Lyme Hall in Stockport is one of seven National Trust properties reopening this week.
The charity, which looks after 200 houses, has carefully selected the seven sites across England and Northern Ireland to reflect the challenges of opening a range of different types of properties in the coming weeks and months.
Visitors will need to book a ticket in advance that is valid for entry to the house and gardens but, due to limits on capacity, it may not be possible for everyone to access the house during their visit.
John Orna-Ornstein, the National Trust’s Director of Culture and Engagement says: “It is just over 16 weeks since we closed all our houses back in March because of coronavirus and we know people have been really keen to get back inside and see their favourite properties and collections once more. The lockdown has taught us how important it is for people to engage with our cultural heritage and connecting with cultural activities.
“Our houses are remarkable places, full of hidden corners and many packed with treasures – but that in itself can create the challenges for us to reopen and meet the guidance safely. It isn’t as simple as just taking the dust sheets off the furniture and opening the doors, our plans have involved working out how many people can be in a room safely, how long they might spend there, while trying to ensure as much as possible they can still enjoy their time with us.
“But it is right that we take a cautious approach, so we ask visitors to remain patient a little longer while we work through how best to make sure everyone who wants to visit is safe and enjoys themselves.”
The Trust aims to reopen further properties in the coming weeks, building on the experience of those in the pilot. However, it is expected to be a slow and steady process which may take some time.
Advance bookings are necessary to maintain safety while reopening gradually. The same booking system will be used to allow access to the house and gardens on the same ticket.
The National Trust started a phased reopening its gardens and parkland to visitors from June 3 in England and Northern Ireland.
There are currently over 125 gardens and parks open. From Monday 6 July, gardens and parklands in Wales have started reopening although all National Trust houses in Wales remain closed for now. More than 200 coast and countryside car parks are open across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.