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Knights and Castles

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Belsay, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE20 0DX.
Tel: 01661 881636.
A medieval tower, a house like a Greek temple and stunning gardens. The magnificent 30-acre garden at Belsay Hall, listed Grade I in the Register of Parks and Gardens, is largely the work of two men. Sir Charles Monck created the dramatic Quarry Garden: a series of ravines, corridors and pinnacles. His grandson, Sir Arthur Middleton, enriched it with all manner of rare and exotic plants. Species rhododendrons flower for most of the year and there is also a two-acre Hybrid Rhododendron Garden, at its best from late May to June. There are also formal terraces and a winter garden. Belsay is a plantsmanís garden where much of the original planting survives, including magnolias, Pieris floribunda and Exochorda giraldii, all flowering on the terraces. The Castle is a dramatic, well-preserved medieval towerhouse, to which a Jacobean manor house was added in 1614. Belsay Hall (1807), designed by Sir Charles in Greek Revival style after the Temple of Theseus he had visited in Athens, has great architectural importance within Europe. Sir Charles strove to create a modern country house that still resembled an ancient temple. Belsay has something for everyone: a magical place with a fascinating history, wonderful buildings and a unique garden for all seasons.

Etal Castle
Etal Village, Cornhill-On-Tweed, Northumberland, TD12 4TN.
Tel: 01890 820332.
Etal Castle started out as a three-storey tower house, but its location near the border with Scotland made it vulnerable to attack. In 1341, the owner, Robert Manners, was granted a licence to fortify his home. He created a roughly square courtyard enclosed by curtain walls, with the tower house in one corner and a large gatehouse diagonally opposite and a tower at each of the other corners. The tower house was improved with the addition of another storey and crenellations. By the start of the 16th century the Manners were living elsewhere and the castle was in the care of a constable. In 1513 the castle fell to the army of James IV of Scotland during his failed invasion of England. James was killed nearby during the Battle of Flodden, when a hastily recruited army of 20,000 Northerners decisively beat his army of 30,000 Scots. In 1549 the castle was ceded to the Crown, possibly in an attempt to reduce the neglect of this strategic border castle. With the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603 Etal ceased to have any military purpose and the decay, which had already set in was allowed to continue unabated. An award-winning exhibition tells the story of the Battle of Flodden and of the border warfare which existed here before the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603.

St Mary's Lighthouse & Visitor Centre
Trinity Cottage, St. Marys Island, Whitley Bay, Tyne And Wear, NE26 4RS.
Tel: 0191 200 8650.
Cross the causeway, climb the tower and experience spectacular coastal views. Exhibitions and gift shop. Outside is a nature reserve with facinating rockpools, flights of birds, a beach and clifftop walks. The famous lighthouse is one of the most photographed and painted buildings in the country.

Corbridge Roman Site
Corbridge, Northumberland, NE45 5NT.
Tel: 01434 632349.
5 miles north of Corbridge is the site of this well-known Roman camp - the main supply depot for the armies building and guarding Hadrian's wall nearly 2000 years ago. The substantial remains of this excavated Roman settlement include the best example of military granaries in the country. The museum houses finds from the site, including the famous stone fountainhead - the Lion of Corbridge, giving a fascinating insight into Roman life. Inclusive audio tour. Tel: 01434 632349. It is well worth a visit, especially if you intend to tour the Hadrian Wall sites.

Station Bank, Mickley, nr Stocksfield, Northumberland, NE43 7DD.
Tel: 01661 843276.
The birthplace of Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), Northumberlandís greatest artist, wood-engraver and naturalist. Cottage with farmyard, garden and play lawn. Also 19th-century farmhouse, the later home of the Bewick family, houses an exhibition on Bewickís life and work and small shop selling prints from his original wood engravings, books and gifts. Wood engraving, printing and bookbinding demonstrations in adjoining barn. Splendid views over the Tyne valley. The south bank of the River Tyne, where Bewick spent much of his childhood, is a short walk from the property.

Aydon Castle
Corbridge, Northumberland, NE45 5PJ.
Tel: 01434 632450.
This Borders home was built for an unusual - and brief - time of peace. Secluded from the rest of the Tyne Valley, Aydon Castle stands in a most attractive wooded landscape, overlooking the steep valley of the Cor Burn. One of the finest examples in England of a thirteenth-century manor house, Aydon Castle was originally built as an undefended house during a time of unusual peace in the Borders. When peace ended, the house was fortified, but even so, it was pillaged and burnt by the Scots in 1315, seized by the English rebels two years later, and subject to frequent repairs and modifications. Robert de Reymes, Aydonís builder, and once a wealthy Suffolk merchant, was left impoverished. In the seventeenth century, the Castle was converted into a farmhouse, which it remained until 1966.

Chesters Roman Fort
The Chesters, Humshaugh, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 4EU.
Tel: 01434 681379.
Sophisticated water systems and Edwardian museum. Chesters was one of the series of troop bases added to Hadrianís Wall soon after it was built in ad122-23. It is the best preserved example of a Roman cavalry fort in Britain. It seems to have been occupied for nearly three centuries, with several changes of garrison during that time. There is much to see on the ground: the four principal gateways are well-preserved, the east and west with short lengths of Hadrianís Wall adjoining them. The entire foundation of the headquarters building is visible with a courtyard, hall, regimental chapel and strongroom. The military bath house is extremely well-preserved, with changing room, latrines and bathing rooms, as is the Roman bridge abutment on the far bank of the river. Chesters Museum is home of the Clayton Collection, which includes many important early archaeological discoveries relating to the central sector of Hadrianís Wall.

Dunstanburgh Castle
Alnwick, Northumberland.
Tel: 01665 576231.
A magnificent fourteenth-century castle with a dramatic past. Outlined against the sky, on a basalt crag more than 30 metres (100ft) high, stands the jagged silhouette of this magnificent fourteenth-century castle. The stormy seas that surround the rocky shoreline beneath the walls and the screaming of the sea birds echoing under its cliffs lend the area a distinctly dramatic feel. The background to the building of Dunstanburgh Castle and the history of those associated with it is one of turmoil and unrest, as dramatic in itself as the Castleís surroundings. Built at a time of political crisis and Anglo-Scottish conflict, the strained relations between King Edward II and his nephew, Thomas Earl of Lancaster, who built the Castle, led eventually to rebellion and to the capture and execution of the Earl in 1322. By the sixteenth century, Dunstanburgh had fallen into decay. The Castle, which had been built on the grandest possible scale and had reflected the lavish tastes of the Earl, was by then perceived to be of no use and so left to ruin. However, even at this time, Dunstanburgh retained its sense of the dramatic: a ballad told of a resident ghost, that of Sir Guy the Seeker. Having failed to rescue a beautiful lady held captive in a hall under the castle, Sir Guy was said to roam the castle ruins, moaning dismally to anyone who would listen.

Norham Castle
Norham, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 2JY.
Tel: 01289 382329.
Norham was one of the strongest of the border castles. Built in the latter half of the twelfth century, it came under siege several times during its 400-year history as a military stronghold. Norhamís massive walls proved impenetrable during many of these attacks, but when James IV stormed it in 1513, it fell and was largely destroyed. The Great Tower shows signs of four building phases spanning the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. Much of what can be seen today dates from the extensive repairs to the castle, and the re-roofing of the Great Tower, that followed the siege of 1513.

Prudhoe Castle
Prudhoe, Northumberland, NE42 6NA.
Tel: 01661 833459.
On a wooded hillside overlooking the River Tyne stands the remains of this formidable castle. Archaeological evidence reveals that a defended enclosure existed on the site as early as the mid-11th century. Today, inside its defensive ditches and ramparts the Georgian manor house is a dominating feature. The castle was successfully defended against Scottish attacks, resisting sieges in 1173 and 1175, famously recorded by the contemporary chronicler, Jordan Fantosme. Small Exhibition and Video Presentation. Beautiful Picnic Spot. Brass Rubbing.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh, Northumberland, NE69 7DF.
Tel: 01668 214515. Fax 01668 214060.
E-mail: Web:

Bamburgh Castle is probably the finest castle in England. It is perched on a basalt outcrop on the very edge of the North Sea at Bamburgh, Northumberland. It commands stunning views of the Farne Islands, Holy Island and land'ward to the Cheviot hills. The castle is open to day visitors and parties of 15 or more, from April to October inclusive. Bamburgh Castle is licensed for civil weddings, providing unsurpassed photo opportunities. The Armstrong Museum and Bamburgh Castle Aviation Artefacts Museum (BCAAM) are housed in the old laundry building in the north ward of the castle. The Armstrong museum details the life of the first Baron Armstrong, through his work as an engineer. Hydraulics, ships, aircraft and arms were some of the many engineering fields in which Lord Armstrong excelled. In the same building can be found relics of aviation from its beginnings to the present. Casualties from last two world wars make up a large percentage of the exhibit's in the Bamburgh Castle Aviation Artefacts Museum (BCAAM).

Warkworth Castle & Hermitage
Warkworth, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 0UJ.
Tel: 01665 711423.
A hillside stronghold and home to the Percy family of Shakespearean fame. The magnificent eight-towered keep of Warkworth Castle stands on a hill high above the River Coquet, dominating all around it. A complex stronghold, it was home to the Percy family, which at times wielded more power in the North than the King himself. Most famous of them all was Harry Hotspur (Sir Henry Percy), immortalised in Northumbrian ballads and Shakespeareís Henry IV, several scenes of which were set at Warkworth. Harry dominated the Borders in the fifteenth century with his father, the Earl of Northumberland, and fought off the Scots on behalf of the King before assisting in the removal of Richard II from the throne. As headquarters and home to the regionís most powerful family, Warkworth needed to be an impressive castle - and it remains so to this day.

Tynemouth Priory & Castle
East Street, North Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE30 4BZ.
Tel: 0191 257 1090.
In the 12th century a priory was built by the Benedictines on the site that was originally a 7th century Anglo-Saxon monastery. Set atop a dramatic clifftop landmark, the Priory and Castle have dominated the entrance to the River Tyne since the seventh century and provided spiritual and physical refuge. Once one of the richest priories in England and an important religious house - two saints are buried here - it has been the site of strategic importance since its founding. Raided by the Danes in the Dark Ages, it was still a military garrison until 1956. The steep banks of the river provide a good vantage point to view the busy river life, fishing trawlers and shipyards.

Chillingham Castle
Chillingham, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 5NJ.
Tel: 01668 215359. Fax: 01668 215463.
E-mail: Web:
This remarkable castle with its alarming dungeons and torture chamber has, since the twelve-hundreds, been continuously owned by the family of the Earls Grey and their relations. You will see active restoration of complex masonry, metalwork and ornamental plaster as the great halls thrive with day to day life. A wide diversity of rooms and style give a refreshing difference to the Castle. Situated in romantic grounds, the Castle has commanding views of the surrounding countryside with local farmsteads and the scenic grandeur of the Cheviots. The formal gardens and woodland walks are all fully available to
the public.


September 07, 2006

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