Landmark Trust offers historic holidays to those unlikely to get one

“Everyone has the right to rest and leisure,” says Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet with a third of UK families unable to afford a holiday, leisure is harder for some to enjoy than others.

Step forward the Landmark Trust, which rescues and restores important historic buildings, then offers them as holiday lets. On Thursday it will announce a scheme to give away 50 holidays to people who might not otherwise get a break. Its 50 For Free scheme will offer holidays in some of its most iconic properties to people needing respite, low-income families, carers, volunteers, charitable workers and educational groups. Up for grabs are a stay in an artillery fort, a pineapple-shaped folly (pictured), an Arts and Crafts masterpiece built by Edwin Lutyens and a lighthouse keeper’s cottage on the island of Lundy.

The trust hopes its scheme will give families a chance to relax and bond. The £30,000 worth of holidays are being offered thanks to a donation from the trust’s chairman, Neil Mendoza, and his wife Amelia. Landmark trust historian and head of engagement, Caroline Stanford, says: “It’s important that as many people as possible experience our buildings. Interest in history and wonderful natural places is common to everyone … but a lot of people don’t have access economically.”

Holidays are “brilliantly educational” for children, she adds, but there’s more to it than that. “You have a sense of specialness staying in a building that’s been there for centuries, and in being there you’re playing your part in its history.”

The trust see its initiative as part of a social tourism movement that recognises the importance of leisure to the wellbeing of individuals. In several European countries social tourism is supported by public policy and funding; state-sponsored schemes have never existed in the UK, and seem unlikely to be introduced in the current climate. But with cuts hitting vulnerable groups hard, its advocates believe it is increasingly important.

In 2011, the all-party parliamentary group on social tourism was told that families experienced improvements in physical and mental health after having a break. Holidays also had the potential to tackle social exclusion, loneliness and isolation by helping families feel that they lived more “normal” lives.

“Positive experiences such as holidays had a profound effect on children’s behaviour and educational attainment, with the potential to reduce the need for public sector intervention in later life,” the committee’s report noted.

Earlier this year, research into the benefits of holidays provided to struggling families commissioned by the Family Holiday Association found that 84% of respondents – whose problems included mental health issues, debt and unemployment – reported improved family relationships after a break.

Says Stanford: “To be able to help people who may be finding life hard, particularly those struggling economically, have that sense that they matter too, and that they deserve and are worthy of time in such a special places, is wonderful to imagine.”

Breaks take place 10-17 March, 2014. Charities, educational bodies and non-profit groups should apply before 4 January on behalf of groups or individuals who would benefit. Applications also invited for study breaks or to allow managers to develop their organisation’s not-for-profit activities and wider aims.