Raby Castle’s Behind the Scenes Tours are a chance for visitors to step straight into rooms and corridors from a bygone era and glimpse rooms that have been locked for decades and suspended in time. We caught up with one of our Senior Guides Robert Hillary to discover why these special events are such an enthralling and unique experience and what visitors can expect.
What is different about the Castle’s Behind the Scenes Tours compared to a regular visit to the castle?
Visitors who come on our Behind the Scenes tours are usually quite speechless because they are literally stepping into the past. We go into rooms, stairways and corridors that the public never normally see and many of them have been untouched for years. It’s like waking up in a different age and you can almost sense the servants scurrying past.
Where does the Behind the Scenes tour take people?
Some of the most historic rooms such as the Hunters Gallery and bedrooms were created for the family in the mid 1700s and used during the 1800s but have been barely touched since. They are caught in time and you get a real feel for the lovely lifestyle that they had back in those days. There is such an air of mystery and excitement as we explore these rooms and others that were in regular use until even more recently.
What is your favourite part of the Behind the Scenes tour?
I love the whole place but my absolute favourites on the Behind the Scenes tours are the Billiard Room and the Duke’s Study. Both were frequented by Lord Barnard’s grandfather until his death in 1964 and the study still smells of tobacco when you walk in. As with the other rooms, you can close your eyes and imagine that you are back in the time when it was in regular use. Lord Barnard is keen to open up more of the Castle to the public and I think these tours are probably a sneak preview of some of the magic that awaits visitors in the future.
What can people expect to learn when they visit?
Whether people come for the Behind the Scenes tours or regular tours of the Castle we are able to give them a fascinating insight into Raby’s 1000 year history which began when it was part of the estate of King Canute between 1016 and 1035. One of the great appeals of the Castle is its art collection and when we go Behind the Scenes we have a chance to view many unseen paintings that are not part of the regular tours. The wonderful thing about Raby is that whatever people are interested in – art, silverware, porcelain, furniture, fabrics and history – they can find it here. Visitors love the fact that it is still family owned too.
Why do you love sharing Raby’s stories with visitors?
I was brought up in Barnard Castle so I have grown up with Raby Castle and have always had a fascination with it. I came here regularly as a child and brought my own children here over the years. However, it was when I brought my grandchildren here 12 years ago, just after I had retired, that I rediscovered my passion. I was fortunate that they were looking for guides at the time and I have been here ever since. I love seeing the reaction of visitors when they look around and hear tales from the past. Our visitors are always so fascinated and love to chat and share their own stories about Raby.
Behind the Scenes Tours of the Castle will be back in October.