- A number of gardens and parklands in Northern Ireland will begin reopening from June 3 to those who have booked tickets in advance.
- Only members and visitors who have booked tickets beforehand will gain entry, and opening decisions will be made with safety and local conditions in mind.
- Booking system for gardens and parklands opens on National Trust website today (May 29).
- Information on how to stay safe and socially distanced will be provided.
- Director General Hilary McGrady says welcoming visitors again will give access to nature, beauty and history as she thanks staff, volunteers and members for their ongoing support.
The National Trust has announced that from June 3 it will begin a phased reopening of its gardens and parklands in Northern Ireland with advance bookings needed to limit visitor numbers and maintain public safety.
The announcement comes after the Executive permitted the reopening of outdoor spaces as part of step one in its Pathway to Recovery Plan.
From Wednesday, June 3, the Trust will begin a phased and gradual reopening of a number of its gardens and parklands including Mount Stewart, Rowallane Garden, Castle Ward, Florence Court, Castle Coole, The Argory and Downhill Demesne. Over the coming weeks more places will begin reopening. People will be able to book their tickets in advance on property web pages from today (May 29). They will be free for Trust members, and other visitors will pay an admission fee.
All the Trust’s houses, shops, holiday cottages and campsites remain closed in line with government guidelines.
The charity will begin to reopen gardens and open spaces where social distancing can be observed, and will open to around a third of their normal capacity at any one time. Visitors arriving at reopening properties by car will be asked to show pre-booked tickets through their vehicle window before parking. Those arriving on foot will have bookings checked by a small team of staff who will adhere to social distancing.
Most of the Trust’s countryside and coastal car parks are now open, but car parks with a risk of high demand may need to be closed, and parking on Portstewart Strand must be booked in advance. Visitors are asked to check property web pages before travelling to see what is open and what needs to be booked. All admission to gardens and parklands will be by pre-booked ticket only.
Director General Hilary McGrady said: “We want to provide safe, local, welcoming spaces for people, and wherever possible we will open our gardens and parks, and coast and countryside car parks.
“The fresh air, bird song, big skies and open spaces people have missed will be there, but things will be very different, particularly at first. We want to thank people for their patience and support while we gradually begin reopening and welcoming our visitors.”
The booking system will be available on individual property web pages via www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
The charity is also urging visitors to limit how many visits they book, to stay local if they can and to avoid busy hotspots. Visitors are also being asked to respect the countryside code, keep dogs under control and to take their litter home with them.
Signs at properties and information ahead of visits will advise visitors how to stay safe during their visit and routes will be marked out.
Hilary McGrady said: “I am so thankful that our members and supporters have stood by us as we work through these unprecedented times. We know they desperately want to return to our places, and we need their support to do our vital conservation work to look after the coastline, countryside, rivers and properties in our care.
“Like so many other organisations, the Trust has been badly affected by the coronavirus lockdown, not least our vital conservation work and our finances. Reopening is the first phase of our recovery, and we need our members and supporters to help us make this gradual transition a success so we can get back to offering nature, beauty and history for everyone.”
The latest information and updates on which places and facilities are opened can be found on individual property web pages, and all visitors are urged to check online before planning a visit. More information on how to book and what to expect from your visit is available at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-to-book-your-visit-and-what-to-expect