NATIONAL TRUST GEMS
The perfect places to explore during lockdown!
Another lockdown is upon us and finding kid-friendly places is tough! With National Trust Gardens still open, I thought I would share some of our favorites from the first national lockdown. Most places listed here have their grounds and playgrounds open. Cafes are also open for takeaway. I've included the link to each site so you can double check that they are open! All require early booking. They are listed in order of distance from Central London. Enjoy!
OSTERLEY PARK (11 miles)
You won't even feel like you're in London as you explore the grounds at Osterley! We went on a long walk around the estate and found our own little playground made up of old stumps and logs. Isn't it great how kids can make playgrounds out of almost anything?
TIP- Is it hard for your child to stay engaged while doing long walks?
Buy a pair of binoculars! It has changed the way our kiddo
views our walks. Now she has something to do and feels like
she is discovering hidden things along the way.
HAM HOUSE (11.5 miles)
If you're able to, I recommend biking to this National Trust site! It is easily accessible via the bike route along the Thames and is so lovely.
The day we went it was very, very empty. We nearly had the whole place to ourselves. We walked all around the house, made guesses about who the busts on the house were of, and had some lovely elderflower drinks from the cafe. The hedges at the back of the house made a fun maze to play a rousing game of hide-and-seek!
CHARTWELL (24 miles)
Home of Winston Churchill! That concept was a bit hard for my little one to understand... she doesn't really care about people she doesn't know, and she doesn't understand war and so it went mostly over her head. I should have done a little more prep before hand and taught her about WW2 before we came.
The home and grounds were stunning. They had quite a big garden also that was full of apples, berries and various greens. Our favorite part though was running down the HUGE green hill in the back, and throwing rocks into the pond. It's the little things right?
TIP- Most National Trust sites have cafes, but bringing a picnic with you is a great way to extend your time at the site and your time outdoors!
POLESDEN LACEY (27 miles)
We loved this place. A little more quaint than some of the other huge estates. We especially loved the yellow color of the home. One of our favorite spots is back by the cafe... we found some wooden swings! It was magical to swing, sip hot chocolate and admire the pretty views.
TIP- If everything is going awry... find some rocks.
Throwing rocks has saved the day so many times for us.
Throwing rocks, putting rocks in drains, tossing rocks into puddles...
I'm telling you. It strangely works!
CLIVEDEN (30 miles)
Beautiful and stunning. One of those iconic English estates. So iconic that Meghan Markle stayed here the night before her wedding. Yep. We spent hours exploring the grounds here and they were VAST. You could easily spend all day. There is a rose garden, woodlands, Japanese garden, maze, formal garden, and a lovely walk down to the Thames.
TIP- One of the things we like most about National Trust sites are their maps! They usually have kids maps and activities available if you ask.
However, I think that most are online during this second lockdown.
Don't forget to download the map before you go!
BOX HILL (45 miles)
This one was of our first National Trust adventures, and it did not disappoint! I had the happiest hiking companion and the views from the top are stunning. So stunning in fact, that Jane Austen wrote about a picnic on this hill in her book "Emma".
I'm pretty sure we went the day after the National Trust's announcement that they would be reopening. The car park wasn't open yet, but all the hikes were accessible from the street at the bottom of the hill. It was a steep walk up a hill and through the forest to get to the view, but we made it. If the car park is open (which it should be now) then you can drive all the way up the hill, making this a very accessible place to access. From the top, you have many options for nice walks and hikes around the area.
TIP- Grab an old egg carton and mark each spot with
a different color of the rainbow. On your walk, have your
kiddo pick up things (rocks, leaves, twigs, flowers) and
put it in the appropriate color spot! At the end, go over
all of your "rainbow" discoveries!
BODIAM CASTLE (62 miles)
A castle with a real moat? And so close to London? This place is the real deal and it felt like we had hopped back in time when visiting this castle. We weren't able to go inside, but walking around the outside was so fun. We talked about why they used moats, what animals live in the water, and what we may find if we drained the moat! Would we find bones? Different objects? Tools? Such a mystery...
I have to say. This is one of the most unique places I have ever been, and is on the "Top 10" National Trust sites to see!
A little further from London...
BIRLING GAP (102 miles)
This site doesn't require pre-booking as the National Trust just runs the car park. There are toilets and also a cafe. I believe the visitors centre is closed at the moment. Once parked and looking to the ocean, you can hike up to the left for a beautiful view of "The Seven Sisters" cliffs, or you can take the stairs down to the water and walk alongside the surf. We did both, and I highly recommend both as you get different viewpoints of the cliff as you go!
TIP- If you are looking for a nice beach day, bring a chair!
This beach is very rocky and so sitting on it isn't very pleasant.
PACKWOOD HOUSE (108 miles)
Can't go wrong with a National Trust site in the Cotswolds! Everything is too picture perfect and quaint in this area. We were super excited for the formal gardens... only to find that they were closed while we were there. The rest of the grounds were open, and we actually got to go inside this house! Even though we weren't able to go into the formal gardens, the rest of the grounds are (of course) lovely.
TIP- When walking around the grounds at a National Trust site,
I always have my kiddo switch her shoes to wellies.
It's perpetually wet in England and if it's not actively raining,
it probably rained less than 24 hours ago so chances
are you will encounter mud.
BELTON HOUSE (131 miles)
We stepped in a lot of goose and deer poop here, but that meant we got to see a lot of geese and deer! We loved being quiet to spy on the herd of deer, and got so excited to see geese and swan on the lake tucked back behind the estate. We even found a "stray" kitty that my daughter called "key" and insisted we take it home.
TIP- Most National Trust sites will have quite a bit of wildlife around!
You can make a little scavenger hunt for your kiddo to keep them entertained. Animals that we see frequently are squirrels, dogs,
deer, ducks, geese, horses, robins, and more!
HARDWICK HALL (147 miles)
I know what you're thinking... 150 miles one way for a day trip? We are a little bit crazy... but it was worth it to us because this was on our list as it is a Harry Potter filming location. Do you recognize this house? Or should I say... manor?
It is Malfoy Manor! It is used in the later Harry Potter films... and we loved exploring this place. It was foggy all around which added to the mystique around this beautiful home and grounds. The home and gardens are stunning, but our favorite part was rambling around in the countryside. We came upon quite a lot of cows at one point and even had a scare with one cow trying to run us off the path! We had an animal safety talk after this adventure!