expensive and it's mainly walking around the grounds and a nice cafe. I tend to find it seems more aimed at older couples rather than families. It's the sort of thing my IL's tend to enjoy, which puts me off blush

TheRhubarb Wed 18-Apr-12 10:21:16

I generally think that visiting National Trust properties are expensive, as is the membership fee. Very often there are events on such as a hog roast or apple bobbing in the autumn but there is an additional fee for this on top of the entrance fee. I understand that the National Trust has to keep these properties looking their best, but I think they would get more members if the membership prices reflected the economical times.

We are regular visitors of Lacock Abbey as we have a free pass and we do love going there. The grounds are quite large and ideal for a picnic. There are some great trees around and the children can climb on tree stumps and do activities like counting the rings.
There is also a mini greenhouse filled with exotic plants although I would like to see more plants for sale to the public than the half dead specimens you get on the table on the way out.

Inside the Abbey is great, especially for Harry Potter fans but again, there is little information for children about what each room in the cloisters was used for. They could do more to make it interesting for kids.

Inside the furnished rooms there are guides to tell you about the history and the rooms themselves which is great. The place is vast and you can easily spend the whole day wandering around.

Then the village of Lacock itself is owned by the National Trust and really does feel like you've stepped onto a film set. There are quaint little shops, a brilliant play area for the kids and homely pubs to visit.

We have seen a few National Trust places in the past and my major criticism is that more could be done to interest children and provide more information about the things around them. Also more hands-on activities would be nice, especially in the grounds where children could find out about different kinds of trees and plants. And certainly when special activities are put on, there should not be an additional charge for this along with the entrance fee as most families just can't afford it. If you wanted to treat the kids to a day out would you really pay the entrance fee and the event fee?

I applaud the free voucher, they should strive to do more things like that to encourage families to visit these places and think about getting more people through their doors rather than raising costs. As it is, only well-to-do families and retired couples seem able to pay the rates the NT charge.

Thefoxsbrush Wed 18-Apr-12 10:46:27

What sort of places do you like going for family days out?

Places you can enjoy a picnic, plenty of places for kids to run around, parks, somewhere the kids can learn something.

Are you an outdoorsy family?

Yes, we love woodland walks and camping

What's the bests place you've visited in recent years?

Alnwick garden- we love eating in the treehouse, playing on tractors, walking around and learning about the poison garden, getting lost in the maze and getting wet in the water gardens. Also love the view of the fountains.

Did you discover new family days out over Easter?

No, we went to tried and tested children's farm, walk around woods and local fair.

If you havent visited NT houses or gardens why is this?

We have visited seaton deleval hall but it was free through local sure start. They had a family event on based on the children's book "we're going on a bear hunt" we had a lovely time and would only be likely to visit NT properties if it was for a specific family event. For example we are planning a visit to Wallington hall on May day for their family roman day. If there weren't any specific family events on I think my dc would find it boring and not worth the entrance fee- we could go somewhere more entertaining for free/ a lot less eg beach/ free museum such as discovery museum in newcastle

5inthebed Wed 18-Apr-12 10:58:44

Ooh thanks for letting us know, will go to Cragside this weeken if the weather is nice.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?

We like to go to places that have a lot of things to do outside. Having three boys, they prefer being outdoors climbing on things and running around.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?

Definitely! There is nothing better than being outside in the fresh air, walking through woodlands and exploring new areas.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?

Kielder Forest was pretty good. Lots of different areas to explore, bike hire and a trip out on the water.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

No, the weather was attrocious and DS2 (ASD) hates going out in bad weather.

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

We have visited a few in the Northumberland area and some in Scotland as well. We visit Cragside at least once a year as there are a ot of activities for the kids to do and the house is interesting as well.

choccyp1g Wed 18-Apr-12 11:13:43

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? We are quite outdoorsy but do love a nice cup of tea and cake.DS however, is turning into a teenager, and wants to play on X-Box etc.*What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Bowood House, it's not national trust, but a fabulous stately home type place, with tree tops adventure trail, caves to explore etc. Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols? Yes, we went to Waddeston House, (NT), lovely grounds, plenty of things for children to do, interesting house (but not for 11yo DS)

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go? Yes, I love the grounds and walks of Stately Homes, and the Lake District etc. DS likes the mountains, House with playgrounds, trails etc., but is not interested in the houses

If you haven't ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family, why is that? Is there anything that you think would make you more likely to go? N/a

TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 18-Apr-12 11:28:32

Jux - there's a full list of participating places here

TheRhubarb Wed 18-Apr-12 11:41:39

Lacock Abbey is one of the participating places and I do recommend it as a place to visit. The village is free all the time by the way. But the Abbey is worth a look as they filmed parts of Harry Potter there, as well as in the village (his mum and dad's house is there. From the film, obviously). My two love the grounds AND the Abbey itself as they do both find history to be interesting and most of the rooms are made up as how they would have been when the Abbey was lived in. Plus they LOVE the massive cauldron in one of the cloisters.

I can also recommend The George pub, the oldest in the village and with an old fashioned dog spit inside (the dog wasn't on the spit, it would rotate it by running in a special wheel). There is a beer garden with a children's play area at the back.

Oh and ice creams from the Post Office are MUCH cheaper than the ice creams from the NT cafe (which they pinched from a local couple who used to run it). Or at the weekends on sunny days, there's an ice-cream van selling Mr Whippy. If you want proper special ice-cream the bakery does flavours like Apple Crumble and Lemon Curd along with proper homemade bread baked that morning.

Am I selling it to ya yet?

Jux Wed 18-Apr-12 12:17:28

Thank you, Helen (The Other Helen, of course, but that seemed rude on its own!).

CharlotteBronteSaurus Wed 18-Apr-12 14:57:02

we're not NT members, but could be interested if Tatton Park stopped charging a fiver for parking (even to members). unlike a lot of posters, i prefer the NT places that do offer children's activities like an adventure playground or farm animals. We have 3 national parks within 90minutes drive (2 within 60minutes) and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty even nearer, so if we just want a nice walk with good scenery we do that instead.

I would also appreciate either an improvement in the food, or shelter picnic areas for wet weather, preferably both. At Easter we were deciding whether to visit Tatton Park, or the Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole. Everyone voted for Brockhole on the basis that the cafe is lovely! I don't expect the cafes to be cheap, but there is no excuse for stale sandwiches with thick layers of marge at four quid a pop.

sphil Wed 18-Apr-12 16:07:34

We are NT members and are very lucky in that we have a number of lovely places near to where we live in Somerset. We visit Stourhead, Montacute and Lytes Cary regularly - all beautiful - but have a special affection for Lytes Cary as it has a huge swing in the woods and a hanging willow chair in the gardens, both of which DS2, who has autism, absolutely loves! We often take our campervan, park, have a picnic ( some of the carparks are great picnic spots in themselves) and then have a wander around the gardens. Don't usually brave the houses unless Ds2 isn't with us - still the occasional tutting guide in a cardigan to contend with wink though we did have one who said ' Oh just let him run up and down dear - what does it matter?' and whom I very nearly kissed...

Hanleyhigh Wed 18-Apr-12 16:12:23

I think the NT is fantastic value for money for us.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?

NT places, walking, cycling.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?

Outdoor - we often go to NT land rather than properties.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?

We loved Lyme Park, the new playground is excellent.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

No, just usual haunts and less of them due to the weather. I e-mailed a local NT property the week before Easter to ask if they had a trail on and got a reply well after Easter...

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

Dcs love the trails and the increasing number of play areas (they ask to go to the ones with play areas e.g Lyme Park over Dunham Massey. We spend loads of weekends at either NT land or properties.

My children are 3 and 5 and frankly they are little horrors when surrounded by expensive furnishings. I'd be terrified to go to a stately home for fear of them jumping the velvet ropes and commando crawling over the laliques.

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