What to Expect from 'The Rising' at the Remarkable Raby Castle
Raby Castle, Deer Park and Plotters' Forest is a magnificent and magical place to visit, but behind the scenes an exciting, ambitious and contemporary re-imagining is taking place too
One of the most photogenic buildings in the country can be found hidden away in Teesdale, and it has a rich history that resonates with some significant moments in our nation's story. The medieval castle, as it stands today, dates from the 14th century and was built for the mighty Neville dynasty. Home to Cecily Neville, mother of two kings of England, it was also the scene of the plotting of the Rising of the North and was a Parliamentary stronghold during the Civil War.
In recent times the castle has attracted visitors to see its medieval walls and embattled towers, to seek out the many treasures that hide inside, and to explore the expansive parkland that surrounds it, along with the herds of red and fallow deer that enjoy its rolling landscape.
Despite the longevity of Raby Castle, such historic buildings need to move forward with the times to continue to attract visitors, often requiring dramatic new development, and the Raby Estate is going through one such historic chapter right now. It’s one of the most ambitious and remarkable plans we have seen and one of its great attributes is that current visitors are all but completely shielded from the works.
‘Underlying this vastly ambitious project is the need to ensure that the changes will last for many generations to come’
A project of this scale and ambition also needs to be undertaken in stages. The first chapter saw the opening of The Plotters' Forest, a children's outdoor playground surrounded by nature, and today this provides an enchanting tree-top adventure for children. You can also visit the castle, as well as the 200-acre deer park. With a welcoming café onsite in a specially crafted yurt it all makes for a great family day out.
While this is a great place for an adventurous day out, behind the scenes, buildings that have been mostly redundant for years are being given a vibrant new lease of life. The project (named The Rising, in deference to one of the country's most notorious plots, The Rising of the North) involves three heritage buildings, two new buildings and also includes sections of the stunning walled gardens. The latter part of this ambitious project has reimagined the space and renowned garden designer Luciano Giubbilei, alongside Lady Barnard, are making it truly special.
When it comes to the existing buildings, the magnificent Dutch Barn is being re-imagined to create a fabulous space for all manner of events, not least Raby's seasonal markets. The Riding School is being repurposed to host exhibitions, conferences and events and in another area, the Vinery Café will enjoy panoramic views of Raby Castle while offering specially-crafted seasonal menus.
Underlying this vastly ambitious project is the need to ensure that the changes will last for many generations to come, something that Lord and Lady Barnard, who are overseeing the project, see as crucial. Visitors who have been in the past will also recall the Coach House and Stables, and these are also being dramatically renovated to include a space which tells the story of the estate as well as a shop which will include a curated selection of homeware, gifts and unique, artisan pieces.
The plan is to have these spaces all open by late spring 2024, and we look forward to revisiting this remarkable estate when the project is complete, but for now, explore the historic castle, walk in the parkland, enjoy a coffee in the café, and watch the kids have fun and adventures in the Plotters' Forest, and keep an eye on various events taking place during the autumn.
Defiant Raby Castle is a gem in an unspoiled landscape. Today part of its splendid grounds are being reimagined and repurposed with respect to its past and in celebration of its future, and that is what makes it so special.
What not to miss at Raby this autumn
Don’t miss the Halloween after dark trail, a spooky delight (27th October–4th November).
In the Deer Park wannabe witches and wizards can enjoy a specially designed trail too (30th September–5th November).
Meanwhile at High Force Waterfall, a 30-minute drive away, there’s a Halloween trail along the spectacular woodland walk to look out for.
Staindrop, County Durham DL2 3AH