Belsay Castle
Belsay Castle
Belsay Castle is a ruined medieval fortification in the grounds of Belsay Hall. The castle was built sometime in the 14th century and stands beside the ruin of a Jacobean mansion and an early 19th-century neo-classical hall.


We do not know exactly when the first castle was built, but it was probably in the first half of the 14th century. This might mean it was built by the powerful Middleton family, who held Belsay in the early 1300s, but the Middletons made the mistake of rebelling against the unpopular Edward II, and forfeited the estate.

Suspicion then falls on Sir John de Strivelyn, who held the Belsay estate after Edward seized it from the Middletons. By 1370 the castle was back in Middleton hands, and they built the nearby Jacobean mansion.

This was added to the medieval tower in the early 17th century, and the Middletons resided in this Jacobean extension until the nearby Hall was completed in 1817.

The castle is dominated by a tall, three-floor pele tower, on a rectangular plan. The bottom level was a vaulted kitchen area, rising to a hall, then on to a solar, or private family quarters, on the third level.

The tower was first and foremost a fortified residence, but it was also built to impress, with a grand great hall. Traces of wall paintings can still be seen on the walls of the hall, with heraldic devices against a background of flowers. The castle is a shell, but an imposing shell nonetheless, and it looks out on carefully manicured lawns, with level paths giving access to the Hall and lovely gardens.


Belsay is unique; in one place, within a few minutes easy stroll, are three distinct historic attractions, each from a different era, each with its own style. The castle, though quite obviously remodelled to impress as a residence, contrasts with the later Jacobean mansion.

The mansion is stunning, with wide, traceried windows. It must have been a fabulous house when complete in 1614 (the inscription over the porch gives us the date).

Then contrast both the medieval tower and mansion with the 19th century Hall, which is so completely different in character. You could easily spend hours at Belsay - in fact, I did!