After visiting the impressive Featherstone Castle on the banks of the River South Tyne, we moved on to Blenkinsopp Castle, and its eerily empty ruins…
Blenkinsopp Castle is located off a junction of the A69, heading Westbound from Newcastle towards Carlisle, between Haltwhistle and nearby Greenhead. It is signposted as the Blenkinsopp Castle Inn, and there is a small car park outside.
The ruins of this stunning Castle sit rather incongruously between a small house, and the adjacent Castle Inn & Tea Rooms.
The original manor here was built in the 13th century by the Blenkinsopp Family, as a grand stately home.
The manor remained in use until at least 1831, however its original function was largely superseded in the 17th century, when the English & Scottish crowns were united to form one. This area of England was notorious for border raids along the border with Scotland, violence which had escalated over the preceding centuries. With the Union of the Crowns, this violence large subsided, and Castles were no longer as important to local landowners.
In 1832 a new house was built to incorporate the existing remains of the original manor, as the house of a local mine agent, by an architect called John Dobson (1787 – 1865). This was then itself incorporated into a new estate created by William Blenkinsopp Coulson in 1877, and a few years later it passed into the hands of Edward Joicey. At some point after this the building became a hotel, located near the main trunk road from Carlisle to Newcastle.
Sadly the building was gutted by fire in 1954, and large portions of it had to be demolished, although substantial parts of it do still stand. The main area you can explore was part of the South-West area of the 1832 house, although many of the windows and doorways were added in 1880 when the new manor was built around it.
There are a number of information boards located around the structure, which give you a good idea of what the different incarnations of the building looked like over the years. The building is not completely ruinous however, as a full residential wing to the West of my position here is actually still intact, and in use. The current owners of the Castle live here, and part of it is made up of the aforementioned Castle Inn & Tea Rooms, which still operates as a Hotel.
The current owners are the Simpson family, who took over in 1955 after the devastating fire, although as of 2015 they are looking to sell the building. The remains of the other portions of the building have been secured, with one area even having a large metal girder implanted as a cross beam to hold the walls up.
The roof would have been mainly wood, which is one of the only saving graces in these types of situation. In Coventry when the Cathedral was bombed out in 1941 with incendiary bombs, the roof caught fire and was destroyed but the rest of the structure, including the stone tower at the front all survived. This shows that in a lot of cases where fire occurs some of the main structure can survive with only the loss of dividing walls and the roof, which has helped save a number of important buildings for the future (albeit in a ruinous state).
As we gazed up at the shell of this former grandiose manor, we spotted a plane roaring overhead, multiple centuries of building being gazed down upon by the 21st, and showing how England is a stunning country with centuries of history, that will always be with us.
So this is the Castle Inn & Tea Rooms, housed in one of the former wings of Blenkinsopp Castle, one of the surviving areas that are still inhabitable (after some extensive restoration). It’s a stunning little building, and what a great location to stay in, close to Hadrian’s Wall, numerous Castles and the charming town of Haltwhistle, not to mention nearby Greenhead and Carlisle. This was our 2nd Castle of the day, after nearby Featherstone Castle, however we still had a few historic places to visit before the sun set.
We left Blenkinsopp behind us and made our way West, towards the historic priory at Lanercost, near Brampton. On the way, as we passed over the border into Cumbria, we were treated to some stunning views of the Cumbrian Countryside looking towards Scotland, with the hills shrouded in a late afternoon haze of cloud and mist…