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Best National Trust places: family-friendly castles, manor houses and gardens across the UK

From magnificent manors to glorious gardens, we’ve rounded up the best National Trust sites that Mumsnetters love.

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Aug 31, 2022

Best National Trust places in the UK

If the last two years have taught us anything, it's just how much we need fresh air, open spaces and exercise. And what better way to achieve this than with a National Trust membership so that you can get outside with the family, explore nature reserves and bring history to life at 500+ heritage sites. 

A great way to spend some quality screen-free time with the family, each National Trust estate has its own unique story to discover across historic houses, castles, woodland trails, walled gardens and parkland. And as it’s a charity, the money you spend on tickets and annual membership will go directly towards funding conservation and restoring the properties in its impressive portfolio. 

From woodland playgrounds to fantastic floral displays, getting up close and personal with wildlife or simply chilling with a picnic in beautiful surroundings, here are the best National Trust places to visit with your family. Scones all round. 

Is it worth buying a National Trust membership?

Stourhead National Trust
We get loads of use out of it. Always love the food in NT places as well

ethelfleda

National Trust Membership

Family membership starts from £7 per month
Visit 500+ sites across the UK

Buy now

With a whole thread on the Mumsnet forums dedicated to this exact question, the consensus is a resounding yes - Mumsnetters love their National Trust Membership

If you travel a lot in the UK, the free parking alone (particularly in the Lake District and Cornwall) and the ability to break up long distance journeys while stretching your legs round beautiful gardens and woodland is a popular benefit. With over 500 properties, National Trust sites make for a low-cost and screen-free day out during the school holidays, while also offering educational and wellbeing benefits too. 

Mumsnetters recommended downloading the app to see how many venues are nearby - "you only need to visit four times a year to break even and get your money’s worth" states  PotteringAlong, who adds "ours more than pays for itself in the summer". 

What are the best National Trust places to visit?

1. Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury

Waddesdon Manor | Find out more

"Waddesdon near Aylesbury is a cut above your average NT place" - recommended by Mumsnetter, monkeyblonde

"Beautiful place, with lovely walks and playgrounds that DS goes mad for. And their Christmas is amazing" - rated by Mumsnetter, RosieposiePuddingandPi

A short train ride from Central London, Waddeson Manor offers stunning views of Oxfordshire, the Chilterns Hills and the Vale of Aylesbury.

There are vivid Victorian gardens to explore, including the impressive Parterrre bedding display featuring thousands of plants lovingly arranged by National Trust volunteers in a new design each year. You may even hear unique calls from exotic birds on your way round thanks to the onsite Aviary. 

If your kids love to run around, they’ll love the winding woodland walk through horse chestnut, ash and sycamore trees, with the reward of a shady natural playground at the end filled with swings, seesaws, climbing frames and a zip wire.

There’s plenty of open space for running around and burning off some excess energy, with several food-to-go outlets for family picnics. You can also find baby-changing and feeding facilities at both the Manor and Stables.

Nearest train station: Aylesbury Vale Parkway (4 miles)

2. Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

Cliveden | Find out more

"Cliveden is lovely. You can do several walks in the woods of varying lengths (max about 1hr) and there are plenty of picnic benches" - recommended by Mumsnetter, Anthracite 

If you fancy yourself as the next Lady Whisteldown, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped into the footsteps of a Lord, Earl or Lady, as you explore the luxury hotel of Cliveden with formal gardens and topiary. With impressive outdoor spaces and majestic woodlands, you can instantly feel like you’ve been whisked back in time.

You can certainly get your steps in at Cliveden, challenging yourself to find the centre of the maze or climbing the Yew Tree Steps - all 172 of them! From the formal Parterre with its vibrant floral displays to the Long Garden and quaint riverside walk, there are miles of stunning surroundings to discover. 

Younger children will love the all-natural Play trail with stepping stones and rope swings, as well as Clive’s play den and the Storybook play den. 

If you want to make a day of it, pack a picnic to tuck into at the tree trunk tables, or hire a self-drive boat to explore the River Thames.

Nearest train station: Taplow (2.5 miles)

3. Attingham Park, Shropshire

Attingham Park, Shropshire

Attingham Park | Find out more

"We love Attingham Park near Shrewsbury. It has loads of lovely walks around a deer park, massive mansion and the most fantastic play area (or field) - brilliant in summer" - recommended by Mumsnetter, theluckiest

"There’s a huge field at Attingham Park with lots of lovely play equipment and mazes and tunnels made out of natural stuff like wood and vines etc. There are deer feeding and adventure trails as well as farm animals to feed" - visited and enjoyed by Mumsnet user, PeachQueen

Attingham Park is one of the busiest properties in the National Trust portfolio and with its impressive 18th-century mansion and 200 acres of parkland, it doesn’t take much to understand why. Due to demand, National Trust is trialling a booking system during Summer 2022.

A really popular choice for families, children will absolutely adore the aptly named Field of Play, located at the top of the Mile Walk. Here you can track down the Pipe Monster and Hill Fort, as well as a natural play area and plenty of open space for outdoor games and picnics. 

The popular Carriage House Café serves hot and cold drinks, light lunches, cakes and of course the famous National Trust scones with jam and cream, and you can easily work off your lunch with one of the four main walking routes around the grounds, taking in the Pleasure Grounds and getting closer to nature at the Deer Park. 

Nearest train station: Shrewsbury (5 miles)

4. Cragside, Northumberland

Craigside, Northumberland

Cragside | Find out more

"Cragside in Northumberland is magical and very special" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Chocolatedeficitdisorder 

"Another vote for Cragside. It is absolutely fascinating and the grounds are beautiful" - rated by Mumsnetter, MAFIL

Cragside’s Victorian property was once home to Lord & Lady Armstrong and one of the first homes in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity.

Visitors rave about the Rock Garden and its rhododendron-lined paths, as well as the three levels of formal gardens set over an impressive three acres. Guests can visit the Italian terrace, look for newts and frogspawn at the lilypond or take a walk through the towering collection of conifers. 

Children will love swinging around the natural adventure play area and trim trail, before navigating through the waving paths of the labyrinth to discover Nelly’s Den in the centre. Can they find William the Wizard and the storyteller's chair? 

There's plenty of space to run around with friends and picnic benches dotted around in the shade, ideal for an energising snack, pastry or hot chocolate from the tea rooms while you breathe in the impressive views. 

Nearest train station: Morpeth Train Station (17 miles)

5. Powis Castle and Gardens, Welshpool

Powis Castle

Powis Castle and Gardens | Find out more

"Powis castle is amazing - would definitely recommend it. It's on the border and mid Wales-ish" - recommended by Mumsnetter, thevassal 

"Powis Castle is a favourite of mine too, I've been going there every few years since I was 4" - rated by Mumsnetter, Astrabees

The visually striking Powis Castle towers high above vivid gardens and offers unforgettable views across the Severn Valley.

The castle itself is brimming with paintings, sculptures and tapestries, while the on-site Clive Museum houses one of the UK’s most significant collections of items from India and the Far East. 

The gardens retain many of the original 17th-century features including Italian terraces and statues. Crane your neck to take in the epic scale of the 30-foot yew trees that are trimmed from the air every Autumn, while enjoying pretty perennials and fantastic floral displays.

There’s even a dedicated picnic area and benches dotted around the gardens so you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. 

Nearest train station: Welshpool Train Station (1-mile walk from Park Lane)

6. Croome, Worcestershire

Croome, Worcestershire

Croome | Find out more

"The gardens are gorgeous and it's a great place to while away a summer afternoon" - recommended by Mumsnet user, JaneEyre07

"Our favourite local NT place is Croome" - visited and enjoyed by Musnetter, Badger1970

One of the most popular National Trust properties in the West Midlands, Croome overlooks the Worcestershire countryside and beautiful ripples of the Malvern Hills. Once home to the Earl of Coventry and a secret RAF air base, Croome is now more commonly used as an arts and visitor centre. 

With a nod to its history, children will love the RAF-themed playground with a control tower, scramble net and bunker, as well as slides, swings, balance trunks and a wooden throne. 

Follow the easy Wilderness Walk (around 1-2 hours) through the meadows and beyond, tucking into a picnic in the shade of the Temple Greenhouse, before spotting the Church of St Magdalene, Sabrina and the Grotto and crossing the Chinese Bridge.

Nearest train station: Worcester Parkway (6 miles)

7. Stourhead, Wiltshire

Stourhead, Wiltshire

Stourhead | Find out more

"Stourhead in SW. go at different times of year to enjoy the seasons. So much to enjoy there. It's a gem!" - enjoyed by Mumsnetter, WildCherryBlossom

"Stourhead is my favourite. If you're going for the first time, go in May when the rhododendrons are simply glorious" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Fifthtimelucky 

Dating to the 1700s, this Palladian manor house and estate was once described as ‘a living work of art’, with a vivid landscaped garden centred around a lake. Guests can explore classic temples and see rare and exotic trees, while little ones will love running around the perfectly pruned lawns and parkland. 

Whether you’re discovering the hidden grotto, enjoying the shade of the tree canopies or wandering around the walking trails of up to 2500 acres of unspoiled countryside, Stourhead has plenty to see and do. Don’t miss a photo op on the Palladian bridge or the views over the lake from the Temple of Apollo. 

If you’re a fan of bluebells, the Bonham Wood estate walk showcases a beautiful blue blanket during the Spring months

Nearest train station: Gillingham (6.5 miles)

8. Lanhydrock, Bodmin

Lanhydrock, Bodmin

Lanhydrock | Find out more

"There's a lovely play area there. You can go on long walks in the grounds if that's your thing, and there's a stream with some great places for children to have a good paddle and play, so consider water shoes" - recommended by Mumsnetter, FurrySlipperBoots

“Lanhydrock House near Bodmin lovely old bits and fascinating insight into Victorian life” - enjoyed by Mumsnet user, DefConOne

This magnificent Victorian country house near Bodmin sits on an impressive 900-acre estate. Badly damaged by a fire in 1881, the property has been lovingly restored to its former glory.

While many National Trust locations are renowned for their walking routes, Lanhydrock is a popular choice for family cycling, with the option to hire bikes from the visitor centre or bring your own. There’s a range of flat and hilly cycling routes through scenic woodland.

Ideal for walks and wanders too, the grounds feature finely cut hedges and colourful flowerbeds galore, with pushchair-friendly paths around the Great Wood and a small natural play area for kids. 

Nearest train station: Bodmin Parkway (2 miles by cycle or on foot)

9. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden | Find out more

"Fountains Abbey is probably my favourite place. I prefer it early in the morning on my day off in the winter without visitors" - recommended by Mumsnet user, TheBoxOfDelights 

"Another vote for Fountains Abbey. The first time I saw it, the air was knocked out of my lungs - literally breathtaking!" - rated by Mumsnetter, BettysLeftTentacle 

Famous for its 18th-century water garden and ancient abbey ruins, this one-of-a-kind National Trust location is now recognised as a World Heritage Site. Due to its breathtaking backdrop and estate, it’s been used as a TV and film location for decades and has starred in the Secret Garden movies and more recently Netflix’s second season of The Witcher.  

With green lawns running down to the riverside, you can easily find the perfect spot for a picnic. Guests will love getting close to wildlife at the deer park, home to over 300 Red, Fallow and Sika deer, before taking in the scale of a variety of ancient trees including limes, oaks, and sweet chestnuts.

Made fully from sustainable timber, the large adventure playground offers playhouses, rope swings and a zip wire, as well as a wheelchair-accessible roundabout and a swing with a five-point harness. There’s even a whole area dedicated to den building, so you can watch and play as your child brings their imagination to life.

Nearest train station: Harrogate (12 miles)

10. Belton House, Lincolnshire

10. Belton House, Lincolnshire

Belton House | Find out more

"If you've got kids then Belton House is amazing - apart from the house and beautiful gardens there’s a fantastic outdoor adventure playground with mini railway plus indoor soft play for toddlers too. You could easily spend a whole day at Belton and not do it all" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Whistle73

"Belton House in Lincolnshire - huge outdoor adventure play park, little train ride, den making area and cafe with good coffee and nice toilets in the play park. Indoor soft play and cafe area is also very nice" - recommended by Mumsnetter, eyeoresancerre

Home to the National Trust's largest outdoor adventure playground with tree houses, towers, rope swings, climbing nets, zip wires, and more, Belton House is a popular spot for families. 

Children will love catching the miniature train from the play area to the woods and back (for a small fee) while the indoor Ride Play area will keep younger children occupied even when the weather takes a turn. 

With sloping scenery and ample grounds to explore, you can expect to see Italian and Dutch-style gardens, with the popular Wilderness Walk trail passing through many of the property's original features including a cascade, gothic ruin and 19th-century boathouse.

If you’re visiting in summer, you can expect to see young fallow deer in the parkland before grabbing a light bite or sweet treat from the Stables cafe.

Nearest train station: Grantham (3 miles)

Are National Trust properties family-friendly?

Definitely. National Trust properties offer something for everyone, but they’re particularly good for families. 

The National Trusts ‘50 things to do before you 11 ¾ initiative encourages children to explore, use their imagination and embrace the great outdoors and provides an educational yet incredibly fun day out and somewhere they’ll want to visit time and time again. 

With many National Trust sites offering outdoor play areas and woodland trails, the gardens are also a great place to let kids play and explore in safe and secure surroundings.  

Many National Trust properties also run seasonal events throughout the year including fun festive and spring trails for kids and open-air cinemas during the summer months. 

How many National Trust properties are there?

There are over 500 National Trust properties across the UK. You can find a full list of properties, their locations and all of their unique facilities and attractions here.  

What’s the best family-friendly National Trust site in the UK?

When it comes to the best family-friendly National Trust property, we rate Attingham Park and it’s highly praised by Mumsnetters. The Field of Play offers a brilliant natural play area and there’s loads of space for outdoor games and picnics. There’s 200 acres of parkland to explore so you can easily spend a whole day outside making memories with the family. 

How we chose our recommendations 

We spent several hours sifting through Mumsnet's forums for recommendations from our users on their favourite National Trust locations, including the ones they visit regularly or rate most highly. 

We consulted recommendations from experts and made sure we included National Trust locations that regularly appeared in top 10 lists or were the most frequented by National Trust members across the UK.

We then looked at reviews for each of our longlisted National Trust properties to check that previous visitors were satisfied with their stay.

By doing this, we whittled our longlist down and chose a selection of National Trust properties across all regions that we think offer something for everybody.

Note: Covid 19 has meant some of the natural play areas and displays at National Trust locations may be closed - to avoid disappointment, please check the webpage for each site before you visit to see if any areas are closed for maintenance or repair. 

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

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