Belvoir Castle has been on my list to visit for years and so when I was recently invited for a tour of the castle and gardens this June, I was delighted to accept…
My fiancé and I checked the weather leading up to our Sunday visit and were pleased to see a scorcher of a day was forecast, so we planned a picnic with our new wicker basket, complete with china crockery and napkins – well if you’re going to do it, do it properly!
After checking into the ticket office, we walked through a tree lined pathway, which led to the crossroads to which you could choose which garden/trail you visited – we opted to do ‘The Duchesses Garden’ and a good choice it was to, as this turned out to be our most favourite of them all and the destination choice of our picnic a little later in the day.
The four acre garden (rediscovered in 1970 by Frances, the Dowager Duchess of Rutland) is within a valley with stone steps leading down to a small pond with an elegant statue at the foot and beautiful flowers, plants and trees along the way. The top of the hill featured an unusual structure- ‘The Moss House’, built in 1818 and restored again in 2014.
We then found ourselves in ‘The Hermits Garden’, a seven acre plot adjoining ‘The Duchesses Garden’, which we were pleased to learn had just undergone a huge clearing, regeneration programme, which is clearly an ongoing project and something we look forward to revisiting in years to come, when it has matured.
After doing a U-turn, we then found ourselves in ‘The Japanese Woodland’, aptly names due to the amount of Japanese and Chinese plants in the area. As the area is again within a valley dip, it provides a natural shelter for many exotic plants that thrive there.
A steep walk led us to ‘The Rose Garden’, where for the first time the astounding first sight of Belvoir Castle is awaiting- what an impressive view!
Various statues live in the grounds of Belvoir, including the striking statue of ‘Winter’ by Caius Gabriel Cibber and a further six statues in ‘The Rose Garden’, which amazingly are some of the oldest statues in England and the current roses you see there were all planted by the current Duchess of Rutland- Emma.
The pathway from the rose garden then led us around the castle, offering beautiful views over Leicestershire, eventually leading to the castle entrance…
Pre-booked tours of the castle do take place regularly (timings are all on their website), however we opted to take a leisurely walk around ourselves and there were several friendly tour guides along the way to offer assistance or answer any questions, advising the best route to take to ensure you didn’t miss anything.
Interestingly the family of Belvoir have resided in the castle unbroken for almost a thousand years and is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. The land was a gift from William The Conqueror and many works of art and portraits don the walls of past kings and queens, giving you a real feel of history as you wander around the ornate rooms. My most favourite room was the ‘Elizabeth Saloon’, intended for ladies to reside to after dinner. With gold gilt, plush cherry red and coral fabrics and extravagantly designed furniture, including of course a chaise longue or two.
It was also nice to see modern photographs of the current family in each room, giving you a real feel for the families who have resided there through the ages. Interestingly the castle was given its French name ‘Belvoir’ meaning ‘beautiful view’ (now pronounced ‘beaver’).
At the end of our tour, we visited the castle gift shop and naturally bought some Belvoir shortbread to take home, however there were also a lovely selection of homemade jams- made by the Duchess herself as well as several country style items on sale.
A tea room can also be found at the end of the tour offering afternoon /cream tea and a selection of refreshments and lunch items.
As mentioned we opted for a picnic in the beautiful surroundings of the Duchesses garden and the weather did not disappoint, we managed to sunbathe as did a few others in the area and thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Belvoir, which most certainly won’t be our last.
Entrance into the castle and gardens on a combined ticket costs just £15 for Adults and £8 for children aged 4-16 (children under 3 are free). It is also possible to just have garden tickets at a cost of £8 for adults & children are free.
Fiona Duncan, RSViP