This topic is for paid for discussions. Please mail us at insight@mumsnet.com if you'd like to know more about how they work.

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

aftereight Wed 18-Apr-12 18:24:54

We've just completed our annual NT membership, and have renewed. Thought it was expensive but as we live close to at least 4 NT properties/locations I have looked at it as a monthly cost of <£10 to have access to the parks, car parks and play areas. We can go for an hour or two at a time rather than have to commit of a full day after paying entrance fees iyswim.
We're not really an outdoorsy family, but NT membership has encouraged us out and about, even in winter! We've also used it on holiday in Northumberland for Cragside and Lindisfarne castle.
The children love the activity sheets for spotting things; over Easter we did an Easter egg hunt. A children's guide to each property would be good, with a simple map and age appropriate history & points of interest to spot etc.

Am a little worried my children will complain when they're older that we only took them to NT places though, rather than theme parks!

Interesting that quite a few people want more play areas, none of our regular NT properties have them and we do remark that it is one thing we really appreciate, because if they did have them our kids would want to spend the entire visit in the play area. If there isn't one they just get on with enjoying the visit and walking, exploring etc.

We can go to play areas for free in the local parks, if more NT properties did have them I would be less likely to take the DCs there as we might as well just go to the park.

Hanleyhigh Wed 18-Apr-12 18:29:20

But you don't have to let them spend all the time at the play areas! We still do all the other stuff too.

Also, the new area at Lyme Park is way different to any park round here, completely different equipment and experiences.

Frontpaw Wed 18-Apr-12 18:32:14

We enjoy ones with large, rambling grounds, like Stowe Gardens. Sadly, the picnic areas in many are just a patch of grass next to the carpark with one or two picnic tables! The staff are usually lovely and friendly and we also visit the NT for Scotland. Properties and have found some real gems in Aberdeenshire.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
We love trips to the seaside (mainly on wild and windy days), places to walk the dog, visiting castles/houses, quaint towns and villages, playgrounds.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
We like both. I love wandering around places pottering. Dh and dd(8) like more high adrenaline activities.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?
Knowsley Safari Park recently. Very well run and organised.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
Knowsley, Rufford Hall, Whisby Nature Reserve

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family?
Yes lots. We are members.

If so, which ones? Clandon Park, Polesdon Lacey, Knightshayes, Petworth House, Shalford Mill, Batemans, Scotney Castle, Bodiam, Coleton Fishacre, Devils Punchbowl, Witley Common, Formby beach etc etc My dd loves the children's trails, indoors and outside, special themed days, play areas, the cafe! She did pond-dipping at Coleton Fishacre and listened to the grand piano being played. She likes it when the room stewards are friendly - Surrey is probably home to the least jolly ones! We would like properties to be open in the Winter as there is little to do in Winter months...

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?

Oh yes, I agree they need to be more dog-friendly! The 'dog creche' idea is usually disappointing and unsuitable...

Mopswerver Wed 18-Apr-12 19:44:42

During the Easter Hols my kids took part in a 'Wild In The Woods' session. Three consec. days from 10am-3pm. They had a ball making (brilliant!) dens, rope swings, camp fires, soup, listening to stories, craft sessions and so on. Out running around all day long...just like my childhood really! Can't wait for the next one!

bluebump Wed 18-Apr-12 20:07:21

I'll be taking advantage again of the free weekend, I did it last time they did this.

I really love our local National Trust property (Knightshayes Court) but it is so expensive to visit. We can go on the woodland walk for free but they now even charge to have a look outside the property which is a real shame. I am in walking distance of it and would go a lot more if you could go and sit and have a picnic in the grounds at the front of the house still. They do really good food so we often go just for lunch but would go for a walk around the grounds too each time if it was cheaper.

We like to be out and about and try not to be put off by the weather and Knighshayes has a great mix of woodland, lovely gardens and inside the house (if you pay for the whole lot). I am visiting Killerton for the first time with a friend next week as that is very close to me so if my DS likes it then i'll think about a yearly pass.

EllenRose Wed 18-Apr-12 20:42:12

We took out NT membership this year having recently rescued two Labradors and I realised that there were masses of places we could take them for days out as well. We are lucky that we have Tyntesfield Estate within 15-20 mins drive and now we think of it as free we have been there lots just for walks / den building in the woods plus we did the Easter Egg hunt during the hols which the children loved. We also met up with other members of our family (and members of the NT) for picnics at sites central to us all as a change from descending at one of our houses - much less stressful smile
We intend to take our book so we squeeze in visits whilst we are on holiday camping too. I am thinking of buying membership for my mother-in-law next year so that she can come too.

I know I don't have to let them just use the play areas, but it does rather detract from the enjoyment if they are constantly trying to get you to go back to the play area or are reluctant to leave it. Which is what happens at the local country park, they are very reluctant to do any walking or explore the woods because there are play areas.

ValiumQueen Wed 18-Apr-12 20:56:49

Nothing in Scotland sad

UniS Wed 18-Apr-12 22:12:38

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?
Outdoorsy, like days out with walks and finding things. Tend to go out on nearby moorland or to a beach.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?
Dartmoor- close to home, letterboxing, desolation and beautiful hills.
Bude - good beaches, good ice creams, easy car parking ( at least in winter) decent loos.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
Yes- Okehampton Castle.

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones?
Yes. Finch Foundry ( regular local walk , plus school trips)
Cotehele- first try of taking a 4 yr old to a historic house. not bad considering, but we were very fast round the house.

What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited?
DS likes looking out for things that are like things we use at home.

Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?
For us its spring/ autumn, before or after teh tourist season when teh roads are clogged and places are busy.

I

Indoorsy or outdoorsy depends on the weather!

Been to Blickling Hall with DS1. Before DS2 was born, I think... Generally a good outing needs to involve lots of space for running around. The boys get very bored with just looking at things. Unfortunately we're unlikely to be able to get to an NT place this w/e. We went to the Natural History Museum over Easter which was good even though we didn't really get a chance to read any of the exhibits properly. DS1 got to borrow an "explorer kit" which helped him to get more involved. I think there were things like that at Blickling too, but he was a bit young for it then.

Marking place.

zipzap Thu 19-Apr-12 11:10:48

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
Ones that aren't too expensive, that will have good basics (ie clean loos, plenty of parking), nothing where the dc can run off and injure themselves badly if you take your eyes off them for a moment, or likewise where they can run off and damage something really valuable wherever we are. Places that have free worksheets that target different age groups to give them something to help structure their visit and give them a bit of a challenge as they go (rather than having to drag them around and 'just look') is good too. Oh and pushchair friendly too - if you have a child in a pushchair you don't want to have to be leaving it unattended somewhere or carrying a child(and all their accompanying gubbins) around with you.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
No a very outdoorsy family at all - although dh and dc are more outdoorsy than me who is firmly entrenched indoors. DC both love playing outside and running around, kicking a ball or throwing a ball around.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?
Milton Keynes museum - very hands on, lots of different things to do for all ages, pushchair friendly, we went on a bit of an impulse without knowing what was there and were very pleasantly surprised.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
Nope - but not for the want of trying; unfortunately we were all in bed with flu sad

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones?
Only one in the past few years has been the gardens at Stowe school

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?
It's nice at all times of year - particularly autumn when all the trees are beautiful colours, summer when it's lovely to have a picnic at and run around, winter you get to see the amazing structure of the place and in spring it's all just bursting forth with new life. great for kids to run around and let off steam and have lots of different exciting things to explore on the way around.

If you haven't ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family, why is that?
There don't seem to be many near us and with young kids and busy lives we don't often have weekends free to take off and explore such places. Plus the cost is another factor to bear in mind - I tend to think that NT places (and others too, not singling out the NT!) will be quite expensive and so wouldn't think to do them on an ordinary weekend, would be for more of a special event. And my dc are currently at an age where they are more excited by the prospect of going to the zoo (we have a fantastic safari park just down the road) or the farm (that belongs to my sis and BIL) or to granny (fantastic cycling around her house) than off to see 'just' a house or garden.

Is there anything that you think would make you more likely to go?
Hopefully once the boys are bigger we'll get to go a bit more. It's also knowing what's on - rarely see any info about NT properties in our local paper. I've just checked on the NT site and there are 5 within 15 miles of where I lived - I only knew about 2 of them and even then, they are about 10 miles away and it is very rare to see anything in the local press about any upcoming special events or even just reminders they are there when holidays are coming up. And as our local papers come most weeks but not all weeks, it would be good if they advertised stuff for at least a couple of weeks beforehand so you have a chance to see stuff in enough time to actually go. If the paper comes on a friday and you finally get to pick it up on a sunday morning to flick through, nothing more frustrating that discovering you have missed something the day before, whereas if it was in the previous week's paper too, you would have made sure you went to it.

gingercat12 Thu 19-Apr-12 12:21:45

Our favourite NT property is Wallington, Northumberland. We love letting DS run around and enjoy the adventure playground. We also love the long walk around the property.
Gibside is another favourite, but car parking is a problem there.
Seaton Delaval has just recently opened, so we hav only been a few times, but we like that, too.
This year we have a NT card, but in the past we made full use of the open days.
We mainly like to go when it is dry, as we hardly ever go indoors.

MaresyDotes Thu 19-Apr-12 13:14:43

We are NT members, GP buy us family membership every year for our Christmas pressie which is fab. We aren't particularly 'outdoorsy' but do love visiting new places, and revisiting old favourites.

Best place we've visited lately was probably Bletchley Park, what a fascinating place! And plenty of room for kids to run around. We went to Lincoln Castle over the easter hols, lovely place but it was chucking it down with rain so we didn't get to see much of the outside. sad

We've been to dozens of NT houses, if we're driving any distance we like to see if there's one 'on the way' so we can break the journey, if it's a nice place we'll make a special trip to see it properly. We love Oxburgh Hall which is very local for us, we go there several times a year, especially in the summer - sometimes I pick DD up from school and go straight there for an hour for a walk round the woods (with the obligatory trip 'down the priest's hole'! grin). Peckover House is another local one that is really nice, DD likes the Cabinet of Curiosities and I love the gardens!

We keep meaning to go to one of the 'putting the house to bed' days when everything's being packed up for the winter, but haven't managed it yet.

It really irritates me that there aren't more affordable snack-type meals available, there are usually full hot dinners for around £8 but honestly, in the middle of the day, all we want is a simple sandwich. It doesn't have to be arty-farty houmous and caramelised onion, just a ham or cheese or egg sandwich would be wonderful - at a non-bank-breaking price. We usually end up with a cream tea as it's the quickest and cheapest option. The service is invariably very very slow, it seems like there is huge room for improvement there.

oooggs Thu 19-Apr-12 13:16:14

We joined the NT this month and have been to 3 properties and have nearly recouped our money already. DH and I and our dcs (8,5,5 & 3). We did this when we were small and our children have now enoying the pleasures.

So far we have done Corfe Castle & Brownsea Island in Dorset and Cotehele House in Cornwall

MaresyDotes Thu 19-Apr-12 13:16:21

Oh, forgot to mention - DD loves the childrens activity sheets that most NT properties have, but they don't change - ever! It would be nice to have several sheets that can be rotated each year so the children have something new to do when we visit again.

moonbells Thu 19-Apr-12 13:44:10

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
Trains! (Have small DS...)

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
Outdoors if the weather holds!

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?
Best place? Lappa Valley in Cornwall. Toddler/preschooler heaven esp for boys. Trains, sandpits, canoes, crazy golf, adventure playgrounds...

Nothing over Easter. Weather too bad!

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've only visited pre-child. I was a member for a few years but the price of membership is eye-watering

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?

They should consider partial memberships. If they did a category where instead of unlimited visits, you got, say, four redeemable tokens for a year, for a third or half price, I would be tempted into going. Once you've used them all, back to paying, but you would still get free car parking and the mag.

Also I'd like more things to interest DHs who loathe anything housy or garden-related and so don't want to be dragged along too esp given the one-off costs! (Because he won't be dragged along, I can't really take DS, so none of us go.)

Finocchio Thu 19-Apr-12 15:11:36

We joined for a year and quite enjoyed it but by the end of the year we had lost enthusiasm, many of the stately homes and gardens did feel a bit sameish. And they seemed quite staid in their approach to families. Elderly volunteers standing guard reminding the children not to touch anything, when with our young children we'd have really appreciated more spaces where you could touch things (we are used to this in museums, areas where you can be hands on, as it's hard for children to engage with things cordoned off and not to be touched).

We also thought that the "family trails" were pretty unexciting - spot a hedgehog in each room, etc, rather than something which engaged the dc in the history of the house, or the objects inside it.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
Museums, outdoor activities, castles, mountain walks or cliff walks, beaches, watersports lakes. I feel we are the sort who should like NT properties but we don't.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
We like both. we like history, art, science, and outdoor pursuits.

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

St Fagan's museum was very good, all the big London Museums, Cardiff museum, National mining museum (Wakefield).

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 did really like St Michael's Mount. And Styal Mill. Especially Styal mill as it showed the life of the poor. I do feel that many of the stately homes seem to show the life of the rich a bit too obsequiously. I know they sometimes show the "servants' bedrooms" etc but they skate over the actual living conditions of the servants and the estate workers, or the fact that often the wealth came from slavery, etc. (I'm a bit Marxist for the NT, perhaps grin).

We do like the NT preserved coastlines.

Malachite Thu 19-Apr-12 16:13:33

- 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 love being outdoors but being in the Northwest we don't often have the weather! We especially like visiting castles.

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

Beeston Castle

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

No, been stuck at home recovering from a c section

- 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?

Tatton Park - toddler liked being able to run around off the reins. I like gardens but not so keen on visiting houses as I find them a bit dull and they're not great for young children. Best to go when it's not raining so summer is best.

poorbuthappy Thu 19-Apr-12 17:54:57

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
Perferably indoor and outdoor places. Tbh we will more or less go anywhere!

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
Outdoor definitely, well Spring/Summer! ALthough as above its good to find somewhere that has both in order to keep everyone happy.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?
Puzzleland just outside Coleford, Folly Farm West Wales.

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

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones?
We go to Tredegar House quite a lot, gardens with dog, special events in the house etc. But this is beause we are 15 mins away so its very very easy for us.
What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited?
Kids just enjoy being outside. We are take picnics, and generally force everyone to enjoy themselves!

Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?
When things are open?? Seriously we don't have a certain time of year to go anywhere. We don't worry about weather (unless severe storms), dress appropriately, take good food and a thermos.

Have downloaded the vouchers and will be visiting Dyrham Park on Saturday.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Thu 19-Apr-12 18:00:12

We are NT members and I've just signed up DD and her boyfriend. We've made good use of our membership we've been to Anglesey Abbey, Wimpole Hall, Chastledon House, Sutton Hoo, Nunnington Hall, Ickworth, Hatfield Forest, Felbrigg, Dunwich, Orford Ness, Houghton Mill and Chedworth recently. We loved the untouchedness of Chastleton which we discovered at Easter, we will be going back. We are lucky enough to visit Wicken Fen every day and my kids grew up playing there, DS is now a full time falconer and that is probably partly due to him growing up watching the harriers here.

TheMonster Thu 19-Apr-12 19:23:22

We've always been put off by the price, so the voucher is perfect for us - especially on the weekend before payday! We're off to Nostell Priory, vouchers in hand, this weekend.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now