Cragside Northumbria is packed with lots of genuinely unusual and interesting stately homes and glorious gardens. Here are just a few to whet your appetite – just pick your century!
Before the Civil War
On Wearside, Washington Old Hall was the 12th and 13th century home of the ancestors of the USAís first president, George Washington. Today, itís furnished as a Jacobean manor house set in pretty terraced gardens.
The Seventeenth Century
Built In 1688, Wallington Hall was a merchantís show-palace. Decorated lavishly by Italian craftsmen, the Hall also houses a collection of fine porcelain and dolls’ houses.
Wallington Hall has an enchanting walled garden and several follies in its Capability Brown designed grounds. Cragside, the former home of Lord Armstrong, has an Italian terrace and rhododendron filled woodlands. The dramatic Quarry Garden at Belsay Hall is full of ravines, corridors and pinnacles.
The Age of Elegance
Northumberland’s Belsay Hall is a splendid example of a Georgian country house, built in the neo-classical style. Ormesby hall near Middlesbrough has fine eighteenth century bedrooms, and an intriguing Victorian laundry.
Cragside house at Rothbury is an industrialistís indulgence, with a grand long gallery, amazing marble-work and the reputation of being the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. Further south, the Josephine and John Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle is a real treasure house of art, in a splendid reproduction French chateau.
In an English Country Garden
Penshaw Monument If you enjoy gardens, youíll find some real treats in Northumbria. Choose from the contrasting appeal of the magical quarry garden at Belsay hall, the rhododendrons of Cragside, the university of Durhamís exotic botanical garden, or the showpiece gardens of Kirkley hall.
Nowhere really brings history to life like Beamish, the North of England Open Air Museum. Recreated across 300 acres are Pockerley manor, an Edwardian town, a colliery village and a farm. Here, you can ride the tram, the carousel or the omnibus once again; sit in a turn-of-the-century pub; visit the dentist and go down the mine. A chance to decide if those really were “the good old days”!
Newcastle City Gardens
You don’t have to go far to chill and relax in Newcastle. There are parks and gardens within the city itself and glorious green spaces just beyond.
Smack in the middle of town is Leazes Park, the oldest city park in Newcastle and the perfect place to recharge your batteries after a hectic day in the city. Exhibition Park got its name from the Jubilee Exhibition of 1887 and includes a boating lake, crazy golf, a skate park and playgrounds.
Just one mile from the centre of Newcastle is Jesmond Dene, a wonderful wooded valley with the Ouseburn gurgling happily along the bottom. There’s a pets’ corner for the kids, cafe and a series of bridges and walkways to complete the adventure. The Armstrong Bridge craft market every Sunday sells unusual local goodies. To find out more of the wonder things to do in Newcastle, check out our dedicated guide.
If you’re feeling romantic you should investigate Gibside 18th Century Pleasure Grounds and Chapel, a park once owned by the late Queen Mother’s family, the Bowes-Lyons. Now owned by the National Trust, it includes a Palladian chapel, a ruined 18th century house and acres of parkland. Best of all, it’s just 15 minutes from the city centre.
A walk in the grounds
Imagine yourself as the landed gentry of another century and take a walk on the Gibside estate in the Derwent valley. You can visit the Palladian chapel, and stroll through an 18th century park landscaped by capability brown, to view the romantic ruins of the Bowes family mansion. Other attractive walks include Allen Banks woods near Bardon Mill or a breezy climb up to the Penshaw Monument near Sunderland.
Equally close to the city centre is Saltwell Park, with grade II listed Saltwell Towers, just re-opened after a major restoration which includes a cafe and visitor centre. There’s a delightful fairytale mansion, monuments, pavilions and a series of garden rooms ranging from the Italianate to the rustic.
A recent addition to the North East is The Alnwick Garden, approximately a 45 minute drive from NewcastleGateshead. Created by the Duchess of Northumberland for everyone to enjoy, The Alnwick Garden is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also breathtakingly large – over 65,000 individual plants make it one of the biggest European plant collections in the UK, there are 10 miles of paths and the whole garden covers and incredible 40 acres. Look out for a fabulous new addition – The Treehouse – it’s one of the world’s largest wooden treehouses, the size of two olympic-sized swimming pools floating in the trees.
For a gentle stroll and lazy picnic, Derwent Walk Country Park, Derwenthaugh and Watergate Forest Park all offer acres of woodland walks and waterside meadows within just a short drive or bus journey from the city centre.
A little known gem is Crook Hall, a medieval manor house just 12 minute train ride away in Durham. Its enchanting gardens include a Shakespearean Garden, Silver and White Garden and secret Walled Garden.