You don’t have to be a National Trust member to visit their beautiful properties and gardens around the UK – for a small fee, anyone can explore these impressive country estates and surrounding acres. For gardens to explore now, and houses to bookmark for later, here are 11 of the best National Trust day trips to know – all of which are within an hour’s drive of London.
Ham House, Richmond
Nestled beside the leafy banks of Richmond-upon-Thames, Ham House is a stunning 17th-century property. Originally bought over 400 years ago by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, this Stuart house has since been transformed into one of the grandest National Trust estates with beautifully restored gardens. For a day trip, head to Ham House to explore the grand interiors, including an extensive collection of antiques and lavish furnishings, and walk around the maze-like gardens. When the weather is good, there are several spots to enjoy a picnic, but the historic Orangery café on site also serves a good selection of light bites and teas, too.
Box Hill, Surrey
Explore the Surrey Hills on a walking tour of Box Hill. Forming part of the North Downs, the historic area can be reached in just over an hour’s drive from London. Head to the hills in the morning and follow the Hilltop Stroll – an easy walking route than can be completed in 30 minutes. At the top, you’ll see panoramic views of the hills where you can stop for a takeaway drink at the small indoor café and gift shop. The route is extremely popular, so bookmark it for an early morning trip to secure a parking spot.
Located near High Wycombe, Hughenden manor is an underrated property on this list, but one that makes a great family day out. The Victorian manor was famously home to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli during the 19th century, before becoming the base of a secret operation during the Second World War. Not only is the manor steeped in history, but it’s also surrounded by a beautiful garden and over 680 acres of parkland and beech woodlands. Inside the property, kids can look around the Victorian playroom, while adults will appreciate the interactive exhibitions on each floor.
Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Just over an hour’s drive from London, Polesden Lacey is a dreamy country manor near Dorking in Surrey. The Queen Mother spent her honeymoon at the Georgian property, and today, the country estate is open to visitors year-round. Head there before the end of the year to see the property bedecked in beautiful Christmas decorations, or book a ticket for early next year when the annual lights trail in the grounds will be in full swing. There are four waymarked trails on the estate, each differing in distance, but you’ll need to buy a map from the visitor reception to find your way around.
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
Winkworth Arboretum was created in the 1930s by Dr Wilfred Fox, a local doctor, who wanted to preserve the wooded hillside near his home. Since bequeathing it to the National Trust, the estate has over 1,000 different species of trees and shrubs – many of which are extremely rare. The hillside and vast woodland area look beautiful with the changing seasons but the arboretum looks especially majestic in the autumn. The property has recently reopened its tea room, too, which serves a range of tasty snacks and hot drinks, although there are many ideal spots for an alfresco lunch. Winkworth Arboretum usually hold a number of special events for children during half term, too – something the whole family can look forward to.
Denbies Hillside, Surrey
Keen wildlife watchers should take a daytrip to Denbies Hillside, just over an hour’s drive from London. With views towards the historic Leith Heill – one of the highest points in the south east – the area is home to an array of animals, including chalkhill blue butterflies, green woodpeckers and grass snakes. Follow the circular trail, which takes around an hour to walk, starting at the carpark on Ranmore Common, and follow the waymarked trail where you’ll spot beautiful flora and fauna. Make a full day of it and visit Denbies Wine Estate nearby to sample their excellent reichensteiner, pinot noir and chardonnay wines.
Osterley Park And House, Isleworth
Catch the train from central London to Isleworth to visit Osterley. As one of the last surviving estates in the capital, a trip here really feels like an escape to the countryside. The property dates back to the 18th century and much of the house remains exactly the same since today. The gardens – recently restored to their former beauty in a six-year project – are the real star of the show, and a lovely afternoon can be spent rambling through the roses, vegetables beds and ancient meadows. Stop for takeaway refreshments at Osterley’s stable café after exploring the impressive estate.
Leith Hill Tower & Countryside, Surrey
Located in Dorking, Leith Hill Tower and its surrounding countryside makes a great day trip year-round. The 18th-century Gothic tower has stunning views of the Surrey Hills and those who climb to the very top will reach the highest point in the south of England. If you don’t fancy clambering the 74 steps, bring your dog along and head on the Woodland Trail instead, which takes around two hours to complete. Visitors can take in the landscape – hailed an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – stop for a picnic in the hills, or enjoy a hot drink from the Tower’s servery. On a sunny day, look out for the local wildlife, including birds of prey, roe deer and badgers.
Morven Park, Hertfordshire
Those looking for a peaceful country walk should head to Morven Park in Hertfordshire. The area is steeped in history – it was once home to a medieval village said to be the original settlement of the old Great North Road – but today, the park is open year-round to visitors. The woodland areas look particularly beautiful during the autumn and the trail, which is easy to follow, is a great dog walking route, too.
Sissinghurst Castle, Kent
Although Sissinghurst was once a prison in the 1700s, it’s now one of the most beautiful National Trust properties in the south east. For an interesting day out, make the 90-minute drive from London to the Weald of Kent to walk around the 450-acre estate and climb to the top of the castle for panoramic countryside views. There’s a lovely walking trail around the castle, which can be completed in 90 minutes, passing a medieval moat and a beautiful lake. Pick up a coffee or sandwich at the Granary café on the estate, or book an afternoon tea for a special treat.
Cliveden Estate, Berkshire
Just over an hour’s drive from London, Cliveden Estate has some of the most beautiful views of the River Thames and Berkshire countryside. The National Trust site, which originally dates back to the 17th century, is open most of the year where visitors can explore the woodlands and stunning landscaped gardens. During the summer, you can hire a boat on the lake – the inspiration behind Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows – while the winter months are best spent exploring the walking trails around the beautiful grounds.
If you wish to receive more information on the above day trips or wish to become a National trust member, please contact our lifestyle managers.