When we were on our epic roadtrip round Britain last year we decided to call into Stonehenge, simply because we were in the area. When we got there it was a bit of a shock because man, was it expensive to get in there to see a big old bunch of rocks! I don't remember how much exactly but it was upwards of £20 each (each!) - yikes! There was some blokey standing there from English Heritage who explained to us that we could take out a joint membership which would cost this much and then we would save this much...we're normally not one to fall for that kind of thing but actually it all kind of made sense. And the savings were huge if you had plans to visit lots of sites, so a financially sound decision also.
Fast forward almost a year later to our holiday last week. Where we were staying in Bellingham was super close to all kinds of English Heritage places so we packed our membership cards with us and swiped our way into all sorts of halls and castles and gardens without handing over a penny!
First up was the lovely Belsay Hall and Castle. As we had Bob the Dog with us we couldn't go into the hall but we spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the woodland and cragside walks, both of which were frankly an absolute delight!
Next up was Hadrian's Wall. We went to two spots along the way here: Housestead's and Chester's Roman Fort. If you're not into seeing old ruins and bits of wall that date back 2000 years, this probably isn't going to be your thing, but it was actually pretty interesting, and Chester's in particular is in a beautiful setting. We enjoyed a lovely cuppa and a sticky bun in the cafe and the ladies who worked there made a huge fuss of Bob and gave him a saucer of biscuits for free!
Our final visit was to Aydon Castle. We were actually recommended this by someone from English Heritage when we visited Belsay, who described it as a hidden gem at the bottom of a dirt track - with a description like that we couldn't resist! It really was all kinds of gem-like too. Built in the 13th century it's the only castle with all the rooms still remaining, and the added bonus was that as it is unfurnished we could take Bob in too! He only woof-ed once when he heard people upstairs in his castle - how rude...! We wandered from room to room admiring old beams and cupboards in walls, but the most exciting thing of all was being able to walk round the battlements at the top! Normally these kind of things are all closed off but you could freely trot around pretending to be a soldier, or you know, just be cool and walk round all chill like...
So the moral of this tale? If like us, you're willing to accept the complete and utter middle-class-like shocked face emoji of being a member of the English Heritage you can find out more here. I never thought I would say it, but on the way home we were already talking about other places we can visit to make sure we get the most out of the membership and plan to rejoin when our current one expires. I don't think you can get a better recommendation than that!