Living in the UK we are spoiled for beautiful historical properties, stunning gardens, castles and homes that are suspended in time for us all to see. The English Heritage care for over 400 historic building, monuments and sites and costing from only £3.75 per month there is something to do every day of the year.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens is situated in Northumberland, just 14 miles north of Newcastle. Buses travel from Newcastle and pass the gates of Belsay Hall each day so transport is not a problem and the whole site is wheelchair accessable.
We visited on the first day of the school holidays and were a little worried that there would be lots of visitors but were pleasantly surprised to have almost the whole place to ourselves! Arriving at lunch time we headed straight for the Tea rooms which are situated in the original kitchens and still hold some of the original features.
Offering locally sourced foods we opted for the bacon and brie toastie, sausage sandwich and the girls had the kids lunch boxes, containing a sandwich, fruit, a carton of juice, biscuits and crisps. I was really pleased to see that they also offered vegetarian options and provide gluten-free cakes and dairy and gluten-free soup too.
After lunch we headed for our walk around the gardens and hall. The site of Belsay, owned and lived in by the Middleton family since 1270 was passed through seven generations of family before transfer of guardianship was given to English Heritage in 1980.
The gardens were simply stunning and such an array of flowers that we spent most of our visit outdoors and every detail, down to the name plates for each of the flowers and plants, was beautifully displayed.
We walked through the terraces, a yew garden, magnolia terrace, winter garden and our absolute favourite – the Quarry garden…oh my word! We imagined we were tiny people and what it would be like if dinosaurs were still living, it really did feel as though we had shrunk down and were walking through another world.
There were trees suspended on the sides of the quarry, branches growing out of walls. Little pockets of water which was crystal clear and mini steps leading to no where, hidden caverns which the girls were convinced were where the fairies live!
The hall was built as an elegant Greek Revival villa and you can see how this has been incorporated through the gardens. The Quarry garden was created with stone cut specifically for the hall, with ravines and sheer rock faces inspired by Sicilian quarries.
Although the gardens were our favourite part of the day we thoroughly enjoyed looking around the castle and hall, the spiral stairs took us all the way to the top of the castle tower where you could see for miles (the girls were a little scared of the stair case as it was very steep!) but once we got to the top all that was forgotten with the stunning countryside views.
What we hadnt realise was daddy had droppd Holibob bear at the bottom of the stairs so when we decended and saw her sitting waiting for us it really was a surprise!
What amazed me was the detail in the building that was left standing, there was even an original fireplace mid way up the wall! You could really get the feel of how grand the building once was.
Walking back through the gardens the girls took a little time to play hide and seek before we headed to the hall. Displayed without furniture so you get the full scale of the arcitecture and design, this really shows the scale of the building and picks out the beautiful detail. The iron on on the stair case and the pillars in the hall were stunning and I could imagine the library filled with books and a roaring fire inviting you to sit and read for a while.
Having been told to head down into the cellars we did as we were told and glad we did, there is a seven second echo which attracts choirs from miles to come and hear the accoustics! The girls thoroughly enjoyed yelling and hearing it come back to them!
We headed back through the gift shop and the girls proclaimed it the ‘best day ever’ – we really had a lovely day out, the weather stayed perfect and it was quiet enough for us to have a lovely walk around and see everything, just stopping now and again to say afternoon to other visitors and take in the surroundings.
Highly recommended for a quiet family day out and they have lots planned for over the Easter period including an Easter Adventure Quest from Friday 14th to Monday 17th of April. Be a challenge champion this Easter weekend! You’ll be greeted by a character from the past – perhaps a king, a butler or a Roman centurion – who’ll be able to help you crack the clues as you explore Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens in Northumberland. There’s a chocolate reward for successful adventurers, so be sure to join in the fun and book now!
Prices start from £5.60 for a child to £26.80 for a family of 2 adults and 3 children.
HOWEVER we were advised to take out an English Heritage membership where we would only have to pay £96 a year for 2 adults and up to 12 children – that means that for birthdays etc we could take a party of children with us for no extra cost! The girls would love a princess castle party so packing up a picnic and dresses for the girls and their friends to spend a day at a real castle is a real bonus for us and something we will definitely be doing! Plus we would get access to hundreds of venues within the UK.
Are you an English Heritage member? Where is your favourite site to visit and where would you recommend we visit next?
We were invited to visit Belsay Hall, all views and opinions are our own and genuine