You won't believe how good the historic Wentworth Castle looks - after reopening under the care of the National Trust
Imogen runs ahead of me down the grassy hill and the picture-perfect view envelops her, her giggles ringing in the air.
It’s been nearly three years since I’ve set foot in the grounds of Wentworth Castle, and it’s even more beautiful than I remembered it. Of course, there have been some changes to the Grade I-listed stately home and gardens, which were forced to close in 2017 after it was revealed the site was no longer meeting its running costs. It was taken over by the National Trust last year who vowed to bring the estate back to its former glory. And they’ve certainly done that. The lawns are trim, the flower beds are bright, bursting with wildflowers, and the once trampled footpaths are now clearly marked with fences and signage.
Of course everything that was wonderful about this place has remained – a Victorian conservatory dating back to the 1800’s, several garden follies that are reminiscent of the ‘Sense and Sensibility’ era, and the infamous ‘medieval’ play fortress in the grounds, created by Thomas Wentworth for his children, complete with turrets and a gatehouse.
There’s also a bright new cafe, with lots of outdoor seating, which is where we start our visit, with sandwiches in the sunshine while Imogen skips on the grass nearby. It's all so idyllic.
As we head out into the grounds, I can see a number of additional footpaths that have been created, allowing visitors to venture even further into the 500 acres of parkland - which is full of wildlife, including a herd of deer that roam freely in the park, and hares and squirrels springing through the grass.
After a visit to my favourite folly – the Corinthian Temple – we find a 'grumpy’ old tree in the flower garden, play hide and seek in the Union Jack garden - a wild maze of plants which looks just like the flag when viewed from above – and read lots of information about the historic site inside the beautiful old conservatory.
Our favourite place is, of course, the play castle, where we climb 83 steps to the top and look out at the incredible view. Some of the original steps are still available to view, as well as the many turrets, designed lovingly for the owner's children, complete with seating and even a fireplace.
In the grassed area inside the castle, we find wooden swords and horses for playing knights, and original stone seating. It’s stunningly historic and beautifully maintained.
It's an overwhelming feeling of peace I feel as we walk back towards the entrance, passing people sitting on benches in the sunshine, a couple with a picnic blanket drinking glasses of wine and chatting, and children practising cartwheels together on the lawn. A welcome nod to an era largely gone, but celebrated here in all its glory - and much appreciated.
Our visit can’t end without calling in at the adventure playground, which is jam-packed with equipment, including a brilliant zip-line. I’m so delighted this place has reopened in the region, and am already planning our next visit. I highly recommend you do the same.
Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wentworth-castle-gardens for details.