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Cragside (Rothbury)

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      26.04.2013 22:44
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      Well worth a visit especially if you are a member of the National Trust or can get a voucher.

      I visited Cragside on a residents weekend special, meaning with a voucher we got in for free, we picked Cragside (there were several choices) as it's somewhere i've always wanted to visit and never quite got around to.

      I have to say it definitely lived up to my expectations, the place is huge and you could easily spend a day there, I think we were there about 4 hours.

      Cragside consists of a house and garden, although that description doesn't really do it justice, as there's also outbuildings, and a huge estate you can drive around.

      The House
      This started as a Victorian weekend retreat built by Lord Armstrong, and was later extended to become a mansion. It had the first hydroelectric power station, and the first electric lights made by Joseph Swan.

      Today the building still has many strange and technologically advanced for the time things, including one which fascinated me, a hydro powered cog system for turning a spit to roast meat. You can see most of the workings of this machine from the spit in the kitchen, to the pulleys and cogs under the floor, and in the cellar below. It was something that amazed me, as I couldn't help thinking that's a lot of effort just to roast some meat to perfection. There is also a hydroelectric powered lift from the cellar to the kitchen, and a turkish style bathroom. The house also has the usual assortment of drawing rooms, a library and bedrooms, as well as some nice art work and not so nice (at least for me) stuffed animals. There are also several informative guides, one of whom kindly explained the working of a snooker scoring board (I was looking at it thinking what is that), and another explained the workings of an early water syphon for making fizzy water later used by a mr schweppes.

      Outbuildings
      These include the visitor centre, which appears to be in old stables. These contain a shop, cafe (reasonably priced in comparison to local cafes), and a small museum explaining the house and estate, and with a demonstration of how the water gets from the man made lakes at a rate quick enough to make electric. You can also visit the pump house (we did it shows the water pumping from the lake and turning machinery) and a power house we didn't walk to.

      Gardens
      There are various tracks leading from the car park connecting the house with all the out buildings, and sections of the garden. To give you an idea of how vast the estate is there is a free hopper bus between places. There is also a road going around the estate.

      We walked from the bottom car park along a small path to the house. After visiting the house we went down through the rock garden across the iron bridge and then took the trail towards the pump house. From the bridge there is a choice of several routes to take in the pinetum, formal gardens and power house, but we chose the one leading to the pump house as it also leads back towards the cafe.

      The part of the garden we saw was beautiful, and this was in a cold spring in Northumberland when pretty much nothing was growing, I would imagine in summer when the garden is in full bloom it's spectacular.

      The grounds actually surround the house and include a formal garden, pinetum, 3 lakes, rhododendron labyrinth and adventure playground. There is a narrow road you can use to drive around the grounds, and several car parks, although we never saw these.

      While we were there at least one of the paths through the woods was closed due to the bad weather Northumberland has had over the winter. So if you were visiting the gardens this year that could be a consideration.

      Getting There
      Cragside is just outside the town of Rothbury in Northumberland. It is situated just of the B6341, worth noting is the fact that the alternate road to Rothbury the B6344 (and shorter from Newcastle direction) is closed due to a landslide, and I think it will be a few years before it reopens.

      There are two car parks, access is hilly and twisty, but a good tarmac road.

      Cost
      Adults £13.80 house & garden
      Children £6.90 house & garden

      Adults £8.90 gardens
      Children £4.50 gardens

      Family tickets are also available, and the gardens are cheaper to visit in winter. Cragside is a National Trust property so free to members.

      In Summary
      I really enjoyed the visit as there was loads to see and do. I'm not sure I would rush back though as it's a bit on the pricey side of a day out,especially if there's a few of you. I do know people though who have had family days out there and really enjoyed it.

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        24.03.2010 16:18
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        Perfect for all the family

        Cragside is located just outside the small town of Rothbury in Northumberland. It's easy to find and well signposted.

        Cragside was the home of Lord William Armstrong who built it in the 1860s. It started out as a small two story house, but was extended several times, ending up as the house we see today - a large Tudor style mansion. The house is set into a rocky hillside and the grounds very large. Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power, using incandescent lamps invented by Joseph Swann.

        There are lots of things to see and do here and will easily take up a whole day! There is a shuttle bus which will take you from the Visitors Centre up to the house, but as it is only 10 minutes walk there seems little point unless you are unsteady on your feet. The walk involves going through the rock garden. When I went there was no flowers out, but I can imagine during the summer months it would look fabulous.

        The house is jam packed with things to see and is set out in such a way that it is impossible to miss anything. Each major room has a guide who is on hand to answer any questions you may have. There is also lots of information in the form of leaflets about the rooms without a guide. Visit the kitchen, dining room and more downstairs before heading up to the first floor where there is a number of different bedrooms, all beautifully decorated, many still have the original wallpaper and furniture.

        Other things to see and do within the estate include the beautiful walks surrounding the house. Cross the recently refurbished Iron Bridge and you could have easily been transported back in time. The wooded area is sso peaceful and serene, it's easy to relax and forget the rest of the world exists! There are lots of different routes to follow, some wooded and some go by the man made lakes of which the estate has five.

        If you're not much of a walker, you can still experience the grounds, there is a 6 mile one way road which goes round the estate. From this road you can see all of the beauty Cragside has to offer and there are several car parks on the route, ideal places to stop for a picnic or just to take in the atmosphere.

        Within the Visitors Centre is a small restaurant. It was very clean and the food looked appetising if a little on the expensive side. There is also a gift shop and toilets here which were very clean. There are more toilets within the house.

        The estate has nine car parks, I parked in the one nearest the Visitors Centre and it was quite large, but had a number of potholes! Admission to the estate is suspended when all of the car parks are full.

        Opening times vary quite a lot during the year, so it's probably best to check with The National Trust website before travelling.

        This is one of The National Trust properties that operate the Gift Aid Admission scheme. Non-members are offered a choice of Standard admission or Gift Aid Admission. The Gift Aid Admission includes a 10 per cent voluntary donationplus it enables The National Trust to reclaim tax on the whole amount paid which is an extra 28%.

        House,Gardens and Estate
        Adults £13.90 or £12.60
        Children £7 or £6.30
        Family £34.70 or £31.50

        Gardens and Estate
        Adults £9 or £8.10
        Children £4.60 or £4.10)
        Family £21.60 or £19.60

        Winter (November/December)
        Adult £4.40 or £4
        Children £2 or £1.80
        Family £10.40 or £9.35

        If you are planning on visiting Cragside again or any other National Trust property, it may be worth Joining The National Trust. Membership for a family (2 adults and their children or grandchildren) costs just £63.38 if you join online and pay by direct debit which can lead to quite a saving.

        I would really recommed Cragside as a place to visit, suitable for all the family.

        Also published elsewhere.

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        31.12.2009 00:32
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        A great day out.

        One of my favourite places to visit here in Northumberland is Cragside. Situated in Rothbury,Morpeth, it is easily reached from the B6341 which runs between the A1 and A68 in Northumberland.
        It is well signposted and following brown tourist signs will bring you to the entrance on the B6341, 15 miles North West of Morpeth and 13 miles South West of Alnwick.
        The post code for sat navs is NE65 7PX.

        Home of Lord Armstrong who was a Victorian inventor, innovator and landscape genius, responsible for developing the hydraulic accumulator. Cragside House was a wonder of its age as it was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity.

        The Gardens & Estate :-
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        Cragside is an ideal place for a family day out and there is nothing better than taking a picnic here on a warm sunny day. ( Yes we do get them sometimes!) There are many ideal spots to relax and have your picnic within the grounds.
        What you have to bear in mind when visiting though, is that some of the ground is uneven, with steep and sometimes slippery footpaths which make going between various parts of the property difficult. So don't wear high heels!
        Having said that, the walks are lovely and the scenery beautiful, with Cragside House built upon a rocky crag high above Debdon Burn.
        Whether you choose to stroll along the lake or take a strenuous hike, the walks here are part of what makes it a special place I love to visit. There are 40 miles of footpaths within 1,000 acres of wooded estate.

        You can explore Cragside on foot or by car it is up to you, but you must be careful as pedestrians and cars share the same routes in places. Around nine car parks are dotted around the estate.

        Old carriage drives go up to the top of the hill and intricate paths and steps wind their way through crags, burns and woodland.
        You can follow the Debdon Burn through a series of pools and falls from Tumbleton Lake. Along the way you can see stunning views of the house, especially from the Douglas Fir Grove. Follow the path to Pinetum; Lord Armstrong's collection of exotic conifers.
        If you are feeling strenuous you can wander off the beaten track and climb to some good vantage spots which provide stunning views of the Coquet Valley.

        The gardens at Cragside are pretty special too. Apart from the conifers I have already mentioned, one of the largest hand made rock gardens in Europe surrounds the house. There is always a spectacular display of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in bloom in May-June.
        Children will love exploring Nelly's Labyrinth, which is a network of winding paths and tunnels cut out of a large Rhododendron forest. It is advisable to stay with your children though as you can get lost!

        An adventure play area is also provided for children, and a 'Trim Trail' which is a fitness and agility trail for both children and adults.
        A clock tower overlooks the formal gardens on the estate which cover three terraces. Benches are placed around the formal gardens for you to sit and enjoy the views.

        What made our visit this year even more special, was that for the first time in 30 years, visitors were at last able to cross the Iron Bridge at Cragside. Following repair and restoration work, the bridge was at last opened to the public. It was originally built in the 1870's and was the path between the house and garden. Walking across the bridge gives you some great views of the house.

        The house :-
        ~~~~~~~~~

        The house itself, as I mentioned at the start, was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity and inside there is a room with displays explaining how this was achieved.
        The house is also crammed with gadgets from an ingenious pulley system for the dishes in the kitchen, to a sunken bath in one of the suites.
        Touch screen computers in one of the rooms also provide you with a virtual tour of the house.
        You are free to wander around the suites, library, sitting and dining rooms and as well as the rooms and suites, there are exhibitions of animals and shells in an upstairs gallery.

        I love Owls, and adored the ornate Owls carved upon the beds in one of the suites, thus providing the name - The Owl Suite. This suite was used by the Prince and Princess of Wales who later became Queen Victoria, when they visited Cragside. Armstrong entertained several other eminent guests at Cragside, including the Shah of Persia, the King of Siam and the prime minister of China.
        Down in the basement there is a Victorian sauna and plunge pool which is most impressive.

        Refreshments and Gift Shop:-
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        I prefer to take a picnic when I visit, but there is a self-service restaurant serving Victorian meals as well as children's meals and snacks.

        There is an information hut where you can pick up leaflets etc and also a gift shop selling the usual souvenirs and National Trust goods.

        Admission prices & Opening Times :-
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        National Trust members are admitted free. If you are not a member then the admission prices are as follows :-

        February - November.
        House, Gardens & Estate
        Adults £12.20
        Child £ 6.00
        Family £ 30.00

        Gardens & Estate only
        Adults £7.70
        Child £3.15
        Family £18.55

        4th Nov - 20th Dec - Gardens & Estate only
        Adults £3.80
        Child £1.70
        Family £8.60

        Opening times are generally 11am - 5pm, you can check the National Trust website for further info, email - cragside@nationaltrust.org.uk or Tel. 01669 620333

        Cragside does not have the facilities for you to pay admission via debit/credit cards so you MUST take cash with you.

        Cragside is a beautiful place to visit and can get very busy on warm days. I usually just visit the gardens and estate, taking a picnic, though for your first visit I would reccomend a visit to the house also.
        Whether you like to walk around or drive through the 6 mile one way drive through the estate, there is some stunning scenery.
        Overall it is a truly lovely place to spend a day.

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          11.06.2009 21:54
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          National trust house in Northumberland

          We are always looking for interesting places to take our children for a day out and Cragside in Northumberland comes near the top of our list of favourite places. Cragside is a Victorian house, garden and estate that now belongs to the National Trust. Let me tell you why I rate it so highly!

          Getting there.
          ************
          Cragside is situated in Northumberland, 1 mile north of the small town of Rothbury. It is 13 miles south west of Alnwick and 15 miles North West of Morpeth.I am not going to give you detailed directions as you can get these from the AA route finder or any map! However I will say that Cragside is well signposted from all directions.

          Arriving via public transport is not really an option I'm afraid, so you will need a car to get there. Once inside the estate distances between the various parts of the property are great so you will need a car to get around.

          Arriving.
          *******
          On arrival you will be stopped at the entrance drive .Cragside does not accept credit or debit cards so you will need to have your cash ready. If you are members of the National Trust entry is free, so have your membership cards ready. You will be given a map of the estate with basic information to help you get the best from your visit. It is worth noting that the house doesn't open until 1 pm at the moment so if you are arriving early then you might want to take some time to explore the grounds first.

          Parking.
          *******
          Parking is free and there are 9 car parks situated around the estate. There are also designated parking bays for those with disabilities. I suggest you head for the main upper level car park and park near to the information hut. From here it is only a short walk to the house, but this car park is also the most convenient to explore the rock garden, pinetum and Iron Bridge.

          The House.
          **********
          Before you reach the house you will spot the information hut. It really is worth calling in to pick up some of the excellent leaflets on offer. I recommend the one on wildlife, well worth the 30p cost! The House is built on a rocky crag high above the Debdon burn and looms above you as you approach. If you have children be aware that cars will be passing through the entrance arch at the same time as you, so take care! Once through the arch there are toilets on your left. There are no toilets in the house .The entrance into the house is via the hallway. There is a welcome desk here and you will need to show your tickets or National Trust pass. You are not allowed to take buggies into the house but you can borrow baby slings or hip carriers.

          From the hall you are free to explore at your own pace. The House was the Home of Lord Armstrong who was considered an inventor and landscape genius of the Victorian age. The house is amazing and full of interesting items. In the Kitchen you can see an early Victorian dishwasher and a spit turned by water power. There is *food* on the table waiting to be prepared and a mouse and trap on the floor. Lord Armstrong invented a pulley system so used dishes could be pulled up and down to the scullery to save the maid from having to use the stairs.


          There is a sitting room and library as well as a dining room. All the rooms are full of interesting objects from the period. There are plenty of family portraits on the walls. Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity and there is a room with displays explaining how this was achieved. If you are interested you will enjoy a visit to the pump house situated just below the Iron Bridge.

          On the second floor there is a long gallery with a huge collection of shells from around the world, in addition to several cases containing stuffed animals and birds. The house was visited by the Prince and Princess of wales who later became Queen Victoria. The suite of rooms used by the royal couple can be visited. The suite is called the owl suite because of the owls carved on the beds. One of the rooms contains an intriguing sunken bath.

          There are several other bedrooms to see .My children enjoy looking at the children's room complete with Victorian toys. On the very top floor there is a room with touch screen computers that will give you a virtual tour of the house and explain what to see. There is also a small playroom with a few toys and puzzles for children to use. I wasn't particularly impressed with this room and think more effort could be made!

          In the basement there is a fascinating Victorian sauna with a beautifully tiled plunge pool, not something you would expect to find in a Victorian mansion!

          The estate.
          *********
          Cragside has over 40 acres of gardens and grounds. I strongly recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes as the ground is often steep and uneven. Immediately below the house is the rock garden. This has some very unusual plants and covers over 4 acres. The rocks used are huge slabs and everything is on a grand scale.

          The dramatic, newly restored, Iron Bride is situated below the rock garden. The Bridge was originally built in the 1870's to carry the path between the house and garden. My children love crossing the Bridge and it gives great views back towards the house.

          There is a pinetum with a collection of various conifers and you can also see England's tallest Douglas fir.

          The formal gardens are situated at the far end of the estate and approximately 15 minutes walk away. The formal gardens cover 3 acres and are laid out on three terraces. There is a clock tower overlooking the gardens that dates from 1865.It is worth taking time to look inside the glass house used to grow fruit. It was designed by Lord Armstrong and makes it possible for each plant to receive an equal amount of light. There is a Dahlia walk and an Italian terrace. There are several benches around the Formal garden so you can sit and take in the views of the garden and surrounding countryside beyond.

          If you have children then you should leave time to visit the adventure playground. If your little ones are tired then you can drive and park in the Crozier car park near by. The playground is suitable for children up to 12. Although small the playground has a pulley swing, climbing frames and swings. My children have always enjoyed the playground and usually make some new friends too. There are several picnic benches situated at the playground so you can sit and watch your children.

          The labyrinth is another favourite with my children. This is a network of paths and tunnels cut from numerous Rhododendrons. We were at Cragside last Sunday and the Rhododendrons were amazing! This is a great place for children to play hide and seek but watch you don't get lost!

          The so called trim trail is another good walk to do with children over 10.There are 4 fitness stations each with various of equipment such as bars to swing along, designed to test strength and agility. There is a picnic bench at the first site. This walk is great because the children are always keen to get to the next stop!

          Refreshments.
          *************
          We always take a picnic when we visit Cragside and there are plenty of picnic benches. There is a restaurant that serves snacks and sandwiches as well as hot meals, cakes and ice creams. We have never eaten here but have looked at the menu and the food is on the expensive side. The restaurant is situated in the old stables and has both inside and outside seating for when the sun shines!

          Visitor centre.
          ************
          The visitor centre is situated next to the restaurant. I have not actually been inside the centre so can't comment other than to tell you it exists! There are toilets with baby changing facilities next to the visitor centre. I have always found the toilets spotlessly clean.

          The shop.
          *********
          The shop is opposite to the restaurant and sells all the usual National Trust goods in addition to plants from the estate. The prices are on the high side but the quality of most goods on sale is excellent.

          Other information.
          ****************

          Visitors with disabilities.
          *********************
          Cragside is a large estate and the distances between each part are not small. The ground is uneven and the paths steep in places. Many paths are not suitable for wheelchair users. However it is possible to drive around the estate, a distance of 6 miles. There are designated disabled parking bays available. It is also possible to drop a disabled passenger at the door of the house before parking your car.

          There is a ramp to access the house and it is possible to have the loan of a wheelchair, although there are only 2 available. There is wheelchair access to 8 rooms on the ground floor and a lift to the second floor giving access to 5 rooms. There are Braille and large print guides available from the reception in the house. Assistance dogs are welcome in all parts of Cragside. I suggest you pick up a leaflet from the information hut by the house for more information.

          The Cragside hopper.
          *****************
          This is a frequent free mini bus service that runs between the visitor centre, formal gardens and house. It is a useful service for tired feet!

          Estate drive.
          ************
          It is possible to explore Cragside with your car via the 6-mile one way drive. There are signs to help you identify the various walks. The estate closes at 7pm or dusk and there is no access onto the drive one hour prior to closing.

          Entrance costs.
          *************
          I am not going to give you a full list of prices as these can be found on the national trusts web site. However at the moment summer rates apply and an adult ticket including the house and garden, costs £12 with a child ticket costing £6.00. Children under 3 are free. A family ticket costs £30. If you just want to visit the garden and grounds then an adult ticket will cost £7.70 and a child ticket will cost £3.15 with a family ticket costing £18.55. National trust members have free entry to both house and gardens.

          Opening times.
          *************
          Again I suggest you check the web site before a visit. The opening hours are restricted in the winter. If you are planning a winter visit then I suggest you phone ahead before you visit, as Cragside can be closed due to ice. Paths are steep and can get slippery. We have been caught out!

          In the summer the house is open from 1-5 pm and the grounds and garden from10.30 until 5pm, although once inside you can remain until 7pm. The hours will change on July 24th. The house and grounds are closed on Mondays.

          My verdict.
          **********
          As you will have guessed I love Cragside! It has something for everyone, a beautiful house filled with intriguing objects, an adventure playground, trails with interest for older children and beautiful grounds and gardens. Even on a busy day you should be able to find areas where you can be alone with nature.

          If you enjoy looking for wildlife then you may be lucky and spot a red squirrel, although we haven't seen any for a while. There are also many species of birds and butterflies to look. The wildlife leaflet on sale in the information hut will list all the animals and birds you might spot. Cragside really is one of England's finest!

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            29.04.2003 21:26
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            • "Bad signposting at the exit"

            Cragside House is surely one of the most prominent National Trust properties in the north of England - and probably the most remarkable, too. Having lived in the north east since I began university in Durham back in 1997, I have been well aware of its proximity but frustratingly unable to visit it until very recently. You see, as with most of the National Trust's great houses, it is out in the middle of nowhere, inaccessible to the non-motoring public (*mutters under breath about inadequacy of public transport*). However, this April began with me getting my very first car - and an eagerness to start seeing the region I lived in properly for the first time. First stop: Cragside on its opening weekend. - Getting There Cragside is situated in northern Northumberland, just outside of the village of Rothbury (15 miles NW of Morpeth, 13 miles SW of Alnwick). Getting to this remote spot is fairly straightforward though, as it is not that far from the A1 - just take the junction for the A697 that is marked with a brown National Trust sign, and keep on following subsequent signs that will bring you to the estate. It took me an hour to reach Cragside from Newcastle, but I would have thought that it was possible for a day trip from as far away as Edinburgh or Durham. - When you arrive... Just inside the entrance to the estate you will need to stop outside a toll booth to gain admission - so make sure you have your membership cards or entrance fee to hand. Admission is free to members of the National Trust, with non-members paying £7.20 for adults, £3.60 for children or £18 for a family ticket. All visitors are given a free map of the estate with their tickets. The estate itself is absolutely huge, with there being four main areas to visit - the house, the stable block, the gardens and the rest of the grounds. - The Stable Block This is the first port of call for most visitors arriving at Cragside, as it is
            where the toilets and café are located! The stable block also has a visitor information centre though, making it a good point to begin finding out about the estate. The displays include a 3D model of the estate, leaflets mapping out walks through the grounds (at 20p each) and a small exhibition on Lord Armstrong, the builder of Cragside. The display is pretty basic, but it does allow you to get some idea of how and why the house was built - and of the engineering genius of Armstrong, who amongst other things invented the breech loading canon and established Armstrong College in Newcastle (now part of the university). The café - which I of course sampled in order to bring you a full report - is of a reasonable size, with plenty of seating and home cooked food on offer. National Trust cafes tend to have a reputation of being expensive but serving up excellent food, and this one was no exception. The café serves a choice of three meals each day (one meat, one fish, one vegetarian), a soup of the day, sandwiches and cakes; not a huge selection, admittedly, but all of it was good quality and the food I had was delicious (toffee apple pie - mmmmm). However, as the house itself does not open until 1pm, you tend to have a lot of people arriving on the estate intending to have lunch in the café before going up to the house - which means there is a huge rush of people all trying to be fed between 12.30pm and 1pm. I would really recommend you try avoiding this time if you want to eat here, as the queues were very long and the service was slow; by the time I actually managed to get seated with my food it had started to go cold as I had been waiting for so long to pay for it. The other thing I would advise is to consider taking a packed lunch if you have a large family, as otherwise your bill will be through the roof - there are plenty of picnic tables in attractive spots though, so this will not be much of a hardship. ;-) Also located in the stable bl
            ock is the shop - no National Trust property is complete without one! The goods on sale are pretty much standard across all properties; such things as NT and local history books, toys and badges for children, speciality foods and things such as mugs with Cragside pictured on them. Again all good quality, but not cheap. Personally, I rarely buy goods from these shops for myself, but have found them to be a useful source of gift ideas. - The House Built in the 1880s, Cragside House certainly lives up to its name - it is built into a rugged hillside overlooking Rothbury and the surrounding moors and forests. At the time of building, it was thought of as a "palace of a modern magician" by Victorian society, as no one had never quite seen anything like it. Lord Armstrong had applied the engineering genius that made him wealthy to creating not only a mansion in the most dramatic setting, but also into equipping it with the very latest in innovation. To start with, Armstrong built a pumping house to bring fresh water up to the house from the river running through the valley below. He then used this water to provide en suite bathrooms, showers, a Turkish bath suite and hot running water throughout Cragside. And if that wasn't enough, his house also had a passenger lift, fire alarms and central heating - and was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. Although occasional tours of the house are on offer, for most visitors it will be up to you to make your way around the house. Small guide booklets can be bought on the way into the house (around the 80p mark as I recall), and there are volunteer stewards placed in most rooms to answer any questions you might have as you pass through. Having worked as a volunteer in a National Trust house, I can tell you that most of these stewards are highly knowledgeable and are usually eager to share this knowledge with interested visitors - so don't be afraid to ask
            . In fact, I would positively encourage you to ask about things as it will only increase your enjoyment and understanding of what you are seeing. The interior of Cragside House is a mixture of styles, ranging from Victorian Gothic to décor from the mid-twentieth century, giving it a very mixed-up and eclectic feel. You won?t see the ballrooms and imperialist splendour of the older country house that NT visitors might be more familiar with, mind, but what you will see is something truly unique and remarkable. The whole time I was there I had to keep reminding myself that this house was built 120 years ago - Armstrong was so ahead of his time that Cragside manages to feel very modern, while at the same time retaining some of the more traditional elements of the gentleman's country residence. It really stands out in my mind from all of the other properties I have visited (and there have been many, I can tell you). Touring the house will take you 1 to 2 hours. - The Gardens Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not a gardener. I know nothing about plants and usually find the gardens to be the least enjoyable part of any visit I make to a NT country house - probably because I don't have the same understanding and appreciation of them as I do of the historic buildings. Cragside, though, is very different to what you might think of as a NT garden. From its perch on the hillside, Cragside House overlooks one of the largest rock gardens in Europe (and I am talking large enough to have its own signposted walk through it) that leads down into the valley below. In the valley - amongst the seven million trees that make up the forest garden - is the Armstrong Walk that will take you through the most significant parts of the estate. This walkway has a clearly marked and signposted path and leads visitors to the pump house that brought water up to the house, the formal gardens, the river and gives you ample scenic views t
            o the house and over Rothbury. Although the path is not very long, it is uneven and quite steep in places so is unsuitable for wheelchair access and anyone who is unsteady on their legs. I would strongly recommend that anyone intending to do this walk should make sure they are wearing something suitable on their feet - not necessarily hiking boots you understand, just something strong enough to walk comfortably in and that you wouldn't mind getting a little muddy. - The Grounds The Cragside Estate covers an impressive 1000 acres of woods and open country. Although parts of these grounds are designated wildlife and conservation areas, the National Trust has mapped out numerous pathways for you to explore at your leisure. The use of the grounds for walking is very popular in the local area, and when I was there I saw no end of people in hiking gear turning up purely for this. If you do intend to do some walking around Cragside, then you can buy guides for 20p each from the stable block information centre that will give you routes of varying length and difficulty. Do remember that you need proper walking shoes/boots and kit such as bottled water and waterproofs with you to do this - away from the gardens it is serious walking territory and you need to be adequately prepared for your own safety and comfort. - Worth a visit? I have to say that yes, Cragside is certainly worth a visit - I thoroughly enjoyed mine, despite having to wait 6 years before I could get there! Although admission prices are quite steep if you are not a member, you get a lot for your money and can easily spend a whole day there. There is plenty of parking, good food, great views and one of the most amazing historic houses I have ever visited on offer - not to mention the fact that by visiting you are helping to support the work of Europe's largest conservation charity. My only real complaint about the property is that the one-way system of roads
            means you exit a long way from where you came in - and the signposts are awful. Given that there will be many visitors who are non-local, the powers that be really need to do something about this. I got lost trying to find my way back to the A1, and although the diversion wasn't serious, it does end the day with you cursing the NT a little for neglecting their visitors in this way. Overall, recommended. Suitable for outdoors types, history lovers, garden fans and families. As long as they have cars. - Details... Cragside is open this year from April 1st - the house closes on November 2nd, but the grounds are open until 21st December. The estate is open 10.30am until 7pm (11am to 4pm November and December), the house from 1pm to 5.30pm (4.30pm September to November). The shop and café are open from when the estate opens its gates until when the house close. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. National Trust members enter for free. Non-members pay £7.20 for adults and £3.60 for children, with family tickets at £18. Wheelchair access is available to most of the house and to the shop and restaurant, but not to the gardens. Contact Cragside on: cragside@nationaltrust.org.uk or on (01669) 620333. As with all NT properties, heeled shoes are not allowed to be worn inside the house and indoor photography is only allowed with prior permission from the manager.

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              14.04.2002 19:51
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              National Trust property in Northumberland

              My favourite National Trust property in the north of England is without a doubt Cragside House, Garden and Estate in Rothbury Northumberland.

              A BIT ABOUT THE HOUSE


              Situated on a rugged hillside, the house was built by the 1st Lord Armstrong in the late 1860's and by the late 1880's had hot and cold running water, central heating, telephones and a Turkish bath, but most of all, it was the first house in the world to be lit by hyroelectricity. The house is full of nooks and crannies and over thirty rooms are currently on show to the public. Some of the rooms are in dark "Old English" decor while others are light and Oriental.My favourite rooms are the kitchen and the dining room. This is probably because I spend so much time in them in my own home!


              The kitchen.
              The kitchen has lots of character and is uneven in height. There is a huge aga type oven with a range of cast iron pans, too heavy I would have thought for most people nowadays to lift. Over the sink sits an amusing, primitive early form of a dishwasher. An interesting addition is the cook's account books which are displayed on the kitchen table. Also on the table, a range of home made pies and cakes. Strung up, a couple of dead rabbits, half a pig, a brace of pheasants and not a refrigerator in sight.

              The dining room.
              This has survived very well and is in superb condition. According to the guige books "it is amongst the finest remaining Victorian domestic interiors in England". Currently papered in two shades of green which has been specially made to resemble the original. The focal point is the heavy stone inglenook, with a fireplace made of marble and housing a warm and welcoming fire. On either side are stained glass windows with figures representing the four seasons and designed by William Morris.


              THE ESTATE AND GARDEN

              Although I rate the house highly, I rate the gardens higher. The estate consists of around
              1000 acres and is made up of huge rock gardens, formal gardens, terraced gardens where exotic fruits are kept in greenhouses and 7 million trees and bushes which were planted to cover the bare hillside. My favourite time of year to visit is mid to late spring when the hundreds of rhododendrons are in full bloom.


              OTHER FACILITIES

              As with most National Trust properties, there are excellent eating places. Vickers restaurant housed in the old stable block provides nourishing soups and a tasty range of home made pies, pastries, sandwiches and cakes. Vickers is also liscensed. A courtyard cafe provides tea and coffee served in plastic cups along with soft drinks and ice creams. Picnic areas are plentiful.


              CHILD FRIENDLY/DISABLED FRIENDLY?

              Yes. There is a new adventure playground. Quiz sheets are given inside the house, children are encouraged to look for the plastic frog in the sitting room, the bookworm in the library and so on. This definately stops them from becoming bored. An easter egg hunt was organised for Easter Sunday and similar events are arranged throughout the year. Baby slings are also available. There is a special disabled parking area and disabled and elderly visitors can set down outside the main house and restaurant. A lift is available in the house. Picnic tables have been adapted and there is a wheelchair path around the grounds. Braille guides are available.

              OPENING TIMES

              The property opens from late March until late October, times vary depending on hoe easter and October half term fall. Current admission is £6.90 per adult, families £17.20 and National Trust members get in free.

              SUMMING UP

              I have been a member of the NT for over ten years and during that time I have visited every property in England and most of those in Scotland and Wales. Cragside is definately a firm favourite and is only beaten from first place by St Michaels Mount and Lanhydrock, both of which are
              in my favourite county Cornwall.

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