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Membership FAQs

Our answers to your most frequently asked questions about membership and free entry

Key membership card Sudeley

An offer direct from a house owner to you

All Historic Houses are independently run – we don’t own or operate any of the buildings or gardens ourselves.

When we say a place is ‘free for members’ we mean that the independent business itself has made a direct offer to you, when you show your card, to admit you for free.

Because those offers come from individual houses and gardens, not from us, they can, and sometimes do, change.

A dynamic list of offers

The list of places that make these offers might change. Sometimes a place might withdraw their offer for some reason (a major restoration project, perhaps, or the house has changed ownership), but new offers are made from time to time as well. For the last few years the number of places in the scheme has always been around three hundred.

Varying terms and rules

The exact rules of admission may change from place to place or time to time. Some attractions exclude certain days or times or zones (for example, the garden might be free but the house not). Others might impose a small additional charge for a service (like parking) or extra access (like an exhibition). It’s essential you check the individual attraction’s listing page on this site, or the attraction’s own site, to see what the precise deal is.

Changes to opening times and dates

Even if a place is offering free access, it may have changed its opening dates recently or have closed at short notice. It’s essential to check directly with an attraction before you set out to visit it.

Some of your most frequently asked questions

Where can I visit for free?

And can you can guarantee that a specific attraction will be offering free entry?

Historic Houses members are welcomed for free at hundreds of houses and gardens up and down the UK, during ordinary opening hours, on presentation of their card. However, we don’t own or run any places ourselves. All those offers are made independently, by the owners themselves, on their own terms. That means that the exact list of houses and gardens who admit our members for free can and does change. Sometimes places leave (they may have closed, or shifted their business model, or been sold) and sometimes new places join (quite regularly, actually). Our website has the most up-to-date list of places who participate in our access scheme, but even then you need to check with any property you want to see before you travel, as arrangements can change even at short notice (for example, somewhere may be closed for filming, or may have a special event on).

If an attraction has left the scheme, or denies a member free entry for any other reason, no refunds can be offered, under any circumstances.

In short, membership is not a guarantee of any particular place being free for members, and if somewhere offers free entry when you join up that is not necessarily a guarantee that it will continue that offer right the way through the twelve months of your membership.

But if you just want to discover and explore new places, and support independent heritage on the way, our membership remains the best value way to do it!

When are places open and free?

And how can I be sure I don't have a wasted journey?

Historic Houses places are busy and have lots of uses besides being visitor attractions – they’re family homes, wedding venues, event locations, film sets, and businesses.  That means that they can’t open every day. Opening dates are usually scheduled in advance, but even then things can change and short-notice closures do happen.

We do our best to provide up-to-date opening dates and times on this website, but we rely on the information we’re given by the individual attractions, and that’s not always the most recent available. It is essential that you check with a property before you set out, to make sure that they are open, and that they are accepting Historic Houses cards on that day (see ‘Are there any exceptions to free entry?’ below for more info on when and why an attraction may not admit a member for free).

You’ll generally find that there are more places open in the summer months than in winter – that’s typically because it’s not economic to open when it’s colder, and also because the quieter times are ideal for carrying out repairs and maintenance. But there are always some places where you can use your card, and plenty to explore at any time of year!

Explore some places open in winter

Are there any exceptions to free entry?

Or extras I have to pay for?

You must show a valid membership card for each individual in your party wanting to take up free entry, either physically, or on our dedicated digital-card app. Any individual without their own, named, valid, card will be asked to pay for entry, and no refunds can be offered under any circumstances.

In almost all cases, member places who take part in our ‘member-access scheme’ offer free admission to our members on the following basis:

  • It’s an ordinary opening day (meaning that special events, opening in aid of charity, and any access by appointment, are always excluded).
  • The free admission is the equivalent of a standard adult ticket to the main heritage attraction (meaning that auxiliary attractions with different ticketing – like adventure playgrounds, special exhibitions, or some galleries or stand-alone museums, are excluded).
  • Free admission can’t be claimed if you’re part of a pre-booked group on group rates, or a coach party.

You should also bear in mind that in some cases, free entry is only offered to the garden, even if the house is also sometimes open, and there are a very few places where special restrictions apply (such as a limit on the number of times you can visit in a year, or free entry only at off-peak times).

Sometimes, where part of a site is excluded from free entry, the attraction may offer you the chance to upgrade your free entry by paying the difference in price, but in other cases you may have to buy an ordinary ticket at the standard charge.

In all circumstances, it’s vital to check with a property, before travelling, to see if you’ll be admitted, and on what terms.

Do I need to book in advance?

And how can I do that?

Sometimes, yes. It depends on the attraction. In some cases, you will be required to reserve a time slot – either by email or through a digital ticketing platform. Other times, you have that option, but it’s not required, and you can turn up on the day. Finally, some attractions cannot take advance bookings for free admission, though they will admit members with valid cards if there is space for them when they arrive. That’s a slight risk, but in those instances paying the regular entry fee for an advance booking is the only way to guarantee entry.

As always, it is essential to check with an attraction directly for the fullest and most accurate advice on how to use your membership card to enjoy free entry.

Do you offer discounts on membership?

We never discount our membership ourselves. We think it’s great value at the standard price, and we charge the same price to everyone regardless of age, circumstances, etc. It’s a bit cheaper per person if your household has more than one person in it, but only because we save a little money on the overheads. In general, our pricing is guided by the money we pay out to our member places when our members use their cards to visit for free – which means we have very little wiggle-room.

We’re aware that some of our advertising partners use the advertising budget that we spend on them to make discount codes available to their own audiences, who wouldn’t otherwise have heard of us. (For example, we know that there is a company who use their budget to offer their own customers a slightly reduced price Historic Houses membership in the first year as a ‘thank you’ for shopping with them). If you found us through one of those channels, great! We’re pleased that the word got out. But ultimately, that’s a matter for the other company. We like to think that if you have just come across us, perhaps as a result of our own adverts, or word of mouth, you’ll think that the list price is a good deal for supporting independent heritage and enjoying lots of free access, our magazine, online content, etc.

I need a carer to visit places. Do I have to buy two memberships?

No, you don’t need to buy an extra membership for a carer. We don’t want to penalise people who need a helper or carer to enjoy visiting our houses and gardens. If you have any kind of full membership, and can provide evidence of needing a carer to get about (see below), we will issue you with a free carer card in addition to your own named card.

The card cannot be used on its own – it isn’t a membership – but can be used by anyone accompanying a member in need. It will say ‘Carer escort for <NAME OF MEMBER>‘.

If you are a carer and  you want to be able to visit our places on your own sometimes, not purely as a helper for the person you care for, then you will need your own named membership, at the usual price.

We ask members who are applying for an additional card for a carer to provide us with some evidence that they need a carer to visit our properties. We will accept one or more of the following types of evidence (preferably in photographed, photocopied or scanned form, as we cannot accept responsibility for returning originals).

Evidence we accept

Type A: evidence relating to the member – showing they need care (no existing relationship with a carer need be proved):

  • A letter from the local authority of the member confirming that they are in receipt of a Personal Independence Payment (the replacement for the Disability Living Allowance)
  • A letter from social services confirming the member’s registration as blind or partially sighted
  • A letter confirming that the member has been accepted for the Blue Badge scheme

Type B: evidence relating to a carer – showing that they are recognised as a carer for the member in question

  • A letter from the local authority of the carer confirming that they are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, or are in some other way recognised as a carer by the local authority
  • A letter from a GP confirming that the carer has registered with them as a carer
  • A registered carer card provided as part of another scheme (e.g. CredAbility Access Card, CEA Card, etc)

Contact us about other cases

Don't see your situation in the list above?
If none of the above apply to you but you think you have a valid case for a free carer card, get in touch with our membership department and we’ll be happy to talk about what we can make work.