We were cruising south along the A1 when we spotted the words ‘Gibside an 18th Century Pleasure Grounds’ on a sign. What the ……???
Intrigued we just had to take the off ramp and follow the sign to find out exactly what this was. After a ride through the leafy Derwent Valley we arrived at Gibside, a National Trust property.
After asking one of the National Trust guides she explained to us why it is a pleasure grounds. Well when it was designed the builders altered the landscape so that there was always anticipation. So when visitors arrived there was a grand entry and 1/2 mile of winding road which led through woodlands before arriving at the first building which looked like a stately home. The visitors would’ve been commenting how wonderful this house is but as the coach carried them past it they would’ve been told that it’s merely the stables.
The next sight they would’ve seen is the liberty statue gilded with gold leaf 1/2 mile from the road and in the other direction an avenue of oak trees lining the grand walk and the Chapel also 1/2 mile away.
Then they would’ve arrived at the stately mansion. The design was all about the wow factor. Death tax in 1920 killed the estate with the mansion being stripped of its furniture and fittings. Parts of the mansion were demolished and the roof was sold in 1958, turning it into an empty shell. The building and grounds quickly fell into disrepair.
As beautiful as the estate is, it is the characters involved in the story behind Gibside that make it fascinating. It is a remarkable tale with lots of twists and turns. It makes you realise that sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.
There’s kidnapping, duels, deathbed marriages, theft, infidelity,royal connections, inprisonment, heaps of juicy scandal. In fact so much that the story of this estate make a Jackie Collins novel pale in comparison.
There’s an heiress who was the richest woman in Britain who was said to have been buried in her wedding dress worth £ 1 million today. Decorated in diamonds and so ornate people are still trying to find it. She is the Queens Great Great Great Grandmother, her story is both fascinating and heartbreaking. You can read about her story here.
Judging by the amount of families making their way into the estate it really is popular with locals. Not far from the entry a cafe is situated and around the courtyard local butchers, pizza, bakers and craft shops have stalls. It’s also the site of farmers markets. Whilst enjoying a coffee we read a bit more about activities at Gibside. They have adventure trails for young explorers who armed with a satnav have to locate items at different coordinates throughout the park. There’s a pub situated on the park and live music along with regular events.
The main features of Gibside is the chapel and the view up the long walk to the liberty statue. There’s also the stables which contain a bookshop, cafe and more craft shops. Around the estate there are lots of bushland walks, beautiful gardens, play grounds, activity areas and open areas for kids to play.
Overall it’s a great place to visit and we really enjoyed learning a bit more about the characters and the estate. You can find out about Gibside’s opening times and more information here