Saving Pounds on British Sightseeing
If you're heading to Great Britain, consider getting a Great British Heritage Pass or becoming a member of the English Heritage or National Trust to save on your sightseeing expenses. If you're a whirlwind sightseer, keep in mind that the Great British Heritage Pass covers the most places.
The Great British Heritage Pass
The best deal for most travelers, this pass covers all of the major English Heritage and National Trust sights, plus many others (including several major attractions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and can save you 50% or more on admission. Covering about 480 historic sights, this pass is good for a certain number of consecutive days (£39-3 days, £69-7 days, £89-15 days, £119-30 days; a child pass is also available for kids aged 5-15 or kids can get free or discounted admission at many sights; validated at the first sight you visit; for more information, see www.heritagepassbritain.com). You can buy this pass online (shipping is extra) or at about 20 tourist information centers in Britain; for example, in London, this pass is sold by the Britain and London Visitors Centre on Lower Regent Street. Although the pass is a good deal, note that it doesn't cover many sights in London and isn't worthwhile for a London-only trip.
Many sights in Britain are managed by either the English Heritage or the National Trust. Both sell annual memberships that allow free or discounted entry to the sights they supervise (which don't overlap). You can become a member of the National Trust or English Heritage online (see websites below), or at just about any of their sights.
Membership in English Heritage includes free entry to over 400 sights in England and half-price admission to about 100 more sights in Scotland and Wales (£40 for one person, £69 for two people, good for one year; senior, student and couple discounts; children under 19 free, tel. 0870-333-1182, www.english-heritage.org.uk/membership).
Membership in the National Trust is best suited for garden-and-estate enthusiasts, ideally traveling by car. It covers more than 300 historic houses, manors and gardens throughout Great Britain (£43.50 for one year, student and couple discounts, children under 5 free, www.nationaltrust.org.uk).
The Bottom Line
These deals can save a busy sightseer money...but only if you choose carefully. Make a list of the sights you plan to see, check which sights are covered (visit the websites listed above) and then add up the total if you paid admission to the covered sights. Compare the total to the cost of the pass or membership. Keep in mind that an advantage to any of these deals is that you'll feel free to dip into lesser sights that normally wouldn't merit paying admission.
If you have children, ask about a family pass or just have them pay the reduced rate (sometimes free) at most sights. Similarly, people over 60 also get "concessions" (discounted prices) at many English sights (and can get a senior discount on an English Heritage membership). If you're traveling by car and can get to the more remote sights, you're more likely to get your money's worth out of a pass or membership, especially during peak season (Easter–Oct). If you're traveling off-season (Nov–Easter) when many of the sights are closed, these deals are a lesser value.