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Surrounded by countryside and with a strong industrial heritage, Manchester is the perfect spot in which to base yourself if you’re looking to explore British history.
Whether you’re interested in industry and the struggles of the working people or want to find out how the other half lived in days gone by, you’ll find lots to explore within driving distance of the UK’s second city. Luckily, the National Trust has preserved all this history for locals as well as visitors to enjoy. So pack your picnic, jump in your hire care, and let us guide you …
The first stop on your National Trust journey is Lyme, an imposing Georgian country house set within manicured gardens in the neighbouring county of Cheshire. Top attractions include a 1400 acre deer park (and yes, there are real deer roaming freely), the chance to play olde worlde games like croquet and boules in the garden, and of course the opportunity to explore the house itself. This is the north-west of England, so they’re fully prepared for rainy day activities too. You’ll find Lyme just a 50-minute drive from the centre of Manchester. Read more about it here.
For a slightly longer drive, pack up your car rental with snacks and head two hours north up the M6 towards the rolling Cumbrian hills to experience a slice of literary history. Beloved children’s author Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit amongst many others, lived at Hill Top in the Lake District for years and took inspiration for her famous creations from the countryside around it. Her 17th Century cottage is now a small museum that will delight children and adults alike. The National Trust describes it as “a time capsule into her life”.
Whilst you’re in the Lake District, make the short car journey to Wray Castle: one of the most recent National Trust properties to open to the public. This turreted Gothic revival castle was built in 1840 and is set on the shores of the famous Lake Windermere. It offers boat rides, a cosy cafe and the opportunity to cycle around the grounds before you delve into its fascinating history. For something completely different, why not try a beginner’s sailing lesson on the lake? We can’t think of a more fun or active way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Take advantage of the fact that you’ve got car hire and squeeze another National Trust property into your day/weekend. Next, we’d suggest visiting the 300-year-old Dunham Massey estate, back down the road in Cheshire. Imposing gardens, more deer, and a history of two landed gentry families awaits you here, as well as various seasonal events that take place throughout the year. We’d recommend pitching up for the outdoor cinema screenings in the summer, or the spectacular Christmas light show that Dunham Massey hosts every winter. Dunham Massey is only 40 minutes from Manchester in the car.
Staying in Cheshire, a mere eight miles from Dunham Massey is Tatton Park: a historic estate with 50 acres of landscaped gardens, a neo-classical mansion, a medieval hall, and a 1000-acre deer park (yes, deer are fairly popular in this part of the world.) There’s also a rare breed farm that dates from the 1930s, which hosts fun activities in summer and will be sure to provide some entertainment for any children that you have in your party. Outdoor events this year have included a caterpillar trail, art installations, a kids photography course and a classic motor show.
The final stop on our National Trust car rental itinerary is Wentworth Castle and Gardens, an hour and a half’s drive from Manchester on the other side of the Pennine hills. Found in South Yorkshire, Wentworth is a genuine 18th Century castle that’s set in 60 acres of land and is the perfect spot for picnics, orienteering activities and finding out about the local area’s mining heritage. The history of Wentworth started with a “bitter family rivalry” and The National Trust promising that following a trail around the grounds will offer up political drama and intrigue. Time to get exploring …