In Depth

Seven National Trust properties to visit

There are more than 500 sites to visit in the UK, but which ones are the best?

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With 775 miles of coastline, more than 248,000 hectares of land and upwards of 500 historic houses, castles, ancient monuments gardens and parks and nature reserves, the National Trust has a lot to offer.

From the stately to the snug, Europe's largest conservation charity hosts properties that are both fascinating in their diversity and inspiring in their design. 

Here is our pick of the seven top places to visit.

Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

Set on the banks of the River Thames, this grand mansion sits in one of the country's most picturesque regions - the Chiltern Hills. 

A former home to an earl, three countesses, two dukes and a prince of Wales, Cliveden dates back to 1851 and showcases the distinctive touches of each of its former residents. It is currently the National Trust's second-most visited site.

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Although partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians, Corfe Castle is still an imposing and dominant site.

Perched on top of a fort over the picture-perfect village of the same name, it has wonderful views of the Channel and the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Its pivotal role in the Civil War has left history oozing from every crack in what's left of its walls.

Patterson's Spade Mill, Co Antrim

Hopping over the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland, we have something a little less luxurious but no less fascinating than the majority of mansions and manors the National Trust is known for.

Patterson's Spade Mill is the last water-driven mill in the UK and offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. Visitors can watch as red hot steel is fashioned into a spade, using an enormous trip hammer – and with only around 200 made each year, be sure to grab one for yourself.

Castle Coole, Co Fermanagh

On the other side of Northern Ireland sits Castle Coole, a neo-classical 18th-century mansion nestled in the rolling hills of County Fermanagh. Surrounded by 529 acres of pristine gardens, the impressive building still has the furnishings and decorations put in place in 1821, in preparation for a visit from King George IV.

In the end, however, George never travelled to the castle, but the rooms appear to be still waiting for his arrival, frozen in time.

Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire

A house full of artistic wonders, Mottisfont Abbey is visited by more than 200,000 people each year, all eager to stroll through the wonderful gardens and bask in the abbey's remarkable interior.

Mottisfont Abbey was inhabited until 1972 and has undergone a number of restorations, with the most recent bringing to light a rather unusual wallpaper design in the maid's room.

"Popular in its day, it was inspired by the arrival of scientific bacterial imagery," the National Trust  says.

The house also contains wonderful original murals by celebrated British artist Rex Whistler.

Souter Lighthouse, Tyne & Wear

Designed, constructed and opened in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, Souter made history when it became the first lighthouse in the world to be powered by electricity.

It was built to protect ships from the imposing limestone cliffs nearby, which are now a haven for multiple species of seabird, and its antique foghorn is still sounded on special occasions.

Tredegar House, Monmouthshire

"Dark arts, riotous parties, war heroism, crocodiles and crucifixes" define the history of this magnificent orange-bricked house, says the National Trust.

Built in the 17th century, Tredegar House has seen dark times and golden ages, with many of its residents playing pivotal roles in the economic and social history of Wales. 

Find out more at the National Trust website.

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