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Please be aware of government guidelines before setting off.Government Guidelines
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.
Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.Government Guidelines
English HeritageShow more
English Heritage brings history to life in an engaging way to over 10 million people every year, caring for over 400 historic palaces, houses, monuments and other locations.
The remarkable collection of English Heritage buildings and monuments began to assemble as early as 1882. These were basically a collection of the greatest sites, which told the story of Britain. From prehistoric sites to historical bridges, gardens, forts and castles, English Heritage sites include Stonehenge, Rochester and Tintagel Castle, Rievaulx Abbey, Eltham Palace and Audley End House and Gardens.
As a registered charity, the English Heritage is governed by a board of trustees. The charitable trust depends on the income generated from admission and English Heritage membership fees to its properties and income from holiday cottages and gift shops. It is also funded from grant-in-aid income from the government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The difference between National Trust and English Heritage is that the National Trust is purely a charitable foundation that is funded mostly by members’ subscription and donations to look after their historic houses and gardens throughout England. English Heritage was originally run on a budget, funded by taxes by the British Government as a national heritage collection. In 2015, the English Heritage split into two parts: English Heritage Trust and Historic England. The government provided £80 million to English Heritage to become a charitable trust.