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“Nice day”

Belsay Hall and Gardens
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Two historic buildings, a well-preserved late-14th century tower house and a neo-classical house, are linked by a charming sunken garden spreading over more than 30 acres of landscaped grounds.
Scarborough, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
57 reviews
45 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Nice day”
Reviewed August 28, 2014 via mobile

Day out with the family as it was the knights tournament it was lovely but not sure we would have gone if the event wasn't on the grounds and gardens are lovely though

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
Thank DollyHaylz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Whitley Bay, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
36 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“English Heritage Knight's Tournament-Excellent fun for all the family”
Reviewed August 26, 2014

We visited Belsay again to attend the Knights Tournament as we have several keen Knights in the family. It was a fantastic day out for all the family with plenty going on.

The reenactment groups were interesting and committed to their roles, happy to talk to visitors and explain what they were doing and why. The whole company who came with the Knights really helped to understand life in the middle ages with their crafts and skills. There was plenty of entertainment from Peterkin the Fool, who had several different shows which amused all ages and kept people coming back for the next one. The barber surgeon regaled an enthralled audience with gruesome tales of bloodletting, amputation and urine and the musicians were extremely talented with their impressive range of instruments.

The tournament itself was well organised with 3 rounds and 4 Knights who each had their own banners and stories. Reasonably priced flags and tshirts were available to help show support for your Knight and the kids loved being able to cheer on their champion.

An extremely entertaining day out for all the family-we never even had time to look at the castle itself. The best part-it was free with our membership! Can't wait for next year!

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
Thank mckeontribe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Northampton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
102 reviews
32 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 109 helpful votes
“Your fair discourse hath been as sugar, making the hard way sweet and delectable”
Reviewed August 23, 2014

It cost us £8 each for entry here. That includes the house (Belsay Hall), the gardens and the separate castle. The Middleton family originally lived in the castle, which they extended considerably around 1614. They had the house (Belsay Hall) built between 1810 and 1817, then moved from the castle into Belsay Hall. The Middleton family lived on this site until 1962, but now it is run by English Heritage.

“Take a trip to Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens in Northumberland and enjoy one of the best value days out in north-east England” is what the English Heritage website proudly proclaims. I agree with them. When we knew that we were going to be staying in Northumberland we checked around for historical sites of interest within reasonable striking distance, and checked out their prices. Howick Hall, home of Earl Grey - who the tea was named after - don't appear to let visitors into the house, but for £7.70 you can look at their gardens. Wallington Hall and gardens, run by the National Trust, will charge £12.20 for you to enter. As far as I can tell this isn't as bad a deal as it sounds in comparison to Belsay Hall, because Wallington Hall is furnished and is quite an extensive house, whereas Belsay Hall is relatively modest in size and isn't furnished, neither is the castle.

The other option that we were considering was Alnwick (rhyming with “panic”, which is what their prices might induce) Castle and Gardens. If you pay at the gate they will charge you £14.50 for castle entry, £13.75 for garden entry or £26.25 for entry to both. I mentioned to the lady running our B&B that I thought that they were taking the pee with their pricing, and she replied that it now gives you entry for a whole year. That might be great for somebody living in the area, but I would guess that a high percentage of their visitors – including us – don't. As we are foodies we were quite interested in the idea of dining at their Treehouse Restaurant, so that we could combine two of our loves, historical buildings and quality dining. However, you can look at their menus online, and we did. When we discovered that it was £26.95 for two courses, £32.50 for three courses and then they add supplements on for various items on the menu, we decided that this is one place that we are unlikely to visit unless we are fortunate enough to win the lottery!

It was typical English Summer weather when we visited, alternating between sunshine and showers, and because we had a long drive home ahead of us we didn't want to linger too long. We spent just over two hours here, but if we were less pressed for time we could easily have spent three hours. Personally I liked the fact that the house was unfurnished, meaning that they didn't have to have people in every room keeping an eye on visitors, it meant that it didn't take long to look around the house, but I accept that might not be to everyone's taste. The signs did quite clearly state that the damage to the building had been caused by dry rot in the 1970s, due to leaking water pipes.

The cellars were massive and divided up by letters of the alphabet, as well as into beer and wine cellars, so it just makes me wonder how much wine the family must have had stored in them.

We really loved the gardens, and it is obvious that English Heritage have put a lot of thought into making as much of the site as possible accessible to all. Obviously the spiral stone staircase going all the way up to the top of the castle tower is only recommended for people that can walk and are reasonably agile, but virtually everywhere else can be reached in a wheelchair. The view from the top of the tower was fantastic, and we thought that it was well worth the effort. Wheelchair users might also have some challenges and obstacles to overcome if they wanted to play on the perfectly-manicured Croquet lawn.

We saw loads of butterflies and all sorts of unusual plants, quite a few of which looked fairly exotic, which was not really what we were expecting up in the wilds of Northumberland. A lot of the garden was in an area that had been quarried for the stone to build the house, but there were well established trees growing out of cracks in the cliff face, yards up in the air, which made it all feel a little bit wild. There were plenty of places to shelter if it rained, and because of the cliffs each side we were fairly sheltered from the elements, anyway.

I wouldn't describe the café as being particularly cheap, but they had some interesting menu items (nettle cheese, anybody?). They charge for using a debit card if you are spending less than £10. We saw that tea or coffee were both priced at £1.90 so we opted for what they described as hot chocolate, whipped cream and marshmallows but was actually hot chocolate, aerosol cream and marshmallows, and that was priced at £2.30 each. The café is in the part of Belsay Hall which used to be the kitchen, so you can feast your eyes on more English history whilst enjoying your refreshments. If you wanted to bring a picnic there is an area next to the (free) car park which is set up with tables and benches.

If you are looking for luxurious furniture, fittings, antiques and priceless objets d'art, or a stately home which has dozens of staff around to answer your every question, then this probably isn't the ideal place for you. We really enjoyed our visit and found the staff to be very enthusiastic and friendly. We enjoyed exploring the house, the castle and the gardens and we can definitely recommend it. In fact, we enjoyed it here so much that we have subsequently signed up for an annual membership of English Heritage, which you can do online.

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Wartznall
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
27 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Cosy”
Reviewed August 18, 2014

Fairly typical of English Heritage Coffee Shops but very welcome all the same, especially with good service.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
Thank Geordian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Worth a detour”
Reviewed August 15, 2014

The garden is delightful, especially the quarry garden. The house, which is not the real attraction, was built from the stone quarried from the garden. Sometimes there are terrific exhibitions inside. Despite pouring rain yesterday we had a great visit thanks to emergency ponchos from the shop; and the staff including the gardeners are very friendly and helpful. Tearooms are simple but good.

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Lilly270
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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