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Lumley Castle
County Durham, England

[Tuesday - 10/25/94] After all of our escapades at Warkworth Castle, we settled in for the remaining drive to our lodgings for tonight, Lumley Castle. By the time we arrived in Chester le Street, it was dark and a bit rainy. But, when we saw the Castle on its hill all lit up and glorious, we were filled with all new excitement! This was, by far, our most extravagant hotel and the manager made us feel like the most honored of guests from the moment we arrived. He even arranged for us to have our extraordinary dinner in a special vaulted, cellar room reserved for VIPs. We had two servers dedicated to our meal who came and went via a secret passageway behind the fireplace. The meal itself was heavenly, with the best visual presentation of the entire adventure. It was too cool!

The origins of this wonderfully preserved castle go back to the 9th century, although the main building dates from 14th century. But, sympathetic refurbishment over the ages has transformed it into a hotel, which offered us an exciting blend of ancient history and modern luxury. Situated on 9 acres of parkland, all 62 bedrooms are uniquely furnished, from the genuine Queen four-poster in the King James suite to the rustic charm and old beams of the courtyard rooms. We couldn't resist peeking in each others rooms and even took an evening tea in one bedroom with especial charm.

Sir Ralph Lumley built Lumley Castle in the late 14th Century. He obtained permission from the bishop in 1389 and from the king (Richard II, a friend of Lumley's) in 1392 to convert the manor house built by his father into a castle. The top of each tower has turrets from which an enemy could be spotted for miles around. Sir John Vanburgh, the architect of Blenheim Palace, Castle Howard, and Seaton Delaval Hall, altered the basement of the southwest tower. The Baronís Hall, where Elizabethan Banquets are now held, was originally larger with a minstrelís gallery and the existing fireplace of local stone was inserted by Lord John Lumley in the late 16th Century and the Lumley coat of arms carved into it.

Like all medieval castles, it seems, Lumley has its own ghost! The Lily of Lumley was the first wife of the builder of the castle, Sir Ralph, later Lord Lumley. Like her husband, she was an ardent follower of Wycliffe, the church reformer, but when her husband was away, two priests tried to bring her back to the Catholic Fold. However, she was obdurate, so to save her soul the priests lured her into a bedroom, killed her, took her body down the mural staircase to the basement of the castle and threw her body into a well. They then took a young woman from Lumley village who was very ill to a convent near Finchdale and said that she was Lady Lumley. When the young woman died the priests informed Lord Lumley of his wifeís death and apparently he believed them. The Lily of Lumley is said to come up via the well and haunt the castle. The manager took us on a private tour and showed us the very well!

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