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The Best National Trust Places to Visit: Our compilation of great properties to visit in 2023

Beginning all the way back in 2013, I had the immense privilege of working for the National Trust at a wonderful property called Cotehele in South-East Cornwall, and I cannot help but write about some of the hugely significant places that the charity cares for across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (I should point out that The National Trust for Scotland is its own separate entity). 

Among the many places I have visited, the National Trust properties stand out for their unique combination of natural beauty, cultural significance, and architectural splendour. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to what I think are some of the best National Trust places to visit (albeit that they are all amazing!).

Giant's Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway. Photo by Zhifei Zhou

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Located on the rugged north coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder that has been attracting visitors for centuries. Comprised of tens of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a testament to the power of nature and has inspired countless myths and legends. As writing about the legends and myths behind the Giant’s Causeway would require its own separate article.  However, this website about the Giant’s Causeway legend and the famous Finn McCool story is a great place to start. So, whether you come to marvel at the rather uniformed geology, learn about the fascinating stories and traditions associated with the site, or simply enjoy the stunning coastal scenery, the Giant’s Causeway is an absolute must-visit when you’re in Northern Ireland.

Bodiam Castle. Photo by Jack B

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

Bodiam Castle is a picture-perfect medieval fortress set amidst the rolling hills of East Sussex. Built in the 14th century to defend against French invasion, the castle has survived the centuries remarkably intact, with its towering walls, crenelated towers, and moat providing an evocative glimpse into the past. Visitors can explore the castle’s many nooks and crannies, climb the towers for breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside, and learn about the castle’s colourful history through interactive exhibits and displays.

Stourhead Gardens. Photo by Simon Harmer

Stourhead, Wiltshire

Stourhead (where I first started as a volunteer…!) is a sprawling estate in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, renowned for its stunning gardens and impressive neoclassical mansion. The centrepiece of the estate is the serene lake, surrounded by carefully landscaped gardens, classical temples, and ornamental bridges. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the lake, stopping to admire the many follies and monuments that dot the landscape, or explore the grand mansion, which is filled with art, antiques, and fascinating stories about the Hoare family.  For those who really enjoy autumnal colours, keep an eye out for when the leaves start to turn, as Stourhead’s gardens transform into a palate that is every artist’s dream!

Chirk Castle. Photo by JR Harris

Chirk Castle, Wrexham

Chirk Castle is a medieval fortress situated on the border between England and Wales, boasting over 700 years of history and a wealth of architectural and cultural treasures. Visitors can explore the castle’s many rooms, from the opulent state rooms to the dark and mysterious dungeons, as well as wander through the manicured gardens and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.  On a sunny day, there are few places that rival this corner of ‘border country’.

Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland

Mount Stewart, County Down

Mount Stewart is a grand Georgian mansion situated on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, Northern Ireland. The mansion is renowned for its opulent interiors, which include a magnificent ballroom, a stunning drawing room, and a library filled with rare books and manuscripts. Visitors can also explore the beautifully landscaped gardens, which feature a wide variety of exotic plants and trees, as well as enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Powis Castle. Photo by Deborah Mackay

Powis Castle, Powys

Powis Castle is a grand medieval fortress set amidst the rugged hills of Powys, Wales. The castle has been home to the same family, the Herberts, for over 400 years, and visitors can explore its many rooms, which are filled with art, antiques, and historic artifacts. The castle is also famous for its stunning gardens, which feature a wide variety of exotic plants and trees, as well as a collection of rare statues and fountains.

Cragside. Photo by Mike Cassidy

Cragside, Northumberland

Cragside is a Victorian mansion (and one of my all-time favourites) set amidst the rugged beauty of Northumberland, renowned for its ground-breaking technological innovations and beautiful gardens. Built in the late 19th century by the industrialist Lord Armstrong, the mansion was one of the first in the world to be powered by hydroelectricity, and visitors can explore the many rooms of the house, which are filled with all sorts of ingenious gadgets and contraptions. The gardens at Cragside are equally impressive, featuring a wide variety of rare plants and trees, as well as a series of stunning lakes and waterfalls.  This is one property that will capture your imagination and I wish I lived closer so that I could visit more often!

Castle Ward. Photo by K Mitch Hodge

Castle Ward, County Down

Castle Ward is a grand Georgian mansion set amidst the rolling hills of County Down, Northern Ireland, renowned for its stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and fascinating history. Visitors can explore the many rooms of the mansion, which are filled with art, antiques, and historic artifacts, as well as take a leisurely stroll through the estate’s beautifully landscaped gardens.

Croome Court. Photo by Roger Chapman

Croome Court, Worcestershire

Croome (as it’s often known) is a grand neoclassical mansion set amidst the picturesque Worcestershire countryside, renowned for its opulent interiors and beautiful gardens. The mansion was designed by the famous architect Robert Adam in the 18th century, and visitors can explore the many rooms of the house, which are filled with art, antiques, and fascinating stories. The gardens at Croome are equally impressive, featuring a wide variety of exotic plants and trees, as well as a series of ornamental lakes and cascading waterfalls.

Dunster Castle. Photo by Ray Harrington

Dunster Castle, Somerset

Dunster Castle is a medieval fortress set amidst the stunning Somerset countryside, renowned for its rich history and beautiful gardens. Visitors can explore the castle’s many rooms, from the opulent state rooms to the atmospheric dungeons, as well as take a leisurely stroll through the estate’s beautifully landscaped gardens, which feature a wide variety of rare plants and trees.  Whilst you are there it is well worth exploring the village, which is renown as one of Exmoor’s prettiest medieval villages.

Tyntesfield House. Photo by Eleanor Brooke

Tyntesfield, North Somerset

Tyntesfield is a grand Victorian mansion set amidst the rolling hills of North Somerset (not too far from Bristol) renowned for its opulent interiors, beautiful gardens, and fascinating history. Built in the mid-19th century by the Gibbs family, the mansion is filled with art, antiques, and historic artifacts, and visitors can explore its many rooms and galleries, as well as take a leisurely stroll through the estate’s stunning gardens.

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd

Penrhyn Castle is a grand neo-Norman fortress set amidst the rugged hills of Gwynedd, Wales, renowned for its stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and fascinating history. The castle was built in the 19th century by the industrialist George Hay Dawkins-Pennant, and visitors can explore its many rooms, which are filled with art, antiques, and historic artifacts. The gardens at Penrhyn Castle are equally impressive, featuring a wide variety of rare plants and trees, as well as a series of cascading waterfalls and tranquil ponds.

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Waddesdon Manor is a grand French chateau set amidst the picturesque Buckinghamshire countryside, renowned for its opulent interiors, beautiful gardens, and impressive art collection. Built in the late 19th century by the Rothschild family, the mansion is filled with art, antiques, and historic artifacts, and visitors can explore its many rooms and galleries, as well as take a leisurely stroll through the estate’s stunning gardens.

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden. Photo by Peter Herrmann

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site set amidst the stunning North Yorkshire countryside, renowned for its breath-taking beauty and fascinating history. The site features the ruins of a Cistercian monastery, which date back to the 12th century, as well as the stunning Studley Royal Water Garden, a series of ornamental lakes and cascading waterfalls designed in the 18th century by the famous landscaper John Aislabie.

Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Bodnant Garden is a stunning botanical garden set amidst the rugged beauty of Conwy, Wales, renowned for its exotic plants, rare trees, and spectacular views. The garden was designed in the 19th century by the Pochin family, and visitors can explore its many paths and trails, taking in the wide variety of rare and exotic plants, as well as the stunning views of the surrounding countryside and coast.

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Hardwick Hall is a grand Elizabethan mansion set amidst the picturesque Derbyshire countryside, renowned for its opulent interiors, beautiful gardens, and fascinating history. Built in the 16th century by the powerful Bess of Hardwick, the mansion is filled with art, antiques, and historic artifacts, and visitors can explore its many rooms and galleries, as well as take a leisurely stroll through the estate’s stunning gardens.

Cotehele House
Cotehele House. Photo by Monty

Cotehele, Cornwall

Once owned by the Edgcumbe family, Cotehele is a charming mansion house on the side of a valley overlooking the River Tamar.  The property and estate covers just over 1,300 acres and includes a working mill and quay, as well as beautiful gardens and an orchard which has an array of different types of apples basking in the Cornish sunshine (or rain…).  Cotehele House dates back to the 13th Century and over the years has grown from a single building into a complex of halls, bedrooms and even a crenelated tower.  Once you’ve finished exploring the house, it is well worth taking a trip into the valley garden and dropping down to river & quay to get a real perspective of how the estate grew and industry flourished in this quintessential market-garden landscape. 

These are just a selection of the many incredible National Trust places to visit and if you interest in becoming a member, my article about ‘Is it worth getting a National Trust membership?’ is a great place to start.  So, if you’re interested in history, architecture, gardens, or simply stunning scenery, there’s something for everyone at these amazing sites. So why not plan a visit today and experience the wonder and beauty of these remarkable places for yourself?

About the author

Having worked across the heritage and tourism sector for over 10 years, Monty Beaumont is an expert when it comes to discovering new places to visit and great days out for the whole family. 

He has previously worked for the National Trust as a General Manager in Cornwall, coordinated the complex operations of running a castle in Devon and the mastered the intricacies of providing exceptional hospitality and service at some of the finest historic houses in the UK. 

As part of his vision and drive for Monty’s Guide, Monty travels across the country to find new places to visit and explore, and sharing his finding on montysguide.com, which is used by 1,000s of people each week to find their next great day out.

His experience and knowledge of the historic and cultural sector gives him a unique insight into the elements that make tourism and learning so important in our quest to understanding more about our heritage.

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