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Coronavirus: National Trust parks and gardens to reopen

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image copyrightNAtional Trust
image captionVisitors will be able to book visits to locations like Mount Stewart

National Trust parks and gardens are set to reopen from next week, but will require advance booking from visitors.

The attractions will be available to visit for the first time since the start of the coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday, 3 June.

It comes after the gradual reopening of car parks at forest parks operated by the Forest Service across Northern Ireland.

National Trust outdoor spaces will operate at about one-third capacity.

Facilities at its sites - including houses, shops, holiday cottages, and campsites - will all remain closed.

This is similar to the situation at Forest Service-operated facilities, where amenities such as cafés and toilets have not yet reopened.

National Trust parks

The move to reopen open spaces was part of the first stage of the Northern Ireland Executive's Pathway to Recovery plan.

The first locations to reopen will include:

  • Mount Stewart, County Down
  • Rowallane Gardens, County Down
  • Castle Ward, County Down
  • Florence Court, County Fermanagh
  • Castle Coole, County Fermanagh
  • The Argory, County Armagh
  • Downhill Demesne, County Londonderry

It will be possible to make advanced bookings online from Friday, a move designed to limit visitor numbers and maintain public safety.

Visiting the sites will be free for National Trust members and will require a fee from other visitors.

image copyrightNational Trust
image captionDownhill Demesne in County Londonderry is due to be one of the open spaces that people can visit from 3 June

Those set to visit one of the charity's sites are also asked to limit how many visits they book, to stay local and to avoid hot spots for visitors.

Staff will be at the reopened sites to check tickets, either through a car window or at a safe social distance for those arriving on foot.

'Things will be very different'

In a statement, the National Trust said most of its countryside and coastal car parks are now open, but it is monitoring the situation for car parks, which are likely to be in high demand.

Parking at Portstewart Strand has to be booked in advance.

image copyrightNAtional Trust

"The fresh air, bird song, big skies and open spaces people have missed will be there, but things will be very different, particularly at first," said National Trust director general Hilary McGrady.

"We want to thank people for their patience and support while we gradually begin reopening and welcoming our visitors."

Ms McGrady also thanked National Trust members for standing by them during the pandemic.

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