When I got up on Monday morning I was a little miffed to see that it was quite sunny outside and wondered if maybe we could've gone up to the Farnes in the end, but it was already too late for that and I was determined to give W a good day for her birthday. Before going up to Chipchase Castle we went to Cafe Bar One for lunch (the other place in Newcastle, besides Peppy's, that I can eat out), which was very pleasant, and meant that W could have some birthday cake too. So anyway, then we made our way up to the Tyne Valley and found our way to Chipchase with the help of the wonderful thing of satelite navigation - essential in this case as I really didn't have much idea at all of where the Castle was and it wasn't marked on the road map. As we drove we could see the weather closing in, and just before we arrived we saw lightning flash not far ahead, but we seemed to circumnavigate the storm itself and hadn't actually seen a drop of rain before we arrived. The storm we saw as we approached Chipchase got closer as we stood in the grounds watching the sheep, the thunder crashed menacingly, the lightning flashed frequently and there was a constant booming as the storm got nearer. It came ever so close - within a mile I think - but it did actually reach us, although we got a good view of the storm. The sheep didn't like it much though and they looked very warily in the direction of the vicious storm before gradually drifting away from it's general direction. However, they were soon confused by another storm that quickly came rolling in from the opposite direction, and then a third and a fourth from the other two of the four sides of us. The thunder exploded all around us, with fireworks of lightning flashes flickering on all sides, but amazingly we stayed dry. It was like we were in a little pocket of calm amidst the tempestuous anger. I've never experienced anything quite like it.
In the end we did get a few drops of rain starting to fall on us so we headed into the house/castle for the tour (our own private tour as we were the only people there at this point), leaving the storms outside to battle with themselves. While we were inside it did rain quite heavily, and the thunder continued to crash around the area, but the storms never actually came right up to Chipchase. The tour was quite short, but it was interesting, and I felt quite privileged to allowed into, and shown around, this family home. After the house tour we were free to look around the gardens, pele tower and chapel (set out on its own in the first sheep field) on our own. It was all very lovely. I could waffle on describing it, but instead I'll post up a number of photos so you can see for yourself.
The pele tower exterior
The pele tower interior
The chapel exterior
The chapel interior
Chipchase castle and gardens closes at 5pm so after a mooch around the gardens we went off to find somewhere to have a cup of coffee, landing in Corbridge, which I knew a little from when I was a child and my father had lived in nearby Hexham, but I didn't remember it very well. Although there were various coffee shops and tea rooms in the town, they looked shut up and dark, but not to be defeated we thought that we might get a much needed cuppa at the pub we'd just passed so we wandered up the street and found ourselves entering a candlelit bar. It was a bit of a weird thing to walk into, but actually quite nice too. It turned out that the storms that had surrounded us while W and I were at Chipchase had been horrendous over Corbridge and had flooded some places and wiped out the town's electricity. With no electricity we couldn't have coffee so instead W had a glass of wine and I had an alcohol free Beck's, and just as we finished and were deciding to make tracks homeward, the pub's electricity came flickering back on.
I had been very conscious that W hadn't had the birthday day out originally planned, one that she'd been greatly looking forward to for quite some time, but I hoped that she'd still had an enjoyable day despite the storms. W reassured me that she'd had a lovely day and a great time, and I certainly had. We'll go to the Farnes when I'm back from my holiday to France (I go on Saturday!), but in the meantime I'm pleased to have discovered Chipchase Castle and would recommend it as a nice day out, even in the middle of a quartet of storms.