Did you know that there are over five hundred National Trust sites in the UK? With so many historic and beautiful places to choose from, many people consider investing in a National Trust membership. If you find yourself frequently visiting National Trust sites or have plans to tick multiple sites off your list in the future, a membership could save you money in the long run. It also offers additional perks and benefits that you cannot take advantage of when you pay for sites individually.
In this guide, we’ll explore whether purchasing a National Trust membership is a worthwhile investment, as well as the various types of memberships offered by the National Trust and the benefits they bring.
Some of the UK’s most historic buildings, parks, gardens and venues are classed as protected National Trust sites. The Trust’s aim has always been to properly preserve and protect these sites to ensure they survive into the future, and that the wildlife and flora in their outdoor spaces continues to thrive.
National Trust locations can all be explored individually, by buying an individual ticket at the site of your choice either online in advance or upon arrival. This is a useful option for people who don’t visit the sites frequently or who may just be passing by.
However, if you’re a history buff, appreciate beautiful artefacts and artwork or simply enjoy stunning walks out in nature, then having a National Trust membership will give you access to all of the sites across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as free parking, a handy guidebook and three magazines per year containing the latest news and developments. Members also get access to an exclusive online portal with updates, behind the scenes information and early booking for events and exhibitions.
The National Trust has a variety of membership options to benefit different circumstances. Whether you’re an individual looking for your own pass, or a family planning a year’s worth of fun days out, here’s a breakdown of the different membership options.
An individual National Trust membership gives a single person access to all National Trust sites, as well as free parking, the handbook and magazines for one year. The costs for this (as of March 2023) are:
|Adult (26+)||£76.80 per year / £6.40 per month|
|Young Person (18-25)||£38.40 per year / £3.20 per month|
|Junior (5-17)||£10 per year|
NB: Children under five enter for free at all National Trust sites.
A joint membership can be ideal for couples, partners or friends who frequently visit National Trust sites together. The only caveat is that the two adults must be living at the same address. The price for a joint membership works out as less than if each person buys an individual membership, so it can be a great money saving option.
As of 2023, the price for a joint membership is: £127.20 per year / £10.60 per month
For families looking to enjoy great days out for a fraction of the cost of buying individual memberships, the National Trust Family Membership currently has two options:
Family 2 Adults: £133.80 per year / £11.15 per month
· Valid for two adults (18+) living at the same address, and their children or grandchildren aged 17 or under.
Family 1 Adult: £83.40 per year / £6.96 per month
· Valid for one adult (18+) and their children or grandchildren aged 17 or under.
Remember, under 5s always enter for free, so factor this into your plans when deciding which membership is best for you.
A Lifetime National Trust Membership is the Trust’s most expensive option, however if you are passionate about visiting the sites, and don’t want to worry about needing to renew your membership each year, it could be a valuable investment. The Lifetime Membership also offers the same options as standard membership: Individual, Joint or Family, and there is also a discount for seniors.
Individual Membership (for one person):
£1,845 one off fee OR £1,380 for seniors (aged 60+)
Joint Membership (two people, classed as lifetime partners, living at the same address):
£2,305 one off fee OR £1,730 for seniors (at least one person must be aged 60+)
Family Membership (Two adults, living at the same address, plus all of their children and grandchildren up to the age of 18):
£2,415 one off fee
We have included the Scottish National Trust membership in this guide as purchasing a membership works slightly differently in Scotland. For Scottish residents wanting to purchase a National Trust membership, you will need to do so via the National Trust for Scotland website.
Despite being independently managed, the membership options (Individual, Joint, Family and Lifetime) are exactly the same and you will still receive access to all National Trust sites across the UK.
If you are reading this guide as a tourist, wondering if there is a better option than buying individual passes for each site, there’s something for you too. Many tourists visiting the UK head straight for some of the most famous palaces, homes and gardens which are often National Trust sites. Although not a membership, the National Trust offers 7- and 14-day touring passes for people visiting the UK on a short trip.
The touring pass provides access to over 300 of the National Trust sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and can be the perfect option for tourists who are looking for an in-between option.
Unfortunately, as a charitable organisation, the National Trust does not offer any discount on their membership options.
However, they do offer a concession for senior members aged 60 and over, who have been members for at least five out of the previous ten years.
Also, for those who join online via annual direct debit with any membership type, you will receive a £15 National Trust gift card.
As previously mentioned, the main temptation of any National Trust membership is that you will get free access to the more than 500 National Trust sites across the UK.
As an added bonus, members also get free parking, a handy guidebook and the tri-yearly National Trust magazine, with all of the latest news and events.
Whether or not you opt for a membership, you will also have access to the National Trust app which has useful maps, guides and information, as well as an area for managing your membership.
If you’re a keen traveller, then one popular benefit to consider when purchasing a membership is the reciprocal entry offered by protected sites across the world.The National trust is part of INTO (International National Trust Organisations). Those with a National Trust membership can also access certain protected sites in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Bermuda and Australia, among many others. Likewise, individuals with memberships to the above countries’ own National Trusts would be able to visit certain sites in the UK. A full list of countries and sites abroad available to visit with a National Trust membership can be found here.
A National Trust membership, particularly for an individual, is not an expensive investment per month. In fact, when we break down the costs of visiting just a couple of National Trust sites, you’ll discover that a membership often pays for itself.
Parking at National Trust sites costs £5 on average. On top of this, depending on which site you visit, an individual entry fee could be anywhere from £8 to £25. Based on this, someone who visited just a few Trust sites each year would easily make back the cost of an individual membership. However, there are a few different factors that are important to consider before deciding to purchase your membership.
· Cost – Consider how many National Trust sites you are likely to visit over a year. If you plan to only visit smaller sites, or local ones that are local to you, make sure to first do your research into their individual entry fees, as they may be more affordable than expected. Many of the smaller National Trust properties, parks and gardens are inexpensive to visit and you may even be able to park elsewhere, meaning a full membership would not save you money in the long run.
· Your local area – Are there many National Trust sites around where you live? If you drive, and have enough time to frequently make the journey to surrounding sites, then a membership could be valuable. However, if you do some research and find that many of the sites a quite far away from where you live or work, you may not end up finding the time to visit often. Once you add on fuel costs to these long-distance journeys, it might work out better to simply pay for entry as and when you manage to visit each site.
· How often will you visit? – If you’ve considered the above points, and realised that a membership would be worthwhile, as you live close to many different National Trust sites – or even just a few that you’re interested in; consider how often you will visit. Many more famous sites are often visited just once – will you go back time and time again? If you live near a Trust site with gardens or parkland, a membership can be valuable as it offers new scenery and a beautiful place to explore on weekends. However, if you travel often or your weekends are taken up by other plans, you may realise too late that you haven’t made the most of your membership.
One of the most important questions you may have about a National Trust membership is whether or not you can cancel. After all, you may change your mind, move home or simply not be using it enough.
The good news is that you can cancel a National Trust membership, however, as it is a 12-month contract, you are liable to pay anything owed for the remaining months if you pay monthly. If you paid for the entire year in one go, you won’t receive any money back. Therefore, if you purchase a membership and decide to cancel, we recommend simply using it for the remainder of the year and then cancelling before it renews.
The current terms and conditions for paying either monthly or annually via Direct Debit can be found here.
Cancelling a National Trust membership is simple:
Deciding whether to buy a National Trust membership is always going to be an individual decision based on some of the factors we’ve outlined above. However, if you live in the UK and are a reasonable distance from at least a couple of the brilliant historical sites protected by the National Trust, then purchasing a membership is absolutely worthwhile.
Having a National Trust membership not only provides access to some of the UK’s most fascinating and unique sites, but offers chances to explore new places, see exhibitions and attend seasonal events. Whether you are stumped for something to do on a rainy weekend, or are planning a future day out, a yearly membership will allow you to access these sites (almost) for free!
National Trust memberships can also be bought as gifts for other people, although terms and conditions apply, and this can make a lovely present if a membership isn’t quite right for you, or if you already have a membership and want to enjoy it with someone else.
Getting your membership is easy! Simply head to the National Trust website and choose the membership option that is the best fit for you (Individual, Joint, Family or Lifetime).
From there, simply pay online as a one-off fee or as a monthly direct debit. You can also visit any National Trust property or visitor centre and purchase a membership in-person.
As a former General Manager of a National Trust property & estate, I can wholeheartedly recommend buying a National Trust membership, if for nothing more than you are helping to preserve our incredible build and natural landscapes. Considering the sheer volume of places that you can visit, and the fact that you get free parking, a membership is going to pay for itself in no time at all if you enjoy visiting some of our most spectacular places in the UK.
So, if you’re in any doubt, or still sitting on the fence, jump down and take the plunge… you’re not going to regret it.
Please note that all prices are correct at the time of publication and will invariably change. We’ll do out best to keep them up to date, but if your eagle eye spots spots something we’ve missed, we’d love to hear from you so that we can put it right.
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