Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Amazingly well preserved – considering the region’s violent past – the yellow sandstone walls and sturdy battlements of the 14th-century tower-house of the Middleton family still seem ready to repel the Scottish invaders who made its construction and fortification necessary in the first place. Even the Great Hall’s painted wall decorations, looking just like tapestries, are well preserved. The 17th-century manor house next to it was rebuilt during the 19th century, then abandoned when Sir Charles Monck built his startling new house nearby. Born a Middleton, Sir Charles changed his name in honour of his maternal grandfather after inheriting from him. This was not uncommon at the time. Sir Charles was mad for ancient Greece (also not uncommon at the time) and commissioned Belsay Hall in Greek Revival style. As a result, it is severely plain and symmetrical. Inside, it’s even grander. The central hall is two storeys high with a glazed roof, and is surrounded by columns. Yet, despite its perfect proportions, you can’t help feeling it was never very cosy. Next to the Hall, the Quarry Garden – created by Sir Charles and his descendants from the pit from which the Hall’s foundations were dug – has an abundance of exotic trees and flowering shrubs, a rose terrace and magnolia garden.
Facilities – at a glance
- Parking onsite
- Facilities: Wheelchair loan, ramp access to castle from car park, tactile site model, large print guide, handrails
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open all year, Apr-Sep, check website for details; Oct, daily 10-5; Nov-23 Dec, 2 Jan-11 Feb & 17 Feb-29 Mar, Sat-Sun 10-4; 27-31 Dec, Wed-Sun 10-4; 12-16 Feb, daily 10-4 (last admission 45 minutes before closing). Closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Ja
Also in the area
About the area
If it’s history you’re after, there’s heaps of it in Northumberland. On Hadrian’s Wall you can imagine scarlet-cloaked Roman legionaries keeping watch for painted Pictish warriors while cursing the English weather and dreaming of home. Desolate battlefield sites and hulking fortresses such as Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Warkworth are reminders that this, until not so very long ago, was a contested border region. The ruins of Lindisfarne bear witness to the region’s early Christian history.
Northumberland also has some of Britain’s best beaches. On summer days, and even in winter, you’ll see surfers and other brave souls making the most of the coast. Inland, there are some great walks and bike rides in the dales of the Cheviot Hills and the Simonsides – just hilly enough to be interesting, without being brutally steep. There's dramatic scenery in the High Pennines, where waterfalls plunge into deep valleys, and there are swathes of heather-scented moorland. Northumberland National Park covers over 400 square miles of moorland and valleys with clear streams and pretty, stone-built villages. It’s just the place for wildlife watching too. You’ll find flocks of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds around the Farne Islands, and seals and dolphins offshore.
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