Take the A696 north from Newcastle and you will eventually find yourself at Belsay Hall. Set in beautiful rambling grounds it really is a gem in the heart of the Northumberland countryside.
Belsay Hall was home for many centuries to the Middleton family. The first records are from 1270 when we read that Sir Richard de Middleton, who was Lord Chancellor to Henry III lived in the castle at Belsay. For much of the 14th century, the land was owned by other families, due to one of the Middletons falling foul of the monarchy and being tried and executed for treason. In 1391 Belsay reverted to the Middleton family and it has remained so since.
Two centuries later, what had started as a medieval castle was built onto in order to construct something much more comfortable and up to date, You can still see what is left of the castle and mansion house.
What is known as Belsay Hall now comes much later, envisioned and brought to fruition by one Sir Charles Monck, 6th baronet in 1795 aged only 16. He changed his name from Middleton to Monck in order to inherit estates from his grandfather, Lawrence Monck. He is largely responsible for what we now see at Belsay.
Belsay Hall is built in a Greek revival style with classical pillars. What is remarkable is that Monck had no formal training in architecture, just a passion for all things Greek, an interest, devotion and tenacity to realise his dream, and of course money. He was also a keen botanist and you can see evidence of this now in the beautiful grounds, especially the quarry garden when you visit today.
It is a place of contrasts: walking from the 19th century hall towards the medieval castle and 17th century mansion house you will see formal and not so formal gardens, exotic plants, a croquet lawn and a quarry garden, where much of the stone for the hall was quarried. It is truly impressive.
Belsay Hall is now open for visitors again. Although you do have to book your visit.
Well worth a trip.