Langley castle is a genuine 14th-century fortified castle hotel. With its towering turrets, it looks like something out of a classic fairytale. Once behind the impressive oak door, however, it has the warm friendly feel of an actual home, if rather a grand one. The castle is just over seven miles (11.2 km) from the nearest town of Hexham and a stone’s throw from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hadrian’s Wall. Northumberland is the English county with the least number of people but the most castles per square mile in the whole country.
The castle’s history
The castle was built in 1350 during the reign of Edward III and was owned by various Lords and Ladies over the years. This part of England, so close to the border with Scotland, has a turbulent history but this particular castle never saw any fighting. It was, however, destroyed by fire – a fate many old buildings with wooden interiors suffered. In 1882, a local historian, Cadwallader Bates, bought Langley and, together with his wife, Josephine, began the restoration of the property to its original 14th-century structure. Josephine continued this work after the death of her husband and they are both buried in the grounds, their graves marked by a beautiful Celtic cross.
The castle today
The impressive seven-foot (2.1m) thick walls of Langley castle are made of massive blocks of limestone, many of which may well have originally been a part of Hadrian’s Wall itself. The castle is full of fascinating medieval touches. Real suits of armour, weaponry and some of the best preserved examples of garderobes in the country. Garderobes are medieval toilets, by the way, and the fact that they existed in such an old building as this hints that this was quite a sophisticated dwelling in its time. The castle today is privately owned and has retained a very authentic atmosphere. The staff are exceptionally friendly and courteous and seem genuinely proud to be working there.
The Radcliffe room
We stayed in the Radcliffe room which is really something special. The focus of the huge room is a grand four poster bed facing a stepped medieval window seat which looks out onto the castle courtyard. Another stone arch (you will need to duck if you are near the six foot or 1.82m mark) leads into the palatial bathroom. There’s nothing medieval here. A giant sunken bath and power shower are complemented by your very own personal sauna and twin hisnhers sinks. The room is big enough to do a cartwheel in and a teddy dressed as a knight in armour sits up on the pillows to wish you good night. Prices range from 79.95 GBP (111.70 USD) for a double room in the castle courtyard to 139 GBP (194 USD) for one of the featured castle rooms such as the Radcliffe room in the actual castle itself.
Dinner, served in the castle restaurant, is a fine-dining affair. A delicious menu provides plenty of choice and a well balanced combination of flavours. I had spelt, apple and artichoke risotto followed by a beef tasting plate and crème caramel with golden raisins and a sauterne jelly.
Live like royalty
You can enjoy a relaxed liqueur coffee in the grand castle drawing room after dinner, sitting on the sofas in front of the log-burning stove. Many visitors come for afternoon tea here – it would have been the grand hall back in medieval times. There is free guided tour daily at 10.15am or by appointment, and there are other events such as wedding fayres or party nights. You are a fifteen minute-drive away from the magnificent Hadrian’s Wall and from the award-winning Vindolanda Roman fort excavation and museum. The Roman Army museum is just a few miles further and gives you a feel of what it would have been like during the days of the Roman Empire in Britain. If you are interested in Romans or the history of England, then Langley castle is a fantastic place to stay. This hotel really does make you feel like the King or Queen of the castle - they even have their own flock of peacocks who wander at will around the grounds! it’s a unique place to stay in a little-known part of Merry Olde England!
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