Some of the more popular tourist attractions in England are in the care of English Heritage. These range from prehistoric stone circles, the most famous of which is Stonehenge, to much more recent historical sites such as Charles Darwin’s house or 1960s Cold War Bunkers. In all there are over 400 properties in England that are managed by English Heritage. Members of the organisation are given free access to all of these sites. Membership is great for families, a must for travellers, in fact it is perfect for anyone who enjoys visiting archaeological and historic sites and cares about initiatives to protect these. Read on for more about the benefits of joining English Heritage.
English Heritage, or the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England as it is officially called, is widely known as that entity that oversees the care of England’s national collection of sites and monuments. Caring for the nation’s archaeological and historic heritage is only a part of what they do. Other activities include education, commissioning research, advising all sorts of people and bodies on the England’s heritage, from the government to individuals who own listed buildings. All this costs money, a lot of it; and as a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation, it receives a substantial amount of its running costs from the State, and ultimately the British tax-payer. To supplement the statutory income it receives English Heritage, amongst other fundraising activities, charges people to visit many of the sites under its protection.
Not surprisingly perhaps, it is the more popular attractions that people come to England to visit that charge an entry fee. There are, however, a number of sites for which entry is free; and for the archaeology traveller the spectacular Iron Age hillfort of Maiden Castle is one that immediately springs to mind. Whether you live in England and visiting English Heritage properties is a favourite past-time, or you are visiting the country on holiday or business, getting in to a few of the must-see archaeological and historic sites can be quite costly. Particularly if you are travelling on a budget or as a family; entry fees soon start adding up.
Fortunately, the good people at English Heritage have come up with a membership scheme. And one that takes caters for different types of members: adults, seniors and students.
Is it worth joining English Heritage?
One of the questions people often ask about tickets that allow entry to a group of museums or sites is whether they are value for money. In most cases, and I would think this is true of all such schemes, they are value for money if used correctly – and this is certainly the case for the Roman Pass for archaeology sites and museums in Rome and the Berlin Welcome Card for Museuminsel. Although joining English Heritage allows for considerable savings, membership is so much more than a savings card. But lets start by examining the savings you could make whether England is your home or you are travelling around the country.
The following table compares what it would cost for an adult, a child and a family (comprising two adults and three children) to get into ten popular English Heritage sites around England. These are some of the more popular sites, places that residents and tourists alike visit. I very much doubt this is a representative sample of ten sites people visit in a year or while on holiday in England, but it does give a good idea of the value of joining English Heritage.
Housesteads Fort (Hadrian’s Wall)
Queen Victoria’s Osborne House
1066 Hastings Abbey & Battlefield
Charles Darwin’s Down House
Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island
Annual Membership Fee
up to 6 kids
free per adult
These prices are updated to reflect current entry prices (January 2017).
Entry to all English Heritage sites is free for members. As it costs an adult £50 per year to join English Heritage, this table shows that s/he would not have to visit many sites to recover the initial outlay. A couple can pay £88 for joint membership. The savings are really felt for adults with children. An adult member can be accompanied by SIX children (under 19) for free. A family of five (two adults and three to six children) would only pay £88, that is three or four of the above listed sites. And note, membership lasts a year and allows for multiple visits to the same place in that year. Bargain!
The price comparison does not take into account students and seniors, and the concession tickets such visitors would be eligible for if paying for entry. Student and Senior (60+) membership is £41 per annum, with a joint Senior membership being £63 and an Adult + Senior membership is £74.
As necessary as making savings is for some people, the savings and associated benefits of joining English Heritage do not end at free entry to over 400 attractions up and down England.
What are the Benefits of English Heritage Membership
Whether you are living in England or spending some time exploring the country’s ancient and historic pasts
- Free Entry to over 400 Attractions
Members enjoy free entry to all attractions under English Heritage’s care (find a site here).
- Kids go Free
Up to six children (under 19 years of age) can accompany adult members, free of charge.
- Free/reduced entry to Events
Many of the English Heritage sites have a varied programme of activities for visitors, some of which are only for members. Otherwise there is a reduced or no charge for members to participate in these events.
- Reduced/Free Entry to Other Attractions in England
Members also get a variety of discounts to over 100 attractions in England.
- Reduced/Free Entry to Other Attractions in Other Countries
Members also get half price entry to sites and attractions in the care of Cadw (128 heritage sites in Wales), Historic Scotland (over 300 sites including Edinburgh Castle and Skara Brae prehistoric site), Manx National Heritage (many historic sites on the Isle of Man), OPW Heritage Ireland (over 700 historical monuments), as well as free entry to the many sites and attractions in the care of New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
- Member’s Pack
The member’s pack includes your membership card, car sticker, a Handbook (value £10.95) that contains the details of all English Heritage properties as well as all the other sites ad attractions that offer free or reduced entry. Members can also request a printed copy of an access guide for an English Heritage property, although this information is available online.
- Member’s Magazine
The Member’s Magazine is published four times a year, and carries news and features about English Heritage attractions as well as a guide to the various events around the country.
- Contributing to Conservation
Whether or not you visit the number of sites during your membership year to cover the initial outlay, remember that your membership fee is going to a great cause. So look at it as a donation if you like; a donation towards the protection of England’s amazing archaeological and historic heritage so that you can see these sites when you are able to as well as the generations to come.
Given the very many sites in England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man, Ireland and New Zealand for which there is free/reduced entry I have no hesitation in recommending signing up for English Heritage membership. Besides getting great value in terms of reduced entry costs, the benefits of joining allow for all sorts of pleasures throughout the year. I eagerly await the quarterly magazine, which offers a handy way of finding out about what is on at any of the English Heritage sites.
My first year was a gift from a friend, an excellent and thoughtful gift and one I was happy to renew annually thereafter. As the sender of the gift, you get to add a personalised message, and the recipient will get the members pack that includes a voucher that simply requires activation (which can be done at any time).
Is English Heritage Membership worth it?
For much of June and into July 2015 I was travelling around France. For July and into August I have chosen to explore the archaeology of England. As many of the sites I want visit (as would be the case for a lot of people I am sure) are English Heritage properties, I have just signed up for English Heritage membership. Signing up could not have been easier, I did so when I visited Tintagel Castle this morning. The cost for me, a single adult, was £50.
The above table showing possible savings is hypothetical; even if the savings are real, it is not that realistic a situation. So, for a more realistic example demonstrating how easy and quickly it is to make savings with membership from entry fees to the various sites (overlooking the value of all the other benefits), I will add the details here as I go along over the next few weeks:
08 July Tintagel Castle entry for one adult would have been £7.20
09 July Chysauster Ancient Village £3.80
10 July Restormel Castle £3.80
12 July Launceston Castle £3.80
25 July Etal Castle £4.30
25 July Lindisfarne Priory £5.60
26 July Birdoswold Fort, Hadrian’s Wall £5.80
30 July Corbridge Roman Town £5.80
30 July Aydon Castle £4.30
30 July Chesters Roman Fort £5.80
Total £50.20 from now on, all entries represent a saving.
Join English Heritage Online
Joining English Heritage is simple. And whether you are signing up for yourself or buying English Heritage membership as a gift – both can be done online – simply click on the image below.