Raby Castle is one of England's grandest medieval castles, surrounded on all sides by a quite magnificent deer park, lake and gardens. There is reasonable evidence to suggest that this is the site of King Canute's original 11th century palace.
The fortress retains the dreamlike air of a fairytale castle that one might read of in a historical romance; its nine soaring towers, crenellated battlements and imposing curtain wall, all remain, for the most part, intact. Beneath the castle's benign shadow, lies a placid lake, set in a marvellous 200-acre parkland, wherein herds of deer wander at will.
Originally built by the Neville family in the 14th century, their castle incorporated an enormous hall, in which upto 700 knights could meet together. The interior of the present day castle reflects later Georgian and Victorian periods, for many alterations were made in the 18th and 19th centuries. Raby contains collections of fine furniture, many notable paintings, porcelain, tapestries, and a handsome display of horse-drawn carriages in the coach house. Clifford's Tower and Bulman's Tower remain from the original building, and there is still a perfect 14th century kitchen in situ, with huge fireplaces. John Carr restored Raby Castle in the 1760's, recreating many of the interiors - his entrance hall, with its blood-red columns, is most striking. Later additions from the mid 19th century, include the charming French-style Octagon Room, and the 130ft Baron's Hall.
Staindrop, is a delightful, and very typical, Durham village, with an unusually long and rectangular village green. This green is believed to have been extended over the years, as land occupied by squatters' cottages was subsequently added to the original green. Staindrop is primarily an estate village, which evolved to serve nearby Raby Castle. The village contains a number of fine Georgian houses, attractive cottages, a 16th century Manor House, and a church dating back to Saxon times, albeit with a Norman tower. Dominating the West End of the church, are grand memorials to the two baronial families who have owned Raby Castle, namely the Nevilles and the Vanes.
Close by is Rokeby Park, which provides quite a contrast in architectural style to Raby. It is an Italianate stately home, built strictly on classical lines. Designed for himself, by the extravagant Sir Thomas Robinson, Rokeby was completed in 1731, and within 30 years was sold to pay off his debts. The central Saloon rises to the full height of the house, and contains a shimmering gilded ceiling, and huge marble fireplaces. The famous Valesquez painting, 'The Rokeby Venus', once hung here; it is now on display in the National Gallery in London.