- Discover the impressive medieval castle, and enjoy the magnificent views from the top of the 14th-century peel tower.
- Marvel at the architectural masterpiece Belsay Hall, a Grade I-listed building inspired by ancient Greek temples.
- Learn about the history of Belsay, from the early Middleton family who lived here to the construction of the New Hall.
- Explore 40 acres of stunning gardens, and experience the micro-climate of the quarry garden with its exotic plants.
- Unearth the stunning area of Northumberland with your family - the county with more castles than any other in England.
Take your little explorers on a fun day out to the brilliant Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens near Morpeth in Northumberland in the north east of England. Play in 40 acres of beautiful gardens and discover Belsay's Grecian architecture and the ruined medieval castle.
Since the 13th century, the Middleton family has resided at Belsay. The first record of them living there was in 1270 when the Lord Chancellor to King Henry III, Sir Richard de Middleton, owned the property. Sir Richard's heir and grandson joined a rebellion group led by Gilbert de Middleton, who was a cousin. The pair were in due course captured and hung, drawn and quartered in London after endeavouring to betray the crown. The estate was relinquished to a succession of owners but returned to the the Middleton in 1391 when John Middleton married into the Stryvelyn family. A new tower was built in the late 14th century at the top of the ruined medieval castle and was both a statement of family status and defence. Built as a defensive structure, the medieval tower is one of the best-surviving illustrations of a peel (also spelled 'pele') tower.
In 1614, the castle was redeveloped by Thomas Middleton. During this time local landowners were focusing more on comfort rather than defence due to peace in the border region between England and Scotland, and a mansion was added to the castle's western side. Sir William Middleton, the 5th baronet, and his second wife Elizabeth resided in the property in the 1670s and added another west wing to counterbalance the medieval tower, and a formal walled garden was added in 1728.
It was Sir William Middleton's son, Sir Charles Monck, who made the greatest impact on the Belsay estate, and he left his mark on the design of the hall and gardens on the estate. A masterpiece of the Greek Revival style, construction of the New Hall began in 1807. Like a beautiful Greek temple, it sits on a crepidoma and is built with dressed sandstone blocks. From 1817 until 1867, Sir Charles also created the picturesque grounds at Belsay - creating the cannoned quarry garden, the formal terraces and planting exotic imported trees.
During the second world war, the Belsay Hall was occupied by the army. The gardens were not maintained and furniture was stored in the attic. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens was taken over by the state in 1980 and it wasn't until 2000 that restoration works began by the charity English Heritage.
Now you can come and explore the beautiful empty Classical Greek Revival villa, Belsay Hall, with its enchanted and inspiring spaces. It often displays contemporary furniture, fashion, decorative arts as well as interesting sensory installations. Art installations that have been a success here include the Memory and Light multi-sensory installation by composer Arvo Pärt and UK designers Arup, and Fashion at Belsay, where fashion designers, including Stella McCartney, Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen, showcased their art.
Enjoy a truly memorable day out as you uncover the maze of rooms with your family in the stunning Belsay castle and keep your eyes peeled for scarce traces of intimate medieval wall paintings. Climb up the 56 spiral stairs of the peel tower and marvel at the incredible view from the top over the beautiful grounds of Belsay Hall and Northumberland. Little explorers can also see the old cooking range and existing fireplaces in the Manor House style wing whilst learning about the Middleton family who lived here for more than seven centuries.
Get lost exploring and play a game of hide and seek in Belsay gardens, which have been restored to their 1920s and 1930s glory. With 40 acres to explore in total, you'll find a jurassic-style quarry garden with exotic tree and plants and a magnificent Rhododendron Garden with the largest collection of rhododendrons in the country! A garden for plant-enthusiasts, Belsay has one of the most picturesque and scenic garden landscapes in England.
Whatever the season, there are always some awesome family-friendly Belsay Hall events taking place. During the summer months and at Christmas, there is a free fun Explorer Quest Trail for children where they can complete activities as they go along.
Take a browse at the secondhand bookshop at Belsay Hall. Located in the former laundry rooms of the old stable block, there are over 2,200 books to take a look at as well as music CDs and film DVDs.
After you have built up an appetite exploring the English Heritage estate, drop in at the Victorian Tearoom, which is situated in the hall's original kitchen. The tearoom serves hot lunches, sandwiches, soups, light bites, tempting scones, sweet treats and Northumbrian meat stotties too. The eatery uses locally-sourced ingredients when possible and is family-friendly with highchairs. There are also kids' meals, vegetarian and gluten-free options available for visitors.
Looking for nearby attractions? Take a look at a stretch of Hadrian's Wall, which was most likely completed in AD 122 or 123, at Heddon-on-the-Wall. It's only about an hour's drive away and is well worth a visit. The nearby Northumberland Zoo is a great spot to visit too, and is filled with all your favourite animals and family activities.
What to know before you go
- Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens' opening times are daily from 10am until 5pm. The last admission is 30 minutes before the venue closes.
- Expect to spend the whole day at Belsay Hall as you step back in time and explore the historical site and gardens.
- There are seasonal events and exhibitions throughout the year at Belsay Hall for children, including Halloween trails and Easter egg hunts. Belsay Hall Christmas events are also worth visiting.
- Enjoy browsing the Belsay gift shop, which has its very own toy department and a great selection of inspiring English Heritage gifts, including postcards, homeware, jewellery, preserves, and books.
- The tearoom is situated in the Belsay's original kitchen of the hall. It has child portions, highchairs, and there is bottle and food warming available. Bring along your own picnic if you prefer. There are picnic tables on the grass area just off the main car park.
- It is permitted to bring your dog onto the grounds for walks as log as they are kept on a short lead. Unfortunately, you can't bring them into the hall or castle. You can find a dog bowl at the entrance to Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, and three fog bins situated in the car park, the quarry garden path and castle.
- Assistance dogs are welcome into Belsay Hall and castle.
- There are accessible toilet available on site.
- There are baby-changing facilities in the disabled toilet.
- There is wheelchair access across Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens. There is ramp access to the castle, the hall and tearoom. Unfortunately, there is a spiral staircase to the upper levels of the castle and there is no lift available. The shop has a narrow doorway but has level access. There are also wheelchairs and mobility scooters available to borrow for free. RADAR keys are available from the shop and provide entry to the level access route to the gardens and the hall.
- The gardens have wheelchair and buggy access. The paths across the ground are flat and gravelled with no steep gradients. There are rest and seating areas in the formal gardens, east quarry and castle. Wheelchair users can find a gradient map in the shop for access routes across the grounds.
- Buggies are allowed throughout the venue.
- Please take care when walking through Belsay because the castle and hall are lit by natural light, and there are uneven floors.
- There is an International brief history available for visitors in French, German and Italian.
- The nearest train station is Morpeth, which is 10 miles away. There are direct trains within 12 minutes to Newcastle. From Morpeth station, a taxi should take approximately 17 minutes.
- If you are driving, Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens is 14 miles north west of Newcastle on the A696.
- There is free on-site parking available for visitors. You can find the main car park situated next to the entrance to the venue. If this car park is full, there are overflow car parks further away from the main entrance.
- There is blue badge parking in the main car park. It is close to the admissions and shop.