A smaller National Trust property, it takes about half a day to visit the property. It could easily be combined with Riveaulx abbey + Terrace and Hemsley. The first thing you will notice is crossing the stream which provides a very idyllic setting to the property. Unlike most National Trust properties the welcome desk is blended in to the main hall. The staff are very friendly and often inform one about the room without being prompted. A introduction to the property is often given by the person on reception duty.
The property is well maintained and there is an oppourtunity for children and grown ups to clean the staircase, which provides unique interaction! There is a temporary exibition which changes tri-anually which is interesting and provides something new for regular visitors. The current one looks at drawings by children writers such as Quentin Blake which provides a stimulating experience.
The Garden is really split into two, the formal gardens which face the facade of the house and contain roses and well trimmed yew though a slight informality is that fruit trees are also included within the formal gardens. Behind the formal garden is the vegetable garden which is well kept and produce is used in the cafe.
The cafe is waitress service unlike many National Trust properties. The menu is relatively limited but offers dishes made from local produce. Though if you arrive late in the afternoon they can run out of scones! If you a regular visitor to National Trust properties do not forget to obtain a hot drinks loyalty card.
Nunnington Hall is a National trust property that as a family we visit several times a year as it is only a short 30 minute drive away from us. Being members of the National Trust it also mean it is generally a good cheap day out too. This review is a little bit long to ensure I cover all aspects of the property so feel free to skip bits that might not be relevant to you e.g. Accessibility and family friendly.
Where is it and how to get there
If your traveling from York it is about 21 miles north on the B1363 road to Helmsely, then 4½ miles south east of Helmsley on the A170 Helmsley-Pickering road. The road off the Pickering road is a bit twisty and you need to watch out for tractors as the road is narrow in parts. It is also worth noting the signposts are also a bit hidden at times so approach junctions slowly or you may miss a turn.
It is on a bus route from Helmsley to Hovingham run by Stephenson's I would advise checking with tourist information about times before traveling though as I would imagine it is not a frequent service and you may need to request it stops at Nunnington.
I am sure you could cycle to the property but I am uncertain where if anywhere there is a place to lock your bike as this weekend when we visited a tandem bike was just propped up against the side of the house unlocked.
The disabled parking is at the front of the house and has a separate entrance to the main car park. Everyone else parks in the main car park where there is lots of parking bays lined with trees. Walking from the car park you go over a wooden bridge over a stream so it's best to keep a close eye on young children as they go over.
About Nunnington and opinion
From the bridge you walk towards the front of the hall and enter the hall itself to pay your entrance fees or in our case flash our membership cards. From here you can either choose to go back outside to see the walled garden and the rest of the grounds or do the tour of the house.
The house dates from the 17th Century though I believe there are references made to a house on this site as far back as the 13th century. The house was gifted to the National Trust in 1953 by the Fife Family
The house itself was modernized by the Fife family in the 1920's and some of the rooms that are displayed feature this modernization by the Fife family for example Colonel Fife's dressing room part of which is still unfinished.
My two favorite features about Nunnington hall are the Carlisle collection and the fact that part of the attic space is used for changing art exhibitions. For this review I will briefly describe some of the other highlights and parts of the house but I will focus on those parts of the house in the most detail.
Each room section is manned by guides who are more than happy to answer questions and every time we have been have been both friendly and knowledgeable. Also in each room there are laminated details of the highlights of each of the rooms.
The entrance hall is a huge stone entrance displaying lots of stuffed animal heads and skins so though this thrills my toddler it is probably not the best room for animal lovers to linger in. Handily there are a few window seats to sit on in the entrance hall so if you are waiting for a loved one to come back from the toilets situated at the side of the entrance hall you can be nice and comfy. There are also umbrellas to borrow here if it's raining and you forgot one and want to see the grounds you can.
From the hall you move on to the dining room this laid out as an Edwardian dining room even though it wasn't used by the Fife's for this purpose.
The other main downstairs area is the oak hall this is an impressive room with lots of oak paneling and a large fireplace. There is section by the stairs which has a small portable DVD player where disabled wheelchair users can watch a DVD tour of the rest of the house as this isn't accessible with a wheelchair.
One the first floor of the house there are several other imposing rooms including the drawing room Mrs. Fife's bedroom and dressing room, Colonel Fife's dressing room and the oak and panel bedrooms. In the drawing room there are several wonderful watercolor pictures for you to admire one of which is believed to be by Turner. One of the things I found interesting in the panel bedroom was the officers traveling bed. This is a single four poster bed so how fast and far this officer's traveled I don't know but he certainly did it in comfort.
Moving up to on the mezzanine floor there is a nursery all laid waiting for the children too come back and play with their toys. We had to hold our toddler back as he wanted to go and fetch the teddies to play with. Also here is a room laid out as a maid rooms.
Once in the attic your then move onto the art gallery space and the Carlisle collection
The art space hosts regular art exhibitions, these are on going events and each exhibition is generally there for two months at the most. These exhibits range from photography to illustrators. Exhibits that we have been to see have included photos by Mary McCartney and works by the illustrator Quentin Blake who most people associate with illustrating Roald Dahl books. The most recent exhibit was by an illustrator called Louis Wain who often referred to as "the cat artist who went mad" the exhibit was certainly interesting and you could see how some of the cat illustrations got a bit bizarre. I always find that what ever the exhibit they are beautifully hung and displayed giving you plenty of space to enjoy each image before moving on to the next and the space is never so busy you feel rushed. The walls here are just a very pale cream so whatever the image you look at it stands out to you. My only complaint about the art work here is that is always pricey and out of my budget. But that said you can sometimes buy some posters or cards of some the picture if you wanted to frame those.
The Carlisle Collection is an impressive display of one woman's (Kitty Carlisle) dedication, fine eye for detail and what I think must have taken a mountain of patience. These are about 18 exquisite miniature rooms. Lest you think we are talking dolls house stuff that is certainly not the case with these, I would say in a way they are more like historical architectural models really. They are all enclosed rooms built to an exact 1/8th scale of a real room. Each room is completely furnished with lots of wonderful detailing and using in some cases antique furniture samples of the time. They range in historical period from a William and Mary Parlor to a 1950's living room. There aren't just houses there is a workshop with lots of copper machinery and a green house with flowers modeled from wax and wire. The guide for this room when answering some questions stated that every time she is in that room with the rooms she always notices something new. I would have to agree with her the detailing is magnificent and every time you look at these models and the detailing within in them you are just overwhelmed by the craftsmanship that has gone into them. The blend of antique miniatures within the models and those of reproductions doesn't in my opinion detract from the overall atmosphere each room creates. They also have stools and ledges within the room so children can get a closer look at the too which I think is a lovely idea.
Also at the top of the house here there is a small bookshop selling a real mixture of art books, children's books, history, nature and loads more.
This isn't one of the larger properties with long walks around but there are still a few things to see. Since 2002 the garden has been completely organic and this adds something to the journey around the garden. There is what is referred to as the "cuttings garden" which has loads of compost bays, different habitat houses for bee's ladybird's lacewings and many more. These are great for the children to see understand about nature. One of the things that entertained my son was all the sheep's wool around the bottom of some of the plants and trees. Apparently it makes good compost and reduces weed growth. There is both an apple and pear orchard area. One of the apple trees is called a wishing tree and you can place a ribbon on a branch and make a wish a bit similar to a wishing well. This tree looks wonderful on a windy day with all the ribbons blowing merrily and brightly in the wind. There is a walled garden with formal rose beds and a section dedicated to irises. In the garden there are several picnic benches for you enjoy the surroundings and eat a picnic or merely spread out your rug on the lawn they don't seem to mind which you do. The grassy area is also great for playing with a ball. In the garden you will almost certainly be greeted by a peacock or two if you have food and they are not shy at all about coming up to beg food off you.
The café at Nunnington is one of my favorites in all of the National trust properties that we visit. The reason for this is unlike most national trust properties now this one is still a service café not a self-service cafeteria. The room which the café is situated in is full accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. Children are also made very welcome and the times we have been with my son the highchair has always been very clean with a five point harness. The children's menu I think is fairly standard fair for the national Trust a half sandwich a piece of fruit a box of fresh juice and in this case a "mud pie" all served up in a brightly colored box for £2.95. When my son was younger they didn't object to us giving him our baby food in the café and offered to heat it up for us. A lot of the food in the café is cooked or made from fresh fruit and vegetables from Nunnington own garden which I feel adds to the high quality of the food offered. On our last visit my husband had a pork pie ploughman's which were a homemade pork pie, cheese, bread and chutneys and salad. This tasted good as was evidence by the rapidity that it disappeared with. I choose a goat cheese and beetroot salad which was wonderfully fresh and crunchy. Both dishes cost £7.95. The service in the café is always relaxed, courteous and fairly fast but you never feel rushed.
During the warmer weather they also run the café from a window in the garden and you can go to the window to order your food and sit on one of the picnic benches and await your call for the food or drinks to be ready to collect by yourself.
The shop sells all the usual assortment of gifts alongside some plants that have been grown in peat free compost for you to buy
The toilets are located on the ground floor to the side of the main entrance these are always nice and clean, even if you sometimes have to queue up. There is a disabled toilet to the rear of the property and you are probably best asking for directions to it so you don't get lost.
As mentioned previously there is disabled parking at the front of the house. The disabled access to the house for wheelchair users is towards the rear of the house and you will need to ask for assistance for the door to be opened for you. The café has full disabled access. You can also pre book one of two wheelchairs to use during your visit. Unfortunately the whole house isn't suitable for a wheelchair but there is the DVD tour available. For those who can walk with sticks and all the stairs have handrails to help you get up and down. There are copies of the room guidance notes available in Braille too.
The is on the first floor a baby changing room this is in a converted bathroom so there is a toilet, and sink in the room as well. The baby changing area is a built up area over the old bath with a mat on it. There are butterflies suspended from the ceiling to help distract your little one whilst you do that nappy change. There is a disposable bin for nappies so you don't need to take that stinky nappy home with you! For those parents who are potty training a potty and a step to help a youngster onto a toilet are also available in the baby changing room. There are also hip seats available for you to borrow if you think it would be easier for your child to be carried that way around the house. Personally we made our son walk and he managed the entire steps fine.
There is no children's adventure playground at this property but there are several outdoor games including large draughts connect 4 and chess. I don't think my toddler is going to be a chess genius however as he preferred to treat these as large bowling pins for him to knock down.
There is a children's trial to follow around the house and gardens and this involves finding different objects in the house and trying to identify what they are. These objects are all hands on which are great for the children to be able to touch some of the exhibits. Outside the questions are all suspended from trees and plants and have a picture of an animal or bird on with a nature question. My toddler though not able to answer questions loved playing with some of the objects and pointing out the animals on the cards.
This is a great National Trust property with a few different things to the normal country houses. The changing art exhibitions mean that it's possible to go several times a year and see something new every time. The Carlisle collection of miniature rooms is a triumph of one woman's imagination and the dedication skill of craftsmen. The staff are friendly and always happy to answer questions. The house however isn't fully accessible to the disabled but does have DVD tour available to watch.
Admission prices and opening hours
Gift Aid Admission - Adult £6.30 child £3.20 family £15 Groups £5.20.
National Trust member free with proof of membership
Winter weekends: £2, child free
Open 28th Feb-1st of November 11am to 5pm Tuesdays- Sundays
1st of November -12th December Saturday and Sundays only 11am to 4pm