English Heritage welcomed more families to its historic sites last year than ever before, the charity announced today (7 February 2024) as it prepares to open its doors (and drawbridges) this weekend for its 2024 season. More than 550,000 families enjoyed a visit to English Heritage sites in 2023, the highest figure since records began and an increase of 54% over the last decade. Stonehenge alone saw family visits increase by 23% year on year, with 2023 its best-ever year for families. Overall, visitor figures to English Heritage sites were up 12% year on year and eight of the charity’s historic castles, palaces and abbeys reported their highest ever number of visitors last year, with a further ten experiencing their best years in over a decade.
Kate Logan, Historic Properties Director at English Heritage, said, “Everyone remembers the first castle they ever visited and what I think we’re seeing in these numbers is a desire amongst parents to pass on that experience of wonder and awe and might. And what better way to relive that than through the eyes of their own children? For us, it’s an absolute pleasure to see so many families enjoying our sites, especially as we’ve been working so hard to share their great stories in ways that appeal to every member of the family.”
The English Heritage sites in Northumberland that enjoyed record years in 2023 are:
- Belsay Hall in Northumberland – up 26% up on 2022, with 2023 its best year since 2010
The home of just one family almost continuously since the 13th century, Belsay comprises a medieval castle, a 19th century Greek Revival mansion and an outstanding garden linking the two. 2023 saw the end of an extensive conservation and restoration project, which included a brand-new family trail and play area.
- Lindisfarne Priory in Northumberland – up 17% on 2022, with 2023 its best year since 2006
Located on Holy Island, reached via dramatic causeway, Lindisfarne Priory was founded by monks almost 1,400 years ago. It has borne witness to violent Viking raids, the creation of the masterful Lindisfarne Gospels and the cult of St Cuthbert. In 2023, the priory’s museum underwent refurbishment, with newly excavated objects put on display, whilst a new monument for St Cuthbert now marks his original burial place.