Gibside is a National Trust property found in the Derwent Valley near Rowlands Gill. The estate was owned by the Bowes family who obtained their wealth from coal. It is a huge estate with plenty to discover on the grounds and gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
I had Gibside on my list of places I wanted to visit this year and managed to go over the Summer.
Gibside is easy to find, it is well signposted from the main roads and there is ample car parking space. To enter the estate you do need to climb a steep hill. There are minibuses that drive you around the estate so if you wait you can get a lift to the top.
More information: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside
We started our visit in the Walled Garden. The garden is three acres in size and is full of flowers, fruit and vegetables quietly growing in the beds. We found apple trees, beans and plenty of flowers. The produce from the garden is used in the cafe as well as in the community farm. Part of the wall surrounding the garden collapsed in 2013 due to severe weather conditions but now this is being restored. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, the 300 year old bricks are no longer in production. Some of the old bricks were cleaned to be used again but a number had to be ordered specially.
The garden is a lovely tranquil place to stroll though, especially on a warm summer day. The birds were singing and the bees humming. Gibside is a haven for wildlife and if you are lucky you might see a red kite overhead. If you are interested in wildlife you can take a ramble though the estate with a ranger and discover more about the trees and wildlife that live here.
Leaving the walled garden we headed towards the orangery. This was built by George Bowes daughter Mary Eleanor to house her exotic collection of plants from around the world. It is a short walk though wooded paths to get there and rounding the corner you see the building against the skyline. It would have been an imposing sight when the windows contained glass. Strangely shaped trees could be found in the undergrowth.
Dominating the skyline is the Column of Liberty which depicts a young woman holding a staff of maintenance and a cap of liberty. It was built by George Bowes to show his support for the Whig party in the 1700’s. Rising from the trees it is a short walk down the hill to get there, but we turned towards The Avenue, a tree lined walk way leading to the chapel.
On the way to the chapel we passed the ruins of the house, which must have been an impressive place to visit during Georgian times. Even though it is in ruins it still looks majestic against the countryside behind. The rooms within must have had a great view over the Derwent valley beyond. You get a sense of the grandness of the estate, it must have been filled with servants hustling about their business tending to the needs of the occupants within.
The house was vacated in the 1920s, death duties meant the family had to give up some of their houses. Parts of the house have been destroyed. It is a shame that you can’t go inside the ruins and it would be lovely to see them restored to their former glory one day.
The avenue is half a mile long and lined with Turkey oaks and Sycamore trees on either side. It is a gentle and tranquil walk leading to the impressive chapel. It would have been a lovely stretch to travel along in a horse drawn carriage. The chapel was finished in 1816 and George Bowes is buried here. It is meant to be equally impressive inside.
Leaving Gibside we were tempted to buy some bread at the bakery. They had a wide range for sale and it was delicious. I want to go back and visit Gibside when they have the market on the first and third Saturday of the month. It is a place to buy fresh and seasonal produce as well as crafts and Gibside is certainly a great setting for this. On Fridays though out the year you can also go along and attend the local beer garden and pub with local ales and snacks.
I would love to go to this event and maybe combine it with glamping in one of the yurts they also have on the site.
Gibside is a National Trust property so entry for members is free. Prices are:
Do allow plenty of time for your visit as there is plenty to see, we only saw a small part of what Gibside has to offer.