The best National Trust places to visit on the South Coast

Days out, Family

Posted by Ed Roberts on 15th June 2022

National Trust South Coast

The South Coast of England is full of amazing beauty and hosts a superb choice of holiday destinations for you to choose from. Our guide to National Trust properties on the South Coast is comprised of some exceptional natural beauty spots and historical places of interest to visit with your family.

We have even picked a few brilliant places to check out with your dog. Many National Trust properties welcome our four-legged friends too, particularly wild places like the Seven Sisters, Tennyson Downs and Lantic Bay.

Seven Sisters, Lantic Bay and Tennyson Downs

If you're planning a trip to take in some of the wonderful National Trust places on the South Coast, we've got a lovely array of properties in coastal Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Kent and the New Forest. Have a browse of our collection below, or read on to discover the best National Trust places to visit on the South Coast...

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The best National Trust places to visit in Hampshire and the New Forest

Northern Commons, The New Forest, Hampshire

New Forest

Northern Commons is a vast expanse of exposed land, which varies from heather carpeted wilderness to atmospheric woodland. There are bogs and streams, and an abundance of wildlife including birds, reptiles (some of which are rare) and a huge range of insects and plants. It is one of the most varied National Trust places in Hampshire.

New Forest

The landscape has seen itself formed by traditional commoning practices which continue to be employed today. Still, the local people of the New Forest use the area for grazing ponies, donkeys, cattle, pigs and sheep, all of whose existence shapes the forest. As in times gone by, the Verderers' Court still gather to make sure that forest law is adhered to - a 13th-century organisation who's longevity is a testament to their desire to work with the forest, to live off it and to protect it.

Don’t miss: The animals roaming freely

Best conditions: Sunny days

Facilities: Parking

Stay nearby: Bench Cottage | Sleeps: 7 guests plus 1 dog


Mottisfont, Hampshire

montage of photos of Mottisfont

If you're looking for National Trust places to visit on the South Coast where you can enjoy a good nose around a stately home, as well as a ramble through the gardens, Mottisfont is the place for you. The stunning 18th-century property, which is built around a medieval priory, houses a permanent 20th-century art collection, harking back to its past when 1930s owner, Maud Russell, brought artists here to be inspired. The house is closed over the summer from May - July, so visit out of season if you wish to go inside.

Mottisfont house and statue

While the elegant house steals the limelight, the gardens are equally fabulous, coming alive with a dazzlingly colourful and fragrant display in early summer, when the National Collection of pre-1900 roses are at their finest. Visit in other seasons and you won't be disappointed either; carpets of bulbs blossom in spring, hues of reds, ochres and yellows impress in autumn, and even in winter the colours of the garden will delight. Families are welcome, and there's plenty of space within the grounds for little ones to burn off some energy. 

Don't miss: The Whistler room with its magnificent trompe-l'oeil murals

Best conditions: Dry days

Facilities: Free parking, cafe, toilets, shop and second-hand bookshop. Dogs on leads welcome in most garden areas, only assistance dogs in walled gardens, formal lawns and indoor areas.

Stay nearby: Woods Thatch | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 4 dogs


The best National Trust places to visit on the Isle of Wight

Tennyson Downs and The Needles, Isle of Wight

The Needles and Tennyson Trail

One of the National Trust's things to do on the Isle of Wight, this spellbinding walk is named after a former poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and takes in the magnificent chalk cliff faces of the western island, the Tennyson Memorial Cross, and Scratchell Bay. Also, The Needles is home to a lighthouse which is still a testament to the engineering prowess. Nature lovers will be looking out for sightings of butterflies like Adonis blues, chalk hill blues, and dark green fritillaries. Orchid fans will already know there can be up to nine species found in this rich chalk grassland area of the island. Make sure you take in the Old and New Batteries built in the 1800s. 

The Tennyson Trail

The Tennyson Trail is 7 miles long and takes in each of the grassland’s wonderful features, both manmade and natural. The sea and cliff views on this trail are exceptional and you absolutely will not regret seeking one of the Isle of Wight’s most beautiful country walks out for yourself.

Don’t miss: Views of The Needles

Best conditions: Mild days

Facilities: Parking

Stay nearby: The Wendy House | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs 


Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight

Bembridge Windmill

This National Trust property is an interesting prospect for a family day out. Bembridge Windmill is the National Trust's only Grade I-listed building of its kind and for those who wish to see how flour was milled, this is the place. You can book a tour and climb the four levels to learn about the process; it's a fascinating experience for everybody who has wanted to see the inside of a windmill. The windmill was operational until 1913, so many of its machinery is still in situ.

Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge is on the east coast of the island and has a great beach and a distinctive lifeboat station and pier. Wander along the coast and stop in to relax at one of the cafes or restaurants in Bembridge. Maybe combine your visit to the windmill with a visit to Bembridge Fort which is close by.

Don’t miss: A photo opportunity with the windmill's magnificent sails in the background

Best conditions: Any weather 

Facilities: Kiosk, WCs, parking, tours

Stay nearby: Larkspur House | Sleeps: 9 guests plus 1 dog


The best National Trust places to visit in Sussex

Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, Sussex 

Birling Gap and Seven Sisters

Close to Eastbourne in East Sussex, the iconic Seven Sisters is a string of colossal chalk cliffs that make up one of the longest stretches of unpopulated coast in the South East. Spectacular views across the English Channel await and it’s a great place for a family day out. Take a picnic along and spend some quality time together enjoying the sites. You can also go rock pooling on the beaches below the cliffs. 

Seven Sisters

There is a café at Birling Gap, which serves as one of the entry points to the Seven Sisters and the coastal walks across the back of the cliffs. With over 500 acres of rare chalk grassland, the area is rich with butterflies and wildflowers. Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters is a wonderful place for a walk on a bright day, particularly if you're interested in ticking off National Trust places in Sussex!

Don’t miss: The exceptional views from the top of the cliffs across the Channel

Best conditions: Dry and sunny days are best

Facilities: Café, WCs, parking, no dog restrictions

Stay nearby: Little Olives | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog  


Bateman's Estate, Sussex

Batemans Estate

Bateman's is the former home of Rudyard Kipling. So literary fans can enjoy a tour of the house and some adventures on the estate. Set in the woodlands of the High Weald AONB in Sussex, this glorious 17th-century house, with its mullioned windows and oak beams, and its estate was the source of much inspiration for his famous books. The Nobel Prize-winning author (1907) wrote 'If' and 'Puck of Pook's Hill' at Bateman's.

Batemans Estate

After a tour of the house, explore the 300-acre estate, where you will encounter secluded visual wonders such as old trees, abandoned iron ore pits, hidden ponds and dusty trackways; you can also enjoy views over the valley down the River Dudwell. It's a great place for a family day out - filled with games, walks and quality time together.

Don’t miss: Take a tour of Kipling's old 'unfaked' rooms

Best conditions: All weathers

Facilities: Parking, shop, cafe, parking, WCs, tours

Stay nearby: Old Forge Cottage - Burwash | Sleeps: 3 guests plus 2 dogs 


Slindon Estate, Sussex

Slindon Estate

The National Trust's Slindon Estate is 1,400 hectares of woodland, downland, farmland, and parkland. There are over 30 miles of paths that criss-cross the estate. During the spring, you can enjoy woodland flower displays and also a lambing event at Gaston Farm. The summer is a lovely time of year to come to Slindon - wander the shady woodland lanes to see colourful butterflies and rabbits gambolling on downland turf at Bignor.

Slindon Estate

Towards the close of year, witness Slindon’s famous pumpkin display and the falling leaves in Park Wood, where you can see deer too. Keep your dogs on leads at Slindon as it is a nature reserve. Stop at the local pub on the estate called The Spur or pick up a light lunch for a picnic at the community shop, The Forge.

Don’t miss: The deer are majestic

Best conditions: Autumn for the leaves

Facilities: Parking, shop, pub (WCs in pub for customers)

Stay nearby: Little Oakwood | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog 


Lamb House, Sussex

Lamb House

Lamb House is a National Trust property with strong literary connections. The author Henry James lived here and it was in his garden shed that he penned such classics as The Wings of a Dove, Washington Square, The Aspern Papers and The Turn of the Screw. The property's walled garden also attracts visitors, it's one of the largest in the centre of the old town in Rye. The grounds were designed by a friend of the author, Alfred Parsons, and is still maintained to the same standards today. It's a lovely place to walk and enjoy the planted beds and borders full of seasonal and perennial flowers. 

Lamb House

The lesser-known author, EF Benson, also lived at Lamb House too and you can learn about his writing career as well during your tour of the property. The gardens make for a lovely place to sit and relax. There's a lawn and a pond to enjoy too. Rye is a sweet little town on top of a hill above miles of low lands, with lots of quaint cafes and places to eat tucked away into its narrow streets. After a trip around the town, head out to Rye Harbour for a fresh walk down to the sea.

Don’t miss: Pay tribute to Henry James' body of work with a trip to the nearby bookshop

Best conditions: It's an all-weather attraction

Facilities: WCs

Stay nearby: Riverside Cottage - Rye | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs


East Head, Sussex

East Head

East Head is a lovely stretch of beach in West Sussex, close to West Wittering, a space protected by the National Trust in the south of England. Protected and managed by the National Trust because of its balance of rare habitats, it’s a beautiful place for a sunny sojourn. The sand dunes are bewitching, and the beach is a great place to walk, play and sunbathe. 

East Head is a dynamic place full of maritime plants like marram grass, sea holly and sea bindweed. It’s a superb escape from the world, where you can look for seals and observe the yachts as they sail past. Enjoy walks to the saltmarshes and up the coast to maximise your visit to this charming National Trust beauty spot on the south coast of England. 

Don’t miss: The gorgeous sand dunes make for a very pretty backdrop

Best conditions: Warm days

Facilities: WCs, parking, dogs on leads in the dunes (look out for adders), strictly no BBQs

Stay nearby: The White House Annexe | Sleeps: 4 guests


The best National Trust places to visit in Kent

Fan Bay Deep Shelter and the White Cliffs of Dover, Kent

Dover and Fan Bay Deep Shelter

The White Cliffs of Dover are a national emblem, instantly recognisable, and a walk along the trails above the English Channel offer a great day out. What some people don't realise is that they are under the care of the National Trust on the South Coast. On clear days you can see the coast of northern France across the sea. There is a coastal path that runs in the direction of South Foreland Lighthouse through chalk grasslands. Nature lovers will be looking out for pyramidal orchids and chalkhill blue butterflies. 

Dover

Visit the former World War II coastal defences of Fan Bay Deep Shelter; tours can be booked by the intrepid to tour the warren of tunnels deep inside the cliffs, some of them up to 70 feet below ground. The 30-minute tours can be booked on a first come, first served basis and it’s really worth a visit if you love investigating strange abandoned places. 

Don’t miss: Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Best conditions: Sunny days although the shelter is inside

Facilities: Visitor centre, café, shop, parking, WCs

Stay nearby: Blackbird Cottage – Ottinge | Sleeps: 4 guests


Chartwell, Kent

National Trust Chartwell

Once home to former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and his wife Clementine, Chartwell is bursting with character and interesting things to discover. If you’re looking for National Trust places in Kent with a fascinating history, a stunning property and beautiful gardens, Chartwell should be top of your list.

National Trust Chartwell

Peruse the rooms of Churchill’s house, admiring his photos, books and mementoes before heading out to the gardens with lakes, kitchen gardens and even a playhouse built for his youngest daughter, Mary. Find play areas in the woodland and even get stuck in with den building – there’s plenty to keep children entertained here. Pay a visit to Churchill’s studio, where an impressive collection of his paintings is exhibited.

Don’t miss: Churchill’s art studio

Best conditions: Dry days to make the most of the gardens too

Facilities: Restaurant, WCs. Dogs on short leads allowed in gardens, allowed off the lead in the wider estate, only assistance dogs allowed in house, shop and café

Stay nearby: Churchill Lodge | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs


Map of the best National Trust properties on the South Coast of England

Find out where our favourite National Trust sites are located along the South Coast with our map below.

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Stay with us on the South Coast of England

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.