June 20 and 21 marks midsummer, when the days are at their longest. Falling on a weekend this year, there are some great events not far from South Meadows if you fancy finding out more about this stunning corner of North Northumberland.
Chillingham Castle, just eight miles south west of South Meadows, is a must-see if you’re staying with us. On Saturday June 20, the Castle is hosting the Red Cross Garden Day, where you can explore the Castle’s spectacular Italian and formal gardens.
Chillingham Castle really should be on your itinerary if you have a passing interest in history – and indeed ghosts, because it’s reputed to be the most haunted castle in England. The Castle runs ghost tours, lasting around two hours, which start at 9pm. There are tours arranged for Saturday June 20 and June 27.
With its history, it’s little wonder that Chillingham Castle has a reputation for ghosts. The 12th Century structure was important base in the cross-border warfare between the English and Scots and in 1298 was used by Edward I to launch his attack on William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace.
The Castle was owned for centuries by the famous Northumberland Grey family and the Hon. Lady Wakefield, the wife of current owner Sir Humphrey Wakefield, is the daughter of the former Lady Mary Grey of Howick Hall.
Today, visitors can enjoy the beautiful staterooms and shiver at the Castle’s dungeons and torture chamber, which contains some of the horrific devices once used to punish or extract information from prisoners, including an Iron Lady with spikes inside, a stretching rack, cages, a bed of nails, spiked chair and thumbscrews.
Outside, there is a lake and glorious parkland designed by Capability Brown in the 18th Century. The formal Italian garden was added in the 19th Century and is bordered by a 15ft thick wall that once extended around the Castle grounds. Woodland walks are open to the public and there is a fantastic walk east of the estate to the top of Ros Mount, from where on a clear day, you can see five of Northumberland’s castles.
No visit to Chillingham would be complete without a visit to the Chillingham Wild Cattle. These white beasts are the only wild cattle in the world and are rarer than giant pandas and mountain gorillas. Trips to see the cattle and hear their fascinating history are taken by the warden. Joint tickets for a visit to both the cattle and the castle are available at a discounted price.
If art and culture are your thing, Alnmouth Arts Festival on June 20 and 21 is also worth a visit. Alnmouth is 20 miles down the coast from South Meadows and the seaside village will be filled with more than 60 artists and crafters selling their wares over the weekend.
The festival, now in its 11th year, also features live music, children’s activities, a hog roast on Saturday, and a bring your own food and charcoal barbeque on Sunday.
The festival is free entry and a park and ride is available to prevent the village becoming clogged up with cars.