Historic Houses Leicestershire: Belvoir Castle and Gardens

Belvoir Castle has been home to the Dukes of Rutland’s family for almost a thousand years. The first castle was built on the hill-top site overlooking the Vale of Belvoir in 1067.

Belvoir Castle from the Spiral Walk
Belvoir Castle from the Spiral Walk

Over the next 600 years two further castles replaced the original one, before the present castle, which was completed in 1832. It is now considered one of the finest Regency houses in England.

I thought I had visited all the great stately homes in the Midlands, but somehow I’d missed out on Belvoir Castle. I’d not even seen it from a distance although it stands prominently above the surrounding countryside.

But when I visited with my wife on a sunny July day, we were completely captivated by the Castle, the Gardens and the Capability Brown designed Parkland.

Belvoir Castle

It takes about 15 minutes to walk up the fairly steep pathway from the ticket office in the car park to the castle. However anyone with limited mobility can request a parking permit to drive up the hill to the castle.

The Guard Room
The Guard Room

Rather than a guided tour, we were able to explore the castle following a route designed to assist with social distancing. Information boards were available in each of the rooms, although there was also the option of an audio guide.

Entry to the castle is via the Pre-Guard Room, a corridor lined with over a 100 Brown Bess muskets. This leads to the Guard Room itself, which has circles of 60 cavalry swords on the walls, overlooked by portraits of James I, Charles I and Mary I. Quite a start to an historic house tour!

From there we proceeded up the stairs to the Carriage Landing. The landing passage is Gothic Revival style resembling a cathedral cloister. The portrait on the staircase is of Elizabeth Howard who came from Castle Howard to marry the 5th Duke of Rutland in 1799. She was very much involved in the castle design, no doubt affected by features of Castle Howard. We will find out soon as that is high on our list of places to visit – another Historic Houses property.

The State Dining Room
The State Dining Room

The magnificent Ballroom came next, with interesting display cabinets and two Chinese Bedrooms off to the side, decorated with Chinese silk and Chinese wallpaper.

Returning back along the banister took us into the neo-classical style State Dining Room with a dining table that can seat 30 people and a fine selection of silver, including a wine cooler on a beautifully carved marble table. The withdrawing room (for ladies after dinner) is known as the Elizabeth Saloon and has furniture and fireplaces in Louis XIV style.

Entering the Picture Gallery made us realise that a return visit will be necessary if we are to really appreciate what is on display at Belvoir Castle. The many fine pictures in the  gallery are from the 16th to 20th Century and includes a famous painting by Holbein of Henry VIII.

Belvoir: The Picture Gallery
The Picture Gallery with Henry VIII painting

Continuing to the three rooms known as the King’s Rooms, which have hosted several monarchs since George VI, we crossed the Earl’s Landing and into the Regent’s Gallery. This is a truly grand room, over 130 feet in length with a large bay in the middle. There are three large fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and fine French 18th Century tapestries with scenes from ‘Don Quixote’.

I was interested to see many recent family photographs during our tour of the castle’s ‘upstairs’ rooms. A reminder that this is still very much a lived-in house.

A spiral staircase at the end of the Regent’s Gallery leads down to the Chapel and then a further staircase to the extensive ‘downstairs’ rooms.

These comprise the Pastry, the Old Kitchen, the Brewery and the Railway & Dooms. The latter comprises a series of underground tunnels where a small railway used to bring goods from Grantham Canal. All a bit spooky and indeed there were supposedly three witches in the castle 400 years ago.

The Gardens

The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden

On exiting the castle we took the Spiral Walk to the Rose Garden, stopping at a couple of viewpoints overlooking the Vale of Belvoir.

The Rose Garden comprises several terraces, with a wide range of flowering plants and shrubs in addition to roses, plus statues and great views back to the castle. There are some steep pathways between the terraces and down into Japanese Woodland, so good shoes are advisable.

A pathway around a couple of small lakes and by the Dairy took us to the Duchess’ Garden and on to the Hermit’s Garden – neither as attractive as the Rose Garden, but a pleasant flat walk.

The Parkland

Root & Moss House
Root & Moss House

A very steep path at the end of the Hermit’s Garden leads us up to the Duchess’ View and the Duke’s Walk, which stretches for a couple of miles around the edge of the parkland and passing a large lake and a couple of pavilions.

On this occasion, on a hot and sunny afternoon, we decided to give the Duke’s Walk a miss, and instead headed back to the castle on a pathway overlooking and giving great views down to the Hermit’s and Duchess’ Gardens.

We were intrigued by two strange structures along the way, the Tufa Grotto (built of Derbyshire tufa limestone) and the Root & Moss House.

That in many ways that sums up our visit to Belvoir Castle, Gardens and Parkland – points of great interest and surprises around every corner. Check here for opening times.

Entry to Belvoir Castle and Gardens is £15.00 for adults (no senior discounts) and £7.00 for children. However if you take up annual membership with Historic Houses, you will get free entry to Belvoir Castle and Gardens, plus 300 other heritage sites. Enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’ and you will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.

We have reviewed several other properties under Historic Houses and see also: Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?

Additional Photographs

Belvoir Castle and Rose Garden
Belvoir Castle from the Rose Garden
Belvoir: King's Room
King’s Room
Belvoir: The Regent's Gallery
Regent’s Gallery
The Chapel
The Chapel
Belvoir: The Pastry
The Pastry
Down in the Dooms
Down in the Dooms
Belvoir: Japanese Woodland
Japanese Woodland
Tufa Grotto
Tufa Grotto

POSTED 12th AUGUST 2020 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.