Membership Has Its Privileges

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Carreck-a-Rede, Northern Ireland. Photo: Nicole Blyton

The old saying “membership has its privileges” is quite true, especially if you are a member of the National Trust for Canada. For as low as $40 a year, a membership with the National Trust provides free admission or discounts at historic sites in Canada and at hundreds of National Trust Properties in England, Wales and Northern IrelandScotlandJerseyAustralia and the United States.

This week National Trust member and guest blogger Nicole Blyton writes about her travel experiences and how her membership opened doors to new experiences for her family.

By Nicole Blyton

When my husband and I embarked on a family trip to the United Kingdom, the first thing I packed was our newly minted National Trust for Canada membership. When travelling, people seek relaxation, human connection, personal growth and knowledge. That membership card in my wallet delivered on all fronts. A family membership costs $70 Canadian ($40 for an individual) and offers a reciprocal entrance agreement with National Trust sites in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Compare the Canadian cost with £111 ($206 Cdn) for a family membership in the UK and the membership card has already started to pay for itself.

If a Leclerc Hypermarché can be found every 200 metres in France, the same is true of National Trust sites in the UK. Although there is an interactive website where you can apply various filters to search through over 1,000 sites to find the one best suited to you, I found it to be cumbersome. Sometimes, a trusty guidebook will do the trick. For £9.99 ($19 Cdn), I recommend purchasing the excellent National Trust Guide 2016 upon arrival in the UK. It contains maps, photos and a brief description of each place, categorized by area as well as open and closing times, costs, parking and anything else you might need to know.

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Penshaw Monument, England. Photo: Nicole Blyton

Our hope was to visit at least four National Trust properties during our six weeks in the UK. That was the hope, but I was prepared for the possibility that we would not end up visiting any sites on our list, and that my $70 would end up being a donation to the National Trust for Canada – a very good cause in its own right.

After a slow start (several weeks in the UK with nary a National Trust visit), we finally started to make it happen. With the GPS taking over my previously essential role of navigator, I was now free to browse through the National Trust Guide as we drove, calling out heritage sites in the vicinity. When one piqued our interest, we’d make an impromptu stop to check it out. Spoiler alert: they were all amazing.

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Hadrian’s Wall, England. Photo: Nicole Blyton

In case, you may worry that the National Trust is comprised of a bunch of stuffy, musty, hoity-toity castles, but let me set your mind at ease. Yes, we visited Speke Hall and although it was a Tudor mansion, it was anything but boring. If stately homes aren’t your thing, the National Trust still has something of interest. We visited a botanical wonder (Bodnant Garden, Wales); geological phenomenon (Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland); rope bridge (Carreck-a-Rede, Northern Ireland); Roman marvel (Hadrian’s Wall, England); fully operational tavern (Crown Pub, Northern Ireland); and a Masonic folly (Penshaw Monument, England), among other things. Our membership card from the National Trust helped us create many wonderful memories from our journey abroad. If visiting heritage sites is of interested to you, a National Trust membership card should be at the top of your list of items to pack and bring along.

Nicole Blyton is a traveler armed with a Master’s Degree in Heritage Conservation. In 2014, she and her husband took their five children on an around-the-world trip for eight months. They are currently planning an 18-month globetrotting venture that will begin in 2017. Nicole blogs at travellargefamily.com


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