Caledon Castle opens to public for first time in 20 years
The Earl of Caledon speaks exclusively to Stephanie Bell
The 7th Earl of Caledon and his wife are to open the gates of their private 3,000-acre woodland estate to the public this Saturday for the first time in two decades.
Caledon Castle is one of the finest in Northern Ireland and Saturday will offer a rare chance to explore its natural beauty when it hosts a craft fair and family fun day in aid of local church funds.
For over 200 years the prestigious estate has been maintained as the private home of the Alexander family, and throughout its 400-year history has played host to royalty and dignitaries.
The 7th Earl, Nicholas James Alexander, and his wife Lady Amanda Caledon will be there to welcome the crowds.
Lord Caledon told the Belfast Telegraph: "We had our last open day on the estate in 1995 and 20 years later we thought it would be a good time to do it again.
"It just seemed like an opportune moment... giving other people the opportunity to see the estate and raise much-needed funds for the local church.
"The first time we did it people were very kind and supportive and said nice things, and it was lovely to have them here.
"I'll be here with my wife and Mary Peters, who is opening the fair, and we will be mingling and hopefully meeting lots of people.
"The church and the staff on the estate have put a lot of time into organising it and let's hope for sunshine on Saturday."
Lord and Lady Caledon married in 2008. He has two children by a previous marriage, Frederick and Leonora.
He spends most of his time in Ireland, although he also has a home in Oxfordshire.
Lord and Lady Caledon often spend winters skiing in Verbier, Switzerland. As well as the 5,000-acre Caledon Estate, he owns 3,000 acres in Hertfordshire.
A very private family, the opening is a rare chance for locals to enjoy the estate and meet the couple.
The event, which starts at midday, offers a wide variety of entertainment for all the family. Stalls will be position around the castle so that people can get up close to it.
Located in large marquees, there will be more than 80 craftspeople displaying and selling a diverse range of products.
Entertainment will be provided by silver and accordion bands.
The PSNI Dog Handling Team will give a display and the NI Fire & Rescue Service will also provide demonstrations.
Younger visitors can enjoy bouncy castles, bungee trampolines, mini quads, tea cup rides, face-painting, wall climbing, archery and laser quest games.
For those who want to explore the beauty of the estate there will be guided walks, tractor-drawn tours through the deer park and horse-drawn carriage rides.
There will also be a display of military memorabilia, as well as old favourite games such as splat the rat, throwing the wellie boot and driving a 6in nail.
A wide range of catering facilities will ensure no one goes home hungry, with a choice of sandwiches and afternoon teas, hamburgers, hot dogs and even a hog roast, all served in the gardens of the castle.
Church Warden of St John's Parish Church and member of the organising committee, David Livingstone, said: "We are very excited as we make final preparations to welcome so many people to our craft fair and family fun day set in the gardens and grounds of Caledon Castle. The day promises to be a most enjoyable and memorable experience for all who attend.
"This is a most beautiful place and we are indebted to the Earl and Countess of Caledon for opening up their estate to us.
"Myself and the organisational team are delighted that Dame Mary Peters has graciously agreed to open the fair and to judge the bonny baby competition (not an easy task!).
All proceeds from the day will go to St John's Parish Church in Caledon."
- The gates will open at noon with the official opening taking place at 1.00pm. Parking in the grounds is free. Adult entry is £5 and children under 12 are free. Dogs on leads are welcome.