Belsay Hall is one of Northumberland’s top tourist attractions comprising a medieval castle, a stately home and picturesque gardens linking the two.
The Belsay estate was home to the Middleton family (not related to Kate Middleton) for 700 years from 1270, when Sir Richard Middleton was Lord Chancellor to King Henry II.
The hall, castle and gardens were taken into the guardianship of the state in 1980 and are now managed by English Heritage.
The impressive pele tower (a small fortified keep or tower house) of Belsay Castle was built in the late 14th century to defend against frequent raids and unrest in this border region of England.
After the conflict between Scotland and England died down, the Middletons converted the castle into a more comfortable home by adding an elegant country house extension (now without a roof) that was built from 1603 to 1614.
The family abandoned the castle in 1817, and moved into the nearby newly-built Belsay Hall.
Its Greek Revival architectural style was inspired by the owner’s honeymoon trip to Greece. This owner, Sir Charles Monck, was also a Middleton but changed his name in order to inherit the substantial estates of his wealthy maternal grandfather.
Today the Hall is empty of furniture, which is a shame but it does enable visitors to appreciate the beauty of the Roman/Greek architecture.
The Castle and Hall sit in about 12 ha of grounds. Sir Charles made use of the excavations left behind when the stone for the hall was cut to create a quarry garden.
With its sheer-sided canyon walls it has its own micro-climate out of the wind enabling exotic trees and rare plants to survive. There is also a rhododendron garden that flowers in spring and more formal gardens around the Hall.
The majestic yew trees and other conifers and hardwoods are the stars of the gardens.
Belsay Hall is located about 25km northwest of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Visit the English Heritage website for information on opening times and entrance fees.
This article first appeared on Thrifty Traveller.