Jo’s Monday walk : Belsay Hall and quarry

If there’s anything in life that gives me a kick, it’s a rhododendron!  Find me a quarry full of rhododendrons and perhaps you can imagine the effect. So I was very happy to make a return visit to Belsay Hall in Northumberland, a week or two ago.

Managed by English Heritage, the Belsay estate dates back to 1270, when it was first bought by the Middleton family.  Heritage on the grand scale, it comprises a medieval castle and a Greek Revival mansion from the 19th century, linked by some truly wonderful gardens.

As you can see, it’s not only rhododendrons vying for first place in this beauty contest. Bypassing the more than stately hall, I cannot wait to feast my eyes.  Frilled tulips and those with plainer frocks, delicate iris, and a shy magnolia are just some of the blooms that greet me. The grounds are the very essence of grandeur.  There’s even a croquet lawn, for that most refined of pastimes.

Tree heather lures me on and I find myself shoulder to shoulder with these beauties. Don’t they just sing with colour?

Even looking at them in photographs, I am mesmerised.  But this is only a beginning. Next, the quarry, with its magical patterns of light and shade.

The colours are rich and mellow, and the quarry towers above you.  It’s like a fairy glen, scaled up for a friendly giant.

Are you speechless yet?  I don’t know where I’ve ever seen a better display.  The castle is close by, approached through a bluebell wood.

In this serene and pastoral setting it’s hard to credit that a family would need a castle for protection.  When it was constructed, in the 14th century, conflict and border disputes were commonplace between England and Scotland.  The castle has one of the best preserved examples of a pele tower- built by rich families in this area in the Middle Ages for self defence.

From past experience, castles make a good subject for Paulas’s After and Before in Black and White Sunday.  What do you think?

The Middleton family lived in the castle, with modifications, until the completion of their mansion, at Christmas, 1817.  Inspired by a honeymoon in Greece, Belsay Hall was built with rock carved from their own quarry.  Let’s stroll back round there now, past the lake and the grazing sheep.  I try to get a close up of a cluster of cygnets, but they’re too far away to be more than a splash.

There was an exhibition of quilts taking place inside the hall, but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s adjourn to the tea rooms.

Directions on getting to Belsay are on their website.  I hope you enjoyed our visit. Many thanks for your support and the wonderful contributions I have received again this week.  Details of how to join in are always on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Let’s settle in for a good read:


Almost missed Eunice last week, so she’s starting us off today :

A reservoir ramble

Can there be anywhere lovelier for a dawdle?  Thanks, Drake!

Wet wet streets

Budapest has a lot to recommend it too, as Anabel can show you :

Budapest: Margaret Island and Obuda

Jackie gets up to some strange things, doesn’t she?

Dirty laundry

Geoff, Dog and a lighthouse- I’m happy!

A wander about#sundaywalks

Ann Christine takes us back to terrible times in Irish history, but with a happy ending :

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast

A whole heap of lovely photos from Lady Lee :

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

If ever you’re needing a beautiful view, or three, tap Debbie on the shoulder.  She’ll have them :

Moorish to more Moorish

Becky uses that eagle eye of hers to good effect in the Algarve :

The Military Stairs of Alcoutim

That lass Jude knows how to make me smile.  A splash or two of azalea in a National Trust garden:

Garden Portrait: Coleton Fishacre

SO excited to be sharing this from Madhu!  A small part of her beautiful Indian heritage :

Kashmir – Afoot in Shehr-e-Khas

How would I describe Gabe?  Warm and whimsical, I suppose.  Go and see for yourself :

Hiking in Venice

So lucky and privileged this week!  Another wonderful share from Paula.  Don’t forget to listen too!

Light Catcher

What do you know of Peru?  Not much?  An interesting read here from Jill :

Ollantaytambo at dusk

And, much closer to home, Carol finds me some stone circles :

Walking in Circles

That’s it for another week.  All gems!  Hope you enjoy your long weekend (if you’re having one). Take good care!



  1. oh my goodness, what an amazing display of glorious color! absolutely stunning! the broad-trunked tree at the end was a soothing sight, too..perhaps i’ll sit there for a while and just absorb all that you shared!

    since i last wrote, i’ve been to three tangent points in the province, received a new two-year visa – yay over a year of clearing hurdles – and returned thursday night with a fever… slept most of yesterday and am almost well again today… found marcos, who had been looking for me and was told i was out of town.. he will need what they call here a ‘cotigo’ which is like a routing number given by MoGr for that particular transaction… feel free to remove this part of my comment….

    again, the flowers and gardens are stunning… i felt as if i’d stepped into the story, Rebecca..
    “Last night I dreamt I was at Manderley again……”


    1. Sorry about the fever, Lisa. You do too much, but I’m sure you know that. 🙂 🙂 Thank you for the kind words. It was a truly lovely day.
      I understood there would be a receit number but I did not get a confirming email. I only know the money was removed from our account. I will email them and ask. So sorry for the delay. Sending hugs!

      1. No problem, sorry it’s not been the easiest gift for you to share… my fever was, i suspect, a result of being in a heavily polluted city… it’s good to be back in the quiet where the air is much better… alas, that visa was a very big hurdle, one of relief..

        look forward to another walk with you soon!

  2. A burst of color and beauty, Jo. Personally, I like the colored version of the castle better than the B&W one. Might have to do with that blue sky. 🙂 Or, the vibrant display above it.

  3. What a stunningly beautiful and serene place Jo! The colours and the backdrop of the castle are wonderful. Uplifting at a sad time – Mlle was in a London bar about a mile away on Saturday night dreadful for those not so lucky. Still there is so much beauty in the world and your post reminds us of that. Take care and have a good week xx 🙂

    1. This was one of my best posts, I thought, Rosemay, and a complete contrast with this week. 🙂 Even the weather behaved itself for the concert. It’s not stopped raining today and is set to continue all week. I’m watching the French Open and hoping it stays dry there. Sending hugs, darlin.

      1. A lovely post Jo thanks – your photos are amazing and you capture the essence of the place! Sorry to hear about the rain this week but enjoy watching the tennis! Hugs too 🙂

    1. Thanks darlin! 🙂 🙂 I should be working on my walk for tomorrow but I’m distracted by the sunshine in the garden. I think it’s our last sunny one for a while so I’m severely tempted.

      1. I haven’t dared put the TV on yet. It was compulsive viewing just before we went to bed but they had little idea of the scale or casualties. Our son was at the races at Epsom on a birthday bash with friends and I was hoping against hope that they hadn’t gone into the city to complete the celebrations. You’re right- you just never know!

  4. What totally blissful blooms, and a fascinating location . You’ve done us proud, but then you always do. Am a bit fed up that I’m lagging behind, taking your Monday walk on Thursday. Slow coach me!

  5. Jo, I was hooked at ‘a quarry full of rhododendrons’! Fairy glen is a perfect description and I wouldn’t want to leave this place – pure natural magic and the blooms are delightful. It’s interesting with the After and Before photos…the hall looks more imposing and sinister in the B/W shots; more genteel and approachable in colour! Thank you for sharing your day out, its garden and history and I look forward to reading more about the quilt exhibition later! 😀

    1. Hi Annika 🙂 I seem to have had my share of dramatic settings this year, and I’m sure you’d love this one. A quick look at the quilts on Saturday.

  6. So very impressive, Jo! You beautiful images remind me the first time I saw rhododendrons in Europe, it was at Verona. I was stunned…
    Gorgeous captures. 🙂

  7. Wow what an incredible display of flowers Jo! I LOVE LOVE LOVE flowers so I would have definitely been speechless and snapping away. What a beautiful place!

  8. I would be very happy to accompany you through this garden. Lots of lovely blooms and I really like the colour of that iris. Been a bit cloudy down here recently though I did manage a couple of beach visits with the granddaughters. Still not feeling good though, nauseous, dizzy and kidney pain. Sigh… and totally cannot be bothered to write any blogs. But I will try and visit some – I have been rather neglectful lately.

    1. I was wondering today if you were ok. I knew you had company at the weekend but I thought they’d be gone by now, and you usually schedule when you know you’ll be busy. Sounds like you need to visit the quack’s, Jude. Not much Summer here this week but I’ve got the French to keep an eye on. Tsonga engaged in a late session right now. Sending gentle hugs 🙂 🙂

      1. Thanks Jo. I am definitely out of sorts, but hate going to the Dr. I’ll give it until after the weekend and if I still feel bad I shall make an appointment. Hate feeling so lethargic…

  9. This is such a joyous celebration of summer Jo. The medieval stones are an added bonus. And tea too 🙂 Thank you for the link back.

  10. what a gorgeous place, Jo! the flowers are exquisite, truly a feast to the eyes! thank you for a lovely tour! such a wonderful treat 🙂

  11. Flowers, harumph! But I did enjoy the walk through that quarry. And the castle itself. Would love to see it in person, so to speak. Maybe one day. Who knows. I enjoyed your walk. Even the flowers, but please don’t tell anyone!

  12. Rhododendrons don’t grow well where we live so I don’t see them often. How gorgeous is this whole garden – it would be easy to spend the whole day wandering and taking a multitude of photographs.

    1. It would, and I’ve never seen it looking better, Carol. Sometimes we’ve arrived when the rhodies are almost done blooming but this time they just lit the place up. 🙂 🙂

    1. There are some real beauties, aren’t there? Some of the tulips were past their best but it was just a riot of colour. I never saw the place looking better. 🙂 🙂

  13. Can’t tell you how long I’ve been working to get included in one of Jo’s Monday Walks! (I know the fault is mine for not writing a what I consider a walk-worthy post until now)

    And seeing the rhododendron photos takes me back to the Appalachian Trail. There is a stretch in North Carolina and Virginia that we hikers call the “green tunnel.” Rhododendron grow in thick arching swaths on either side of the trail and entertwine above our heads. It’s so thick, hardly any sunlight breaks through and these tunnels go on for hundreds of meters at a stretch. It’s beautiful and serene and fragrant.

    I’m sure I’ve walked past there blooms, but the photos you share here are so much more captiviating and vivid. (Guess I was too busy huffing and puffing my way up the Trail to pay enough attention).

    Thank you very much for sharing this walk with us Jo and I look forward to visiting many of the others throughout the week!

  14. Definitely speechless, what a fab place. I have that shy magnolia, or should say ‘had’ (for this year anyway) because the frost early in May clobbered it.

  15. What a beautiful post to wake up to Jo. Those frilled tulips stole the show for me. I’ve never seen anything like them. Would love to explore the castle and grounds. I especially loved your photos looking skyward. Really gave the sense of walking right beside you. Have a fabulous day Jo. You’ve given mine a lovely start.

      1. Yes, I know the feeling it’s like a greenhouse 🙂
        It is 12 degrees down in temperature here in Denmark today with westerly wind. Huge shift – Shiver! 🙂

  16. What an amazing place, Jo. ‘It’s like a fairy glen, scaled up for a friendly giant.’ Now that is quite a line, and quite a way to describe such a beautiful place. So many flowers, and sheep and the birds and lakes too. It really is like walking through a fairytale wonderland, and the weather also looked like a treat. Never played croquet in my life, but it looks like such an easygoing activity. You had tea there? Hope it was a good snack 🙂

    1. I had a very tasty brie and cranberry toastie, Mabel, but I was hungry after all that fresh air and gobbled it up before I thought to take a snap. 🙂 🙂 Yes, it certainly is a fabulous place.

  17. Beautiful place, I am a sucker for Castles and I love Rhododendrons . The Spring is such a fabulous time to enjoy these very special flowers. Thank you Jo for this gorgeous walk😄

    1. It’s a beauty, isn’t it? It’s damp and grey today but I do have some wonderful memories. Many thanks, Gilda! Have you a Bank Holiday plan? 🙂 🙂

    1. Maybe not today, Miriam. There’s a forecast for heavy rain. 😦 But still, I could imagine rain pattering through the gullies 🙂 🙂 Thanks darlin! Have a great week!

      1. Laid back chat for birthday and cheesecake. Twins can ride bikes with pedals, say “r”, and plant and pull up radishes. They can also nag to go to the swimming pool and the fountain.

  18. Almost speechless but you know me!!
    This is stunning absolutely stunning, when can I move in?! Wonderful walk Jo thank you, and thanks also for the link up. Happy Monday Walks 😊
    PS clearly you’ve never played croquet with my family. Vicious game 😉

    1. Remind me if I ever suggest croquet to you, and I have no idea what it would take to render you speechless, Becky 🙂 🙂 Sending hugs! Nice place for high tea.

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