As a proud life member of the heritage and environmental charity, The National Trust, it is fair to say I have probably been to more of their sites than many people. In fact, most of my childhood memories were made at them: running around woodlands, battling imaginary dragons in castles and acting as lady of the manor, all across England!
Exploring National Trust properties has always been an integral and essential part of my family’s lives. But it was as an adult, when I got to explore them independently, that I formed a totally new appreciation and renewed love for them.
Around my home county of North Yorkshire, there are currently a total of 19 National Trust properties. Lucky for me, I have visited them all.
For visitors to North Yorkshire, you’d probably be pushed to visit so many. So which of these National Trusts are the most worth a visit and show off the ‘best of the North’?
As a local, I would personally recommend visiting these five properties. With a mixture of historic buildings and outdoor areas of interest, they will give you a well-rounded insight into North Yorkshire’s very special National Trust offerings.
Location: Brimham Moor, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty
Entry: free general public admission. Car parking charges apply for non-members
Time required: Ideally all day
Brimham Rocks is an area of incredible geological rock formations. Eroded over time by water, glaciation and wind, many of the remaining rocks are intricately balanced or carved into fascinating shapes.
Some of the formations have names such as ‘The Dancing Bear’, ‘The Camel’, ‘Idol Rock’ and ‘The Turtle’, though realistically, a bit of imagination and the right angle is required to interpret them.
Brimham Rocks makes an especially ideal day trip if you have children, or like me, if you haven’t quite got the hang of this ‘adulting’ thing yet. The best thing about this place is that you can climb and explore the rocks as much as you wish so there really is endless fun. You can honestly spend hours here investigating every little nook and cranny.
If it’s something that interests you, there is also the opportunity to join various outdoor classes such as rock climbing, abseiling, bouldering (and ‘weasiling’ for the little ones) with Harrogate Climbing Centre.
If you come to Brimham Rocks, make sure you bring a picnic and allocate a full day to thoroughly explore this free natural playground.
Location: Minster Yard, York
Entry: members are free. General adult admission £8.70. Children £4.35
Time required: 1-2 hours
The Treasurer’s House is one of my favourite indoor National Trusts for so many reasons!
Firstly, it has to be because it is located within my favourite city in England – York. York is a medieval city which was built by the Romans in 71AD and later captured by the Vikings in 866AD.
I can’t begin to describe the huge amounts of history in York. However, what I love the most about it is that if you meander down certain alleyways, you don’t feel like you’re in the 21st century at all.
Just like many parts of the historic city, the Treasurer’s House has been preserved exactly how it was left to the National Trust and is one small page in York’s fascinating catalogue of history.
Oh – and it’s literally metres away from York Minster too. Can you imagine this as the view from your back garden? (well actually yes I can – it’s partly why I love coming here!)
Inside, the property is full of contradictions; each room is designed completely differently to the next. The Grand Hall is designed in the style of a medieval banqueting hall featuring bare stone walls, heavy wooden features and open beams, tiled flooring and period furniture.
Then, walk five steps into the lounge, and you have a completely different interior: delicate and ornate Georgian furniture with fussy gold detailing, shining mirrors and brightly painted turquoise wall panels.
But it’s the last owner of Treasurer’s House, Frank Green, who really brings character to the place – he sounds like he was a very amusing man.
Frank Green was determined to not let the tax man get a penny of his money when he died. As he grew older and his health deteriorated, he gave away every bit of his family wealth, dying with only a few pounds to his name.
He also left the property to the National Trust (as he never married or had children) which was to ensure the government didn’t get a hold of it. Good on him for succeeding in his mission I guess!
If you look very closely, each room has various tacks nailed into the wooden floors. This was Mr Green’s very specific mapping of where each piece of furniture should go (and stay). He actually even threatened the National Trust to come back and haunt them as a ghost if his instructions were not followed!
The Treasurer’s House makes a great addition to a trip to York and can easily be viewed in an hour or two.
Location: Aldfield, Ripon
Entry: members are free. General adult admission £16.00. Children £8.00
Time required: 2-3 hours
Fountains Abbey is the largest and best preserved Cistercian Monastery ruin in the whole of England. Founded in 1132, it operated for 407 years. It was actually one of the richest in England before the dissolution of Catholic monasteries by Henry VIII.
Fountains Abbey is a place I absolutely recommend to any visitor to Yorkshire. It’s a proud part of Northern England’s history.
There’s something haunting about the dramatic stone arches and architectural splendour of these ruins. It always reminds me of what I imagine Hogwarts to be like. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean (especially in the last book, The Deathly Hallows, when Hogwarts gets partially destroyed!)
Fountain’s Abbey is often extremely quiet and peaceful, so you feel like you have the whole place to yourself. It’s surrounded by beautiful green fields and woodland. I can see why this tranquil part of Yorkshire was chosen to build a monastery.
Mount Grace Priory
Location: East Harlsey, North Yorkshire Moors National Park
Entry: members are free. General adult admission £9.00. Children £5.40. Car parking charges apply for all visitors. This is a joint National Trust and English Heritage property
Time required: 1-3 hours
A 10 minute drive from my family home is Mount Grace Priory, the best preserved and most accessible medieval Carthusian house in England. Lucky me!
Mount Grace Priory is tucked away in the Cleveland Hills on the edge of dense woodland and surrounded by picturesque stone villages. However it’s reached easily from the main road, the A19.
Like Fountains Abbey, the priory is mainly ruins now but there are some fantastic renovated parts that have been turned into museums and exhibitions.
The individual cells inhabited by the monks are one such area, reflecting the isolation and silence they embraced daily. The monks only congregated in the chapel at night for bible reading, on feast days and services on Sundays. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age what life as a hermit monk would have been like.
The 13th century manor house and garden is also open for viewing. Inside you will find a few exhibitions and two craft rooms.
In the spring, daffodils and blossoms adorn the ruins, and a bit earlier, around January/February, there are beautiful dainty snowdrops.
The garden has recently been redesigned by a well-known TV presenter gardener. You can get up close to admire it, or sit in the new Orchard Cafe with a coffee looking at the beautiful stone walls and woodland garden from afar.
Location: Great Ayton, near Middlesbrough
Entry: free to the general public. Car parking charges apply
Time required: 1 – 1.5 hours
Roseberry Topping is a distinctive cone-shaped hill with a slight cliff to one side, sat somewhat prominently within the open farmland of Teesside. It is a brisk 20-30 minute hike to the top, affording panoramic, 360 degree views across the minuscule-looking villages and even out towards the north eastern coastline.
It’s a walk that is suitable for the averagely fit person but there is a steep, borderline scramble for the last two minutes to reach the top. Otherwise, the rest of the climb is pretty gentle.
In April/May, the woodland at the beginning of the summit becomes blanketed in pretty carpets of bluebells. If you’re lucky, you may also see endless bright yellow fields of flowering rapeseed (canola) at the same time.
If you have time, or would prefer another indoor activity, I would definitely recommend a visit to Nunnington Hall in lieu of Roseberry Topping.
Nestled on the quiet banks of the river Rye, Nunnington Hall is a charming Yorkshire manor house complete with period features, events all year around, art and photography exhibitions, English country walled gardens and wild meadows.
I hope this list has been a useful and interesting insight into my top (six) National Trust Sites!
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Please note that the information in this post is correct at time of publishing. To ensure the accuracy of this information, please visit the National Trust website before you make any plans to visit.
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