National Trust Review: Is Membership Worth It?

A view of the outside of Trerice, an Elizabethan manor house and one of the best National Trust places in Cornwall

If you’re searching for a full National Trust review, look no further! This blog post will detail all the information that you need.

If you’re interested in travel, history, architecture, horticulture or nature and are based anywhere in the UK or visit the country often, a National Trust membership could be a fantastic investment.

Having a National Trust membership can help you see more for less money.

By paying an annual or monthly fee of £72 (annual) or £6 (monthly) per person, you can see all the National Trust sites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But, I know that it’s a commitment to sign up to the National Trust for a year.

That’s why I’ve created this National Trust review, full of all the information you might need when deciding whether this membership is for you.

My experience with the National Trust

Outside area of Buckland Abbey with historic bricks and blue sky in the background
The exterior of Buckland Abbey in the Tamar Valley in Devon

My family were always National Trust members when I was a kid. I remember spending lots of time in their fantastic children’s play areas – which have only improved in the last twenty or so years!

I’ve been exploring more of the UK in the last couple of years. With my parent’s recommendation, my partner and I decided to sign up for joint membership in 2020.

We found that, even with lockdowns, we effortlessly made our money back in about six months.

This year it’s been even quicker. We became National Trust members and made our money back in less than a month!

Not only that, but we’ve found that we are much more likely to want to get out and do things because of our National Trust membership.

Because we can get into historic houses and beautiful gardens as part of our National Trust membership, we are immensely more likely to go to a nearby one on a Sunday, rather than spending the day watching TV.

This helps us with our mental health, ensuring that we get a nice walk in the fresh air, see something new and learn a bit about the history.

National Trust membership has saved us a lot of money – but it’s also been a life-enriching experience. 

What is the National Trust?

The National Trust is a charitable foundation that preserves some of the UK’s most-loved historic homes, estates, parkland and coastline.

Founded in 1895, the conservation charity has always worked hard to protect Britain’s culture, history and landscapes. 

Nowadays, it looks after over 500 properties across the UK. It also preserves some of the nation’s best natural spots.

It’s an incredible organisation and independent charity, and with a membership, you are supporting it first-hand.

Lydford Gorge, one of the protected areas that you can access for free with National Trust membership
A waterfall at Lydford Gorge, one of the National Trust-owned areas near Dartmoor, Devon

What is National Trust membership?

A National Trust membership is an annual or monthly fee you pay to access National Trust properties and gain countless other benefits.

Most single adults will pay £6 per month or £72 per year for the membership. Senior and young person’s discounts are available, and you can also purchase a joint or family membership.

As well as entry to National Trust properties, you’ll also receive perks like free parking in National Trust car parks (there are a surprising amount of these!) and money off in certain stores like Go Outdoors and Cotswolds.

Read more about becoming a National Trust member here.

There are plenty of other benefits as well – we’ll go into them below!

Inside of Trerice house, with historic decor over the walls
The inside of Cotehele, a National Trust property in Cornwall

Is National Trust membership good value for money?

YES, the National Trust membership is incredible value for money! For just £72 per year, you can visit a vast range of stately homes and other historical sites and reap plenty more benefits!

Read all about the many perks of membership below. 

What are the membership benefits?

Entry to National Trust properties

Tyntesfield, a National Trust Property in Bristol
Tyntesfield, a National Trust property close to Bristol

Of course, one of the biggest perks of being a National Trust member is that you get free entry to their properties! 

We’re talking 500 properties, which cost on average £10 each. 

You’d struggle to visit every National Trust property in the UK in a year, but we’re talking about a potential saving of £4,950 if you did! 

The free entry benefits are colossal. There are 500 properties, and you’ll only need to visit six per year to make your money back. 

I bet, amongst the 500, you’ll find way more than six properties that you’ll love!

It means that you’ll spend less money on attractions on your UK staycations and more on great dining experiences or unique accommodation. 

Victorian-era copper pots and pans on a stove

Free parking

National Trust members can enjoy free parking in any of their car parks.

This perk is an underrated advantage to National Trust membership. 

In fact, I’ve heard of people buying the membership just for the free parking! 

This is especially advantageous if you live near one of their car parks. 

But remember that, most times when you visit a property, you’ll need to pay extra for parking unless you’re a member.

This can be about £5, and the cost of these adds up! 

Discounts at your favourite stores

Another of my favourite membership benefits is that you get discounts at some stores, like Go Outdoors (10%) and Cotswold Outdoor (15%).

So you can use your membership to save money on hiking and camping gear too!

If you spend more than £500 in Cotswold Outdoor, you’ve already made your money back! 

A membership pack 

Your membership pack will include the National Trust yearly handbook, which is filled with lots of information about incredible places, your membership card and a sticker to use for free parking.

A vote in the AGM

As an NT member, you can attend the AGM and vote on any NT issues.

In this way, you really do become part of the trust, able to use your voice for issues that matter to you! 

Discounts at special events

Special events happen in NT properties throughout the year.

As a member, you might need to pay a little for them, but usually less than non-members. 

A view over Devil's Dyke in Sussex

Faults of National Trust membership

There are very, very few flaws to getting a membership. 

  • One that I’ll mention is that you can’t get entry without your NT card. There isn’t any digital version, and you can’t just say your name to get free entry. So once you’ve got your card, make sure that you keep it safe. 
  • It’s also worth mentioning that some of the NT properties are left more in an idealistic way, rather than a realistic way. So, for example, some of the furniture pieces aren’t exactly as they were. But it’s still a great way to glimpse into history – but history buffs might find some inaccuracies. 
  • The main thing that puts people off membership is the upfront cost and commitment. Of course, I recognise that not everybody can pay £72 upfront to become a member. However, you can pay every month with no extra cost (£6 per month, ) and it’s a small price to pay when you consider the enormous benefits. 

What are some of the most popular National Trust properties?

There are so many excellent National Trust properties. Here are just some of them: 

Lanhydrock

A shot of the late 19th century Lanhydrock House, which is a collection of grey brick historic buildings, with a slightly cloudy sky in the background.
Lanhydrock, a Victorian manor house in Cornwall

Sitting in the middle of Cornwall, near Bodmin, is Lanhydrock. 

This is a large late Victorian manor house and country estate. 

Enjoy historic rooms upstairs and kitchens decorated to resemble servant’s quarters downstairs. 

There’s also a large garden and grounds with cycle trails. 

St Michael’s Mount

St Micheal's Mount Castle
Historic castle on an island in Mount’s Bay

St Michael’s Mount is one of the most important historic sites in the UK and is well worth visiting. 

Sitting on a rocky island overlooking Mount’s Bay near Marazion, the Medieval castle is an incredible sight to behold. 

The island is steeped in ancient legend and was a key place during the Civil War

You can walk around the island, enjoy the layered gardens, or see the castle itself. 

It’s a wonderful place to visit to get a slice of British history! 

A La Ronde

While this isn’t one of the most popular properties, it’s certainly one of the most unique! 

Located in Exmouth in Devon, A La Ronde is a 16 sided house that two spinsters owned. 

They travelled the world, and the house is full of their memorabilia!

Dunster Castle

A shot of Dunster Castle, a 1000 year old brick castle sitting on top of a hill in Exmoor, with trees surrouding the base.

Situated in Exmoor National Park, Dunster Castle and Watermill is a Medieval castle that turned into a country home. 

It sits dramatically on top of a hill, overlooking the beautiful Somerset village. 

There’s also a working watermill on the property! 

Attingham Park 

A deer sitting in short grass at Attingham Park

Located in Atcham near Shrewsbury, Attingham Park is an 18th century estate.

It has 200 acres of parkland with deer and a beautiful historic mansion. 

Tatton Park 

A bare tree protruding from green grass, with a blue lake in the background

Tatton Park is one of the best historic estates in the country.

Featuring a Tudor old hall in a huge mansion, there are also beautiful gardens to browse. 

It’s located in Knutsford in Cheshire. 

Types of National Trust membership

Green field with estate in the background and sheep in the field

Individual membership

Individual membership is, as the name suggests, just for one person. 

It’s for adults aged 26 and over. 

It costs £72 each year or £6 per month over 12 months.

Unlike other membership programmes, you don’t need to pay more for a monthly direct debit, which makes it fantastic for people on a budget. 

Young person membership

If you’re aged 18-25, it’s even cheaper.

You can pay just £36 for the whole year!

Monthly memberships aren’t available. 

Junior membership

Junior membership costs only £10 per year and is for kids aged 0-17.

This doesn’t include free parking, a handbook or a National Trust magazine.

However, it does include free entry and a kid-friendly handbook. 

Joint membership

Joint membership is for two adults living at the same address. 

It costs £120 for an annual membership or £10 monthly. 

Family membership

Family memberships are for one or two adults living at the same address and all of their children and grandchildren. 

It costs £126 for a family with two adults or £10.50 per month. 

For a family with just one parent, it’s £78 a year or £6.50 a month.

Senior annual membership

Seniors can apply to get a further discount on their membership. 

You can get a 25% discount on senior annual membership, provided that you’ve been a National Trust member for at least five of the last ten years and are 60 or over. 

This isn’t applied automatically; you can contact the NT and ask them directly about getting the discount. It’ll cost £54 for an individual senior membership and £90 for a joint senior membership.

It’s not applied automatically because the trust wants to give people the option to pay the extra £18. 

If people can afford it, it’s a great way to put more money into preserving England’s historic houses and natural beauty. 

Beautiful scenes around Sandymouth

Does National Trust do life membership? 

Yes, the National Trust offer life membership, and they’re keen on more people signing up for it. 

A few options include individual life membership, joint life membership, and family life membership. For joint and family life memberships, the two adults must be life partners and live at the same address. 

Perks with life membership include the ability to bring one guest for free every time you visit one of the National Trust’s stately homes and other attractions. 

You can see the most up to date prices for life membership here.

Large historical mansion with terracotta walls and blue sky with light clouds in the background. One of the places you can visit with a National Trust membership!

National Trust membership for disabled people

As I am not disabled myself, I cannot comment precisely on the accessibility of the National Trust. 

However, they have a section of the website called “Access for Everyone” which is dedicated to accessibility.

It details how they are constantly looking for solutions to make National Trust properties places where everyone can enjoy. 

They also have a 224-page access guide that details the accessibility of every property. 

Plus, if you are disabled and a member of the National Trust, you can apply for an Essential Companion Card, which means you can take one carer for free.

This doesn’t have to be the same person each time, and they don’t need a membership. 

You can read more about the National Trust for disabled people here.

Can I buy a gift membership? 

Yes, if you want to give someone else access to properties, you can purchase a gift membership for them. 

This is a perfect Christmas or birthday present!

There are certain limitations to gift memberships. For example, you can’t pay monthly with them. 

Read more about gift memberships here.

Who the membership is perfect for

I think that membership is perfect for you if any of the following apply: 

  • You love visiting historic houses that connect you with our heritage. The trust is great for any history lovers, as you’ll quite literally be walking around the UK’s history whenever you visit one of their heritage sites. 
  • Like walking, as many of the houses and estates have wonderful trails, you can also access the National Trust-owned land, with free parking at their car parks. 
  • Like going to the beach, as many NT car parks are right by the coast. You can park up for a beach day without paying a penny!
  • Have kids, a family membership is affordable, and most properties have kid-friendly activities and attactions. Larger properties even have adventure playgrounds! 
  • Are a senior, as senior membership is even more affordable. 
  • Are on a budget, as you can either pay upfront or in monthly instalments, and you won’t have to pay for any other NT attractions all year. 
  • Want to try some unique experiences, as the trust offer discounts on many of their activities.
  • Want to see more of the country. Essentially, an NT membership allows you to travel the UK for less. 

How to get more from your membership

We’ve put together tips to help you get more from your membership and quickly make your money back, like we did in 2021!

Visit about six properties

Shot of Castle Drogo from the outside, which was the last castle to be built in England. You can visit for free with a National Trust membership

Our main secret for getting our money back quickly was that we were on holiday in Cornwall and Devon, and we visited about six properties in two week!

This is easily done, especially as in lots of places, there are plenty of National Trust properties in one place.

You can see this list of National Trust properties in Cornwall to see what I mean.

In two weeks, we visited:

  • Lanhydrock, near Bodmin in Cornwall
  • Trerice, near Newquay in Cornwall
  • Godolphin Estate, near Helston in Cornwall
  • Cotehele, near Calstock in Cornwall
  • Buckland Abbey, in the Tamar Valley in Devon
  • Castle Drogo, in Dartmoor in Devon

The total price of all of these properties, without membership, would have been £72.80 each, or £145.60 for the two of us. We paid £120 for joint membership.

Even if you don’t visit all of these in one trip, it’s easy to see how you can spread them over a year and quickly make your money back!

Visit the most expensive properties first!

If you want to make your money back even quicker, visit some of the National Trust’s most expensive properties! These include:

  • St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall (costs 24 to visit the house and gardens)
  • Kingston Lacy, a grand house in Dorset
  • Mount Stewart, a well-conserved property in County Down, Northern Ireland
  • Stonehenge is actually an English Heritage property, but because the National Trust owns the ground that it’s on, you get free entry as a National Trust member too! Unless you’re an English Heritage member, you will need to pay for parking.
Evening at Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Wiltshire

Know which shops you can get discounts in

Many National Trust members don’t realise that you get an AWESOME discount in many outdoors stores!

If we hadn’t visited so many properties, we probably would have made our membership back on buying camping and hiking gear alone.

Here are just some of the shops that you can get discounts in:

  • Go Outdoors: 10% off (make sure you acquire a Go Outdoors card to get more savings!)
  • Cotswold Outdoors: 15% off

Go for a walk in beautiful gardens

Are you sick of doing the same old dog walks? If you go to dog-friendly properties, you can enjoy the beautiful gardens and grounds of many of the National Trust’s best estates!

Of course, you don’t need to own a dog to enjoy the grounds.

If there’s a National Trust property near you, you can use your membership card to get free entry and stay there for as long as you want.

So if you’ve only got 20 minutes, that’s fine – you’re not paying the entrance fee! 

Shot of the gardens at Castle Drogo, with a footpath running through

Park for free!

The National Trust owns a surprising amount of car parks. Non-members need to pay for parking in addition to entry at National Trust sites, so you can quickly make savings here.

But there are tonnes of car parks that aren’t attached to paid-for properties as well. Because the National Trust owns so much land, you’ll often find NT car parks at beauty spots, including stretches of coastline and in woodland.

Non-members pay to leave their car here.

But if you have the lucrative National Trust membership card?

You either make sure you have your sticker on display or scan your card to print your free ticket (check the machine for instructions). 

Break up long journeys

A National Trust membership is ideal if you frequently make long journeys.

Whether you have relatives in another part of the country or go on lots of staycations, you can stop at a National Trust property along the way.

The properties have a cafe, toilets, they’re a great place to stretch your legs and go for a walk and you can even have a mini history lesson if you desire!

The beauty of a membership is you can stay as long or as little as you like. If you only stop for an hour to get a coffee and let your kids enjoy a playground, you don’t need to think about pricey entry fees or feel like you need to make the most of an attraction.

You can come back without paying another entrance fee, after all!

How to join the National Trust 

Man exploring a historic hall in a National Trust property. There is a window in the backgrond
A historic hall in Buckland Abbey, Devon

Here are some steps for joining the National Trust:

1. Go onto their website

You can click here to go onto the NT website and select what membership you want.

2. Fill out the form

You just need to fill out an easy form to confirm your membership. It’ll ask you for a few personal details and your payment information. You can choose whether to pay annually or monthly here. 

3. Keep an eye on your inbox

You’ll receive a welcome email and a temporary membership card, which you can use to access properties from the day you join. 

4. Wait for your welcome pack 

Your information pack will arrive within a month. It includes your handbook, free parking sticker nad your permanent membership card. 

Tip: If you visit many properties before you get your parking sticker, just run into the desk, show them your temporary membership card, and they’ll sort you out with a one-use parking permit. We did this in Castle Drogo, and it worked fine! 

A view of the outside of Trerice, an Elizabethan manor house and one of the best National Trust places in Cornwall
Trerice, an Elizabethan house near Newquay in Cornwall

FAQs about National Trust membership

How much money can you save with a National Trust membership?

The amount of money you can save with an NT membership is nearly infinite. 

There are over 500 properties in the UK. 

I can’t find a number for how much it would cost to visit every property without membership (I could add them all up, but there are far better uses of my time!), but I have contacted the trust to see if they know. 

But for now, let’s say that the properties have an average £10 entry fee each to visit. That’s £5000.

Of course, you probably won’t visit 500 properties in a year. But even if you only make it to 100 and they cost £10 each for entry, that’s still a total of £1000. 

Or, if you only make it to £10, it’ll cost £100. Individual membership is just £72!

Plus, there are so many other perks. You can save a fortune in parking, store discounts and special events. 

Basically, as long as you use your pass to get out and about more, you’re going to save a lot of money.

Can English Heritage members visit National Trust sites?

No, English Heritage and National Trust are entirely different companies. So you can’t get into National Trust properties with an English Heritage card. 

It works both ways – although there is one main exception.

Stonehenge is an English Heritage property, but it stands on National Trust land. So you can get free entry with an NT membership card. 

However, this is an exception, and generally, you’ll need the specific membership. 

Stonehenge, an English Heritage property in Wiltshire

Is it worth getting a National Trust membership if I already have English Heritage membership?

Personally, I have both memberships and love them equally!

While the organisations have many similarities – they were both founded to protect and preserve historical sites and operate in the holiday/ day out industry – they also have many differences. 

The National Trust owns more historic houses and estates, whereas the English Heritage focuses more on castles and ancient ruins. 

So, you might choose a particular membership depending on your specific interests.

For example, are you more interested in history and archaeology, or do you prefer nature, beautiful gardens and interesting historic houses? 

I’ve created a very long blog post about English Heritage vs National Trust, which you can read here.

I think history lovers may be more interested in the English Heritage (although NT sites still have plenty of fascinating history!). In contrast, the National Trust is more of an all-rounder. 

But, if you can afford it and go on lots of days out, I think it’s worth having both memberships. 

Click here to read my English Heritage review.

Kynance Cove on the Lizard

I hope that this blog post has helped you learn a little more about National Trust membership and whether you want one!

I can vouch that it’s been a fantastic investment to help me see more of the UK, spend more time outside in nature and learn about its history. 

Click here to read more about joining the National Trust.

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