NATIONAL TRUST VISITS 2018
Every year at about this time, I write a summary of my visits to National Trust properties during the previous year. I have been a member of the National Trust for four years now, and in that time I have had the pleasure of visiting some truly wonderful places, and 2018 was no exception. I am happy to say that I also managed to fulfil two of my lifetime ambitions in the process. Here is a summary of four of the properties visited in 2018. For more in-depth information and for charges and membership details, please visit: www.nationaltrust.co.uk
FELBRIGG HALL & BLICKLING ESTATE
Whenever I am travelling within the UK, I will always look out to see what National Trust properties are in the area I am visiting. It was no different when in April I found myself spending a few days on a road trip which took in the beautiful county of Norfolk. I was very happy to find that there were two very substantial National Trust properties for me to visit within a short distance of where I was staying.
The first of these was Felbrigg Hall, a magnificent house with some beautiful stained glass windows dating back to the 15th century. Set in 520 acres of wonderful parkland and woods, Felbrigg Hall is an absolute delight, and even comes complete with a herd of very friendly, inquisitive cows which came to greet me and pose for some photos. Close to the famous seaside town of Cromer, Felbrigg Hall is easily accessible and provides ample parking along with a garden shop, gift shop, cafe and toilet facilities. The parkland is open from dawn to dusk, but as opening times for the house vary, please check the National Trust website prior to your visit.
Post code for Sat Navs: NR11 8PR
The second property visited on this trip was Blickling Estate, an incredibly well preserved Jacobean mansion with a very impressive 18th century long gallery. Visitors, with an interest in books, will be extremely impressed with the marvellous, inspiring library, housing over 12,500 volumes.
Surrounded by a formal garden, the house is a joy to visit, and with the gardens leading onto undulating parkland, the opportunity to wander free is there for all. There is the obligatory gift shop for all those delightful little purchases, 3 very tempting cafes to tend to your culinary requirements, a garden shop and a very interesting second hand book shop.
For entrance charges and opening times please refer to the National Trust website.Located in Aylsham, the post code for Sat Nav directions is: NR11 6NF
HADRIAN'S WALL & HOUSESTEADS FORT
One of the lifetime ambitions that I mentioned in my foreword, was to visit Hadrian's Wall. I have travelled to the north of England on many occasions, even venturing over the border into Scotland at least half a dozen times. However, for whatever reasons, I have never managed to find the time to visit Hadrian's Wall or any of the many forts and towers that are scattered along the way. The scale of the wall is very impressive, and it is both the scale and the amazing history that has always appealed to me, and fired up my imagination. So, in July I found myself setting off on yet another road trip, this time taking in all four corners of the UK. I was determined, on this occasion, to finally take the time to visit this very famous and historic wall.
I was heading to the Dumfries area of Scotland and had planned a route that would allow me to view both the wall and an old Roman fort, with a diversion of approximately sixty miles. The part of the wall that I had selected for my visit was near Housesteads Fort, a remarkably well maintained Roman fort, cared for by the National Trust. Close to the town of Hexham in Northumberland, the site was easy to locate using the NE47 6NN postcode provided by the National Trust on their website.
There is a charge to use the car park as it is not run by the National trust, but this is only a few pounds, and the car park provides ample parking. There is a small visitor centre with a gift shop, toilet facilities and a cafe area. From the visitor centre it is a ten minute walk to the site of the fort, and just a little further beyond the fort is Hadrian's Wall.
Unfortunately, due to time restraints, my time at Hadrian's Wall and Housesteads fort was shorter than I would have liked. Nonetheless, my visit was most enjoyable and I even managed a short walk along the top of the wall. The views were amazing, and even though the weather was somewhat inclement (typical British summer!), it did not dampen my enthusiasm, or, evidently, that of other visitors, with many people walking along the wall and visiting the fort.
I left Houseteads fort very pleased that I had made that sixty mile diversion. Both the wall and the fort far surpassed my expectations, and I would urge anybody with an interest in history, or even just a love of the beautiful British countryside, to pay this historically rich and extremely interesting site a visit, you won't be sorry you did.
THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY
Following on from my visit to Hadrian's Wall, I spent a few days in Scotland before travelling by ferry across the Irish Sea to Belfast. It was to be in Northern Ireland that I would fulfil another of my lifelong ambitions, to visit The Giant's Causeway!
The Giant's Causeway is located just a few miles north east of the town of Bushmill in County Antrim. Bushmill is famous for its whiskey as well as being the gateway to the causeway. Having seen countless documentaries over the years about these incredible Basalt columns, and having heard the stories surrounding their formation, I was excited and intrigued to finally get to see and touch them, for myself.
Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions between 50 and 60 million years ago, the causeway is made up of some 40,000 interlocking columns. Unesco declared it a world heritage site in 1986, and in 2005 it was named as the 4th greatest natural wonder in the UK by a Radio Times poll.
The columns form stepping stones leading from the cliff out to sea, and it is these stepping stones which led to the stories of two battling giants. Most of the columns are hexagonal and the tallest of these is a very impressive 12 metres high!
On arrival at the site, visitors will find ample car parking close to the visitor centre. It is then a downhill walk of approximately 20 minutes from the visitor centre to the causeway. However, a shuttle bus is provided, at a small charge, for both disabled visitors and those preferring not to walk. There is a coffee shop, gift shop, bureau de change, and toilet facilities within the visitor centre.
Although a very popular tourist destination, the site did not appear overcrowded on my visit, and as the coast and the coast path is open from dawn to dusk, there is ample time and opportunity for all to view and even stand on this historic site. I spent some time exploring the fascinating columns and sitting amongst them, gazing out to sea, and understanding perfectly just how the mythical tale of the brawling giants came about. The sun was setting as I left to continue my journey, and this stunning, picturesque scene made the moment seem even more magical. It was an experience that I will never forget!