Last week I began to share some of the days out we’ve had using our new family National Trust membership. As I explained in my previous post I was lucky enough to win the Annual membership through Aqua Pura’s #NaturallyBritsh promotion earlier this year. In this post I look forward to sharing our positive experiences at three more local National Trust properties; Knole, Chartwell and Scotney Castle.
Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent
Knole is a vast property which consists of acres of deer park and the grand home of the Sackville family. This was our first visit to Knole. As soon as we drove through the gates, discretely hidden amongst the bustle of the High Street, we all pipped up and started excitedly spotting deer in the parkland. I know deer sightings are not a rare thing in this neck of the woods but the deer at Knole are vast in number and truly majestic in appearance. We navigated our way down the long drive to be greeted by another awe-inspiring sight. The Gatehouse Tower sits impressively at the front of the main entrance to this historic house, looming over all the visitors as they park up ready to explore.
We visited the house and Gatehouse Tower first. Walking through the entrance, under the Gatehouse we entered a large grassed Quad. The highlight here was surprisingly the old office. Type writers, old dial up phones, suitcases and large desks resulted in a spontaneous bit of role play on all parts. Daisy became a very busy secretary, Daddy a bossy newspaper editor and the boys a couple of busy journalists!
We move on to climb the Gatehouse tower together. The tower steps are tight, steep and winding. We decide to take it in turns to stay grounded with Logan, our chaotic 1 year old! Travelling up the tower we were able to visit the bedroom and music room of Edward Sackville-West. Lovingly restored and seemingly frozen in the 1930’s. However, for me it’s always the views at the top where you reap the real reward for all that hard work climbing. The views at the top of the Gatehouse are fantastic! It’s from here you can really appreciate how large Knole really is; taking in the parkland, deer herds and ongoing views of the surrounding Kent landscape.
Leaving the main house we embark on a stroll around the perimeter of the property, investigating the parkland and trails. The grounds were busy with cyclists, joggers and families like ours. On a sunny Autumn Sunday the landscape is absolutely stunning. The children were able to safely run ahead on a mission to climb treses, greet the deer and collect acorns. Us oldies were able to bumble along behind, appreciating the kids being in their element. We finished our walk with a picnic and play, wrapped up in the Autumn chill. Knole really does have something to offer for all ages and interests. One of our favourite National Trusts visits to date!
Best for: long walks, deer spotting, log walking, historic homes.
Chartwell House, Westerham, Kent
Chartwell was the much loved home of Winston Churchill. The house itself remains as it was when he lived there. The gardens are immaculately kept and serve as yet another adventure playground for the kids to wander and explore. A visit to the home of one of the greatest British leaders led to a lot of interesting pre-visit conversations in the car en route. It’s an added bonus when days out turn out to be an opportunity for the children to interact with history first hand. Our seven year old had never heard of Churchill before this visit, now she knows exactly who he was and why he was so important! Visiting the property with a pushchair was not the easiest. Be prepared to navigate steps and carry your youngster at certain points in your visit.
The highlights for us were the gardens. We loved the kitchen garden, which at this time of year were full of seasonal hanging pumpkins. The older children found the kitchen gardens the ideal place for a game of hide and seek, whilst little Logan was simply fascinated with the colourful produce. In the far corner of the kitchen garden sits Churchill’s daughter’s playhouse. Full of kitchen toys inviting kids of all ages to settle in for a play. Finally there’s the lakeside and woodland walks. There are over 80 acres of woodland and parkland to explore. In the Summer there are huge rope swings dotted around the trails, as well as balance beams and carved features. Even without the man made play features the trails act as a wonderful natural playground, and large enough to wear out even the most energetic members of the family!
Best for: British history, exploring gardens, Wendy house fun, long trail walks.
Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, Kent
A visit to Scotney Castle allows you to explore a Country house, fairytale gardens and a 14th Century castle all on one site. The country house, home to Edward Hussey III is like exploring a time capsule from the 19th Century. We particularly enjoyed exploring the kitchen and pantry with all of it’s branded vintage packaged products. The grounds at Scotney are delightful. From the rear of the house you look down over the sandstone quarry towards layer after layer of colourful foliage. The paths that take you down to the Old Castle wind under giant leaves and between massive sandstone boulders. The whole place has a magical, fairy tale feel.
Near the bottom of the gardens is a great play area. The children played endlessly with a simple drain pipe run, an ingeniously simple activity where you post tennis balls into the top and watch them roll down the drain pipe – like a giant marble run. There’s also a cute wooden house, giant suspended xylophone and a traditional swing. A happy find as not many National Trust venues have designated play areas.
Finally, at the bottom of the trail the old castle comes into view. Now this really does look like something straight out of a fairy tale! A beautiful, 14th century, moated, semi ruined delight. Another opportunity for the children to investigate. The interior is sparse (all the better for make believe!), but the exterior is a a beautiful mix of colourful flowerbeds, bridges and archways.
A final stroll around the moat leaves us exhausted. Scotney Castle is a joy to explore and embrace your inner Princess (or Knight) for a few hours!
Best for: Exploring gardens, photography, adventure play, make believe.