We know how much you’ve loved our Top 5 National Trust Sites for Creative Kids, and the other articles in our National Trust series, so this month we bring you a round-up of the best National Trust sites for children under 10. Amid our favourites you’ll discover a magnificent abbey, walking and cycling trails, play areas for the younger children, and plenty to spark the imagination of your preschoolers and older kids.
1. Castle Coole
Castle Coole in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, is a stunning 18th century mansion set in 1200 acres of beautiful Irish woodland. Alongside the main house, Castle Coole has several out-houses that are definitely worth a visit. The Grand Yard is home to the stables, there is a servants tunnel, a laundry room, an ice house and a dairy. Children will enjoy playing pretend in the realm of this magnificent building – with so much to explore it seems only fair to let their imaginations run wild.
For the youngest children, head outside and have a go at wildlife spotting around the lake. There are organised walks or you can simply wander wherever your feet take you. Don’t miss the woodland themed play area either which has been specifically designed for children under the age of 10!
For families, there are guided tours and musical events throughout the year. Why not bring a picnic too? There’s certainly plenty of wooded landscape on which to enjoy it. Baby changing facilities are available, as is the loan of baby slings.
The grounds are open daily all year round. The house is only open weekends in September and is then closed until March.
Call Castle Coole on 028 6632 2690 for more information.
Love exploring woodland areas? Check out our Top 5 Woodland National Trust Sites for Kids
2. Calke Abbey
This stunning property has a poignant history and an impressive beauty created by its somewhat surprising and sorrowful history. Although in the midst of ruin – the abbey is an incredible place to visit and makes a great family day out.
Calke Abbey in Derbyshire is a Grade I listed country house estate unlike any other. Fragile surroundings with little restoration make this house look faded and abandoned – but in a breathtakingly beautiful manner. Most of the rooms are presented in a state of decline to highlight a period in time when houses were simply left to decay.
Take your children through the twists and turns of the Brewhouse Tunnel and discover the collection of hidden treasures using the family Tracker Packs and children’s quiz.
Outdoors – take a walk around the orangery and numerous gardens, or get the camera out for a moment of wildlife spotting in the nature reserve. Go on one of the discovery trails, or take part in the weekend family activities in Squirt’s Stable. There is also a small play area with a slide and fort designed for those under the age of 8.
The nature reserve is open all year. The house is open March – October from Sat-Weds, and the gardens are open daily from April – October. Prices vary depending on how much you want to see.
Call Calke Abbey on 01332 863822 for more information.
3. Berrington Hall
This house contrasts an austere, rich exterior with a delicate and intricate interior. Young children will enjoy the multitude of open space and tailor-made guides alike.
Berrington Hall in Leominster, Herefordshire is a house oozing with nobility – probably due to it being one of the first houses designed by renowned architect, Henry Holland. The house is full to the brim with beautiful decorations and furniture and is surrounded by sweeping lawns.
Family events are held throughout the year, so even the youngest of guests can get stuck in. Take a tour around the house and explore the servants’ quarters, try on a costume or put your knowledge to the test in the house quiz. There’s also a children’s guide for those who like to go it alone!
For tiny tots – why not toddle around on one of the way-marked estate walks? There’s so much outdoor space, the little ones will love to let off a bit of a steam. There is also a new children’s play area with a fabulous willow tunnel. Baby changing facilities are available on site and there’s the option to loan baby slings and seats too.
The Hall is open daily throughout summer from 10am – 5.30pm.
Call Berrington Hall on 01568 615721 for more information.
If you’re feeling inspired by Berrington Hall’s beauty and history, you will love our Top 5 National Trust sites for Hands-On History too!
4. Castle Ward
Castle Ward in Downpatrick, County Down, is another 18th century house but with a distinctive gothic style. It features landscaped gardens, a tower house, a Victorian laundry and a handful of working mills. The grounds span an impressive 820 acres and there’s such a lot to do!
Outdoors, children will love the walking trails with interactive Tracker Packs and activity sheets, the walled gardens and the lovely little farmyard. There is also a children’s past-times centre in the stableyard with the chance to dress up and play with old-fashioned toys. Definitely not to be missed is The Barn – a new interactive children’s play area for under 10s. For older kids there is also a fantastic adventure playground.
For the grown ups – indulge in a cream tea in Lord Bangor’s sitting room suite. Listen to music and soak up the sweeping vistas for around £6 per person.
Family activities at Castle Ward are ongoing – take part in the Pirate’s picnic, Pumpkinfest, adventure days, boat trips or even visit Santa’s house. Whenever you choose to visit Castle Ward you will be spoilt for choice!
The house and grounds are open daily from 10am – 5pm.
Call Castle Ward on 028 4488 1204 for more information.
5. Ickworth House
Wildlife is the key attraction at Ickworth House and Park. Young explorers will love to get their hands dirty and see how many insects, birds and fish they can spot before it gets dark!
Ickworth House in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, is an incredibly grand country house. At over 600 feet long and with a 100 foot high rotunda building at the centre, this house doesn’t fail to impress. This house is so large the entire East Wing is currently used as the Ickworth Hotel.
Outside there are miles of woodland and wildlife to explore. Take a long walk or even encourage the little ones to bring their bikes and delve into the family cycle routes. There’s a family ‘trim trail’ through woods as well as activity packs, guides and trails. You can even hire an all-terrain pushchair so that nobody gets left out of the exploration!
For tiny tots – why not take advantage of the Tracker Packs and see how many mini beasts and birds you can identify? Take hold of a bug pot and magnifying glass, and don’t forget to try and spot the fish and ducks in the pond too. Kids activities are always running through holidays– for the bravest children there are regular bat walks, and there is a challenging children’s play area.
The gardens are open daily from 10am – 5pm and the house is open Fri – Tues from 11am – 5pm.
Call Ickworth on 01284 735270 for more information.
Looking for more like this? Check out our Top 5 National Trust Sites for Animal Lovers.
National Trust memberships
The National Trust are offering 15% off membership fees, which means (at the time of writing) you’d pay less than £7.50 a month for a family of four. That’s amazing, especially considering the huge number of child friendly and buggy accessible National Trust sites and the superb activities available during half term and school holidays. Your membership includes:
- Free admission to over 300 National Trust sites, including the best family friendly sites handpicked by ReallyKidFriendly
- Free parking at the sites and at most of the National Trust coastal, woodland and countryside car parks
- Free pair of binoculars (while stocks last)
- Map guide, magazine and National Trust member’s handbook with lots of information about the sites you’ll be visiting.
- National Trust members also enjoy reduced rates (and occasionally free entry) at historic sites in other countries including Canada, Australia, The Bahamas, Bermuda, Barbados, New Zealand, Malta, Cayman Islands, Italy, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey and Scotland.