Newest Review: ... 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... more
Cragside, full of technology, nature and history a National Trust Gem!
Member Name: Dragonfairy
Advantages: Good day out for all the family, lots to see and do.
Disadvantages: Not cheap
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Summary: Well worth a visit especially if you are a member of the National Trust or can get a voucher.