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Friends Free Access Scheme

HHA Friends membership enables you to visit hundreds of privately-owned historic houses, castles and gardens, free. Many of the properties are still lived in, often by families who have owned them for centuries, and many include exquisite gardens. Each is unique, giving you a direct and unmatched insight into much-loved homes and their social and historical contexts.

Plan your visits with our list of Member properties offering free access to Friends.

Visiting – essential information

  • HHA Member properties have a diverse range of opening dates and times – please check with the property before you visit
  • Present your membership card on arrival for free access to the house and/or garden
  • Friends free access applies only to houses and gardens designated as such, and during normal opening hours – it will not normally apply to additional attractions on the property or to special events held there

Are all HHA Member properties open to the public?

For a variety of reasons, reflecting the diversity of their origins and their circumstances, some Member properties are not open to the public.  However, over 600 are, and they welcome millions of visitors each year.

Of HHA Member properties which open to the public, is every property part of the Friends free access scheme?

Some 600+ houses, castles and gardens feature on this website.  Over 300 of these welcome Friends free of charge and are clearly marked as such.  All properties offering free access to Friends are included in the annual pocket guide Houses and Gardens to visit free.  Occasionally, additional properties join the free access scheme during the year and we provide updates to this website and in other communications such as Historic House magazine and its supplement.

Why do HHA Member properties in the Friends free access scheme all have different opening dates and times? Wouldn’t it be better if this were all standardised?  Why can’t they all be open all the time?

Each Member property is unique in terms of ownership, location, qualities, business plan and resources.  While a number of properties are open virtually all year, many would find this impossible – not least because constant opening creates its own challenges in terms of maintaining the property.  In addition, they are all privately-owned, often by families who still live in the properties, a key factor in their uniqueness and charm.

If I go to a property as part of a group visit arranged by another organisation, I may be asked to pay for entry, despite that property being in the Friends scheme.  Why?

This type of visit is agreed between the Member property and the organisation concerned, and the agreement of entry fees for such events is a matter for those parties and not for the HHA.  We would also point out that such visits may include special arrangements (e.g. a private tour, lunch etc) which are not part of the Friends free access scheme.  We suggest that, if you prefer not to pay entry fees for such visits, you contact the organisers before booking to ask whether they will discount or waive the fees for HHA Friends.