We love our National Trust family membership! We’ve had it for about three years now and it has proved to be great value, costing us £9.25 by monthly direct debit. We visit our two nearest properties (Dyffryn Gardens and Tredegar House) a lot. It helps that they always have different events and activities going on, keeping things fresh and new for regular visitors, but they are also a good option on busy bank holidays or sunny school holidays when the properties are never as crowded as other family-friendly attractions would be. All that open space and fresh air means I can take my three children along by myself and not feel at all stressed about losing them in all the crowds. It’s also been handy for day trips when we’re on holiday in the UK, or even breaking up a long car journey, giving the kids a chance to run around and stretch their legs.
We have a list of properties within an hour or so of Cardiff we’d like to visit. We’re happy to travel further afield because it feels like a free day out when we get there. At the weekend we headed across the bridge to Dyrham Park, near Bath, to meet up with my husband’s brother and his family who live that way.
The 17th century mansion house and its 274 acres of surrounding gardens are stunning. We realised this even in the car park (free for NT members, or £2 for 2 hours, £4 all day). This was next to a field of cows, which looked down onto the property and extensive grounds and surrounding countryside below. There are a lot of cows at Dyrham Park, not to mention deer, and they roam quite freely. Our advice is to wear trainers or closed-toe shoes, rather than sandals, to pack a big pack of wet wipes and perhaps even clean shoes for the journey home! Let’s just say there’s a lot of cow pats on the ground in some areas!
We didn’t manage to see the deer, but Dyrham Park is home to a herd of around 200. Fawning season is in June and July, so it was shame not to see the baby deer. The property runs daily tours of the deer park, but our children were having so much fun playing with their cousin, we didn’t join in.
We did, however, spend a lot of time in the two playgrounds. The first, Old Lodge, is at the top of the site, with a tractor and wagon, a climbing castle, and ride on carts. The kids would have been quite content to stay here all day I think!
The second play area, Hollow Ways, is at the bottom of the site beyond the house, and has been created using natural resources, with balancing beams and stepping stones made from wood and tree trunks and branches.
It’s quite a walk from the main entrance to the house and gardens. The views on the hill on the way down are stunning though. In fact, I was gutted it was so cloudy when we visited, because it must look incredible on a sunny day. There’s a free bus running regularly from the main entrance to the house and back; especially useful if you don’t can’t face the walk back up the huge, steep hill to the top.
We walked around the house, although with four young kids between us, we parents didn’t quite get as much time as we would have liked to read all the information in the various rooms.
The children had been told by the guide at the main entrance to look for eagles in all the rooms… and that’s exactly what they did, finding them in paintings, on furniture, as ornaments. Considering how grand the house is, our children were made to feel very welcome, which is something I really love about the National Trust. The kids especially liked the second hand bookshop in the kitchen, where they each picked up a new book or two.
There’s also a stable block and small church, which along with the house are all Grade I listed buildings. There’s a café serving hot and cold drinks and snacks in the courtyard, plus a smaller drinks and ice cream kiosk in a room that was once the laundry.
The lake and small waterfall at the bottom of the house are beautiful. Surrounded by all colours and varieties of flowers, and with ducks swimming across the water, it had such a calm and peaceful atmosphere. We got some beautiful family photos here.
We were at Dyrham Park for around five hours in total and I feel like we barely scratched the surface in terms of what’s there to explore. It’s definitely one we’ll be heading back to.
Have you been to Dyrham Park? Or are there any National Trust properties within easy reach of Cardiff you’d recommend? Do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy