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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

Q. 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? A. Definitely go for more outdoorsy days out, unless the weather is really awful. Lots of walks, picnics etc

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 were abroad for Easter, but we really like a NT place - to which I will refer in the next question!

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 really like going to Gibside, it is great for quite small children as there is a lot of space to run about, and quite interesting little paths through the woods, as well as a great new playground. It's a little further away from us, but Cragside is a great day out too. It's just a shame that in Durham there isn't an obvious NT place to visit; we could do with a nice place for Sunday afternoon walks when the weather's a bit wild for the moors.

CakeJunkie Mon 23-Apr-12 23:51:14

We went to Claremont Landscape Garden this weekend. We moved to the area about a year ago, and Claremont had been on my list of things to do, but we'd never quite got round to it til the free weekend gave us a bit of a push.

We first tried to go on Saturday afternoon, but got there to discover that the car park was full, as was the overflow car park on the common to which people were being directed. We could have probably found space at a car park elsewhere on the common, but given that this would have entailed walking a good mile with DS in his pushchair along roads with no pavements, and the highly changeable weather, we gave up for the day.

However, we're not easily deterred, so we had another go at visiting on Sunday morning. DS (23 months) liked the playground, though it was hard for him to climb the castle structure to use the slide (he's very tall and a good climber, so this isn't usually a problem). He enjoyed feeding the birds around the lake but, much to our surprise, his favourite part of the garden was the haha - he could probably have spent the entire morning running down the bank into the ditch and back up the other side, pausing only to squelch through the mud at the bottom. DH and I enjoyed wandering round the garden and the view from the top of the ampitheatre. We were impressed by the range of toddler friendly food in the cafe and all enjoyed the scones. We're still trying to work out how often we're likely to visit and so whether it'd be a good investment to join the NT, particularly given we're outdoorsy, so are less likely to visit the big stately homes with the higher entrance fees.

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Tue 24-Apr-12 09:20:01

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're a very outdoorsy family, and love spending time exploring the large estates, grounds and woodlands that NT owns, I am luckily alone in my love for the houses, so I get an hour to myself (to muse about the life I should have lead) while DD and DP play and wander around outside.
Although it's not an NT property we recently visited Drumlanrig, and was blown away by it, the grounds (walking and cycling) was fantastically laid out, the house was gorgeous, and the kids play area was one of the best we've ever been to (although the cakes didn't quite rival the cream tea at Basildon park)

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?
Basildon Park is just down the road from us so we spend a lot of time there especially in the summer.
We also frequently visit Mottisfont (most recently for the lovely Angels Exhibit), Wallington, Cragside, Cliveden and Sutton Hoo as they're near family, and have really nice outdoors spaces for DD and DP to enjoy.
We always make sure we visit any local NT properties whenever we go on Holiday in the UK and at out last count had visited about 75% of the properties/places in the book blush
We often try to arrange any long trips via a NT property as it provides a better break than motorway services, and the cakes may play a small part in that decision smile

Basically - although we accept that family annual membership can be a bit pricey (although thankfully DD is only 2 so still free) it's well worth the numbers of days out and free parking it provides.

mulberryoutlet Tue 24-Apr-12 10:16:50

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Annamaria0 Tue 24-Apr-12 11:24:00

I absolutely love National Trust. I am originally from Poland, but have lived in this country for nearly 9 years, and I think NT is doing an amazing job - many countries have no equivalent organisations, and either neglect their heritage, or have to go cap in hand to their governments and taxpayers.
We are NT members and visit NT properties frequently - the last one I saw was Stourhead, which was breathtaking. I always recommend NT to friends.

Didi75 Tue 24-Apr-12 12:18:32

I love taking my 3.5 year old daughter out and about, as its preferable to being stuck at home some times and she enjoys it as she can run around relatively safely and get the chance to jump in muddly puddles (very important for a young child!). We are fortunate enough to live in an area where we have a wealth of places on our doorstep - the Basingstoke Canal, the River Wey, Wisley gardens, Painshill Park and not to mention several national trust properties, as well as all the theme parks for children. Having good rail links also means we can explore London relatively easily too.
One of the best days we have had out is Paultons Park near Romsey. I do not think you can beat it for a birthday treat for a young child.
We have recently joined the national trust and its been brilliant. It gives you an excuse to explore what is around locally and try new places. So far we have been to Polesden Lacey, Hatchlands Park and Claremont Landscape Gardens. I particularly like the events they have running for children and the recent article about the 50 things children should do before they are 12 - I am a big advocate of children getting outside and off their computers etc..
We went to Claremont on Sat and they had farm animals so that was great.
I would agree with someone else's comment on here about the cafes. Some of them are quite small, slow to serve and expensive. If NT are on a recruitment drive which it seems they are, they may need to invest in upgrading these refreshment areas.
Looking forward to being able to explore some more places in the very near future!!!

HairyToe Tue 24-Apr-12 13:51:48

I like visiting National Trust properties, and was always taken as a child. I often take the children there along with my parents when they come to visit as it is a good way of entertaining everyone of all ages.

I do agree the entrance fees are pricy but then so are a lot of places you go to for a day out. Over Easter we went to @Bristol Science Museum (family ticket £35) and Bowood (family ticket £30). For us days out like this are 'occasional treats'.

A couple of years ago I paid £90 for an annual family pass for the National Trust but felt a bit cheated at the time as I didn't end up using it as much as I would have liked and was a bit cross that most places closed over the Winter Season so in effect I felt I was paying for 8 months rather than 12. But that may have just been the particular properties in the area where I lived at the time (Cambridgeshire).

I'm thinking about buying an annual pass again soon as the children are getting older and appreciate it more and I'm also not so against driving a bit further afield now (as compared to when I had babies in tow). There are quite a few properties in my area (Somerset/Wiltshire) but they are mostly at least 40 mins drive away. Also my perspective on the cost of the annual pass has changed - I did think £90 for the family for the year was a bit expensive, but having shelled out £240 for an annual pass for Longleat last year the NT one seems like a right bargain!

We used our voucher to visit Lacock Abbey last weekend and thought it was lovely, and I agree the staff were very friendly especially to the children. Walking round a stately home with an 8 year old, 5 year old and a 2 year old boy (!) is always going to be a bit stressful! In one of the rooms there were some Victorian toys/curiosities laid out and the lovely man there spent ages demonstrating them to the kids and letting them play with them. As others have said though, I do think Lacock is missing a trick by not making more of the Harry Potter connection. DD1 was very excited to see the information board telling you about the filming there and it would have been good if there had been more info about it showing where various scenes were shot etc.

My favourite ever NT property was Wimpole Hall, with Home Farm in the grounds. Spent loads of time there when DD1 was little.

As other posters have said the things that would encourage me to visit NT properties would be more things to interest the children. Games/treasure hunts in the houses are good and things they can interact with (we have been to some places where they could dress up in period costumes). Also although DD1 is interested in history its good if there are other things outside to do to let off a bit of steam once we've 'sensibly' walked round the house, so maybe play equipment/adventure trails in the grounds. Also we've sometimes been lucky enough to visit on days when craft activities have been runnning in various outbuildings - either quite simple painting/glueing pictures or models, but on one occasion DD1 and DD2 joined in a feltmaking activity which was brilliant.

Reading this thread maybe it would be a good idea for the National Trust to produce a booklet specifically aimed at families/children highlighting which properties are most suitable for children of different ages and what they have to offer?

fahmida Tue 24-Apr-12 14:13:20

We visited Knole house/park this weekend and had a great time. The weather was lovely so we made the most of the park. The highlight was of course the wild deers. They were beautiful and the dc enjoyed watching them quitely (even my normally chatty toddler).
they have walks for pushchairs and I can imagine wonderful cycle trails for when my dc are a bit older. Cafe was ok.... And the house was really a quick tour.

Voidka Tue 24-Apr-12 14:22:45

We visited Belton House this weekend (Saturday). We are members anyway so didnt use the free weekend voucher but I think thats a nice idea.

We love Belton and go quite a lot. We are not 'outdoorsy' really but the children enjoy the adventure playground, especially the big twisty tunnel slide. (I would like it more if it had a few more places to sit). We are really looking forward to the beehive indoor area opening next month. We have been in the house before but we dont usually go in as my DC's are a bit too 'touchy' for my liking. The first time we went in DS2 wanted to take his shoes off and get on the bed.

We went to Calke Abbey for the first time for the Easter Egg hunt - it was very nice and we enjoyed a afternoon there. We will go anywhere with a good playground and nice cafe so we are easy pleased!

Im back again to say we used our voucher for belton house on sunday. Oh my god the weather!!! I usually make my family go to educational places as i like to have learned/experienced simething new when i have a day out but stately homes are wasted on my 3yr old. I packed the waterproofs and we stayed in the adventure playground for around three hours! It was torrential rain, hail, mud, dd fell face down in the biggest puddle ever.

But what a fabulous time. We went to the cafe and having read other comments on the thread i was really looking around. The choice of food was excellent but the cost was quite high. The cafe seating area was lovely but absolutely packed because of the rain. The plans for the new indoor play area and cafe looked great too.

We had an absolutely brilliant time, dd and dh rode the little train in the hail much to my amusement. It was lovely to let dd just run riot and get muddy. She jumped in puddles splashing, climbed up trees and got caked in mud. At the end she was crying because she was cold and wet and i changed her into some snuggly clothes in the car as we left. She had got quite upset at falling in mud but we laughed and told her it was fine, it was part of being a kid. It was fab to just give her some proper grubby childhood play. We didnt make it round the house so i'm gonna go back. If they did individual membership to properties i'd join belton in a heartbeat.

If anyone from national trust is reading this thread. I researched belton before i went and it was a one liner about the adventure playground, no pics etc. it was this thread that inspired me to go and see. It was far better than your website indicated and a massive selling point from a family-centric point of view but it wasnt marketed as such at all.

mrspnut Tue 24-Apr-12 16:04:26

I know Doctors, I can't believe on the website and in the handbook there are no photographs of it or a decent write up of it.

It is such a great place to spend the afternoon, and we have annual membership just for Belton really. Three trips over the year and we've made our money back on the annual fee.

mercibucket Tue 24-Apr-12 16:14:31

we were members for a year and visited a lot of places in the north
I enjoyed it but the kids were not very impressed. the playareas are nice but we also have lots of nice playareas and parkland without having to be members
I'm afraid I still find it to be a bit too 'white middle class' for my liking, sorry. I didn't expect it, perhaps it is the types of volunteers, I don't know. Maybe when I am in my 50's I will love it grin

sophonthemove Tue 24-Apr-12 16:16:37

We are already members, and went to Croft castle in south Shropshire, near my mum's. It was lovely- the sun shone! There's great play area, complete with 'castle' then went for a beautiful walk up to old iron age fort with fabulous views. My son (aged 6) was even excited by walled garden (called it the secret garden to entice!) especially the tadpoles and trained apple trees along the walls. We ate in the cafe and there was food to suit all tastes. Highly recommended.

Voidka Tue 24-Apr-12 16:44:49

I agree that Belton isnt really sold on the website - its so brilliant and NT do let it down a bit. It does feature on the '10 best playgrounds' page, but you would only see that if you were looking for it.

Lizzylou Tue 24-Apr-12 20:17:42

We have been NT members for the past 4 years, we always get our money's worth.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
Somewhere where the children can have fun and run around. Can be a castle/stately home, beach, moorland, whatever we feel like at that time. We've used NT membership during UK breaks as well, great if weather is grim.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
Mixture of both, I have 2 boys so outdoors wins mostly but a mixture of both is great, they both love quizzes and dressing up.

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

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
Yes, none of which were NT, we explored the east coast of Anglesey. We also realised how beautiful Conway was, once you got off the A-road.

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?
*So many! Sizergh Castle, Gawthorpe Hall, Lyme Park, Fountains Abbey, Arlington House, Quarry Bank Mill, Hardcastle Craggs, Chirk Castle, Errdigg, Rufford Old Hall. Think my favourite was Hardcastle crags, because we could have a stomp around and then the boys could push buttons/dress up etc."
Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

No, not really.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Tue 24-Apr-12 21:08:02

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 went to Sheffield Park gardens at Easter. It was lovely.

We are not remotely sporty, buy enjoy being outdoors (especially, in my case, if that means being in a garden). The prospect of a cafe and cake always gladdens our heart.

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 been NT members for years and now dd is a member too on our family ticket. We go to several properties every year – either for a proper cultural/historical experience or to break a journey (the NT offers splendid coffee and loo breaks blush). Over the many years we have been members, we’ve probably been to the majority of NT properties in southern England.

On the whole, I am very glad we are NT members. We have got a lot from it. Inspired by Horrible Histories, dd loves history and always manages to find something bloodthirsty gory appalling fascinating to look at. I love the gardens, dh loves the kitchen gardens (where they have them) and (again where they have them) dd loves running amok in the playgrounds.

However, there are less good aspects:

Only recently waking up to the existence of members under the age of 40, let alone those under 10: Perhaps we were simply unlucky in the choices of properties to visit when dd was a toddler, but we never found one with a playground. I know many people don’t want their enjoyment of the garden to be disturbed by the sounds of children playing, but surely that’s all the more reason to create a playground?

Unimaginative activities for children: Why is it always a dismal questionnaire attached to a clipboard, and a pencil that one is sternly warned to give back because obviously, having paid £100 to be there, one is trying to steal a pencil? Why not more hand-on rooms, as in most museums? We went to Warwick Castle last year and I thought it was very tacky, but at least they had tried to make it more animated for children.

And finally

The volunteers (described a few pages ago as tutting in cardigans): I know they are responsible for priceless objets and they have to be on their guard for vandals and international art thieves, but must they be so dour? Countless times when dd was a toddler, a volunteer would bark “don’t touch” at her, long before she’d even got near the objet in question. Oh, and the endless and officious checking of tickets gets irksome too. Perhaps a training need here?

WindUpBird Tue 24-Apr-12 21:19:56

Having not visited a NT property for many years I have been to two in the last three weeks. The first was Hatchlands in Surrey (to see the bluebells but they weren't quite out yet) where we (me, DD 6, DS 3 and grandparents!) visited the grounds and the absolute highlight was the newly-constructed woodland play park. I've never seen anything like it and it was fascinating to watch all the children respond to the natural setting in various creative ways. Some were building dens, creating pathways, playing hide and seek in the willow tunnels; all of them were using the materials to create their own unique play park.
We visited Ightham Mote on the freebie weekend, and again I was amazed! We only live half an hour away but have never visited. Even though it was busy the house and grounds still had a very magical feel and I can't think of anything negative to say about it. The house was in a stunning setting and my knight-obsessed children were able to get a sense of what it was like to live in a grand medieval home.

Mousey84 Tue 24-Apr-12 21:41:04

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
I usually try to get an educational element in, and we spend a lot of time in science centers and museums

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
My dd is outdoorsy, but Im nore indoors unless the weather is really good.

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

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
We visited Fermanagh (about 2.5 hours away by public transport) and its very much an outdoorsy place. We did go to the castle museum and the outdoor pursuits center. We went back last weekend and visited the National Trusts Castle Coole, and plan to do the other NT property, Florence Court in the summer when we go back to stay in the area.

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones?
We visited loads with my parents when we were younger and only a few now I have my DD, but mainly as I cant drive, the options are pretty limited. Castle Ward in Co. Down being one of my favourite (and still is), also been to Florence Court, Rowallane Gardens, Murlough Nature Reserve.

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 think the spring and summer are the best times to go as the kids can run around and really enjoy the grounds to the full. DD is old enough now to appreciate the house tours, but under the age of 6 its a bit too boring. Maybe an alternative family tour in high season might be good.

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 do go, but would go more often if they were easier accessed. If there were special bus tours (eg with Translink in NI) in the summer months, Id happily go, but having to get two or three buses to get to a town, then a taxi to get to the NT house/ reserve is just too much hassle! In fact, if there was some just running in the summer, Id prob get a membership.

As I said, we visited Castle Coole on Saturday, it was alright but we wont be back again for a while as there isnt enough to draw us back. The park was small, but a good mix of equipment, the shop was also small, but the products seemed well thought out and relevent. There are gardens set away from the house which we didnt get to see.

In a somewhat irrelevent point - my brother and I got plastic plates from an NT property (pretty sure it was Castle Ward, but too young to remember really), about 20 years ago, and they still look brand new despite hundreds of runs through the dishwasher. Thats the kinda souvenier I like to buy smile

AlmaMartyr Wed 25-Apr-12 10:53:32

We're members and go to National Trust places a lot. The kids are still little so we avoid going inside the houses too much but they love running around the gardens. Lots of the events are really good these days and I think the NT is getting a lot more child friendly although places do differ. I went to one Halloween trail at our nearest place and it was a bit dull and involved taking the buggy down huge flights of stone steps and dodgy rocky paths. Some other events have been great though. Parking is generally easy and membership is good value if you live near a few places. Restaurants often have good things for kids, like mealboxes, but I'm often underwhelmed - not much choice, especially for a vegetarian.

leddeeburdee Wed 25-Apr-12 12:05:51

We're National Trust members and go to the various properties often. Our favourite local one is Waddesdon Manor but we've been to a whole host of them. We quite often plan them into any long car journeys we take within the UK as an alternative lunch venue. That way we get to let the DC's run around for a bit and also enjoy the food which is much better than stopping at a service station!

We went to Corfe Castle over Easter which was terrific. The DC's are 3 and 5 and loved doing the hunt for clues and winning the medals at the end of it for completing their crib sheets. They've still got the medals hung up in their bedrooms - they were a big hit. We combined that with a trip from Swanage on the steam train, although the National Trust cafe at Corfe wasn't as good as many of the other National Trust places for eating I found.

We are a very 'outdoorsy' family and I haven't been into many of the actual houses since having the DC's. We tend to focus on the grounds and just generally exploring and playing. We go to Keswick at least once a year and have found our membership really useful for having free access to the carparks at the start of the walks; and similarly when we go to Studland beach in Dorset and Barafundle in Pembrokeshire.

I'm not sure that there is a particularly good time of year for us - we go year round. If I was going in the school holidays I would probably plan to arrive early or later in the day to miss some of the crowds, but I've never had a particular problem with parking or it being too crowded.

alreadytaken Wed 25-Apr-12 15:57:18

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out?
It's varied with the age of the child(ren). National Trust was good when they were small enough to enjoy collecting leaves and so on. It's not good for teenagers.

Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities?
Bit of both.

What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years?
With teenagers I'm afraid it's theme parks.

Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?
no.

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones?

Quite a few. Used to fuind membership useful wehn travelling around the UK as you'd always find somewhere to visit.

What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited?
Space to run around, clean toilets, cakes and plant shops.

Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

In dry weather.

We have sometimes taken a child from another family on the free weekends. It is seen by their families as rather a middle class - and expensive - thing to do and they don't really see why anyone would bother. Brownsea Island might win a few converts to the NT. I'm afraid children like more than a nature trail clipboard these days, Warwick Castle might be tacky but they loved it. They loved Chepstow castle too.

TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 25-Apr-12 17:21:12

Hi all - thanks to everyone who added their comments/reviews to this thread - the National Trust asked me to pass on this message:

"The National Trust would like to thank all the Mumsnetters for their responses and really appreciate the honest feedback. We’ll be reading all the responses and where appropriate sharing them with the relevant properties you’ve visited and ultimately using them to help make National Trust days out even better for families."

I'm also pleased to announce that the winner of the prize draw is...

Concordia

Congratulations - a £100 National Trust voucher is yours! I'll PM you to get your details.

Concordia Thu 26-Apr-12 18:54:15

woo hoo, thanks mumsnet! it is lovely to win something, we will make good use of the vouchers.
I have sent you a message back helen.

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