Lumley castle has been around for years – 600 to be precise. It is a real medieval castle four-star hotel set in the lush Durham countryside in the North East of England, next to the river Wear. It makes for an imposing sight as you drive up to the reception, past the beautiful golf course and the Chester-le-street cricket ground just off the A1 main North/South motorway. It is a Grade 1 listed building (of architectural and historic significance) complete with towers, turrets and a whole lot of history. It hosts medieval banquets, has the tallest four poster bed in Europe and, last but not least, it has its very own ghost.
The history of Lumley Castle
Lumley castle takes its name from Sir Ralph Lumley who lived in what was then a manor house, in 1388. Sir Ralph was a well-known figure and popular soldier renowned for his bravery in battle. He played a key role in the defence of Berwick-on-Tweed in 1388 and led the attack at the Battle of Otterburn in the same year. After being captured and later escaping, he petitioned the Bishop of Durham to convert his house into the castle you see today. Sir Ralph then became involved in a failed coup to overthrow Henry VI, was captured again, and together with his son, was executed in 1400.
The Lumley’s wealth was then given to the Earl of Somerset but as he had no son to inherit it, the land and castle were later restored to Sir Ralph’s grandson Thomas, its rightful owner. Thomas Lumley, another distinguished soldier, was appointed constable of Scarbrough castle and the peerage lost by his grandfather was restored to him.
The House of Scarbrough are still the owners of the castle today and the present Earl remains very involved in the running of things. In 1976, No Ordinary Hotels became the new tenants of Lumley Castle, turning it into the unique hotel you see today.
Staying at Lumley Castle
Lumley castle has lots of quirky medieval rooms both within the castle and in the Mews and courtyard areas. Many of the rooms have four poster beds and feature baths. Each room is individually designed and all have full en-suite facilities, flat-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities and Wi-Fi. The room we stayed in had a huge original stone fireplace, a standalone bath and a view out onto the woodland. If you visit here in the winter time in the snow, I imagine it would be even more incredibly atmospheric.
The hotel has many features I have never seen anywhere else and the King James Suite is one of them. It is an enormous room which hosts a remarkable 20ft or 6m tall four-poster Queen Anne Bed, claimed to be the highest one in Europe. Formerly the Chapel of the Castle, it has its own sitting room, en-suite bathroom and Jacuzzi with views over the surrounding parkland.
The castle is surrounded by lovely gardens and there is a beautiful walled courtyard within the castle where you can enjoy the fine weather and try putting your head in an old pair of wooden stocks from those medieval days gone by.
There are medieval tapestries, suits of armour and fascinating features all over the castle. There is a hall of real marble Roman heads from Italy, of figures like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. They aren’t medieval but the owner liked them so there they are! The castle walls are covered with beautiful paintings which turned out to be all originals leased from a nearby museum, it is a living castle art gallery. Dinner and breakfast are served in the Black Knight restaurant.
Banquets, weddings and a ghost
Lumley castle, with its picturesque setting, is a favourite wedding destination and hosted no less than 220 weddings in 2015 alone. Perfect photographic opportunities and a number of beautiful state rooms of different sizes for formal dining mean that there is something to suit all budgets and you can even have a disco in the castle dungeons.
The castle also offers lots of fun events throughout the year. You can try a murder mystery night, afternoon tea, Halloween and Christmas parties and most notably, Elizabethan banquets. There are five courses with wine and entertainment. You drink mead from a goblet, eat with a knife and sample dishes such as ‘Baron’s Borde’, a kind of vegetable soup and ‘Fyshe with potato’ served in a scallop shell. Then there is singing and general revelry for the rest of the evening.
The castle even has its own ghost – said to be that of Lady Lumley, wife of Sir Ralph. She was called the Lily of Lumley because she was so fair, but she followed the Wycliffe religion which did not conform to the predominant Catholicism of the time. Local monks from the nearby Finchale Abbey tried to bring her back to Catholicism but she would not change her mind. The monks then murdered her in one of the bedrooms (to save her soul as they claimed) and threw her body down the well in the middle of the castle. Her ghost is said to come up via the well and haunt the castle. I was informed the next day that I had stayed in the room where Lady Lumley was murdered! I’m just glad they hadn’t told me the night before.
Lumley Castle - a unique destination with a special story
Lumley Castle really is a one off. It has the cosy feel of a home which, of course, it originally was, but also it retains its medieval atmosphere and has a wealth of historical features and detail at every turn. You can come to stay in a fantastic four poster bed or maybe come for a meal, a conference, a meeting, a wedding or a medieval banquet. You may even see a ghost.
Lumley Castle is actually very easy to get to but yet still remains a bit of a hidden gem. The castle is undoubtedly one of the finest hotels in Durham and combines old and new to cater for the modern visitor without losing its very unique character.
Standing by the riverside here for 600 years, the magnificent silhouette of Lumley Castle dominates the County Durham landscape as an imposing monument to a bygone age of chivalry and honour.
You can stay at Lumley Castle from 99 GBP (128 USD) but check the website for special offers. Wedding packages start from 2,500 GBP (3,240 USD).