There are few countries in the world that are richer in history than the UK. If any. This compact land is home to so many ancient castles and fine country houses. If you intend to visit, then it’s likely that seeing some of these old buildings will be on your itinerary.
The thing is, though, that in the UK different organisations represent these historic sites. The most well known are the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Houses (for a full guide to UK Heritage Passes including Historic Scotland, Historic Royal Palaces and more see the table further down the post).
If you’re looking to purchase a UK Heritage Pass and considering the National Trust vs the English Heritage overseas visitor pass, which one do you go for? Is the National Trust Touring Pass the best, or not?
This guide to the various UK heritage passes – i.e. English Heritage, National Trust and Historic Houses – outlines what each of these organisations has to offer the visitor from overseas. If you want to find out what passes there are, some famous places which belong to them and the advantages and disadvantages of each, then read on.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with all the information you need about overseas visitor passes for historic sites in the UK. So you can make an informed choice about which one might work best for you! Let’s get started.
- National Trust Touring Pass
- English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass
- About Historic Houses
- National Trust Touring Pass FAQs
- English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass FAQs
- Overview of all UK Heritage passes available 2023
- UK Heritage Passes – Which pass is best for you?
National Trust Touring Pass
- 7 or 14 day pass
- 1 or 2 person or family passes
- Free entry to over 300 houses and gardens
The National Trust (NT) overseas visitor pass is known as the National Trust Touring Pass. So what do you get for your money?
You can buy the National Trust Touring Pass to save on buying National Trust tickets at each attraction. It’s available to visitors from overseas, and you can buy one for a week or a fortnight’s duration.
Passes can cover one person, two people or a family. A family pass admits two adults, plus any kids aged under 18. In total there are 6 different passes available, as they last for a week or two weeks.
When you collect the pass, it’s marked with the start date. You can then visit as many National Trust properties as you want to for a week or two weeks, depending on the duration you paid for.
Only those who are not UK residents are eligible to buy the National Trust Touring Pass.
Where to buy
You cannot buy this pass from National Trust properties in the UK, so you must order yours online before you travel from the NT online shop.
You can collect your pass from a National Trust property, however. A list of these is supplied by the organisation, and there’s at least one in most English, Welsh or Northern Irish counties. For some – such as Cornwall – there can be as many as five.
Passes can also be collected from the City of London Tourist Information Centre by St Paul’s Cathedral in the UK capital.
Where to visit
You can visit more than 300 properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the pass. Places in Scotland are not included, however, as they have their own National Trust for Scotland.
Examples of places to visit with the pass include Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, Avebury in Wiltshire, the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience in Northern Ireland and Tredegar House in Newport, Wales. So you can see that there’s a wide variety to choose from.
Parking fees at National Trust properties aren’t covered by the National Trust Touring pass. Budget extra as you will have to pay separately for parking.
A list of properties is also excluded, which you can access here.
- 7 day pass for 1: £37
- 7 day pass for 2: £65
- 7 day family pass: £71
- 14 day pass for 1: £43
- 14 day pass for 2: £77
- 14 day family pass: £91
Note that these prices are correct at the time of writing (Feb 2023), but are of course subject to change at any time.
- Over 300 properties to choose from
- Can be much cheaper than separate tickets
- 2 week, 2 person and family passes offer even better value
- No passes available for longer than 2 weeks
- Certain properties and parking are excluded
- Not available for collection at all properties
English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass
- 9 or 16 day pass
- 1 or 2 person or family passes
- Free entry to over 100 sites (plus free or discounted entry to English Heritage events)
The English Heritage equivalent of the National Trust Touring Pass is the English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass. This can also be used for entry to more than 100 sites. English Heritage events may also be included, and where this isn’t the case pass holders may benefit from discounted tickets instead.
Though the pass covers fewer sites, some of the best historic attractions in the UK are covered by the English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass. Its validity begins when it is collected, when a member of staff will input start and end dates for the pass.
With this pass you can choose one that lasts for 9 days or 16 days. Which is a little longer than the NT passes. The same applies regarding the availability of passes for one or two people, or a family. In this case, a family pass covers two adults plus up to four children who are under 18 and live at the same address.
Like the NT pass, English Heritage Overseas Visitor Passes are only available to non-UK residents.
Where to buy
You can buy the English Heritage visitor pass online from Get Your Guide. English Heritage advises customers to print a copy of the booking confirmation at this point.
The pass can then be collected from any English Heritage site in the UK. You will need to show your booking confirmation, the credit card used for payment and proof of overseas residency.
Where to visit
Over 100 English Heritage sites are covered by this pass. Again, no properties in Scotland are covered. Nor are any places in Wales or Northern Ireland – the clue is in the name!
- 9 day pass for 1: £45
- 9 day pass for 2: £79
- 9 day family pass: £90
- 16 day pass for 1: £53
- 16 day pass for 2: £90
- 16 day family pass: £100
- Longer durations than the NT passes
- 2 person and family passes are better value
- Can be cheaper than buying separate tickets
- Available for collection at any English Heritage property
- No properties in Wales or Northern Ireland are covered
- Fewer (100+) properties to choose from
About Historic Houses
Historic Houses do not offer touring or overseas visitor passes. They’re also a little different from the National Trust (NT) or English Heritage. Historic Houses is an organisation that the owners of historic properties can choose to be members of.
These properties then allow free entry for members. So if you pay to become a member, you can get in without paying any more money.
Each property that’s a member of historic houses can set its own terms that visitors need to abide by. While there is no pass as such, membership fees are used to pay towards the upkeep of important heritage attractions.
With the Historic Houses Pass you gain free entry to 300 historic houses, parks and gardens across the UK. This includes Hever Castle, Blenheim Palace Park, Bamburgh and Alnwick Castles in Northumberland and Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
As there are no passes available, you can join Historic Houses at a yearly rate only. This is currently £65 for one person, or £103 for two people. No family memberships are available.
Sadly, Historic Houses aren’t really set up for overseas visitors – nor for families – though you can purchase an annual membership.
National Trust Touring Pass FAQs
Where can you go with a National Trust Pass?
Can I take a guest with my National Trust Pass?
You cannot take a guest for free with a National Trust Touring Pass. They can either pay for entry, or you could buy a pass for two people or family rather than one person in the first place.
How many people can use a National Trust Pass?
National Trust Touring Passes are available for one or two people, or a family. Any children aged under 18 are included on a family pass, as well as two adults.
English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass FAQs
Is the English Heritage Pass worth it?
The English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass is well worth it if you’ll get your money’s worth while visiting the UK.
The trick here is to plan your itinerary carefully, and work out what you’d pay for admission over 9 or 16 days. That way you can see whether the pass offers better value for money.
Can I take a guest with English Heritage?
You cannot take a guest for free with a one person English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass. If you want to visit together, you can buy a two person or family pass. Or they can simply pay for entry in the usual way.
Is the National Trust better than English Heritage?
The National Trust has more properties to visit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland than English Heritage. The latter only has places in England. Pass holders can enter over 300 attractions with the NT, or more than 100 with English Heritage. It all comes down to where you would go when using the pass.
Overview of all UK Heritage passes available 2023
|National Trust |
|– National Trust |
|✅||7 or 14 day |
|National Trust for |
|– English Heritage Overseas |
|England||✅||9 or 16 days||BUY|
|Historic Houses||England, Scotland, |
|– *Historic Scotland |
|Scotland||❌||7 consecutive |
|**Historic Royal Palaces||Tower of London #||❌||Annual||BUY HERE|
|Cadw (formerly Heritage in Wales)||Wales||❌||Annual||BUY HERE|
# Plus Hampton Court, Hillsborough Castle & Gardens, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace
*Historic Scotland Explorer Pass – Valid for 7 consecutive days and includes free entry to all Historic Scotland sites that are open.
**Historic Royal Palaces – Free entry to 6 historic Royal palaces and 10% discount on entry to Kew Gardens
Benefits of annual passes
There can be some benefits to purchasing an annual pass especially if you are planning to spend some time in the UK and have an interest in visiting historic houses, castles, gardens etc
Here are some of the benefits we discovered when we were researching this article:
- Historic Scotland
- Half price entry to over 500 heritage attractions in England (English Heritage) and Wales (Cadw) in your first year.
- Free entry to over 500 heritage attractions in England (English Heritage) and Wales (Cadw)for all renewal and life members
- Free entry to heritage attractions on the Isle of Man (Manx National Heritage).
- National Trust Scotland
- Membership of the National Trust Scotland also offers you access to places cared for by National Trust organisations around the world with the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO).
- This includes National Trust properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Cadw (formerly Heritage in Wales)
- 50% off entry to English Heritage and Historic Scotland sites
- FREE entry to English Heritage and Historic Scotland on renewal
- National Trusts around the world
- The National Trust of Australia have reciprocal visiting arrangements with heritage organisations in other countries (including National Trust England and Scotland)
- Members of National Trust Australia are usually admitted free* on the production of a current membership card.
- * Note that free entry is not valid at some sites and excludes special exhibitions and guided tours. Contact the property before attending to confirm that free entry for National Trust of Australia members is applicable.
UK Heritage Passes – Which pass is best for you?
Whether to buy the National Trust Touring Pass or the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass is really down to one question. Which will save you money? Or should you even buy both? Or would an annual pass such as National Heritage or Historic Scotland work out for you?
To work this out, plan your itinerary for the UK. Where would you visit, and in what timescale? Next, add up the separate admission fees and compare this to the pass that could cover the attraction, your group size and duration. If either pass (or an annual pass) will save you money, then surely it has to be well worth buying!
You might even get to see more places than you would have without it, too.