How and why our member-access scheme works

We don't own or operate any heritage attractions - but we've designed an access scheme that benefits historic places and visitor members, as well as contributing to our important work.

Member access is carefully designed to only operate when it benefits you and the participating property at the same time. Where (or when) it doesn’t make financial sense for an attraction to offer free entry, they won’t, and they’re not obliged to.

Great value for visitors

Membership is the most economic way for heritage connoisseurs to seek out and visit more historic houses, castles, and gardens all across the UK. Every extra trip makes all your visits cheaper, so there’s a real incentive to take more outings than you would have done if you were buying your ticket each time. For those who pore over the annual handbook or website looking for hidden gems that they haven’t ticked off yet, membership can mean huge savings.

Extra income for houses and gardens

Historic Houses member places are, on average, less visited than similar attractions such as National Trust properties, and extra footfall from additional visits can make an important contribution towards earning the cash they need to pay for their own upkeep. Participating attractions can claim a small sum from Historic Houses for each of our members they admit for free, on top of the money visitors may have spent in the café or gift shop. In 2023 we paid out nearly £2 million to the attractions that participated in our scheme.

The tweaks that make it work

In a small number of cases, our member places have the opposite problem – not too few visitors, but too many. It’s a nice problem to have, but the huge crowds who go to, for example, Harewood House or Hever Castle can impose significant extra costs in the form of staffing needs and wear-and-tear.

At these unusual member places, member access only makes sense with some restrictions – either a cap on the number of times per year our members can visit for free, or limiting free visiting to off-peak times when the grounds and rooms are quieter and there is spare capacity.

The same reasoning explains why free access isn’t offered to special events, to non-heritage attractions like exhibitions or adventure playgrounds, or for members who are part of a pre-booked coach party. In none of those scenarios is the property likely to be suffering from low footfall, so a policy of free access could actually undermine, rather than bolster, their efforts to maintain the site for future generations.