We’re all getting into the festive spirit and Santa will be along shortly. But the National Trust thinks we might just need a pick-me-up in January when we’re all counting the cost of Christmas. And of course, we will all have eaten too much so their January blues-busters – getting outdoors and discovering a special place – is just the tonic.
“January is the perfect month to try a new place for a day out,” said Tony Berry, Head of Visitor Experience at the National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk). “For those who have made resolutions to spend more time with family and friends and be more active, a day out somewhere new can be just the boost we need to brighten what is thought to be the most depressing month of the year.“
Here’s their ideas from refreshing walks to weekend breaks:
Castle Ward, Co. Down: Sitting boldly on a hillside overlooking Strangford Lough, this eccentric 18th-Century estate has 820 acres to explore.
Cycle: Hire a bicycle and explore the 21 miles of new, multi-use trails in the woodlands and around the estate.
Play: The woodland and adventure playgrounds provide a fun day out for all the family. Older children can enjoy thrilling rides on the zip line while the younger children try out the woodland playground.
Stay: Make a weekend of it in the woodland hideaway of Downpatrick Gate lodge. The lodge was built in the 1870s for Lord Bangor and is an ideal starting point for great walks, while two wood-burning stoves keep things cosy. Sleeps four.
Parkland, woodland and garden: 10am – 5pm, January 1 – March 31.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire: With 3,800 acres of parkland and gardens, Clumber is the perfect space for families and wildlife to roam.
Discover: Go wild at the new discovery centre, with hands-on wildlife exhibitions and activities. Outside, the kids can head for the climbing forest in the woodland play park.
Cycle: With 20 miles of cycle routes through spectacular scenery, peddle away those January blues. To get fit and have fun, you don’t even need to own a bike – a huge range of bikes are available to hire onsite.
Burrow: Hop along to the Burrow, ClumberPark’s play centre for ages 0-6. With soft play for under 3 year olds and fun activities for 3-6 year olds, there’s plenty to keep the children entertained.
Park open all year, visitor facilities: 10am – 4pm, January 1 – March 24.
Corfe Castle, Dorset (above National Trust picture by Matthew Antrobus: Enjoy one of the country’s most iconic survivors of the English Civil War, with its dramatic ruins and views across Purbeck.
Discover: With fallen walls and secret places, there are tales of treachery and treason around every corner. Spot the ‘murder holes’ and the kids can play dress-up with helmets, shields and swords.
Walk: From resident ravens to rare butterflies, Corfe is rich in wildlife. See what you can spot along the wildlife walk and take in the views – the castle’s towering presence in the Purbeck landscape has inspired artists and photographers for generations.
Play: Castle quests are free and available every day for families to enjoy. Pick up an activity sheet and follow the clues to claim a prize.
Stay: Vineyard farm cottage is a pretty thatched cottage named after the castle’s vineyard, which was situated in a nearby field. With superb views of the castle and surrounding hills, it is the perfect base for exploring the Dorset coastline. Sleeps four.
Castle, shop and tea-room: 10am – 4pm, January 1 – February 29.
Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire: The spirits of Welsh princes still inhabit this magical landscape, a place of power and influence for more than 2,000 years. There are 800 acres to explore – from the ruined castle to meadows and streams.
Discover: Entering Newton House is like going back in time to 1912. Sit on the Edwardian furniture, polish the shoes in the servants’ quarters or entertain fellow visitors by playing the piano in the dining room.
Cycle: Enjoy the park from a different perspective – the drives and tracks at Dinefwr are perfect for cycling off those extra Christmas calories.
Walk: There are many self-led walks at Dinefwr, one of Wales’s newest National Nature Reserves. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dinefwr to download the wildlife trail or the ‘Capability’ Brown trail.
Park and gardens: 11.30am – 4pm, January 1 – March 25.
Gibside, Tyne & Wear: For a taste of the country on the edge of the city, escape to this stunning landscape park and nature reserve.
Winter adventure week – December 31 – January 4, 11am – 3pm: Wrap up snug for natural outdoor adventures, including den building and toasting marshmallows around the campfire. Warm up indoors in the mini-Gibside play hall. Normal admission charges apply. Booking not needed. Please call 01207 541820.
Discover: Get close to nature with Gibside’s wildlife hide and viewing cameras and then head to the stables to try the milkable cow.
Roam: Over 15 miles of footpaths offer everything from a short stroll with a buggy to a longer hike. The oak-lined avenue is great for running races from tree to tree for the kids, while Green Close field is the perfect spot for a kick-about. Don’t miss the StrawberryCastle adventure play area and low rope activity course.
Download: Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside for a map of Gibside’s gardens, woodland, play areas and footpaths. There are also two downloadable walks to kick-start New Year resolutions.
Landscape garden, stables and visitor facilities: 10am, – 4pm, January 1 – February 29.
Petworth House, WestSussex: Nestling in the South Downs National Park is one of Britain’s finest stately homes, set within a beautiful deer park landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown.
Turner’s Sussex, January 12 – March 13, 10.30am – 3.30pm: This new exhibition will showcase many of J.M.W. Turner’s finest works featuring the Sussex area. It will include more than 40 pieces on loan from major art galleries, regional galleries and private collections. Booking is essential, please call 0844 249 1895. Adult £10, Child £5.
Walk: Burn off those Christmas calories in the park, spotting magnificent fallow deer along the way. Try the ancient tree walk – it’s around four miles with incredible views.
Play: Have a go at geocaching – the high-tech treasure hunt with a GPS. Follow the coordinates through the landscape to find the hidden cache.
Turner’s Sussex exhibition, visitor facilities and pleasure ground: January 12 onwards, 10.30am – 3.30pm. House opens fully: March 16 onwards. Park: 8am to dusk year round.
Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate, Cheshire: The estate brings to life the compelling story of mill workers, entrepreneurs and the Industrial Revolution, complete with the Apprentice House that housed the children who worked there.
Discover: Be amazed by the sounds and smells of steam and water-powered engines, including the most powerful working waterwheel in Europe. Experience hands-on exhibits and demonstrations of how cotton is made into cloth.
Walk: Walk through beech woods by the River Bollin and enjoy the natural play area.
Taste: Warm up in the restaurant with a tasty, seasonal meal made onsite.
Mill and Apprentice House: 11am – 3.30pm, shop and café: 10.30am – 4pm, Wednesday – Sunday, January 1 – February 24. (Whole property closed January 7-11 for essential maintenance.)
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk: This hauntingly beautiful estate, with far-reaching views over the River Deben, is home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time – perfect for exploring in the winter months.
Discover: Step back in time and let your imagination run wild with tales of Anglo-Saxons and WWII and their connection to Sutton Hoo. Discover the incredible story of the ship burial of an Angle-Saxon king with the new burial chamber experience – featuring the sights, sounds and smells of AD 625.
Dig: Ever wondered what it would be like to dig up and excavate some treasure? Sutton Hoo has the best activity for any budding archaeologists, so grab your tools and see what you can find.
Walk: Explore beautiful woodland and heathland walks with estuary views. Keep the kids entertained with the great animal detective trail on the circular walk.
Open weekends 11am – 4pm, January 5 – February 3.