Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@highlightingthenortheast) will know how excited I was when I purchased my very own National Trust Membership earlier in the year! Being under the age of 25, it only cost me £34.50 for an annual membership, which also includes brilliant perks such as a free parking pass. The National Trust charge £69 for adult membership for a year, or £120 for a family annual membership. When you consider that entry to sites such as the lovely Cragside in Northumberland cost adults £18 each, it turns out that having a National Trust Membership is fantastic value!
I’ve made a pact with myself to visit as many National Trust sites as possible in 2018 – the first on my list was Cragside, the dream home of Lord and Lady Armstrong. My family and I used to visit Cragside when I was younger and I have the fondest memories exploring the kitchens of this magnificent house and ‘picnicking’ in the beautiful grounds of the vast estate. My sister and I decided to take full advantage of the gloriously sunny bank holiday we had at the beginning of this month and we set off in the car to Rothbury!
The History of Cragside
Cragside is a striking Victorian house, formerly resided in by Lord Armstrong (1810-1900), an innovator and engineering genius of his time, and his family. Not only did Lord Armstrong craft this wonderful building and shape its impressive grounds, but he installed technologies that made Cragside the first house in the entire world to be lit by hydroelectricity!
The National Trust have done a truly fantastic job at restoring the glory of Cragside and making it visitor-friendly. Cragside was home to members of the aristocracy, and so we see the stark contrast between the plush bedrooms and living spaces of the Armstrong Family and the servants’ working and living quarters (although it can’t have been all bad, considering Cragside had underfloor heating even back then!) The inner-workings of the hydro-electrics of this house are explained well with models, infographics and the wise words of the National Trust volunteers too.
My favourite parts of the house include the kitchen and scullery areas, where you can see everything from the giant cooking range needed to cater for such a household, the dumb waiter used by the staff and examples of foods that were stored at the house. I also thought the ‘spa’ area of the house was fantastic – it is crazy to think that Lord Armstrong fashioned a spa, complete with a heated plunge pool, in his own home as far back as the Victorian era!
The gardens at Cragside are some of the most spectacular gardens I have ever seen. From mystical woodland and trickling waterfalls to The Formal Garden full of life and colour, the grounds of this Victorian house are absolutely beautiful. Lord Armstrong created something truly special when he designed the Cragside estate.
Acres of conifer trees tower over you as you walk one of the many routes around the estate – some of which bring you out at one of the largest rock gardens in the world! Explore this rugged landscape and cross the Iron Bridge to find your perfect picnic spot by the stream. Adults and dog-walkers will love the grounds just as much as children, who can explore labyrinths and forests of rhododendrons around the estate!
A day spent at Cragside is a day sure to be enjoyed by all the family – my sister and I have been visiting the site since we were young children and still had the best time at the ages of 18 and 22! The beauty of having a National Trust Membership is that I can make plans to return to Cragside or other NT sites whenever I want, without having to worry about paying an entry fee. This is especially handy considering the ‘Women of Industry’ exhibition that has recently launched at Cragside – it sounds fascinating!
Visit Cragside this bank holiday weekend and discover Lord Armstrong’s futuristic creation – a true, “wonder of its age.”