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All's well as the ghost of Lily fails to appear at Durham's Lumley Castle

Its 600 years of haunted history make Durham's Lumley Castle a spine-tingling weekend break, says Kirsty Masterman

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Lumley Castle

Lumley Castle

Press Association Images

Lumley Castle

Arriving at Lumley Castle feels like stepping through the pages of a history book and as my daughter, Jessica (6) and I walk into the entrance, we both agree it looks more like a grand cave.

The stone walls, low ceilings and subdued lighting - provided by a huge wrought iron chandelier - give the place a medieval feel and make it seem somewhat magical. Two carved, throne-like armchairs sit in the corner, adding to the grandeur.

"I like it here," says Jessica, giddy with excitement. "Where's Lily?"

The woman she's referring to is a poor soul who's been living at the hotel for several centuries. Lily Lumley was secretly married to Ralph Lumley, the original owner of the Grade 1 listed building, converted from a family manor house into a castle in 1389.

Poor Lily was supposedly thrown down a well by two priests for rejecting the Catholic faith. The priests are said to have told Ralph that she had left him to become a nun, and her ghost is now thought to float up from the well and haunt the castle.

Now Jessica is determined we'll run into the apparition at some point during our weekend stay at the property, located between the historic city of Durham and the city of Newcastle.

After a breezy check-in, we are shown to our room, meandering through a maze of creaking, uneven corridors, walls flanked with gilt-framed paintings, tapestries and candelabras. The castle is a mixture of stone-flagged and wooden flooring, exposed stone and wood panelled walls and vaulted ceilings.

There are 73 bedrooms altogether, spread between the castle, converted stables and new-build mews cottages.

Our room is a Castle Superior, with all the comforts of a modern hotel room, with added extras - designer toiletries, fruit platter and welcome chocolates, but retaining its authenticity with its deep-set sash windows draped in heavy curtains, overlooking the courtyard.

Dinner is in the former library, now the Knights Restaurant. We are warmly greeted and shown to our table, which is set on a small risen platform, giving us a magnificent view of the restaurant.

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One of the bedrooms at Lumley Castle

One of the bedrooms at Lumley Castle

Press Association Images

One of the bedrooms at Lumley Castle

My daughter is made to feel extremely welcome here, with a sketch pad and crayons provided - with which she promptly proceeds to draw portraits of the staff.

The following morning we visit the hotel's Escape Room, created inside a former beer cellar. It is the first-ever Escape Room to be built inside a historic building and is said to be one of the UK's most technically advanced, providing a truly immersive experience.

Participants have one hour to solve mind-bending, lateral thinking puzzles as they make their way through a succession of atmospheric rooms, in order to discover the secret behind Lily of Lumley and lift the curse hanging over the castle.

Unfortunately there's an age limit of 10 years, so instead Jessica and I set off to explore the castle's warren of corridors and courtyards in search of Lily. We spend a lot of time looking down the infamous well, but to no avail.

As afternoon approaches, we head to Adventure Valley. Just a 15-minute drive away, the attraction is a great way to spend an afternoon with a little one, whatever the weather. The pumpkin festival is currently on, so we dive right in, pumpkin picking and carving. Afterwards there's a soft play and animal feeding session.

Next morning it is time to leave our weekend lodgings. We bid our farewells and take a final look down the well before heading back down the M1.

Despite our best efforts, we have not managed to come face-to-face with Lily this time - but we leave feeling excited for Halloween.

An adult day ticket for the Grand Parc costs £29 (33) in advance and £20 (23) for children

Belfast Telegraph


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