Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens

Belsay NE20 0DX

History, architecture and nature collide at Belsay, where it's easy to spend a full day at this gem of a stately pile. The castle came first, built in the 14th century and home to the Middleton family, successive generations of whom lived there until 1817 when their new hall was constructed. This was a radical departure from the medieval home they were used to, being a Greek Revival villa, built on clear, plain lines to a strictly Classical template. The hall is presented today without furnishings, so although it might seem fairly austere you can admire the artful construction, especially the central Pillar Hall, featuring the celebrated 'Wildman' and 'Wildwoman' statues that have been associated with the hall and the Middleton family for centuries. Outside, the gardens are a fabulous treat  – particularly the unique, fern-filled Quarry Garden, at its finest in spring and summer when the rhododendrons are at their best. Ghost stories in the hall, curator talks and family activities take place throughout the season, and there's a nice tearoom in the old kitchens.