Chillingham castle is set against Northumberland's scenic Cheviot hills, dotted with sheep. The castle was located strategically for the border wars between Scotland and England. It morphed from a stronghold to a totally fortified castle in the 1300s. It was added to during Tudor times.
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In the 18th and 19th centuries a lake, garden, and grounds were added by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, who had used his talents at Windsor castle. An Italian garden was put in place in 1828 and has the longest herbaceous border in northern England. Snowdrops, daffodils, bluebells, and rhododendrons bloom at various times. There is a formal Elizabethan topiary garden and woodland walks.
Since the 1200s the castle has been owned by the Earl Grey family and their relatives. It is the home of Sir Humphry Wakefield, married to an Earl Grey descendant. The castle fell into decay in the 20th century as it was empty. Sir Humphry took over and spent many years working on its restoration.
The castle is reported to be haunted by ghosts, including the blue boy, who moans at midnight near a passage and by Lady Berkeley on the turret stairs.
Staterooms: Antique and modern furniture; patterned silk screening, paintings, enamels; James I drawing room with restored Elizabethan ceiling.
Library: family memorabilia; chimney piece of note.
Edward I room: oldest room in the castle named after 1298 visit of king Edward I; home to the lords of the castle; gothic window; restored to 13th century with furnishings to match.
Medieval banquet halls: great hall is stone flagged with tapestries, armour and weapons, paintings of kings; minstrelsí hall has spears, tapestries, two fireplaces.
Torture chamber and dungeon: antique implements of torture
Chillingham is famous for its unique herd of white cattle, one of the original English herds of wild cattle. The park covers 300 acres which enclosed the cattle in the 13th century. The cattle are dangerous and must be viewed by arranged visit with a park warden.
Near the castle is the small St Peterís church with a 1450 tomb carved with the figures of Sir Ralph Grey and his wife Elizabeth.
Near Alnwick, 2 miles south of B6348 at Catton, Northumberland
Tel. 01668 215359
Web: Chillingham Castle
Open: Easter, May-end Sep, daily except Sat; castle 1-5pm (last entry 4.30pm), grounds and tearoom from noon-5pm. Open 7 days a week July and August
Museum, tearoom, gift shop; self catering accommodation all year.
Note This is a very atmospheric castle and well worth going out of the way to visit. Be sure to eat in the tearoom with its historic ambience.