I love visiting historical places and finding out who lived in them, how they died and what I can get at their cafe. I actually worked at Alnwick Castle years ago and loved every moment of it so it was a very pleasant surprise when daddy presented me with membership passes. We decided to put it to good use straight away and started off with Gibside.
Gibside is based in Rowlands Gill, in County Durham. It’s a short drive from Newcastle upon Tyne by car and there is a bus service that will take you near it. There’s lots of parking spaces and tends to be busy at the weekends due to people using the grounds for a walk.
The estate belonged to the Bowes-Lyons family, of which the the Queen Mother, mother to Elizabeth I came from before she left to get married to whom would eventually be King George VI. The stately home itself is in a state of disrepair and although you can’t enter it(Why would you? It’s in disrepair!) You can still get quite close to it.
Ideally you need to be a member of the national Truest as it would be cheaper to enter that way and besides, the membership gives you access to other historical homes and gardens so if that is your type of thing then a membership might not be so bad. For one-timers though, there is a fixed price at the door. I also noticed that they provide prams with suspensions so as to help you walk about the uneven ground. I found that a great idea but I have a Bugaboo Buffalo which is made for that kind of terrain so didn’t make use of it. It’s also on a first come, first serve basis so I’d advise an early visit if you’re planning to hire them.
The grounds themselves are absolutely beautiful and there’s lots of space for little ones to run around without crashing into each other. There is a little garden hut that you can go into and Alex had lots of fun going into it. We went on a nice, bright and sunny day and the flowers around the garden were in full bloom. As you cross the garden you encounter the Chapel which is still in use today and in fact, you can get married in it. The layout is quite inviting as it’s not the normal congregational layout that you find in churches.
I was told by one of the guides that one of the Countesses that lived at Gibside was very intelligent and studious, something that was looked down upon in that time. Women were not allowed to do anything but get married and give birth but her father gave her an education and it proved a point of contention between her and her husband. I was so intrigued that I decided to read up about her when I got home. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she led a life full of debauchery. Affairs, abortions and all sorts. In fact, her diaries give an insight into what abortion was like in those days. Crazy, but I live for stories like that!
We walked (well Daddy and I did, Alex enjoyed being pushed!) around the gardens for quite a while before deciding to leave the rest for another day. They have a cafe as you enter the grounds with both an indoor and outdoor sitting area. Their cakes, although nice, are very limited both in terms of selection and quantity. They do serve beers and ales and actually, serve Prosecco on their beer and Pizza nights. We’ve been to their Beer And Pizza night and that is a review for another time but suffice to say that we had a nice time!
All in all, Gibside is a nice place for walks, not too much history thrown at you and lots of places to sit and have a picnic whilst enjoying the view. Not sure if it’s to the taste of teenagers due to all the walking and not enough teen action but if it’s your kind of thing, I recommend it.
What other places should I consider visiting?