When I was at home a few weeks ago, I visited Cragside with my friend Elisa. Cragside is a historic Victorian property owned by the National Trust, and I’ve wanted to visit for ages, but being a non-driver, getting there would have been extremely difficult. There are bus connections to nearby Rothbury, with connections from Newcastle Monday to Saturday and a special summer Sunday service to the property, but I thought this sounded like a bit of a hassle, so I was glad when my friend, who has a car, said she would like to go. The house is on the B6341, 15 miles north-west of Morpeth on Coldstream road (A697), and you turn left on to the B6341 at Moorhouse Crossroads, with the entrance three miles on the left. It took us roughly an hour to drive there from Washington (just south of Newcastle/Gateshead), and there was some beautiful scenery en route. A good thing about the site is that parking is both free and plentiful.
When you turn into the estate, you pay an assistant while still in your car. An adult ticket for the garden and the house is £13.80 (£6.90 for children), with lower prices for the garden only and for winter visits. I am a National Trust member so I got in for free.
It was around lunchtime when we arrived so we decided to sit by the lake and eat the picnic food we had brought with us. The scenery was stunning, and it was so quiet and peaceful. We also took the time to look around the small visitor centre – the former stables – and check out the gift shop.
Heading towards the house, we were impressed by the beauty of it and its surroundings. Cragside is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year: it was begun in 1863 by the visionary inventor Sir William, later 1st Lord Armstrong (1810-1900), who decided to build it after recalling happy childhood memories of Northumberland during a visit to Rothbury in 1863. He was devoted to the study of engineering, science and technology, despite having been pushed towards a career in the law by his father, and Cragside became a space where he could experiment and try new things. It was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and it also had a hydraulic passenger lift, a dishwasher, hot and cold running water and a plunge bath – incredible for the time. The house is beautiful as well as technologically advanced, with ornate architecture, beautiful furniture and stunning Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows.
Outside, the house is set in the most beautiful grounds I’ve ever seen. My friend and I walked down the rockery, crossed the bridge and wandered around the wooded areas and the formal gardens. While the house was largely Lord Armstrong’s playground, the garden was the focus of his wife, Lady Margaret Armstrong, who took an active role in its development.
After a cup of tea in the outdoor café, we decided to drive around the estate. There is a specially designed route with a very low speed limit allowing you to travel slowly around the huge estate and take in the scenery. There was much excitement when a deer ran out onto the road in front of us and disappeared into the forest – I’d never seen a deer in real life before so I loved this!
Cragside is a gorgeous place and well worth a visit. If you’re in the north east, it’s a must see: beg, borrow or steal a car to get there if you have to.
Address: Rothbury, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 7PX
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun during the summer; Fri-Sun in winter
Prices: Adult £16.50, Child £8.30