We check in to the Lumley Castle Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Tuesday: Chillingham Castle & Alnwick Castle
We journey to Chillingham Castle where we are welcomed with morning refreshments before enjoying a guided tour. This imposing 12th century stronghold has been owned by one continuous bloodline of the Earls Grey since 1246, who also built the famous dungeons and torture chambers, and is now home to Sir Humphry Wakefield and his family. Later enhancements include Elizabethan Long Galleries and lavish State Rooms, a ‘Capability’ Brown designed park and a glorious Italian garden laid out in the 19th century by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville. Chillingham occupied a strategic position during Northumberland’s bloody border feuds and has also seen Royal patronage through the centuries.
Still home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England. We enjoy a guided tour of the impressive State Rooms, exploring the history of the Percy family through the eclectic array of furniture and art they collected. During much of the Middle Ages, the castle was used as a garrison and a defence for England’s border against attack from Scottish forces. We also have time to visit the superlative Alnwick Garden, set around a cascading fountain, and surrounding ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. The castle featured in several episodes of the hugely popular TV series Downton Abbey.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Wednesday: Raby Castle & Bywell Hall
We make our way to Raby Castle, set in a 200 acre deer park. After morning refreshments, we enjoy a private VIP guided tour of the interior and exterior, with exclusive access to areas of the castle not usually seen by the public. King Cnut owned the estate in the early 11th century but it was the Nevills who built the 14th century castle we see today, now home to Lord Barnard, a direct descendant of the Nevills. The exterior of medieval towers, turrets and embattled walls contrasts with the sumptuous interiors which span Medieval, Regency and Victorian periods and provide a magnificent backdrop for the stunning art collection.
We continue on to Bywell Hall, set in extensive parkland on the banks of the River Tyne. Built in 1760 to designs by architect James Paine and further extended, this Palladian building has been home to the Beaumont family since 1810 and houses an important collection of antique furniture, paintings, ceramics and silver.
This evening, we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Thursday: Naworth Castle & Whalton Manor Gardens
This morning we visit the romantic medieval Naworth Castle, the private ancestral home of the Howard family. We enjoy coffee and biscuits before our exclusive private guided tour by the current owner, Philip Howard. A border stronghold dating back to 1335, the castle was remodelled in the 16th and 17th centuries. Almost destroyed by a devastating fire in 1844, restoration began in 1850 but the interiors were the work of the 9th Earl of Carlisle who counted many of the eminent Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris, among his friends. Naworth is not usually open to the public and we will enjoy a special visit here.
We then head to Whalton Manor Gardens where we enjoy lunch. Set in the grounds of a 17th century house, this three-acre garden was designed by Edwin Lutyens with the help of Gertrude Jekyll. Whalton is bursting with inspirational planting and magnificent architectural structures such as pergolas, game larder, summerhouse and vast stone-paved courtyard. We enjoy an exclusive guided tour of the gardens, which are again not usually open to the public, gaining an insight into their creation and upkeep.
Afterwards, we return to our hotel for an inclusive three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.