Visiting Scotney for the first time?
- 06 February 2023
Every property looked after by the National Trust is unique and, while this difference is part of the joy, we know it can also be a bit confusing if you're visiting a new property. So, whether you're a seasoned National Trust member or this is your first ever visit to a National Trust property, we hope this article will help you make the most of your visit to us.
Before you set off
- As the car park at Scotney Castle is quite small and we are a popular property we have a car park booking system in place. To guarantee entry, particularly at peak times - think sunny weekends and school holidays, for example - you will need to book your car parking space in advance via this website or the National Trust app before 9am on the day of your visit. Although we appreciate this can take away some of the spontaneity deciding "where shall we go today?", we feel it is better than driving out only to discover we are full. (If you prefer not to book online, you can reserve your parking by 5pm the day before your visit by ringing 0344 249 1895.) We only ask you to book the hourly arrival slot for your parking; once here you can stay as long as you wish and there is no need to book to get into the property.
- If you are arriving at Scotney on foot, by bicycle or motorbike you do not need to make a booking.
- If you, or someone in your family has mobility difficulties, we have two powered mobility scooters which you can borrow to get around the site. You can book these in advance by calling the Scotney property office on 01892 893820.
- National Trust members have free access and free parking. If you are not a Trust member you will need to pay £4.50 for car parking at the time of your booking. You will then pay the admission charge at the visitor entrance.
- Dogs are very welcome at Scotney in the main garden, shops, tea-room and on the estate, but must be kept on a short lead during your visit, including in the car park. Only registered assistance dogs are permitted inside the mansion house and walled garden.
Arriving, parking and accessibility
- If driving, use the postcode TN3 8JN for your satnav. There are also brown heritage signs with the National Trust oak leaf logo on the A21 to guide you.
- On arrival you may be greeted halfway up the drive by a staff member who will ask for your car park boking detailss and, if you are a Trust member, to see your NT membership card. If there is no member of staff you will just continue along the drive to reach the car park.
- The accessible parking bays for Blue Badge holders are at the front of the car park on the right-hand side. If you have booked a mobility scooter, let a member of staff know and they will arrange for the scooter to be brought to you. The member of staff will show you how to use the scooter and run through the areas where the scooter can and can't go.
- Our full access statement is on the home page of the website.
- To get to our visitor entrance, turn right as you come out of the car park and follow the footpath round.
- The visitor entrance is where non-members pay for entry and members scan their cards. On busy days there may be a short queue while staff process everyone.
- There is one combined ticket for entry to Scotney. Please check our opening hours and prices on this website as not all elements of the offer are open all year round.
- You will be given a sticker on entry. Please keep hold of this as it allows you to re-enter throughout the day.
- There is a board at the visitor entrance that lists what activities are running on the day of your visit.
- Our second-hand bookshop is also located at the visitor entrance.
- If you just want to go for a walk on the estate you can head out via the white 5-bar gate by visitor entrance.
- If you're a National Trust member please do take a moment to scan your card at Visitor Entrance before you set off; when you scan we receive £3.50 from National Trust general funds to spend on improvements here at Scotney.
- If you're just visiting to have lunch with a friend, want to browse the plants or buy an item from our shop, turn left as you leave the car park and head past the 'Castle for all Seasons' board into the main Courtyard.
- The main WCs, acccesible WCs, and changing facilities are also in the main Courtyard.
Good to know
- Toilets with baby and toddler changing facilities are available in the central Courtyard and also by the black timber-clad Property Office building.
- The Badger and Pepper play area is in the main garden; you'll find it half-way down the hill on the right-hand side.
- The tea-room in the Courtyard sells a wide range of snacks and ice-creams, children’s lunch boxes, and hot and cold drinks. At peak times there is an additional kiosk in the Courtyard selling drinks and snacks only and in summer, there is an ice-cream kiosk in the garden at the Old Castle. Doggy ice-creams are also on sale in the Courtyard tea-room so no family member need miss out.
- The shop in the Courtyard sells a range of good-quality pocket money toys as well as books.
If it is practicable, baby carriers are a better way to travel with young ones on the estate as the routes are not fully buggy-friendly. The estate can also become very muddy and water-logged in winter. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead in the parkland because of grazing livestock. The paths in the garden are all-weather and suitable for prams, buggies and mobility scooters. There are some steps from the terrace at the back of the house, but an alternative route into the garden is available.
Taking a break
- There are WCs with accessible facilities and baby-changing faciltiies in the main Courtyard and there are also walkers' toilets with changing facilties by the black wood-clad Property Office building.
- There are no toilets in the gardens.
- The main tea-room selling hot and cold food, drinks, snacks and ice creams is in the Courtyard, together with a seasonal kiosk selling ice cream, snacks and drinks.
- There are tables both inside and out, and many picnic tables on the grass if you want to bring your own food.
- In the summer holidays, an ice-cream kiosk is open in the old castle.
- You are very welcome to bring your own picnics. There are picnic tables on the grassy areas by the walled garden and you can also picnic on rugs in the main garden. If you wish to use your own picnic chairs and tables you will need to head out onto the estate.
- The main shop is in the Courtyard. You can buy plants, garden pots and ornaments, homeware, fashion accessories, books, stationery, food and drink, and items for children.
- The second-hand bookshop with its large selection of good-quality, pre-loved titles is located at the Visitor Entrance.
Ideas for things to see and do while you're here
The Picturesque garden is through visitor entrance and criss-crossed by hard-surface paths. Take your time to wander through the garden. Pass the ha-ha (a hidden, sunken fence to keep farm animals out of the gardens) and take a moment on the semi-circular bench to enjoy the view over the estate. Take in the grassy expanses and swathes of rhododendrons with views down to the old castle. Cross over the bridge to wander around the old castle ruins; the well head in the centre of Castle Island is 12th century Venetian.
The moat walk, passing the Victorian boat house and leading up to the heather-thatched ice house, runs between the moat and the River Bewl on the estate and provides beautiful photo opportunities. The woodland glade, surrounded by a rill and stream, is home to an enormous sequoia (Giant Redwood) believed to have been planted in the 1830s. The quarry garden, blasted out in the late 1830s to provide the stone to build the new mansion house, is particularly beautiful in spring when it full of flowering bulbs, acers, azaleas and magnolia. Head back up the hill to look out over the stone bastion and stroll the terraces at the back of the mansion house.
Badger & Pepper natural play area
If you have little ones with you, you may wish to make a detour to our natural play area while you're visiting the garden. Head down the main path in the garden and fork right and right again. The play area is signposted but is quite tucked away. You'll find a range of play items including a mud kitchen, playhouse, natural drum kit and ball run.
The one-acre octagonal walled garden is separate to the main garden. You willl find it by the car park. Stocked with fruit trees, vegetables, cut flowers, herbs and box-edged paths, this is a perfect place to sit and be peaceful.
Woodland, parkland or both? The decision is yours. The 780-acre estate is criss-crossed with public footpaths and waymarked routes, but it also used to graze cattle and sheep. For this reason, dogs must be kept on leads in the parkland. Please note terrain is uneven and in winter can become very wet, boggy and muddy.
Mansion House and collection
Commissioned by Edward Hussey III and designed by Anthony Salvin, building started on the 'new castle' at Scotney in 1837 using the sandstone quarried from the garden. The house with its castellated tower was completed in 1843. Look out for the gargoyle and the decorated lead rainwater hoppers and downpipes.
When Christopher Hussey inherited Scotney from his uncle, Edward Windsor Hussey in 1952, he and his wife, Betty took care to preserve the intrinsic period character of the house, but were also mindful that the property needed funds for its upkeep. As a solution they converted part of the house into flats which were rented out to provide an income source. One of these, the Belfry Flat, was lived in by past Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and her husband, Denis while she was in office. These flats are currently lived in by Scotney staff and are not open to the public.
Whilst not a "treasure house", Scotney's collection is eclectic and vast and is still being catalogued. Only a fraction of it can be displayed at any one time but the seasonal exhibitions we run in the house are an opportunity to see new artefacts and tell different stories about the people who lived in the house.
Please note that the mansion house is not open all year-round so do check the admission details on the website to avoid any disappointment. When open, we rely on volunteers to steward the rooms in the house and on occasion may have to close certain areas.
The old castle has had many owners and seen many changes in its 850-year history. Roger Ashburnham built the four-towered the castle, or fortified manor house, in the late 1300s in response to the threat of French invasion. Today only one of the orginal towers remains and that itself was altered in the 18th century when the conical tiled roof and cupola were added. The south wing of the castle was re-built in the 1580s by the Darell family, only to be partly demolished in the 1630s to build a new three-storey east wing. The castle, with its low-lying marshy location, was demolished further in the 1830s by Edward Hussey III. He felt it was too damp to live in and instead made it the central feature of his Picturesque-designed landscape that you still see today.
You can access the castle island and ruins all year round but the old castle itself is only open at certain times. Please check the admission details on the website to avoid any disappointment.