Hidden treasures of the Trust

Townend in Troutbeck in the Lake District

As well as grand mansions and glorious landscapes, we also offer the chance to discover the small, the quirky and the unexpected. Anna Groves and Sally Palmer, authors of the National Trust Tour of Britain, reveal some of our lesser-known places around the country.

Some of these places are only open at certain times of the year or accessible by prior appointment, but if you make the effort to find them – what delights. Look carefully and you’ll be rewarded by a glimpse into a world of the curious and the eccentric – and also of ordinary people made extraordinary in some way that you’ll only discover when you get there. As Alan Titchmarsh says in his foreword to Tour of Britain, 'It's not just the grand architecture, ambitious garden design and extravagant interiors that impress.'

The Antrobus travelling chariot at Arlington Court carriage museum

Arlington Court, Devon 

In 1964, the Trust was given eight carriages and needed somewhere to house them. Most stable blocks at properties have been converted into shops, toilets or tea-rooms, but at Arlington the stable block is quite a long walk from the main house, so it was still intact. That initial gift has become a collection of over 40 nationally important carriages, ranging from grand state coaches to humble governess carts.

Crown Bar Belfast Liquor saloon

The Crown Bar, Belfast, County Antrim 

This bar transports you back to the 1820s, to a beautiful high-Victorian gin palace with many original and lovingly-restored period features. There’s stained glass featuring fleurs-de-lis, shells, fairies and pineapples, a red granite bar with a heated footrest, and elaborate carved ceilings with gas lamps. Ten leather-clad snugs are fitted out with their original gun-metal plates against which to strike matches. The Crown owes its dramatic interior to Patrick Fanigan, who commissioned Italian craftsmen in Belfast working on the new Catholic cathedrals to spend their free hours improving his pub.

Lavenham Guildhall front in market square in the sunshine

Lavenham Guildhall, Suffolk 

The Guildhall of Corpus Christi was built in around 1530. There were five recorded guilds in Lavenham, built as a consequence of the booming 16th-century cloth industry. The Guildhall was built as a meeting place for wealthy Catholic craftsmen, but it has at various times through its history been used as a prison, workhouse, pub and restaurant. It’s one of the finest timber-framed buildings in Britain.

The Postroom shop at Tintagel Old Post Office

Tintagel Old Post Office, Cornwall 

Dating from around 1380, the building was originally a farmhouse and is a rare example of a medieval longhouse. It’s been modified over the past 600 years and had many uses over that time, most recently in the 1870s as a Victorian post office. Today it has five rooms, including the letter-receiving office, where visitors can personalise their own letters.


Townend, Cumbria 

Townend is a little Lake District farmhouse with a big history. It belonged to the Brownes, a family of farmers who lived in this farmhouse for 400 years. Recipes and remedies written into a book by Elizabeth Browne in 1699 have been passed down the generations and are still cooked in demonstrations by volunteers. Wood carving was a passion of George Browne in the 1660s. Evidence of his work is all over the farmhouse. The library is a well-used collection of books that includes 45 titles that are the only remaining copies in the world.