Exciting things are afoot at Belvoir Castle. They’ve just launched their biggest season in a decade, with a packed visitor programme following the opening of the £2.5m artisan shopping village, the opening of the castle’s underground tunnels and the introduction of a series of characters to bring its thousand-year history to life. We love cellars and caves and spooky tunnels (we’re from Nottingham, how could we not?) and we never pass up an opportunity to meet a costumed character or enjoy a bit of retail therapy – so off we went to see for ourselves.

You can see the silhouette of the castle from miles away; it appears on the horizon looking for all the world like Game of Thrones’ Winterfell, its turrets and towers looming up out of the mist. You can imagine how the Netflix location scouts, on the hunt for a castle to portray Windsor in period drama The Crown, would have seen it and thought yes, that’s the one.

Our first stop is the brand-new Engine Yard at the foot of the hill. Built in the 1800s as workshops for tradesmen to produce furniture and other items for the castle, it has now been lovingly restored and renovated, creating a unique retail village surrounded by rolling countryside.

We while away a lovely morning browsing the shops, strolling amongst the flowers in The Idle Mole, feeling inspired by the gorgeous homewares and jealousy-inducing interior design in Margo and Plum, and checking out The Duchess Gallery for some stylish and elegant clothing and gift ideas.

We work up quite an appetite in the food shops, too; from the divine-smelling Cherizena Coffee, its shelves stacked with premium flavoured coffee such as almond amaretto, grand orange liqueur and chocolate brownie, the outrageously decadent Cocoa Amore where you can purchase - and sample! - delectable boutique chocolates, traditional and locally-sourced deli in The Country Victualler, to Jorge Artisan Foods, which offers some wonderfully creative foodie fare.

All are run by knowledgeable and welcoming entrepreneurs who clearly know and care so much about their wares. It reminds us that artisan shopping is every bit as much about the experience as it is about the lovely purchases you eventually take home.

We stop by for lunch at the Fuel Tank, which is reminiscent of a cosy log cabin – all rustic wood and steel, softened with cow hides and fluffy throws and gently glowing lamps. The deli style menu is proudly packed with locally sourced produce. We go for one of their warm ciabattas, and the smoky bacon contrasts deliciously with the vibrant, tangy coleslaw and lightly dressed side salad. 

After lunch we head up to the castle itself. It’s a fairly steep walk and not one that we’d have fancied doing in full armour! And if the walk isn’t enough to take your breath away, then the stunning views over the Vale of Belvoir certainly will.

The castle itself is said to be one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in the world, and the interior doesn’t disappoint either; every room seems more lavish and palatial than the last. We gaze around at the fascinating artefacts and treasures collected by the family over the centuries, and learn about the social history of the castle. There’s a magnificent model of a previous iteration of the Castle in the Ballroom, and we’re intrigued to learn how this remarkable building has changed over the centuries.

We’re thrilled to come face to face with some of the historical characters, too – you can meet the 5th Duchess Elizabeth Manners, the Housekeeper Elizabeth Stanley and Butler Thomas Douglas going about their duties in the Castle’s grand rooms, and more. We steel ourselves to head down into the rather alarmingly named ‘The Dooms’, painstakingly transformed into an experiential exhibition which brings to life elements of the castle’s history with some rather creepy sound effects.

We round off our day with a relaxing stroll around the glorious terraced gardens which encircle the castle. We explore the Rose Garden (it’s currently undergoing a major restoration programme) thoroughly enjoying the delicate floral scent on the breeze, and drift around the Japanese, Duchess and Hermit’s gardens, adorned with water features, striking statues and ornamental shrubs, all against the backdrop of some unforgettable views over the valley, woodland and lakes. The whole experience makes for a fabulously varied day out; we can’t wait to come back soon! 

This blog was written by Sophie Milne, Communications Executive at Visit Nottinghamshire.

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Belvoir Castle
Half Term Activities
Belvoir Castle
Engine Yard at Belvoir Castle
Shopping Centre
Engine Yard at Belvoir Castle

Welcome to the Engine Yard, nestling in the heart of the stunning Vale of Belvoir.

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