After a day of heavy rain (isn’t the English summer lovely!) we ventured out to explore a couple of historic houses in the area.
Our first stop was Belsay Hall and Gardens. This had three interesting features in one place. A fine medieval castle, enlarged into a Jacobean mansion, a Greek Revival house that succeeded it and a beautiful unusual garden. The whole place over the centuries was the creation of the Middleton family (not sure there is any royal connection!). The castle was built as a refuge in the 14th century during the Anglo-Scottish Wars. Later a Jacobean wing was added and the Middleton family lived in the castle until Christmas Day 1817 when they moved into Belsay Hall as they need more modern accommodation. The castle felt very much as if you were stepping back into the time of King Arthur and the round table.
Belsay Hall the more modern mansion clearly demonstrates Greek Revival architecture at its best. The hall was started in 1807 and was designed by Sir Charles Monck (formerly Middleton) who had been inspired by the buildings he had seen on his honeymoon in Athens. The building looked quite plain on the outside but as we walked in it had an amazing square hall called the “Pillar Hall with Greek columns and ornate banisters.
Linking the old and new was the amazing gardens particularly the Quarry Garden. This garden had been created in the quarry where the stone had been cut for the hall. Other gardens included a wonderful display of Rhododendrons and beautiful lilies. We also enjoyed a walk in the woods.
Our second house was Wallington which was home to many generations of the Blackett and Trevelyan families. We decided we would spend our time exploring the gardens rather than the house and what splendid gardens they were particularly the walled garden with its colourful display of flowers. Compared to Belsay Hall these gardens were more formal but just as nice.