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~~ Grimsthorpe Castle ~~ We got very confused driving along the long driveway, towards Grimsthorpe Castle for two reasons, one there was a sign saying the castle was closed on Tuesdays and today was Tuesday, but the grounds were still open. The second thing was that Grimsthorpe Castle looked like a stately home and nothing at all like a castle, but both these were explained during our visit. The first one was easy enough to explain; we got to the ticket office on the edge of the car park and as we were going to have to ask if we could pop in to turn round, as the drive is not wide enough to do this. We thought we would confirm that the castle was closed today, but we were duly informed at this point that it was indeed open and it is during everyday throughout the month of August. What a result, we would get to see the castle after all, yippee. When we got inside we told the staff about the sign and straight away they took our advice and arranged to have the sign taken down. The car park was approximately 200yrds from the castle and next to a courtyard where the tea room and gift shop could be found. My hubby popped into the gift shop to get us a guide book and we then went for a quick cuppa before starting our tour of the castle. I was quite impressed with the gift shop as they had quite a few little things; momentos which are affordable to children with their pocket money as well as the usual overpriced gimmicks that all gift shops seem to carry. The tea room was a little pricey and was set in the old Georgian Coach House which has seating inside and outside with sandwiches ranging from £2.35, baguettes from £3.35, Paninis, Jacket Potatoes and Toasted Sandwiches ranging from £3.95. We settled for just a tea and a coffee and sat by the patio doors looking out towards the grounds and took the time to peruse our guide book. As it worked out it was just as well we took the time to have a short break now as the heavens took this moment to let rip with a torrent of rain. Thankfully by the time we had finished our drinks the rain had stopped so we had a pleasant short walk towards the house, oopps sorry castle. The castle looked very impressive, the view was slightly marred by a large modern crane and a modern lorry in the courtyard next to the castle, but I dont suppose that could be helped. ~~ The Castle ~~ We entered the castle to be greeted by a lady that took our entrance tickets, she asked us to take a seat whilst she arranged a tour guide for us which is obligatory on weekdays, on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays you can self-guide. It was only a matter of a couple of minutes to when we were introduced to our guide. It was only when we started walking through the grey stone corridor that I realised it seemed a bit dark, even in the Vanburgh Hall with its cream coloured décor and white stone floor, seemed a little dark, but at this stage I took little notice and gave our guide my attention as she went on to tell us all about the ancestry to the castle and about the artwork and furniture in this enormous room. She went on to explain that because it has a turret with battlements it was allowed to be called a castle, but this area was out of bounds as it was the familys living quarters. That was the second quandary now answered. We moved along and up the stairway with our guide stopping us to explain each painting to us, my hubby did get a little fed up with this at times, but she was extremely knowledgeable and enjoyed sharing her knowledge with us. One of the things that was starting to become obvious and which was pointed out by our guide was all the rooms were symmetrical, this was due to the obsession of the Baroque architect Sir John Vanburgh. We got to see the beautiful State Dining Room which was beautifully laid out, they had such deep seats in those days, if I sat right back on one my legs would only just reach the end, but ladies did used to have those rather large dresses with bustles. The rooms seemed to get darker and darker as we went through; the windows were all closed up to protect the paintings and furniture from the natural elements. On many occasion our guide would grab a torch that was hanging up (one in each room) to point out a feature she wanted to tell us about. The pictures in the guide book make it look a lot more beautiful as they were taken with the sunlight streaming in through those lovely large windows. Dont get me wrong the rooms were still beautiful, but the symmetry and the darkness were starting to get a little oppressive and I was getting claustrophobic. We could not go into the bedrooms to view, we could only stand in the doorways and look around, here they used mirrors to help you get a better look at the wonderful tapestries and the craftsmanship of the bed makers. I have never seen so many Louis XIV and Louis XV clocks all in one place as was displayed here; almost every room seemed to have one. There was also a lot of tortoise and turtle shell furniture on display and we learnt all about the process it went through and how it had to be heated to enable them to mould it into shape and then polish it to give it that shine. Towards the end of our tour we visited the beautiful Chapel with its Venetian style windows and ornate décor. The pulpit was rather high up so that the reverend could speak directly to the family as they would be seated on the ornate balcony, with the staff and the minions on the ground level, high staff on the benches and the others on the floor. Everyone was expected to attend services. The tour ended right back to where it started from the Vanburgh Hall, but this time we exited through the main front door as the gentry would have done. ~~ A Little History ~~ Grimsthorpe Castle dates back to the 13th century and it was the home of Baron Willoughby de Eresby and his family since 1516. The Barony of Willoughby de Eresby is one of the few English titles that can descend through the female line. In 1828 Peter Robert Burrell the 22nd Baron Willoughby of Eresby inherited Grimsthorpe Castle, but under the terms of his mothers will the contents of the house with the exception of the family portraits were to be sold at auction and the proceeds to be shared with his sisters. Peter managed to buy some of the more important furnishings but many items were lost to other buyers. Hence, much of the furniture in Grimsthorpe today shows the taste of Peter Burrell where he chose lots of ornate continental pieces of furniture. There is also furnishing and thrones on display in the castle that was donated by the Old House of Lords in London. ~~ The Gardens & Grounds ~~ You can visit the park and gardens and miss out on the castle if you wish; alternatively you can do them all. The gardens and park are vast and I do mean vast it would simply take you hours to walk all around the park. There is a free bus tour which leaves at certain times throughout the day and takes around 1 ½ hours to travel around the park taking in the sites. I am reliably told by the bus driver that they point out some hidden extras that you could quite easily miss on a walk, it did sound like a nice relaxing and picturesque trip. It would more than likely take you past the Red Deer Herd that grazes in the park. There is also a very large Woodland Adventure Playground to entertain the children; this is right in the middle of the very beautiful Oaks Woodland Walk. Sadly this was a walk I could not indulge in but from what the leaflet says it would make a wonderful nature walk with feely boxes where you dare to put your hand inside and guess what you are feeling,(come on now, keep it clean, he,he), the answer being written on the back of the box, which is only to be checked after you are totally convinced that you are right and are ready to find out that you are completely wrong, he, he. There is also a picnic area for you to stop and rest during your walk. We managed to have a little walk around the formal gardens close to the castle, ever these were very symmetrical to match up with the interior and exterior of the castle. There was a lovely Topiary Garden which was very artistic, we managed also to look at the large Kitchen Garden as well, with its lovely symmetrical display of healthy vegetables, I fancied grabbing some and taking them back with us, they did look good. This symmetry through was getting a little too much you felt like getting some shears out and altering a design just to break up the symmetry a little bit. ~~ Prices & Opening Times ~~ Park opens from 11am to 6pm April May: Sundays, Thursdays and Bank Holiday Mondays June Sept: Sunday to Thursday inclusive. (Gardens open at 12 noon and last admission into the park is at 5pm) Castle Opens at 1pm April September: Sundays, Thursdays & Bank Holiday Mondays But it is open Sunday to Thursday inclusive throughout August. Last admission to the castle is at 4.30pm. Tickets to the park and gardens Adult: £3.50 Concession: £3.00 Child: £2.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children): £9.00 Castle, park and gardens Adult: £8.00 Concession: £7.00 Child: £3.50 Family (2 adults and 2 children): £18.50 This is also part of the Hidden England Passport offer, where if you have been to any of the other five stately homes or castles previously this season you can get in on a bog off, buy one get one free on your tickets, other places included are Burghley House, Belvoir Castle, Belton House and Rockingham Castle ~~ Disabled Access ~~ They offer two areas for disabled parking one by the coach house, where the stable gift shop, toilets and tea rooms are to be found. The other is right up at the side of the castle. We did ask at the ticket hut on the way in for disabled parking and we were directed to the coach house only, we only found out about the one nearer to the castle after we had got to the castle. Also if you know you are visiting in advance, you can ring them up to arrange the loan of a wheelchair. Unfortunately wheelchair users cannot get to the upstairs rooms; they do get access to the four ground floor rooms and can watch a 37 minute virtual tour in one of the state rooms. We were offered this but declined as they provided plenty of seating throughout the tour for me to stop and rest a while. There is full access granted to guide dogs. ~~ Other Info ~~ Dogs are welcome in most areas except in the gardens and adventure playground. They must be kept on leads through the duration of the visit to the park and under no circumstances are they allowed in any area that may contain cattle. ~~ Directions ~~ These directions are taken from the website www.grimsthorpe.co.uk Directions given from North or Southbound A1 At Colsterworth Roundabout take the exit onto the A151 which is signposted Bourne (you will also find a Grimsthorpe sign). Drive through Corby Glen on A151 Continue along the A151 and you will see Grimsthorpe Castle is signposted follow the signs to the castle. It is only 8 miles from the A1. ~~ My Final Thoughts ~~ Even though I said it became a bit oppressive I still enjoyed my visit here, I only wish Id had more time to have taken the bus tour as well, and I wish I had been well enough to have enjoyed a woodland walk. You could quite easily use up half a day here, maybe even longer as there is so much to see and do if you enjoy walking round the grounds. If you like historic buildings and beautifully laid out gardens then it is worth a visit and I most definitely recommend it. Thank you for sharing my thoughts Lyn x
There is over 800 years of history to be uncovered within the boundaries of the park and the Grimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust would be delighted to share some of it with you. Variety and quality are in evidence here. Those interested in the architecture of the castle and its fine contents will discover a host of treasures, whilst younger visitors can enjoy the adventure playground and help to feed the tame red deer.