Northumberland tourist attraction Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens has exceeded industry trends and increased visitor numbers in 2009, according to research by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).
The Grade 1 historic site, managed by English Heritage, saw a 29 per cent rise in numbers last year from 59,255 in 2008 to 76,648 in 2009 thanks to its diverse programme of events and the return of Stella McCartney’s crystal horse, Lucky Spot. English Heritage also saw an overall rise in visitor numbers throughout its UK sites, reporting 5.4m visitors in total in 2009, compared to 4.8m in 2008 – a twelve per cent increase.
Jeremy Reed, visitor operations director for English Heritage in the north said: “Nationally, historic attractions saw an average increase of 11 per cent in 2009. Belsay was well ahead of visitor trends which is fantastic news for North East tourism. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens is an extremely popular site with its picturesque landscape and 30 acres of gardens in the beautiful Northumberland countryside and the boost to figures is a true testament of what’s on offer.
“More people holidayed in the UK in 2009, choosing to see sites on their doorstep, and the strong euro also encouraged greater visitor numbers from overseas. Belsay has a fantastic programme of activity coming up for 2010 to look forward to, including the Extraordinary Measures contemporary art exhibition in May which has international contemporary artists exhibiting UK premiers of their works. We are optimistic that this year will be another strong one for us.”
Extraordinary Measures opens at Belsay from May 1 until the end of September. Offering visitors a whole new perspective on contemporary art the exhibition will take visitors of all ages into an Alice in Wonderland world of dark enchantment. Highlights among the specially-commissioned installations – most of which are being seen for the first time in the UK – will include the premiere of new hyper-realistic sculptures by Ron Mueck in the 19th-century rooms of Belsay Hall and photographs of tiny day-trippers facing everyday dramas within the gardens of Belsay, as documented by urban artist Slinkachu, who here leaves his usual city setting for the first time.
Visitors to Belsay Hall before 18th April 2010 will also be able to benefit from the last chance to see ‘Lucky Spot’, Stella McCartney’s stunning chandelier in the form of a three metre high leaping horse. Made with over 8000 Swarovski crystals, Lucky Spot is currently suspended from the ceiling of Belsay Hall’s medieval castle and was created in 2004 specifically for Belsay after McCartney was inspired by George Stubbs’ famous equestrian painting ‘Whistlejacket’.
Belsay Hall is a 19th century country mansion located at Belsay, Northumberland. For more information about it, please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/belsay