Wednesday, January 2

King of the castle

Our first day of the New Year is likely to become the year's most memorable. While researching accommodation for our Northern road tour, Garry and I decided to bite the bullet and book a night in a castle. Our internet searches threw up several promising options, until by chance, we came across Langley Castle, a restored medieval castle in the heart of Northumberland. An email soon saw us booked in the castle's feature room.

Reaching the castle was an adventure in itself. As we drove north the weather began to deteroriate. The last 45 minutes of our journey saw us battling heavy rain, localised flooding and winding country lanes. However, the nail-biting ride was worth it. As we drove into the grounds, we were greeted by a magnificant floodlit fortress on a hill. It was a truly magic moment.

At check-in we discovered that we were the only guests that night. We had the entire castle to ourselves! The building was magnificant. Imagine sitting in a grand Drawing Room reached by a wide, creaking wooden staircase. The room itself was furnished with plush period sofas and framed by thick stone walls, a 16-foot high ceiling crossed by mighty oak beam and a large roaring fireplace. It was the perfect place to sit and enjoy a cold beer before dinner.

The castle contains a total of nine well-appointed guest rooms. Our room was located on the same floor as the Drawing Room. This meant it shared the same high ceiling. However, the room itself was huge. It included an enormous window cut into the castles six-foot thick walls, a cosy fireplace and enormous, creaking four-poster bed.

The following morning we were taken on a tour of the castle. Highlights included the Garderobe Tower. This tower once housed toilet cubicles on each of the castle's four levels. Three cubicles were recessed into the tower wall, while chutes at their base guided waste down into a small diverted stream. The arrangement of so many cubicles is unique in Europe suggesting that a sizeable garrison was stationed here.

The roof was our final destination. It was pure magic climbing the castle's battlements and surveying the surrounding countryside. We were like kids, imagining ourselves thrust back in time, watching guard over the district. In one corner of the roof lay a small chapel. It's restoration was completed in 1914 by Josephine Bates. She was the wife of Cadwallader Bates, who'd bought the castle in 1882 with the aim of restoring its former glory.

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