Not only a great writer, Jane Austen is responsible for crafting some of the most enduringly popular love stories of all time. Her novels have spawned numerous film and television adaptations; the BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice is a particular favourite of mine.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens is an English Heritage property in Northumberland. The castle was built around 1370 and was the home of the Middleton family, until the early 1800s when Belsay Hall was constructed close by.
Today both properties, along with the extensive gardens, are open to sightseers throughout the year. Visitors can wander around the Grecian columns of Belsay Hall, climb the spiral staircase to the top of the ruined castle or explore the magnificent Quarry Gardens.
We chose to visit on the opening day of the Costumes from Austen exhibit, which features outfits worn by actors including Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench. And yes ladies, you can catch a glimpse of the actual shirt worn by Colin Firth as his Mr Darcy famously dove into the lake at Pemberley. Swoon.
Unfortunately a dripping wet Mr Darcy is not part of the exhibit…
As much as I enjoyed seeing the fabulous costumes that featured in some of the best loved period dramas of recent years, the high point of my afternoon at Belsay Hall was definitely the time spent wandering around the Quarry Gardens.
Beautiful and intriguing, the gardens are located in a quarry from which the stone used to build Belsay Hall was excavated. Full of giant evergreen trees and exotic plants, the gardens are magical, with an air of the fairy tale about them. Wandering around the twisting paths through typically English woodland, you suddenly come across vividly coloured plants from China or even a palm tree, not to mention hidden pools and steps carved into the earth, alongside towering stone archways.
We were lucky enough to visit on a clear sunny day, which only added to the beauty of the grounds. With the exception of the inexplicable tailback we got caught in on the A1 on the way to Belsay, we had a fantastic day out. If you’re ever stuck for a place to visit in the North East, I can highly recommend Belsay Hall. If you would like to catch the Costumes from Austen exhibit, it runs until Monday 26th August – go check it out.