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The Year of Magical Visits: One Man’s Journey to 65 National Trust Properties in 2015

Chelcey Berryhill - Wednesday January 06, 2016 11:59
Stourhead - Courtesy of J.S.K. Photo Impressions

Stourhead – Courtesy of J.S.K. Photo Impressions

This time last year, Rajel Khambhaita made a decision: after years of traveling abroad, he would explore the best his UK home had to offer.

Of course, this resolution meant lots of visits to National Trust properties, and by the end of 2015 his membership card was well-worn, gaining him entry to 65 Trust properties! Best of all, Rajel is an incredible photographer, and he captured some of the most spectacular images of National Trust properties this past year.

Here’s what Rajel took away from his year of magical visits, including his 10 favorite properties:

By Rajel Khambhaita

Winkworth Arboretum - courtesy of J.S.K. Photo Impressions

Winkworth Arboretum – courtesy of J.S.K. Photo Impressions

For the last 20 years I have traveled widely across the world and as a result generally tended to dismiss many aspects of what the UK had to offer in comparison. I decided to redress this imbalance in 2015 by exchanging long haul destinations for a year of UK-based staycations.  As a keen photographer, I had a fruitful year capturing unique settings and scenery at no less than 65 National Trust locations as well as tapping into a wealth of knowledge among the staff and volunteers who keep the National Trust ticking over smoothly.  Last year was a truly memorable year thanks to the National Trust.

During the summer of 2015, The Royal Oak Foundation approached me for permission to publish one of my photographs on the front cover of their Autumn Newsletter.  I agreed to this without any hesitation given that the National Trust provides so much for its members. This contribution allowed me to give something back. The opportunity only widened in scope when the Royal Oak Foundation asked if I would consider writing about my National Trust travels for a blog post. Again, I agreed but only after the year was out as I planned to visit locations in Wales during winter (and hoped to come across more stunning locations to include in my top 10 list, which I did).

So here it is – my top 10 National Trust experiences from 2015 (though not in any particular order) together with some background as to why they are so special and worthy of a visit. Photographs of other equally worthy locations (all 55 of them) can also be viewed via my National Trust collection. I hope it further encourages Royal Oak Foundation members to venture across the pond and experience something truly different in 2016.

1) Lyme Park, House and Garden in Cheshire, England

Lyme Park1

The interior and the surroundings of this house are particularly interesting. The views of the property from Reflection Lake are not to be missed. The Orangery and Rose Garden are also delightful.

2) Bateman’s in East Sussex, England


The home of world famous poet Rudyard Kipling is well preserved and contains a number of interesting items relating to Asia, particularly India. A walk through the house rewards visitors with illustrations from Jungle Book, Kipling’s Nobel Prize certificate and countless other objects including a waste paper bin. His 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom I is also still in the garage. The surrounding countryside is lovely, particularly on a crisp winter morning.

3) Ickworth House in Suffolk, England


A very large Georgian Italianate palace set in the countryside with attractive gardens and perfect symmetry with every turn. Very interesting interior and layout. A slightly different experience to more traditional estates run by the National Trust.

4) Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England


The house is spectacular from the outside and even more so from the inside. The gardens are vast and feature a grand aviary among other unique features. A very uplifting experience – not to be missed.

5) Stourhead in Wiltshire, England


A massive estate featuring house, gardens, lakes and countless other unique features. The gothic cottage and Palladian bridge are particularly picturesque against a backdrop of the main lake.  The house is also worth visiting given its rich history and links to the banking sector.

6) Osterley Park and House in West London, England


An oasis of serenity located in West London, a stone throw from Heathrow Airport and one of London’s best kept secrets. The house is unique, well preserved and features a fully operational farm/shop as well as grazing cattle. The only hint that the property is not located in the countryside comes when a jumbo jet climbs out of the nearby airport. This in itself makes for an interesting combination and adds – in my view – to the property’s unique characteristics. The approach to the house is particularly enchanting in the autumn months.

7) Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, England


A large and lavish country estate with extravagant furnishings and an interior that simply has to be seen. The Eastern Museum is particularly interesting as it displays objects collected by Lord Curzon on his travels in Asia. Kedleston Hall is one of the most impressive properties in the National Trust portfolio.

8) Powis Castle and Garden in Central Wales

Powis Castle1

A very unique castle with vast grounds. The landscape garden is worth a visit as is the Clive Museum. The superb collection of artefacts from India displayed in the Clive Museum is the largest private collection of this type in the UK. The interior of the castle is luxurious with a nice collection of paintings and rare furniture items. The castle is a feast for the eyes whatever the season.

9) Bodnant Garden in North Wales

Bodnant Gardens2

A brilliant landscape garden and house in North Wales. It is particularly colorful around autumn time and a photographer’s delight. Numerous ponds and lakes scattered across various levels make this location unique. Bodnant Garden is one of the best gardens in the National Trust portfolio.

10) Scotney Castle in Kent, England


A large estate with castle, garden and house all within the grounds. The countryside is devine as are the water garden features with a boat house and old castle with surrounding moat. Splendid vantage points located all over the estate – very inspiring and picturesque from all directions.

Rajel’s background in banking & finance (check out his LinkedIn profile here) led him initially towards National Trust properties with well known links to former banking dynasties. However, his passion for historic country homes, scenic landscapes and more pushed him ever further, as you can tell from the list above.


topics: Travel