An intriguing, unusual and magnificent Victorian house, filled with ingenious gadgets, set in a thousand acre estate with miles and miles of footpaths, tranquil lakes, tumbling streams, formal gardens, woodland, wildlife, play areas, eating and shopping facilities makes it very easy to enjoy the perfect day out! For those who wish to stay longer there is luxury holiday accommodation available on the estate.
The Cragside estate is set in the heart of Northumberland surrounded by spectacular countryside. Despite it's rural location Cragside is just thirty miles north of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne which benefits from all the facilities of a large city as well as its international airport and nearby Port of Tyne Cruise Terminal.
Cragside's nearest neighbour is just one mile away from the estate entrance and is the thriving and rather beautiful little town of Rothbury which is also a tourist attraction..
Cragside House is famous for being the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. It was created by Victorian inventor, industrialist and landscape genius Lord Armstrong, who lived on Tyneside but who wanted a holiday home in the countryside and so developed Cragside.
Today, Cragside is owned and managed by The National Trust. Entry for non national trust members is £14.35 an adult for the whole of the property and grounds or £9.25 for access to the gardens and woodland. Concessions are available. We visited on a heritage open day when entry was free, but as we had such a lovely time we will return and would be happy to pay the entrance fee as there is so much to see.
On the day we visited opening times were 10am – 5pm, but they do seem to vary so it is worth checking in advance of a visit.
There is car parking throughout the estate on different levels (including disabled car parking bays). You can drive to some areas of interest on the Estate and there is a designated 6 mile driveway around the grounds. Alternatively a free hopper bus can take you from the Visitor Centre to various places of interest throughout the Estate. Signposting for both walkers and drivers is clear.
After parking the car, we went into the Visitor Centre, where there is also a museum, generously stocked shop and a tea room. The Visitor Centre is set in an absolutely beautiful position from which there are views down the hillside to the lake and woodland
Outside the Visitor Centre area there is a large grassed area with wide terraces furnished with wooden tables and benches, allowing visitors to enjoy picnics as well as the magnificent view. The Tea Room is generously sized with plenty of tables and chairs. For those that prefer eating outdoors there is a courtyard eating area immediately outside the Tea Room.
We took the free Hopper bus to Cragside House – Lord and Lady Armstrong's former home
As I have some mobility problems and had been told by a friend that there was no lift access to the first floor of Cragside House I asked at Reception about facilities for the less mobile. I was told that should I require a lift then there was a lift available for disabled people but I would need to ask to use the lift and a staff member would accompany me. Alternatively a touch screen computer could give me a virtual tour of the house. I was also told that should I wish a Guide could accompany me around the house. I was also provided with an A4 size, five page document advising me of the facilities for disabled people – I summarise this at the end of this review
Cragside House has many rooms to explore, from the kitchens, servants quarters to Lord and Lady Armstrong's living quarters, bedrooms and their excellent art collections as well as a host of ingenious gadgets. The Drawing room with its enormous marble fireplace should not be missed.
Cragside House overlooks, Europe's largest rock garden. From immediately outside the house on level terrain there are some good views of this garden, but walking in the Rock Garden involves walking on difficult terrain.
The Rock Garden leads steeply down to the Iron Bridge from which there are good views of Cragside House. For those unable to manage the rugged pathway through the Rock Garden to the Iron Bridge, there are other ways to access the Iron Bridge from different parts of the Estate.
Outside Cragside house there are wooden seats where we sat and enjoyed the sunshine before joining the Hooper bus (which ran approximately every half hour) to take us to other parts of the Estate.
We decided to visit the Formal Gardens. Unfortunately due to a landslide on a nearby road the hopper bus could not take us fully to the entrance to the gardens. It dropped us off as close as it could but we had to walk the rest of the way.
On our way to the Formal Gardens we passed the Wildlife hide. The Estate has acres and acres of woodland. The Armstong's supervised the planting of 7 millions trees and shrubs on the Estate which makes it a haven for wildlife. We hoped to see a red squirrel but unfortunately it wasn't to be, but we did see a good variety of birds. We continued to the Formal Garden which proved to be well worth the walk which at times was on difficult terrain. Once the Hopper Bus is able to take visitors to the Entrance to the Formal Gardens, then visiting the gardens will be easier.
There are three acres of Formal Gardens on three terraces, with an impressive Italian Terrace being the centre piece of the lowest level. There are plenty of seats within the gardens where we sat and enjoyed the sunshine as well as the views of the gardens as well as Coquet Valley, Simonside Hills and town of Rothbury. The Orchard House within the Formal Gardens is an enormous glass house which has survived in tact since the 1870's
All too soon it was time for us to leave and we felt there was so much more to see. We had spent four hours at Cragside and that was just not long enough. We completed the 6 mile driving tour which allowed us to see more of the Estate, but there was a lot we still had to see so we will return.
For those taking Grandchildren there is large play area for them to burn of energy.
For those wishing to stay longer there is a range of holiday accommodation available – we saw holiday cottages close to the Visitor Centre and also in the Formal Gardens.
The town of Rothbury just a mile away is a lovely little town with riverside walks, a selection of independent shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels guest houses as well as camping and caravan parks.
Summary of facilities for disabled people at Cragside Estate.
Disabled car parking, Hopper Bus, Wheelchair Hire Available. Access dogs welcome, wheelchair friendly disabled W.C.'s. Virtual tours by computer with British Sign language and audio, lift access by request in the house. Level or ramped access to buildings, respite seating, wheelchair access to Wildlife Hide, accessible picnic tables, induction loop in Tea rooms and shop, large print menus and large handed cutlery available in the Tea Room. Five page "facilities for the disabled" typed guide.
I feel it is worth pointing out that despite the facilities for disabled people, the estate is set on a steep hillside and there are areas where the terrain is quite rough making those particular areas difficult for the less mobile, or to mobilise a wheelchair .Having said this, The Visitor Centre, Tea Room shop, museum and nearby picnic area is disabled friendly and Cragside House has good facilities for the less mobile. The fact that some of the grounds can be toured by car on a dedicated driving tour is an asset to the less mobile. My tip would be to ask for assistance and to ask about the facilities for the disabled – I would not have known about the lift access if I had not asked.