North-East days out to fill the Easter weekend

WITH lockdown easing as Easter holidays begin, here are some ideas for days out in the North-East and North Yorkshire. 

After months of ups, downs and anticipation, our list of daily activities can finally extend beyond going for a walk in the park or essential shopping.

As we edge towards normality on the roadmap to recovery, a selection of outdoor attractions reopened their doors on March 29 when the Stay at Hone order came to an end. 

You must, however, stay local. 

English Heritage will be allowing the public to visit more than 50 of their historic sites across the country, all closed since December.

For now, the focus is on outdoor spaces, but with groups of six also permitted to meet outdoors from the end of the month, it’s a great opportunity to plan days out.

While sun is forecast across the region for Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday, a cold snap is expected on Monday – so make the post of the start of the weekend. 

“It’s been a long, long winter and our sites – with their wide-open spaces, beautiful buildings, fun events and fascinating stories – will be the tonic we all need,”  says Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s chief executive.

As the long Easter weekend approaches, here are a few potential entries to fill empty diary pages.

Auckland Castle Deer House, County Durham

The Northern Echo: 2017 Summer school children put on a theatrical performance of 'The Legend of Scotland' in Auckland Castle Deer House, Bishop Auckland with the help of performers from Jack Drum Arts. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH2017 Summer school children put on a theatrical performance of ‘The Legend of Scotland’ in Auckland Castle Deer House, Bishop Auckland with the help of performers from Jack Drum Arts. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH

This charming Gothic Revival ‘eyecatcher’, built in 1760 in the park of the Bishops of Durham, provided deer with shelter and food. While managed deer parks were a well-established part of rural life, specific shelters were unusual. 

It also had grounds for picnics and rooms where the bishop and his guests could enjoy the view.

The almost-square building, made up of a courtyard and surrounding arcade that was once roofed with slates, can be reached on foot from Auckland Castle through semi-wooded public parkland. 

While the interior is currently closed, the exterior is open to view from the surrounding parkland daily

Belsay Hall Castle and Gardens, Northumberland

The Northern Echo: Inside Belsay Hall Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTInside Belsay Hall Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Delve into a jungle of oversized plants and exotic flowers in a green space that could easily have played host to a population of Jurassic-era dinosaurs.

The Quarry Garden is one of several glorious outdoor spaces surrounding this 19th century Grecian manor house and medieval castle.

Spanning seven centuries of construction, the property was created and is still owned by the Middleton family (under the care of English Heritage).

Although doors are locked for now, there’s plenty of scope for admiring their fine work in wildflower meadows and along woodland trails. Keen gardeners will also appreciate one of the biggest collections of rhododendrons in the country.

Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

The Northern Echo: Whitby Abbey. Picture: PixbayWhitby Abbey. Picture: Pixbay

Now riddled with more holes than a slab of Swiss cheese, this Gothic masterpiece has been an inspiration for numerous writers and poets.

Bram Stoker gleaned ideas for his Dracula stories after visiting, and Caedmon, the first named English poet, also found ideas flowed after touring the remains of the building. Originally founded in 657 as an Anglo-Saxon monastery, it was destroyed by the Vikings and rebuilt in the 13th century.

Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens, North Yorkshire 

The Northern Echo: Gardeners Karen Greenwood and James Taylor prepare to plant some of the 27,000 bulbs at Mount Grace Priory. Picture: Richard Doughty PhotographyGardeners Karen Greenwood and James Taylor prepare to plant some of the 27,000 bulbs at Mount Grace Priory. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

This well preserved Carthusian priory is tucked away at the foot of the Cleveland Hills and is the perfect place to escape busy attractions during Easter break.

Historic England says that in the Middle Ages, monks lived in each of Mount Grace’s 25 individual cells, all with a private garden. After the Reformation, it became the home to wealthy aristocrats and industrialists. These included Lowthian Bell, who remodelled part of the priory in the Arts and Crafts style.

Visitors can roam the ruins of this unusual medieval monastery and embrace the recently renovated gardens. While the Manor House and shop are closed due to Covid, the cafe is open for takeaway so you can still grab a coffee while you explore the unique site. The priory and gardens will be open as usual but the Reconstructed Monks cell is closed.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island 

The Northern Echo: Lindisfarne. Picture: PixabayLindisfarne. Picture: Pixabay

While travelling overseas may still be banned, you can cross the dramatic causeway to reach the island of Lindisfarne just off the North-East coast. Ancient monks built their priory on Holy Island, which still today has wild coastal beauty, nearly 1,400 years ago.

Visitors can learn about the site’s grisly Viking raid, which was one of the first significant attacks in western Europe, the cult of St Cuthbert, and the beautiful medieval manuscript the Lindisfarne Gospels – but don’t lose track of the time, as the causeway floods at high tide.

The priority is open as usual but the museum remains closed in like with Covid restrictions. The shop is due to reopen on April 12. 

The Northern Echo | Durham