5 of the best National Trust properties to visit in Somerset
- Credit: ©National Trust Images/John Miller
Andrea Cowan finds five fabulous National Trust places to visit in Somerset.
1. Montacute House
Sitting at the end of a formal drive is this stunning hamstone mansion. An Elizabethan Renaissance design completed in 1601, it was the vision of Sir Edwards Phelips, a wealthy lawyer and member of Elizabeth I’s Parliament. He wanted a suitably impressive home to reflect his standing in society.
There are plenty of gems to discover, such as the 172Ft Long Gallery, the longest of its kind still in existence in England, offering fantastic panoramic views of the garden and parkland. There are also more than 50 16th and 17th century portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
The beautiful surrounding gardens are a joy and new waymarked walks (St Michael’s Hill, Parkland, Ladies Walk) take you right into the heart of the countryside offering striking views of autumn colour.
During half term, families can enjoy soft archery, boules, building blocks, colouring shields, and other games available in the covered space in the Old Stables.
2. Lytes Cary Manor
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This is an intimate medieval manor house, originally the family home of herbalist Henry Lyte and lovingly restored in the 20th century by Sir Walter Jenner. Visitors will get a real sense of the history of the house and the families that lived here.
Equally enjoyable is the arts and crafts-inspired garden which surrounds the house, with a magical collection of topiary and herbaceous borders. The orchard has a plethora of fruit varieties, including walnuts and quince and visitors can help themselves to any windfall.
Beyond this is a 369-acre estate to be explored, with waymarked walks along the River Cary. At this time of year, you might see the tenant farmers finishing harvesting their crops and the beautiful autumnal colours of the trees on the White Walk.
The season for Lytes Cary closes on October 31 so this is the last chance to visit for 2021.
3. Coleridge Cottage
The 17th-century cottage was home to Coleridge for three years from 1797. It was during his time here that he wrote his finest works including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.
Following a major redevelopment project in 2011, visitors can now explore rooms of the cottage never previously open to the public. They have been recreated as though Coleridge and his young family had just stepped out of the door.
The cottage will be open four days a week in October (Wednesday – Saturday) and just two weekends in December. Visitors need to book. It’s a lovely time to visit as the cottage will be at its cosiest and the fire will be lit in the second parlour.
For the Christmas weekends the cottage will be decorated with natural seasonal foliage and visitors can have a go at making their own salt dough gingerbread men, spice bags & winter posies.
This Georgian house was originally called Tyntes Place. It was bought by the Gibbs family in 1843 and renamed Tyntesfield before being enlarged and transformed into a Victorian Gothic Revival house. It’s an interesting fusion: the Gothic style was an expression of Gibb’s religious beliefs whilst the extravagant interior and exterior is a demonstration of the family’s immense wealth, made from the import of Peruvian ‘guano’ fertiliser.
The house sits in beautiful gardens. Four generations of the Gibbs family planted a collection of ornamental trees, providing fantastic autumn colour. There are also many beautiful maples and beech trees with a spectacular autumnal display in the woodlands.
The annual harvest display is in the Orangery, featuring a varied selection of pumpkins and squash as well as seasonal produce grown in the walled kitchen garden. Also, during half term, there is a Hallowe’en-themed trail through the orchard.
5. Barrington Court
Just north of Ilminster, this Tudor manor house dates to the 1550s and was beautifully restored in the 1920s. The house itself is currently closed, but there is still plenty to explore with farm buildings, artisan workshops, gardens, a parkland, shop, cafe and book barn.
It’s well worth a visit to Barrington Court at this time of year. Parts of the gardens were inspired by the work of Gertrude Jekyll and there are over 100 different varieties of apple in the orchards, mostly local and heritage in origin. Harvesting will be well underway but visitors can still help collect apples to be sent off-site to be pressed.
The theme for half term activities is a celebration of autumn folklore. From spotting the Apple Tree Man, the spirit of the oldest apple tree in the orchard, or searching for the eerie willow hinky punks, lurking in hidden corners of the estate.
It is suggested that you check the website for opening times before visiting.