Chillingham Castle

As part of my oddysey looking at English ruins, during half-term I went on a visit up to Northumberland, with my research assistants, namely the two Misses Mussons. We stayed at Chillingham Castle – which was one of the houses i featured in The Curious House Guest with Sir Humphry Wakefield, who gave us a wonderful tour of the local district, pointing out Bamburgh Castle, the dramatic coastline, and the gardens at Howick. He hosted a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in the great hall at Chillingham, played in traditional garb with great gusto. Without Sir Humphry, Chillingham could have easily become a ruin itself, but instead it’s a wonderfully romantic family home where visitors can experience the full theatre of english castle architecture. The ruin we had come to see was Dunstanburgh which is the most fairytale of the Northumberland ruins right by the sea, designed originally to evoke the legends of King Arthur. We walked up from the village of Craster in the steaming sunshine, and explored the ruins with excitement before scoffing ice-creams. To me, this is one of the ruins which every english schoolchild should see, and I was pleased to have made it here with my daughters (after much confusion with parking). With Sir Humphry we found out many interesting facts like white horses are called grey horses because the Lady Wakefield’s ancestors, the Grey family, went out at night on white horses instead of riding black or brown horses to be disguised, therefore, they then were called ‘Grey’ horses, such things entice the young. The girls felt that in the sunshine, Chillingham gardens made them think of the scene in the Sound of Music clip of Do-Re-Mi, and they spent a happy afternoon making a little film of the famous song – just brilliant.

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