Things to do for free in the Lake District with National Trust membership

Sizergh Castle
Sizergh Castle near Kendal

If you’re a National Trust member, there are a number of places in and around the Lake District you might consider visiting during your stay in the area.

Most are included in the cost of annual membership, which could make membership worthwhile if you don’t have it already, and all are really worth seeing (note: tickets on Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water are not included, although members receive a 10% discount).

Here’s my ‘gem-hunter’s’ guide to the Lake District’s National Trust’s properties…

1. Hill Top, Far Sawrey

Probably the most famous of all the Lake District’s National Trust properties, Hill Top was at one time home to the much-loved children’s author Beatrix Potter. The house is much as Beatrix left it when she died, and is a must-visit for anyone wanting to see the Lake District’s most iconic places. Read more about Hill Top…  

Hill Top, Near Sawrey

2. The Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead

The Beatrix Potter Gallery can be found in the centre of the small village of Hawkshead, and displays ever-changing exhibitions of Beatrix’s artistic work. This small 17th-century building was once the office of Beatrix’s solicitor husband William Heelis, and Hawkshead makes a charming place to explore and stop for tea or lunch.

The Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead3. Wray Castle, near Ambleside

Wray has to be the National Trust’s most unusual property in the Lake District. Set high above the north-western shore of Windermere and surrounded by fields and woodland, this enormous mock-gothic house was built in the 1830s, and has a character all of its own. Historically it was rented by Beatrix Potter’s family for their summer holidays, and from 1958-1998 the castle’s tenant was the Merchant Navy, who used it as a residential training college for Radio Officers.

Although there are no original furnishings in the house, the building is absolutely fascinating. It’s primarily used as a play venue for families with children (useful for rainy days during the school holidays). If you’d like to take a guided tour at a quieter time, I’d recommend a weekday during the school term (check the NT website for tour details). Read more about Wray Castle…

Wray Castle4. Allan Bank, Grasmere

Opened to the public in 2012, Allan Bank was nearly destroyed by fire a short time before. It underwent significant restoration, but was never fully redecorated. When the National Trust asked visitors how they would like to see the building used, the overwhelming response that the building should be left as it is: an informal space to be enjoyed by all members of the family whatever the weather.

The house has interesting displays, particularly relating to its former resident Canon Hardwick Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust and a friend of Beatrix Potter. William Wordsworth also lived here for a brief time. There are extensive grounds to explore, with a lovely view over Grasmere, and an intriguing stone tunnel! Find out more about Allan Bank…

The view over Grasmere from Allan Bank

5. Townend, Troutbeck

A traditional Lakeland farmhouse, Townend was passed down through 12 generations of the Browne family over a period of 400 years. The house is full of quirky carved oak furniture, and is exactly as it would have been – there are also some really amusing stories behind some of the carvings themselves! Read more about a visit to Townend… 

Townend, Troutbeck6. Wordsworth House, Cockermouth

The childhood home of the famous Lakeland poet William Wordsworth, this Georgian townhouse was saved by the public when plans were unveiled to demolish it to make way for a bus station. The house is now presented as it would have been in the 1770s when the Wordsworths and their servants lived there.

7. Sizergh Castle, near Kendal

Sizergh Castle has been associated with the Strickland family since 1239, and is particularly well known for its elaborate Elizabethan oak panelling. There are so many reasons to visit Sizergh, including the gardens and grounds, lovely surrounding countryside walks, picnic tables for a take-your-own lunch, and a great little café with a wooden verandah with outdoor seating. Read my post, 10 reasons to visit Sizergh Castle…

Sizergh Castle

8. Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby near Penrith

Acorn Bank is best known for its orchards and herb garden, and is a lovely outdoor space to visit on a fine day. There are woodland and riverside walks to the estate’s restored watermill, and there’s a tearoom too.

Acorn Bank, Temple SowerbyHuge savings on parking…

The National Trust has quite a few pay-and-display car parks around the Lake District, and as far as I know, National Trust membership allows you to park free-of-charge in all of them. This enables you access by car to some stunning and really interesting places, including:

Tarn Hows, near Coniston

Blea Tarn, Langdale

Aira Force, Ullswater

Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater

Ashness Bridge and Surprise View, Derwentwater

Parking with the National Trust in the Lake District
A list of car parks taken from the National Trust’s Lake District 2018 leaflet

And there’s more…

As well as properties requiring an entrance fee, the National Trust has other smaller hidden places of interest around the Lake District which are free to visit, including the Stagshaw Garden near Ambleside and Claife Viewing Station on the western shore of Windermere. For a useful map showing all the National Trust’s sites in the Lake District, look out for the organisation’s free guide at information points throughout the area.

The Lakes National Trust leaflet
The National Trust’s free annual map and guide to its properties across the Lake District

Which is your favourite National Trust property in the Lake District? You can let other readers know your thoughts and recommendations by leaving a comment below.

One Comment

  1. There’s a great choice of National Trust properties in the Lakes so you’re bound to find something of interest during your time here. 🙂

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