After our foggy morning at Hadrian’s Wall and a brief stop for lunch, we spent the rest of that afternoon at Cragside.
Cragside was the home of Victorian inventor, Lord Armstrong. It was the first house in the UK to use hydroelectric power and also features other technologically advanced late 1800s equipment. For example, an hydraulic lift goes from the basement kitchen and storage rooms up four floors; I couldn’t help thinking of the poor servants back at Newhailes who had to carry everything up two flights just to serve dinner. In the basement are not only bathrooms with running water, but a small sauna.
We had no guide for this particular house, but were free to wander individually. Most of the group started down in the basement, examining the kitchen gadgets, then made our separate ways up through the main part of the house to the long gallery and guest rooms up at the top. The guest rooms had been done over in the 1930s and looked extremely comfy.
My favorite room in Cragside was what had been the billiard room–at least, there was a large billiard table in the middle of the room. Above it hung a number of antique light bulbs, each glowing faintly, and an enormous stuffed swan. I was so fascinated by the light bulbs that I didn’t even notice the swan overhead in the dim light at first.
We were allowed to take photographs in the house as long as we didn’t have the flash on, so I had to try and get a photo of this.
When I left the house, I took a path into the rock garden below. This path led down into the deep cleft on one side of the house to a stream running through the bottom, the same stream that powered the hydroelectric plant.
I had glimpsed the hydroelectric plant at the end of the stream by the lake when we drove in, but our coach was parked up that way and I had about an hour to look around the gardens before I had to meet the others back there. So instead of immediately taking the path along the stream, I went across one of the bridges over it and through the impressively tall pine trees on the opposite hillside.
Around the top of the hill were the gardens.
By this time, the day had become quite nice and sunny, and the gardens were beautiful. I spent some time wandering amid the abundance of bright flowers and trying to take pictures of butterflies on them.
After I had gone thoroughly around the garden, I began to worry about time growing short and had to go back over the hill and down through the pine trees to take the path by the stream toward the hydroelectric plant. The hydroelectric plant has just been revived with new and completely modern equipment, and is once again powering the house.
When I got to the parking area, I found I was in plenty of time, and so took a quick walk up to the hotel built by the lake to have a look at it.
Cragside has become a sort of resort; in addition to the original Victorian house and gardens, there is an extensive hotel facility with cottages you can rent and even more gardens and woodland on the hill behind it. Regular shuttles take visitors between the hotel and Cragside House, as well as around on the roads through the woodlands; we had taken one when we first arrived to get from the parking lot to the house, about a quarter of a mile apart.
Like Alnwick, this is one place I didn’t feel I’d seen all of and hope to come back to one day. According to the map, there was a rhododendron maze on the far side of the gardens that I never got to and would especially love to see when in bloom.
Back at Doxford House
We returned to our hotel early enough that evening that I had time to take a walk around the little formal gardens and try to find the maze. When I did find it, I walked around the outer sections but didn’t want to go too far in. Even though the yew hedges weren’t more than shoulder-high and had gaps in them, so I wasn’t in any danger of getting lost, I can’t forget when I couldn’t get out of the maze at Hampton Court in the pouring rain.
I had meant to go swimming again before dinner, but the water in the pool had been kind of cold. No problem when I’m feeling well, but not a good idea to get chilly with a cold definitely settling in. Instead, I opted to take a hot bath and try out the bathtub jets.
The jets were great for creating tons of bubbles from the body wash I poured into the water, but things went very quickly from “I feel just like a starlet taking a bubble-bath in an old movie!” to “It’s about to spill out all over the floor!” After dealing with the wall-spraying shower the night before, I didn’t want to have to mop up the bathroom floor with my spare towel again and shut the jets off. The bubbles filled the tub throughout the evening and didn’t dissolve completely until after midnight.