Sunday, 28 September 2008

Featherstone Castle - Part I

Featherstone Castle is a strange place, but having just read that it is an "activity centre for the use of young people and students"...well, I understand it better now. Dave, one of the guys in our running club who is also an avid cyclist suggested it for a weekend trip around a one night stay. He described it as grand, but basic. I looked at the website and was captured as soon as I saw the pictures and read that wood was supplied for the fireplaces.

Still, we had to take sleeping bags, so I was guessing it would be cold and damp.
I was right about the latter, though the castle was relatively dry. That Saturday the heavens opened up like nothing before – well, OK it does this about once or twice a year...every few months...quite often, actually.

I thought the guys were nuts taking bikes, but that’s nothing new. Me? I took my knitting. We picked up Bob and boated along to the place. We were the first arrivals at about 3pm and set about exploring.

I had already been warned about it ‘being a rabbit warren’ – the stock British phrase for anyplace intricate – and so I just treated it like a fun house where I would deliberately get lost and of course it wasn't hard at all to misplace myself. The next day I found the floor plan for the fire escape. Truth be known, I think we would all have been toast.

Every room had 2 or 3 doors all leading to other similar rooms or rather all different sorts of rooms.
There were a few bedrooms with 2 or 3 (naked) beds, many more rooms with rows of bunk beds, several big rooms (halls) with fireplaces,

more than a few kitchens stacked with cupboards full of mismatched dishes,

staircases at every turn, some up, some down, some twisting into the dark.

Also beautiful tall stone framed windows

overlooking the turbulent South Tyne River and fields of wet sheep eating wet green grass;

a startling mix of broken junky furniture

with beautiful carved antique (or at least very old) pieces, and cupboards full of dust and oddments in strange places like the walls along the stairwells or in corners between door frames.

One of the first rooms was a good sized kitchen with a huge old stove radiating heat.
I learned that this was one of the famed Aga ranges I’ve read about for so long. I had no idea how one might cook on it, but since I wasn’t in charge of the vittles, I wasn’t worried about it.

A couple not in our group appeared in one of the halls I was exploring. He explained that he'd spent the night there 40 years ago and happened to be driving in the area and decided to show it to his girlfriend. They found the door open, and walked in...made me wonder who else might be around.

Another man brought his kids and his dog to check the place out, but he was a friend of Dave's and his dog was lovely.

They said it was a 'lurcher', something I've read about but not seen. She was smaller than I expected a lurcher to be, but with the wire-haired coat. I could go for a dog like this...

As soon as everyone arrived and chose their rooms, some of them decided to go for a run. Some of us decided to walk UP to the pub.


rosepetal501 said...

Hi Shelley: My name is Rose Featherstone and I live in California, USA. I was trying to find into on visiting Featherstone Castle and saw your blog, and mention that you are from the US. I can't seem to find any info about staying at the castle. Do you know if they have hotel accomodations, or do you have to stay in a nearby hotel, and do a day visit. Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, from a US citizen who wants to visit Featherstone Castle (Rose)

Shelley said...

Hi Rose, nice to 'meet' you.

I can understand your interest given your surname, but if you've read the Wikipedia info, the original owner was named Fetherstonhaugh (and perhaps that is also the name of your ancestors).

You may well have found more info since leaving your comment, but I will answer here and on your blog, just in case.

The man who owns it now doesn't rent rooms like in a hotel, he rents the whole thing for a period of time, usually a weekend. He charges something like £15-16 per person and has a minimum of maybe 15-20 people in the group. If you really want, I suppose you could pay the whole whack, but I wouldn't want to be the only person or couple even. It's on lovely grounds and looks great from the outside, but it's fairly run down and shabby inside and frankly quite creepy.

You could stay in the area and request a day tour, even under the guise of checking it out for a group rental. Or, if you were really brave, you might ask to be put in contact with a renting group's organiser. If they aren't a witches' coven (or perhaps even if they are, I should make no assumptions should I?) or some other uncomfortable sounding group, you might offer to pitch in your share if you could crash their party. I'm not sure which idea sounds more frightening, to be honest. The rooms don't reliably lock and you have to go outside the bedroom to get to a bathroom, so you'd have to feel pretty safe to take that approach.

Hope this helps; good luck!


Denis McKeown said...

Dear Rose Featherstone: As an Irish-American in New York City, I have a mystery to solve. When my Mother, Teresa Sloan McKeown died, I learned that my Aunt Margaret was not my Aunt, but my Grandmother, and that my Mother had no known Father listed on her birth Certicate in Ireland, but at the time of my mother's birth, Margaret Sloan was a Lady-in-waiting to Lord Featherstone, so there is a slim chance that I am a descendant of said Lord Featherstone or Featherstonehaugh and am proud to say so! I have found the Featherstone Crest and plan to get a Crest to wear on my Burberry Blazer as well.

So goes my personal family history; I shall try to connect with you, the only other Featherstone I have ever come across and can be reached by e-mail at to continue to build my Family history actual or just assumed. Thank you Shelley for all the interest in the Castle.


Denis McKeown (Featherstone)

Joe Collins said...

I stayed in Featherstone castle for two weeks in the early 1980's when it was one of the destinations for Colony Holidays which was a kind of summer camp for kids in the UK.

Shelley said...

Joe - Two weeks sounds a long time to stay in that place! I suppose if the adults in charge had interesting activities planned it might not be too bad. A fun place to explore as a kid, no doubt! Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

Fiona66 said...

I also stayed in featherstone castle in the 80's for a week on a school residential trip , very cold and spooky but fond memories :)

Shelley said...

Fiona - Sounds like a fun place to go with a bunch of kids from school! We had a great time and we were/are much older. Wouldn't want to be there on my own though! Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment.

donna daglish said...

Hi wud love this in january for my 30th cud u plz send me some info to thank you

Shelley said...

Sorry, Donna, this isn't my business - you'll need to get in touch with the people who own/ run the castle. I'm sure if you Google it you'll find some sort of contact details.

donna daglish said...

Gutted still cant find any info on renting featherstone castle

Eloise said...

I found this number: 01434 320 202.
Featherstone Castle belongs to John Clark who bought it with his father in 1961.

Shelley said...

Thanks, Eloise. I did actually contact the guy who booked the place for us and emailed the number to Donna - She has the place booked now! I didn't know if she would return here to the blog, but perhaps now people will be able to get in touch if they wish...

m wood said...

I stayed on a drama class residential from midde school in newcastle in early 80's and the place was creepy as hell.

Shelley said...

M Wood - Thanks for your comment. I agree it's a very scary place!

Unknown said...

I have just stayed at Featherstone Castle for 3 days for my college trip. Surprisingly enough i quite enjoyed it, even though its a little shabby. The bedrooms are manageable, and the chill room is cosy enough once the fire gets going. Had a few unexplained experiences during our stay such as a girl screaming from upstairs late last night, however all the girls were in bedrooms on ground floor. A large rock was also moved in front of a boys bedroom door, blocking anyone from getting in. Its a little scary when you wake up needing the toilet and have to run out the bedroom and along the corridor in the pitch black. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would defiantly recommend if you don't mind roughing it a little!

Sonya Fetherstonhaugh said...

Hello, my name is Sonya Fetherstonhaugh and I'm visiting England for the first time in September to visit the family castle I have been told about all my life. Are you able to email me any contact details to organise accomodation, I have been trying through travel agents, tour guides but no one can give me this info. I may even get to meet the ghost of the Fetherstonhaugh Bride!!! My email is Thank you

Shelley said...

I believe there is a phone number somewhere in these comments that someone found.

James Coward said...

I just stayed at Featherstone castle with a few friends for the weekend. The place IS kinda basic but what a place! You can go from one room with crappy metal bunk beds in to the next room with the most amazing, intricately carved wooden ceiling and fire surround you've ever seen! Incredible building! And John, the owner - only met him once on Saturday morning but was a really nice guy, a little eccentric maybe and perhaps not what I expected a castle owner to look like, but a lovely guy anyway! Go there - you'll love it!