If you’re visiting Northumberland you will undoubtedly want to take in some of Hadrian’s Wall and there is nowhere better to appreciate this epic UNESCO World Heritage Site than at Housesteads Roman Fort.
Set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads was one of the16 permanent bases along Hadrian’s Wall and is the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain. The fort is the most well known in the whole of the Roman Empire and is home to some of the most outstanding original features of a Roman fortress.
Although owned by The National Trust the site is run by English Heritage and their interactive museum showcases a great display of objects that once belonged to the Roman soldiers, and the short film that shows in the mini-cinema takes you on a journey through time as you watch the fort brought to life with stunning recreations of the original Roman buildings. You’ll get a real insight into Roman military life and discover the past behind the archaeological remains as you stroll around the barrack blocks, the Commander’s House, the granaries, the hospital and as you peer into the communal and undoubtedly the oldest toilets you’re ever likely to see.
A visit to Housesteads also gives the opportunity to enjoy a 5 mile circular walk which will take you past the site of Sycamore Gap following the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail before circling back to take you along the Roman Military Way.
Due to the nature of the site a visit to Housesteads involves a steep and uneven 750m walk from the car park, however the history of this ancient fortress together with the stunning panoramic views makes the walk worthwhile. A visit to Housesteads will leave you in awe of what the Romans achieved and gives real insight into the life of the soldiers based there and perhaps makes us realise just how tough and resilient they really were!
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens sit tucked away in the very small but perfectly formed village of Belsay, however there is nothing small about this beautiful English Heritage property with it’s grand Grecian Hall, Medieval Castle and 30 acres of enchanting gardens.
The Grand Hall is an architectural masterpiece, influenced heavily by the temples of ancient Greece, this country house is a true spectacle. Whilst the building itself is unfurnished, beautiful floral print wallpaper from the 1800’s still lines the walls, and from the bedrooms you will enjoy incredible views over rest of the estate. The empty rooms lend themselves to the art installations which are sometimes resident. The Hall with it’s impressive columns was built using rocks from the quarry on the Belsay grounds and was completed in the early 19th century.
The gardens at Belsay are an absolute highlight and with year-round seasonal interest meaning you’ll be impressed whatever time of the year you visit. With one of the biggest collection of rhododendrons in the country you’ll find winter flowering varieties in the Quarry Garden and a magnificent display in the Rhododendron Garden during late Spring. A walk through the ravines cut out of rock bring a jurassic-feeling to the Quarry Garden and with its own microclimate you’ll see all sorts of exotic plants. The formal Yew Garden and Magnolia Terrace bring an entirely different experience and here you will witness the recent restoration by the dedicated garden team who have restored much of the historic fabric of these areas, opening up historic views and restoring biodiversity.
After visiting the Hall and a meander through the acres of gardens you will find an impressive medieval castle and although in ruins the grandeur of what the castle once was is very evident. Slowly wander through the maze of rooms and you will be treated to traces of elaborate medieval wall paintings. In the manor house style wing you can still see the old cooking range and fireplaces and if your legs are up to it, take the 56 spiral stairs to enjoy the view from the top of the 14th-century defensive ‘pele tower’.
Of course any day out wouldn’t be complete without refreshments and Belsay Hall itself has a Victorian Tearoom which is in the hall’s original kitchen and offers lunches and light bites. Alternatively there is a gorgeous independent coffee shop in the village of Belsay, The Blacksmiths Coffee Shop who provide a wide range of home made produce such as scones, sandwiches, quiches, baked potatoes, pies, salads, tray bakes, cakes and much more, although we recommend that you book in advance to be sure to get a table.
To find out more about Belsay Hall and for information on opening times or if you wish to book your visit please go to their website.
If you enjoy days out and taking in the grandeur of historic houses and the beauty of their surrounding garden then a stay in Northumberland is definitely for you. All our availability is up to date on our website so all you have to do is book your stay and look forward to enjoying all Northumberland has to offer. We can’t wait to welcome you here.
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