English Heritage looks after a number of historic properties throughout England. Having joined last year (we were visiting North Yorkshire where there are quite of few of the best, and they were doing a special offer of 15 months for the price of 12), I downloaded the English Heritage App onto my phone. The App provides details of all the properties, including opening times and entrance fees for non-members. As a result, I discovered that there are quite a number of properties with free entrance for everyone, not just members. I can therefore recommend that non-members should get hold of the app themselves.
Having said that, some of the free properties are not worth the bother!
So in order for others to learn from my experience, here’s a list (to which I hope to add over time) of places I have been to, in chronological order, together with a summary my thoughts on them, plus some admittedly subjective ratings.
North Leigh Roman Villa, Oxfordshire: quite interesting, pleasant location. Take footwear suitable for a muddy track! 5/10
Minster Lovell Hall, near Witney, Oxfordshire: limited parking, so get there early or perhaps visit the pub in the village for a meal. We did neither and so didn’t get to see it. The village itself is delightful, though (which I was surprised about as my grandparents lived there for a couple of years in the 1960s) so we intend to return: ?/10
Bishop’s Waltham Palace, Hampshire: impressive ruins, nice village with more than one dining option. Some on-site parking. 7/10
Dunster, West Somerset: 3 properties, Yarn Market, Gallox Bridge and Butter Cross: Dunster is a fabulous village with a spectacular Castle (National Trust). The Yarn Market is at the far end of the high street from the castle. The Butter Cross is not all that impressive in itself, but it is a pleasant walk to get there, similarly the Gallox Bridge is in a pleasant spot if not especially distinguished. 10/10
Nunney Castle, near Frome, Somerset not far from the A361: picturesque, in another lovely village, with a nice tea room and a pub recommended on the AA’s Pub Guide App (although we didn’t go in). 9/10
Hatfield Earthworks (Marden Henge), Wiltshire, between the Vale of Pewsey and Sailsbury Plain. Just a few ridges in a field; no parking, but there is an excellent pub (also recommended by the AA) about a quarter of a mile away (the Millstream, Marden). Not worth the bother unless you are visiting the pub! 2/10
Ludgershall Castle, Wiltshire (not far from A303): worth seeing if breaking a journey, the town does not have much to commend it. 6/10
Eynsford Castle, Kent: lovely village close to the M25 with a ford and nice coffee shop. Castle itself is not that impressive, but in a pleasant location. Near Lullingstone Roman Villa. 8/10
St Leonard’s Tower, near West Malling, Kent. Just a tall square building by the side of the road. Some free on-road parking a couple of hundred yards away, past the entrance to Manor Park Country Park. Nothing special. 3/10.
Faversham Stone Chapel (Our Lady of Elverton) near Faversham, Kent. A ruin through which trees are growing in a field next to a busy road (the A2) with no discernible parking. 1/10.
Bury St. Edmunds Abbey, Suffolk: extensive ruins in attractive market town with nice gardens round the back of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, slightly spoiled by the presence of tennis courts. 8/10.
Thetford Priory, Norfolk: extensive ruins of the abbey, with plenty of information, pleasant location. Parking for about 4 or 5 cars. 7/10.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Thetford: just the ruins of a chapel, not always accessible, no parking but walkable from Thetford Priory, although hardly worth the effort. 2/10