Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens
near Ponteland, Northumberland

Belsay Hall
There's lots to explore at Belsay, from the Greek style Hall to the medieval castle with its attached Jacobean Mansion. Even the Quarry Gardens are lovely to wander through en-route to the castle.
The Hall dates back to the early 1800s and is built in the 'Greek Doric' style that was popular with the landed gentry at that time. It was lived in by the Middleton family, who lived on this site for 700 years until quite recently and has stood empty and left in a state of slow decay since the 1960s.
It's really interesting walking around the building, although there's no furniture or paintings the rooms still have their fireplaces and built in features so it's pretty easy to imagine the rooms as they would of looked when the hall was occupied.
The impressive 'Pillar Hall' entrance way with it's beautiful metal work stair balustrades is my most favourite feature of the Hall. I'm also quite fond of the 'bed-cots' in some of the bedrooms and it's interesting to see remnants of the old wallpaper in the odd places. There's also a massive cellar, which was used for wine & beer storage, amongst other things however we all agree it's just a little bit creepy down there...don't say I didn't warn you! It's a shame that not much remains of the servants wing, but you do get a feel of how much smaller the living areas were compared to that of the main Hall.

Belsay Castle
The fantastic 14th century Castle started out as a 'Pele tower' and was built to protect the family and livestock from the invading Scots and dangerous Border Reivers. In the 1600s Thomas Middleton added a mansion to the side of the castle to improve living conditions for the family and modernize the place, I suppose it's a bit like keeping up with the Jones's!  Although the castle is totally empty now you can see how small the rooms are so living in the mansion must of been a great improvement! You can climb right to the top of the castle and look over the battlements, however be aware that its a steep climb up several floors of uneven spiral staircase.
The adjoining Jacobean mansion is now a ruined shell, however the kitchen 'range' oven is still in place, I've noticed in quite a lot of old buildings that the 'range' seems to survive relatively well, they were obviously built to last!
The family abandoned the castle/mansion in the early 19th century, stripping out everything so they could use it as a garden folly and picnic place! How the other half live!
Behind the castle are the fanciest Kennels I've ever seen complete with fireplaces to keep the doggies warm!

Quarry Garden
Belsay has a lovely traditional formal garden up by the main Hall, but the best  by far is the 'Jurassic Park' style garden built in the old quarry. Its quite an adventure walking through the giant rhubarb and ferns, colourful rhododendrons and magnolias and secret pools & hiding places carved into the rocks. I once read a Stephen King book, the title escapes me, where a lady buys a painting of a garden and she magically ends up inside it, walking through the quarry garden always reminds me of how the painting was described!
Belsay Hall is regularly used as an art venue and over the years I've seen quite a few different displays & events most notably the Crystal Horse, which was moved to different locations over the years but was sadly no where to be seen on my last visit.
More recently we enjoyed a display of medieval costumes, with some fantastic and sumptuous dresses designed with Elizabeth the first & Anne Boleyn in mind.
A trip to Belsay is certainly a great budget day out, take a picnic with you and you can spend the whole day enjoying all that this fantastic historic site has to offer.

All content, words & photos are covered by copyright ©AngeGraham(the vintage-pirate) and may not be reproduced.
Some of these photos provided with kind thanks by ©Stephen Harrison.

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