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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Summer sorted with the National Trust in Northern Ireland

Child with fishing net by pond

National Trust’s Summer of Play invites families to have fun and experience Trust places in new and unexpected ways. 

 

Taking place over the summer holidays and set against the backdrop of the National Trust’s historic houses and beautiful gardens, Summer of Play activities will have a family-festival feel.  

 

Jam-packed with games and experiences let imaginations run wild with role play and mini stages, unlock limitless possibilities to design and build with construction zones, make art and music with nature’s materials, or slip away to a cosy book nook. 

 



Give new (and old) sports a go with lawn games including croquet, tennis and cricket. Get competitive with volleyball and badminton. Or, put your skills to the test with den building and archery. 

 

Designed with families in mind Summer of Play activities will be dotted around large fields, woodlands and garden areas, so there’ll be plenty of space to enjoy the games and activities as well as picnicking spots, shady rest areas and of course, toilets, cafes and pop-ups offering food and drink. 

 



Janet Vance, Experiences and Partnerships Curator said:


“National Trust houses and gardens have inspired people for centuries and it’s in that same spirit that we’re throwing open the doors and inviting families to have fun at Trust places this summer and let their imaginations run wild.

 

“This Summer you can walk the plank by the River Blackwater at The Argory or Hop into the wildlife heptathlon at Mount Stewart. Why not pick up pond-dipping kits at Florence Court and take aim at archery at Castle Ward or try lazy lawn games at Rowallane Garden. There’s something for all the family this summer at The National Trust.”

 


Children playing on balance beams in forest

And here’s just some of the exciting events and activities on offer this summer…


Castle Ward, County Down  


• Summer of Play, 6 July–26 August 10am–5pm

• Five activity zones, including den building, sports and imaginative play areas

• Additional activities include a treasure hunt inspired by Castle Ward’s past 


This summer, Castle Ward transforms into a playground filled with fun and adventure for the Summer of Play event. When energy levels run high, let loose in dedicated activity zones, brimming with den-building challenges, sport activities, and imaginative play spaces.


Kids can tinker, create, and challenge their minds with a Den Kit, Weighing Set, Builders Yard, and a giant chess set in Loose Parts Play.



Young artists can unleash their creativity with a Chalkboard and Weaving Frame in our vibrant Creative Zone. Little explorers and budding scientists will delight in the Nature Zone, featuring a wormery, bug hotel, animal stilts, microscopes, bird watching, and fossil excavation, linked to a surprise activity in the house related to Mary Ward, an esteemed scientist and naturalist.


Nestled under a teepee, the Performance Zone invites kids to play the drums, perform on a stage, dance around the maypole, and enjoy living history performance displays. In the green space, we'll offer a temporary rugby pitch, archery, basketball, bean bag toss, and badminton. Plus, a soft play area with mats, soft toys, and blocks ensures even the tiniest tots can join in the fun.


For those needing a moment of calm, a temporary second Quiet Space provides a haven with fidget toys, calm bags, noise-cancelling headphones, and beanbags; perfect for a relaxing pause.



It's a summer escape like no other, where the simple joys of exploration and free-spirited fun take centre stage. Grab your picnic blanket, rally your friends and family, and head over to Castle Ward for a summer brimming with play, creativity, and adventure. This is the ultimate way to enjoy your summer days, and we can’t wait to see you there! Don't miss your chance to create cherished memories at Castle Ward's Summer of Play.


A variety of additional support available to help you enjoy your visit, including accessible toilets (Stableyard and Farmyard), wheelchairs, mobility scooters, sensory backpacks and advice.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.


Stay: Sitting in the farmyard at Castle Ward, Potter’s Cottage (sleeping four) is a dog-friendly, stone cottage with Strangford Lough and miles of footpaths on the doorstep. Castle Ward’s caravan park offers accommodation for tents, campervans, caravans, motorhomes and pods can be hired too.  

 



Rowallane Garden, County Down


• Summer of Play 1 July – 1 September 10am – 6pm

• Summer Fete 27 July 10am – 4pm.

• End of Summer Garden Party 24 – 26 August 10am – 4pm.


Get your heart racing in nature this summer with lawn games at Rowallane Garden. Challenge friends and family in a game of volleyball or badminton on the front lawn. Or stroll through the Pleasure Ground in search of sporting adventures on your way to our explore and play area where you can test out your abilities as you duck under and clamber over the obstacles.


Recharge with a coffee and a bite to eat in our café and explore the second-hand bookshop in search of inspiration, a new favourite story and a good read. The play doesn’t stop there, put your best foot forward and dance to live music at our Summer Fete on 27 July and End of Summer Garden Party 24 – 26 August. There will be a host of local traders to browse until your hearts content. Play together, meet new friends and enjoy the sun all summer long.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.

 



Mount Stewart, County Down


• Summer of Play, 1 July–26 August 10am–5pm

• Family fun bank holiday weekend 12 & 13 July

• NI Orienteering experience 5 July & 14 August 11.30am-3pm

• Up to High Doh Interactive theatre sessions 8 & 22 July and 5 & 19 August

 

Sprint into the spirit of summer at Mount Stewart with activities and experiences to keep little ones busy for the summer holidays this July and August.


Hop into the wildlife heptathlon around the lake and seek out the seven heartrate raising challenges that will bring out the champion in you. From dashing through nature trails to leaping like a hare, each activity promises fun and excitement for all ages.


Embrace your inner explorer and try your hand at orienteering with NI Orienteering, grab an electronic timing device (dibber) from the start point and see how quickly you can complete the two courses.


Back by popular demand get messy at Wednesdays in the Woods and children’s theatre company Up to High Doh return with interactive sessions throughout the summer. Join us on the 12 and 13 July for the bank holiday weekend for outdoor games and activities to keep everyone entertained. 


Mark your calendars for National Playday on the 7 August! Join us for an exciting day packed with a variety of fun and games for everyone. Enjoy a blend of facilitated activities and the chance for children to explore and create their own adventures.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.

 



Giants Causeway, County Antrim


Games on the Roof Fridays in July & August 11-3pm

Wildflower Crown Making 4 July 2pm-4pm

Rockpooling 19 August 2pm-4pm

Yoga on the Roof 21 June, 26 July & 30 August 8:30am-9:30am


A GIANT Summer Adventure awaits you at Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take part in family-friendly activities to make your GIANT day out that extra bit special.


Every Friday throughout July and August, visitors can enjoy an assortment of Games on the Roof of the Visitor Centre including GIANT Connect Four, Drafts and X’s and O’s, Bean Bag Toss, an Obstacle Course, Swingball and our resident friendly giant, Finn’s Fitness Challenge.


 On 4th July, visitors of all ages will have the opportunity to meet our resident nature expert, Dr Cliff Henry and will let their creativity run wild as they learn how to make their very own wildflower crown. Enjoy a scenic stroll with Dr Cliff to one of the nearby wildflower meadows surrounding the Giant’s Causeway, and learn a fun, new skill; all whilst learning about the vital conservational work that goes into maintaining our wildflower meadows. 


On 19th August, dive into the mysterious world of marine creatures and join Dr Cliff as he delves into the rockpools in Port Ganny.


These events are free; normal admission charges apply. National Trust Members and Local Pass Holders gain free access. Online booking is strongly recommended for all visitors, via our website - press or click here.


Young girl taking part in archery activity

 

Florence Court, County Fermanagh


• Guided ranger walks, Wednesday’s at 2pm

• Summer of Play, 1 July - 31 August

• Guided mountain bike ride, 19 July

• Half day yoga retreat, 17 August

• Honey show, 26 and 27 August


Step into a summer of fun at Florence Court. Embrace the charm of traditional lawn games set against the stunning backdrop of the beautiful 18th Century mansion.


For those seeking adventure, guided ranger walks and mountain bike trails offer a chance to explore the picturesque surroundings.


When it's time to unwind, why not indulge in a half-day yoga retreat. Or for something a bit special, see bees at work at the Honey Show and taste some of the delicious honey on display.


Bring along your family and friends for a summer filled with laughter, exploration, and relaxation at Florence Court.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.



Castle Coole, County Fermanagh


• Summer of play 1 July-31 August

• Guided ranger walks, Tuesdays at 2pm

• Twilight Tours, 20 July and 30 August

• 4 Corner Coaching summer camps, 8 and 9 August


Discover the magic of summer at Castle Coole, an exquisite 18th-century neo-classical mansion on the edge of Enniskillen. Delight in traditional lawn games on the scenic estate grounds, where the grandeur of the mansion provides a breathtaking backdrop.


As twilight falls, embark on exclusive tours that reveal the mansion's secrets, offering a glimpse into its storied past. Little ones will enjoy our summer camps, filled with fun and educational activities.


Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply looking for a serene escape, Castle Coole offers a summer experience like no other.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.



Crom, County Fermanagh


• Summer of play, 1 July – 31 August

• Guided ranger walks, Mondays at 11.30am

• Bat walks, 22 and 29 August

• Bushcraft ‘have a go’ sessions, 21 July, 11 August, 25 August

• Music by the Lake, 10 August


Experience the natural beauty and historical charm of Crom Estate this summer. Nestled on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, this 2,000-acre demesne offers a variety of activities for all ages.


Enjoy traditional lawn games, guided ranger walks, and thrilling bat walks that bring you closer to nature. Enhance your outdoor skills with bushcraft sessions, or simply relax and enjoy the return of the ‘Music by the Lake’ concert featuring local band, The Sentrals.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.


The Argory, County Armagh


• Summer of play, 1 July – 31 August

• Fit Minds 3 July

• Outdoor Yoga 15 June

• Kayak lessons on the River Blackwater


Get your heart racing in nature this summer. Explore The Argory to find games to keep you active in the sun.


Play tennis on the lawn, build a den near the Walled Garden, and brave the barefoot sensory walk. If you're still full of energy after that, you can make some music, stage a show, and walk the plank!


Games will be available every day and are included as part of standard admission. The Argory has something special for kids of all ages. The newly refurbished playpark blends seamlessly with the landscape, allowing kids to have adventures in nature while their imaginations run wild. For indoor play, The Argory offers the interactive space 'The Light Box.'


Kids can create their own neon art masterpiece, discover the journey of light at The Argory over the years, and enjoy interactive light and sensory games. Located in the courtyard, The Lightbox is a great indoor space for kids to enjoy, come rain or shine.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.

 





Springhill, County Londonderry


• Open every 7 days a week July & August 11am-5pm

• Summer Garden tours at Springhill

• Military History Tours (every second Tuesday from 9 July)

• Family House Tours every Wednesday and Friday, beginning 12 July

• Fit Minds


Join us at Springhill for a Summer Garden tour this July and August. Learn more about the history of Springhill and discover changing colours of the season. Embrace the vibrant hues of summer as our gardens burst into full bloom!


Join us for a tour led by our head gardener, Adam, who will not only unveil the fascinating history of our gardens but also delve into the sensory delights awaiting you around every corner. Adam will also share invaluable insights on preparing the garden for the coming seasons.


Learn how to enrich the soil, combat weeds, and safeguard plant roots from winter's chill, ensuring a flourishing garden.


Don't miss this chance to immerse yourself in the beauty and practicality of summer gardening! The tour promises an enriching experience for all, with approximately 45 minutes of exploration and learning.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.

 



Ardress House, County Armagh


• Open Weekends 11am-5pm

• Farmyard Tours 7 &21 July & 4 & 18 August 12pm-4pm

• Tai Chi 29 June & 3 August


Ardress House offers a tranquil open space for visitors who prefer properties with fewer themed activities. Its historic farmyard allows people to transport themselves back in time and experience the charm of simpler days.


Discover how the farmyard at Ardress House operated over 200 years ago. Hear stories of working life, see centuries old machinery, and explore the farmyard in a new way.


Tours are included in standard admission and available hourly from 12 noon on 7 and 21 July, 4 and 18 August.


Normal admission charges apply/free for National Trust members.

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