It’s been almost a year now since I bought my very first annual National Trust membership whilst on a day trip to York with a good friend of mine. In that time, I’ve had some absolutely fantastic days out with family and friends visiting the wonderful sites across the North East that the National Trust nurture so well.
When deciding whether or not I was going to renew my membership in the coming weeks, I stopped to remember all of the fun I’ve had in the last year exploring National Trust sites across the region. From tea and scones in gorgeous little tearooms, to exploring hectares of beautiful gardens and impressive ruins – there was no doubt in my mind that I just have to renew my membership and create more memories. I especially want to visit the Wallington Estate this season, apparently the snowdrops are stunning!
Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of my favourite North East National Trust sites, as well as a little bit of info about each in case you decide to visit:
Most recently, after a top-notch Sunday roast at The Woodmans Arms (read my review here) in Whickham, I took my best friend along to Gibside. Gibside is a fascinating 18th-century landscape consisting of 600 acres of woodland, countryside and Georgian gardens, as well as some really interesting architecture.
There are many different (dog-friendly) walking routes you can take at Gibside, dependent upon how keen a walker you are/whether you’ve got the kids with you etc. Whichever route you decide to take, my top tip would be to make sure you explore the impressive Neo-classical chapel at the opposite end of the avenue to the monument. Other personal highlights of the Estate are the grand ruin of coal baron George Bowes and his family, the refashioned stable block (there is a quaint little café here too) and the Conservatory, where you get views of the Derwent Valley that are pretty much second to none.
Gibside offers families a great deal too, with the Strawberry Castle play area and various picnic spots dotted around the Estate. This National Trust site is steeped in history, nature and a great deal of family-fun.
Last summer I went on a dreamy staycation to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where my friend and I stayed in the most ‘Secret Garden-esque’ Air BnB ever! Not only that, but we had some fab pub grub, lots of local ales, a sunny picnic at the harbour and a lovely visit to the National Trust’s Lindisfarne Castle. (You can read my blog post about this staycation here).
Lindisfarne Castle is iconic here in the North East, and indeed the whole of the UK! It stands proud on top of a hill, overlooking the rest of the beautiful Holy Island. The whole island is rooted in ecclesiastical history and this 16th-century castle once served as a Tudor fort, before becoming a private residence and now a National Trust property. When I visited last year, the Castle was just reopening after a major conservation project – it looks fantastic and offers some mind-blowing views of the Northumberland coastline and the Farne Islands.
Lindisfarne Castle regularly plays host to exhibitions (currently there is one created by internationally renowned artist, Anya Gallaccio) which are definitely worth visiting. As well as that, there are the Victorian lime kilns and the outrageously pretty Gertrude Jekyll walled garden. Just make sure you check the crossing times before you make your trip over to Holy Island from the mainland!
Seaton Delaval Hall
If you’re into dramatic architecture and discovering the scandalous history of the aristocracy, Seaton Delaval Hall is the National Trust site for you! I find this site so intriguing – it was designed by the renowned Sir John Vanbrugh, lived in by the lively Delaval family and hosted some of the most scandalous and notorious Georgian revellers and pranksters over the years.
Although a major fire destroyed a great deal of the Estate around 200 years ago (you can see the extent of the damage in the Central Hall), the exterior of the Hall is really impressive and I love the dramatic spiral staircases in the wings.
This Grade I historical home is still undergoing some restoration (it is currently closed until 16th February 2019) by the National Trust, but aside from the Hall there are some lovely formal gardens, walks and views of the North Tyneside coast. Take the kids and your dog (as long as they’re kept on the lead) for an exciting day-out and a picnic this Spring. If the weather isn’t so nice, there is a nice little café for you to relax in too!
For me, Cragside is undoubtedly the most impressive National Trust site in the North East of England. I have so many happy memories visiting Cragside as a child and exploring the extensive grounds and the home of the pioneering Lord Armstrong. Last summer I returned to Cragside with my sister to do even more exploring – I discovered that Cragside was ever bit as awe-inspiring as I remembered it being from my childhood (read my Cragside blog post here).
Located in Rothbury, not only is Cragside a nature-lover’s paradise (with an array of colourful gardens, views across Northumberland and a fascinating rocky landscape), but there is always plenty for the family to do there too – the labyrinth, adventure play area and the Young Engineers’ Zone are just some of the attractions! When I was younger, walking across the iconic Iron Bridge was one of my favourite parts of a visit to Cragside.
The National Trust guide you through the Estate’s history, as the first house in the entire world to be lit by hydroelectricity! Whilst on the surface, Cragside may seem like a fairly typical aristocratic residency, it is full of secrets and innovation – the Armstrong family were a truly fascinating bunch and Lord Armstrong’s ‘futuristic’ vision for Cragside has delighted visitors for many years now.
For full details on all the great sites the National Trust own across the North East of England, visit the ‘North East’ page on their website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/days-out/regionyorkshirenortheast/north-east