I took a much needed day off last week and we did a half-day trip to Nunnington Hall in Ryedale. Nunnington Hall is one of the nicest National Trust properties in Yorkshire and I have visited every year since we moved here. Surprisingly it does not seem to be as popular as Beningbrough Hall which is down the road near York, even though it has slightly larger gardens which are, in my opinion, much nicer. At the moment only the gardens and outdoor cafe are open, with the house remaining closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but don’t let this deter you from visiting a charming and much underrated manor house.
Nunnington Hall and Gardens
As a History graduate I am ashamed to say that I don’t know much about the history of the hall itself. Most of the current building dates from the 17th century, although parts of the western front (pictured right) may date from the Tudor period. When the house is open the National Trust host visiting artists and photographers and the attic is home to one of the largest collections of miniature rooms I have ever seen! Miniature rooms aren’t really my thing but I love wondering around having a look at the art exhibitions (even if I’d have to re-mortgage our house to buy anything).
Outside you can spend much longer than you would think exploring the relatively gardens. Although they aren’t large there is plenty to see and do – start off in the walled garden with some lawn games or relax in one of the deckchairs provided. Then make your way along the borders past the orchard and wild flower meadows to the vegetable and cutting gardens which are my favourite part of the garden. They are always so quiet and peaceful compared to the lawn which is popular with families playing the games.
The courtyard in front of the western side of the house is worth a visit if you like adding to your own garden as there are very often plants for sale here. I am definitely guilty of making an impulse purchase or two! All the money from the sale of the plants goes towards maintaining the house though so it’s for a good cause.
Make sure that you include a visit to the garden tea room on your itinerary for the day. The scones are delicious as always and it would be rude not to have a cream tea at a National Trust property!
You will also come across the resident peacocks at some point during your visit. On my most recent outing to Nunnington they were lounging in the tea garden, and to my utter mortification, Merry decided to try and chase them for the first time ever. Fortunately he was on the lead so he couldn’t do more than pull in their direction and whine in a very high pitched voice, but it was enough to earn me several disapproving looks from the other visitors in the garden, and to encourage the peacocks to fly up onto the archway just above our table to tease him for the duration of our lunch time!
It was really re-assuring to see how seriously the National Trust were taking Covid-19 precautions during our visit. There were hand sanitiser points throughout the site, with one way systems in place where paths were narrow, including the bridge to get from the car park (free) to the hall. There was one toilet open which is closed for half an hour twice a day for cleaning. They are also only accepting pre-booked visitors at the moment in an effort to control numbers so that you can socially distance from other guests.
If you want to extend your visit or stretch your legs after a cream tea, you can head out of the gardens and take a walk along the river, following this 4.5 mile route. Although you are walking along the river for some way you can’t really see it apart from one short section. We did get a bit lost to begin with (we went left instead of right at the start) and ended up following the route backwards which is always a little tricky! It was manageable though which makes me think it would be easy to follow if you did it in the right direction. The walk is not strenuous and passes through farmland with some on road walking (there are also a few styles to clamber over).
This walk was really pleasant, with bucolic vistas over fields, historic landmarks such as the old mill (which is now someone’s house) and gives you glimpses of Nunnington Hall itself at times through the trees. While some of the paths are through fields with crops in we did also pass through fields with sheep, cows and horses – something to bear in mind if you aren’t comfortable encountering bigger animals on your walks.
Dog Friendly Rating
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. It’s great that the National Trust are so welcoming to dog owners at so many of their properties, and Nunnington Hall is no exception, with dogs welcome in the gardens and outdoor tea room as well as the wider grounds. Your dog does need to be on a lead in the gardens, but these are never busy, and there is water provided at the tea room for dogs. There is are opportunities for off lead walking on sections of the river walk, but remember to keep your dog on the lead around livestock, especially at lambing time. As always remember to pick up any poo and dispose of in the bins provided!
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