If there’s such a thing as a typical English country house, Newby Hall could claim the title. It’s not overpoweringly large and it’s built of mellow red brick (Sir Christopher Wren may have a hand in its design, and later Robert Adam certainly did). Its interiors are impressive – though it’s still very obviously a family home – and it is surrounded by award-winning gardens.
But if all that sounds a little dull, don’t worry. For at Newby there is lots to do other than admire the house and wander through the gardens. And everything is kept within a relatively small area, so it’s possible for the whole family to enjoy different aspects without straying too far from each other.
On the way into the park, stop off at the elaborate church of Christ the Consoler, built with the ransom money for one of the Vyner family, who was killed by his Greek brigand captors before the money reached them.
After that, your day out starts at the Entrance Pavilion, where there are full-size replicas of the Crown Jewels on display – a Vyner ancestor of the present owners was Charles II’s goldsmith and made most of the originals. In the house there’s an IOU from the king, who never paid; the originals are worth about £400m in today’s values. For 2013 and 2014, the Entrance Pavilion also houses an exhibition about Newby in the two World Wars; from 1940-44 the hall was reserved as a safe house for the royal family in the event of a German invasion.
The interiors of the house can be visited during an hour-long guided tour – you can book one at the entrance pavilion. There are sometimes shorter tours for children, too. Highlights of the house include very valuable French Gobelins tapestries, Greek and Roman sculptures collected on the Grand Tour, furniture by Chippendale, plus more than 100 chamber pots.
The gardens stretch from the house to the River Ure and offer plenty to explore. To the west of the central avenue, with its huge, colourful borders, are two walled gardens and a large rock garden with winding paths, wild areas, pools, stone bridges and a waterfall to explore. By the river is the track of the Newby miniature railway – you’ll hear the whistle as you explore the garden. The train takes passengers along the riverside and into woodland from its tiny station near the ice-cream kiosks.
Nearby is the popular adventure playground, with plenty for young explorers, while you can hire free pedalo boats to voyage around the moat. There’s also an interactive water play area called Tarantella.
There is an old wooden door in a wall near the restaurant. This was once in Newgate Prison and it was here that highwayman Jack Sheppard escaped in 1724, three months before he was caught and hanged.
Picnickers have a special space near the car park, while in the woods you’re likely to come across an exhibition of modern sculpture. Each summer Zimbabwean sculptors are at work in the grounds. And Newby’s shop, visited as always at the end of a visit, is different and exciting, too; it focuses on creative toys for children as well as unusual jewellery – an interesting end to a day out at Newby Hall.
HOW TO GET THERE
Newby Hall is off the B6265, three miles south-east of Ripon. Bus service 142 (Mon-Sat only, not public holidays) runs to Skelton-on-Ure from Ripon and York.
FIND OUT MORE
Newby Hall and Gardens
Newby Hall, Ripon HG4 5AE
0845 450 4068
Open till 29 September this year, then reopens in spring 2014. House and gardens: adults £14, children £11.
The restaurant at Newby is in the walled garden.
83 North Street,
Ripon HG4 1DP
The Old Deanery
Ripon HG4 1QS