The three great National Trust paid-for attractions in the area are hoping for a strong recovery this summer after figures revealed dramatic falls in visitor numbers last year.
Stourhead, Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle have all reopened their gardens but are accepting fewer visitors who must pre-book hourly admission slots. Other restrictions include a one-way route through the Stourhead gardens. Stonehenge, an English Heritage site, also reopened this week with a similar post-lockdown approach to controlling numbers.
All are members of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, a body which records visitor numbers over the years. Last week the ALVA revealed numbers for 2020 which predictably showed a sharp downturn, with Stonehenge suffering a dramatic 80% fall from 1.6m visitors to 314k. Kingston Lacy had 263k visitors (-36%), Stourhead had 259k (-34%) and Corfe Castle welcomed 134k (-48%).
Yet because so many large attractions in the UK are indoors, such as The British Museum and National Gallery, the four local outdoor attractions all actually rose up the popularity rankings. Stonehenge was the 20th most visited paid-for attraction last year, compared with a 33rd ranking in 2019. Other rankings were Kingston Lacy at 48th up from 89th; Stourhead ranked 52 (96) and Corfe Castle 114 (129).
Garden cafes at the attractions are able to serve customers seated outside, or with takeaway food. Indoor restaurant/café seating and the big houses at Stourhead and Kingston Lacy will not be able to open before May 17.
A spokesman for Kingston Lacy also warned visitors: “The garden is looking lovely, but it won’t be quite as you’re used to seeing it. We’ve had almost no gardeners at the property for many weeks. We have a small team in now, but nowhere near what we’re used to, so the garden isn’t perhaps as well- groomed as you might be expecting.”
Bernard Donoghue, a director of ALVA, said its annual figures showed the attractions sector had had “a devastatingly hard year”. He called on the government to introduce a new bank holiday at the end of September to help the tourism industry recover.
Thank you all so, so much for the love and appreciation you’ve shown us since we launched the New Blackmore Vale.