Belsay Hall Playground & Cafe Review

 This post is based on a visit in October 2023. Always check with venue direct for the most up-to-date information.

Belsay Hall Playground & Cafe Review

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens is a lovely day out near Ponteland in Northumberland. Admission is free for English Heritage members and chargeable for non-members (see here for current prices, directions and opening times). 

Prefer to watch a video? You can watch my full video walk through of the new playground and cafe here. 

There is a large on-site car par and Belsay is served by the FREE X75 bus until 4 November 2023 (I expect it will be back in May 2024 although this has not been confirmed).

Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds and cafe (they aren't allowed inside the playground, hall or castle) and it's a nice spot for a dog walk with plenty of space to have a good sniff around and complimentary dog water bowls dotted about the site (they also offered free dog treats in the cafe when we last visited). 

Belsay is super accessible with wheelchairs available to hire from reception, a changing places toilet on site, additional accessible toilets near the cafe and well signposted step free access around the gardens. 

You do not need to book your visit in advance, however if you're not a member, you save a little bit by doing so. 

It's definitely worth checking out Belsay's upcoming events as they run Halloween trails, Christmas events, Knight battles and more across the year. 

You can bring a picnic and there are picnic tables across the site or there are two tearooms to choose from (one at the entrance near the car park and the other in the coach house near the castle/playground). 

Wild man trail at Belsay hall

It's around a half mile, easy walk from the entrance to the castle / playground / new cafe. I've walked this loads over the years and it's pretty flat, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs and usually manageable for toddlers too. 

There are a few places to sit in the formal gardens if you need a little rest. The gardens and walk through to the castle is absolutely stunning, especially during Rhododendron season. The quarry gardens are my favourite and it feels like you're walking through Jurassic Park at times.

If your kids love dinosaurs, we used to let the kids bring a toy dinosaur along for the walk as they loved playing with them around the oversized plants and ferns. 

New for 2023 is a Wildman trail too. See the board above and look out for them during your walk (you need to collect the letters to make a word). 

Here are a couple of photos of our most recent walk in 2023. I liked that there were loads of butterflies and more information signs explaining where some of the plants came from and their history. 

Dog friendly belsay hall

Belsay hall woodland walk

The Wild Man Playground 

Prefer to watch a video? You can watch my full video walk through of the new playground and cafe here. 

Find the playground next to the castle and new tea room. It's well signposted from the entrance. Dogs are not permitted in the playground. There are a few picnic tables in the vicinity and there is some outdoor seating at the tearoom by the toddler area where you can sit and keep an eye on kids. 

Belsay hall playground basket swing

I thought the playground was fab, the paths are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs and there is a basket swing and regular swings in the main area as well as various climbing / crawling areas and slides. 

I think the main area would be great for ages 3-12 years and there are definitely more challenging aspects in the climbing frame. 

Belsay hall swings

Belsay hall playground

Tunnel slide at Belsay hall

Wild Man Playground climbing nets at belsay hall

In terms of access, there are basket swings and the ramp up into the main frame does look like it would be ok for a wheelchair. There is a smaller slide at the top of this ramp which may be suitable for some wheelchair users with assistance. 

I could not see a dedicated wheelchair swing / roundabout. 

Wild Man Playground climbing nets at belsay hall

I liked this area with little tunnels and areas to climb on - somewhere the kids can let their imagination go wild. 

On the lower level of the playground (right outside the cafe) is a dedicated toddler area. There is a basket swing and smaller slide with seating nearby. 

The toddler area was actually closed on the day of our visit so these photos were taken through the cafe window. I asked staff though and they said it will be open again at the weekend - they were just doing a few minor touch ups while it was quiet. 

Toddler play area at belsay hall

Toddler playground at Belsay Hall

Don't forget to explore the castle before/after the playground. The views from the rooftop are fantastic and you can usually spot sheep nearby. 

The New Coach House Cafe 

The Coach House Cafe is located between the castle and playground. There are FINALLY toilets here too (including baby change and accessible) which are extremely welcome. 

Prefer to watch a video? You can watch my full video walk through of the new playground and cafe here. 

Accessible toilets at Belsay hall

Dogs are welcome inside the cafe and there are also two outdoor seating areas - one inside the toddler playground and the other overlooking the castle which is quieter and I'd recommend this area if you're visiting without kids. 

Covered outdoor seating at belsay hall cafe

The cafe is accessible and the doors are automatic. There is a microwave for warming baby food if required and high chairs are available. 

New Cafe at Belsay hall

Kids can choose a lunch box (£5.50) with a pick and mix choice of 5 items. Or there is the option of a small soup and bread (£3.50), sausage roll (£3.75) or individually priced items too. 

Belsay Hall Cafe Children's Menu

There are a selection of sandwiches in the fridge as well as soft drinks and alcohol for sale too. 

Then you can order hot food/drinks and meals from the counter. The selection isn't huge but there should be enough choice for even the fussiest of eaters. When we visited there were a couple of cake choices and quite a few freshly baked scones. 

Food menu/prices: 

  • Ratatouille £7.25
  • Ploughmand platter £10.95
  • Quiche of the day £7.95 
  • Soup of the day £5.75 
  • Cornish pasty £5.75
  • Cheese and onion pasty £5.75 
  • Chunky hog roast roll £4.50 
  • Sausage roll £3.75 
  • Vegan sausage roll £4.25 
  • Tea £2.40 
  • Americano £2.95 
  • Latte £3.30 
  • Cappuccino £3.30 
  • Mocha £3.40 
  • Deluxe Hot Chocolate £4.30 
Soya and Oat milk are available. 

If you're a renewal English Heritage member as we are, flash your membership card and you'll receive a 10% discount. It was just over £8 for 2 coffees and a slice of cake for us which I didn't find too bad. 

A word about GF/V/Ve options - they do state on their website that these are available and there is a sign saying ask if you need allergen advice. However the food itself and the menus are not labelled so you can't instantly see if something is vegetarian / GF etc.... you'd need to ask. 

I only spotted one label and that was to say that the meringue was GF. Everything else was unlabelled. 

Belsay Hall Scones

Belsay Hall Cafe Baby Warming

We sat outside in the covered outdoor area which was lovely - I really admired all of the original features. We tried the Honey and Bergomot cake which was so nice. I definitely recommend trying it. 

When I mentioned I was going to Belsay to try the new cafe, I received a few messages from other people who had visited and said that it was SO busy. The staff also mentioned to me that it had been extremely busy at the weekend and they were having staffing problems too. 

We got there for opening on a weekday and it wasn't busy but I imagine over weekends and school holidays, especially for the rest of 2023, it's going to be busy so do expect to queue/wait for food. 

If your kids can't play unsupervised, I'd recommend visiting with two adults - one can get lunch while the other watches the kids. If you're visiting alone with kids over peak periods, I'd probably say stick with a picnic until the 'newness' dies down and it becomes a little less busy. 

Before you leave, don't miss the Second Hand Bookshop in the entrance building. There are some lovely children's books in there and it's £1 for more kids books (bring a few £ for easy donation or you can go back into the main entrance and donate using your card if you don't have any cash on you). 

Belsay Hall Second Hand Bookshop

The new playground and cafe are both excellent additions to Belsay. We've always enjoyed visiting Belsay a few times a year and I'm sure it's going to be even more popular now. 

I recommend combining with a walk around Bolam Lake which is just along the road and absolutely stunning in Autumn (it's accessible too). 

  • Accessible by car or bus (until 4 Nov) 
  • FREE entry for English Heritage members (chargeable for non-members) 
  • Lovely 'Wild Man' play area with climbing nets, slides, basket swings, tunnels and more 
  • Toddler play area with outdoor cafe seating so you can keep an eye on little ones and enjoy a coffee 
  • Accessible walks and paths around the gardens and a changing places toilet 
  • New cafe with kids options, hot and cold food and indoor and outdoor seating 
  • Dogs on leads welcome in the grounds and cafe  
  • Wild Man Trail through the gardens 
  • Lots of exotic plants, wildlife and sheep to spot 

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