At the weekend, I ventured out to explore Raby Castle Gardens, a treasure of County Durham! It is one of the first places I have visited since lockdown has begun to ease.
On arrival, there was ample parking, and we were greeted with the quintessentially British scene of cricket in front of the castle. We then made our way to the entrance gate to where the stables, café, shop and ticket booths are, and we were met by a friendly member of staff who welcomed us and explained to us the safety measures in place. We then used the hand sanitiser purchased our tickets and some tea and cake to take with us around the gardens.
Once we entered the walled gardens we found a bench with a perfect view of the castle where we demolished our cake and then we ventured to explore more of the exquisite gardens
The gardens have been so well tended to throughout lockdown, and the flowers are exquisite. We made our way through to a garden with the most glorious buddleia, lavender and lawn with a fantastic view of the castle. After stopping to take in the view, inhale the heady scent of the lavender, and to talk to other visitors and their gorgeous dog Max, we went through the ancient Yew archway which borders one of the gardens and it is amazing. It’s uneven, yet well kept exterior is so impressive and is unlike anything I have ever seen before. The effort that goes into maintaining the yew must be monumental.
On we went through the garden to the Orangery. It is so beautiful and a perfect place to offer shelter if it ever started drizzling (you can marvel at the huge Monstera). But if the sun does make an appearance you can perch on one of the benches and enjoy the roses at a safe distance from other visitors.
As we made our way through the walled gardens, Swallows were swooping over the lawns and chattering up in the sky, and it really felt like summer, and we, as a family were not concerned that there was not enough space to keep a distance from other guests. After a pleasant stroll we reached the far end of the walled gardens, and we were greeted by a raspberry patch, which guests can pick and purchase at their leisure.
We then made our way down the lawn and walked back through the gardens. This route felt more secluded and shaded (yes we did actually get some sunshine!) As the day drew on we made followed the sound of the fountain where we sat and looked at the lily pads, the roses and the bees buzzing amongst the lavender.
Then we reached a hand sanitising point and made our way out of the walled gardens, past the fruit trees and tea roses, out into the deer park. You could use one of the tractor trailer rides to explore the park if you wanted. We decided to have a walk along to the moat, in a circuit around the castle. The large oaks, provide shelter on sunny days and look the perfect spot to sit and read a good book. We made our way through the park and spotted some of the deer in the distance (Fallow and Red deer) and then made our way to the moat, which had Mallards, Coots and a cacophony of Greylag geese, many of which were flying in to roost for the night. We stopped on a bench to take in the beautiful view, and could hear the tiny calls of Goldcrest up in the canopy.
As the afternoon wore on, we made our way back to the car, watching the House Martins and the Swallows swooping over the park and the moat and flying to their nests and eager young on the castle walls. Stopping to see the scores on the cricket match (let’s just say I was informed) and headed home.
It was such a lovely afternoon out, even if we were only there a couple of hours. We all felt quite safe (and we had been nervous about venturing out) and it was such a beautiful change of scenery that did us all the world of good.
I am sure we will be back soon to explore the castle interior and explore more of the deer park. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend a visit. I have visited numerous times since I was a child, and I have fond memories of playing in the woodland playground picnics and stories of my Grandad playing cricket there, so it is so lovely to see the Castle becoming more alive and accessible for all to explore and enjoy.
Here’s a bit of history and background information about Raby:
Raby was established by King Cnut in the 11th Century, but the castle as we know it originates from the 14th century and the famous Neville family. Indeed the Rising of the North was planned in the Great Hall, but is often overlooked in television history documentaries. One of it’s most prominent dwellers was Cecily Neville, also known as ‘The Rose of Raby’. Her children included none other than Henry IV and Richard III. Indeed, her granddaughter, Elizabeth of York became queen and her great great grandson was Henry the VIII.
The castle and estate are owned by Lord Barnard, the Vane family, and remains a private home.
- For opening times, prices and to book tickets, please visit their website – Click Here.
- To visit their Instagram page – Click Here.