Not a view locals are used to seeing, of this iconic 14th Century castle, this is Langley Castle from the rear, with the new dining room extension. Wikipedia notes that Langley Castle’s most remarkable feature is included in the south-west tower, which houses a total of twelve garderobes, four for each floor. A garderobe, since you ask, is what you call a WC when you’re in a castle.
Langley Castle has an intriguing history, but it’s thanks to Victorian benefactors Cadwallader and Josephine Bates that it’s an intact building today. It was sacked in 1405 by the forces of Henry IV fighting against the Percys and Archbishop Scrope. Thereafter, it was derelict until local historian Cadwallader (and why don’t we have names like that to conjure with, anymore, eh?) bought it in 1882 (imagine that, a ruin for nearly 500 years!) and restored it over the next six years as an historical project. After his death, Josephine continued the process, until her eventual demise in 1932. Thereafter, the building was empty until it was needed as a barracks in the Second World War. When we arrived in the area the castle was well known for having recently been a girls’ school, but the Robb family purchased it when the school closed in the 1980s.
Having followed the development of Langley Castle as a luxury hotel virtually since it was acquired by Dr Stuart Madnick, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I can remember when the title was restored to the property, so that the prof became a real baron, in title and in deed.
Anyway, come Thursday night on Hallowe’en, there’s particularly spooky goings-on at the castle. Dungeons & Dragons’ table-top role-playing game, realised in ‘The Grey Lady’ manifestation (the castle is reputed to be haunted by a grey lady, one Maud de Lucy who seems to have thrown herself from the tower nearly seven centuries ago), has been developed with games-master and local story-teller Chris Hately’s own particular expertise to fit with the castle’s ambience. The spooky game in the grounds of the castle follows Cavalry Games’ Ten Candles rules system, with each candle sequentially being snuffed out as role players act out their part, until the games-master delivers the final horrifying dénouement in the darkness!
The total immersive experience, including dinner and a double room in the Castle View complex (another renovation that means an additional 18 rooms available for wedding parties, as well as the 9 within the castle itself), isn’t cheap for the participants (£195 for a double room) but for an evening in the North-East Hotel of the Year 2018, it seems like a very attractive and intriguing way to spend Hallowe’en with a partner. I don’t know if there are any more places available, but this weekend’s Hexham Courant ran a little feature on the offering, so I’d guess there might be yet.
I’ve eaten in both the Josephine Restaurant, and in the new extension at a grand wedding anniversary party, as well as enjoying a wedding reception dance in the upstairs room, but I’ve never walked around the 12 acre estate. But the castle hotel does feature in most descriptions of this area to friends and visitors, as in, ‘There’s a great castle on this patch, you know!’ And sure enough, a drive through the Langley bends, maybe to pick up a quick fish and chips supper at Haydon Bridge’s chippie, will reveal the splendour of the pile.
Probably the classiest venue for a wedding reception anywhere in the region, I know that the big luxury coaches at Baynes Travel are often called upon to transport guests hither and thither for these special events.
Some day, if I can inveigle my brother and sister-in-law from Philadelphia to these parts over Hallowe’en (they’ve loved the season in all its spookiness, with increasingly refined tricks to play on unsuspecting Trick or Treaters, for decades), it might be fun to put them up for the last night of October at Langley Castle! Alternatively, considering our darling daughter is languishing in Australia, where Hallowe’en isn’t celebrated (but then what does their ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ equivalent do for their show at this time of the year?), and therefore experiencing a famine of dressing-up silliness, she might need a particular spook-me-up cossetting on her return.