October Half Term is the perfect time to pull on your coat, slip on your boots or wellies and head to Raby to crunch through the leaves and enjoy our wide open spaces. There’s so much to see and do while you’re here.

Scaries and Fairies Halloween Trail

Blow away the cobwebs on our family friendly Half Term trail in the Walled Gardens. Come and find the magical mythical creatures who have taken up residence in the gardens.

The trail is ideal for younger children, particularly those aged 11 and under. Dressing up is encouraged!

Admission to the trail is included in the price of a Park and Gardens (and Castle, Park and Gardens) ticket.

Buy your Park and Gardens ticket here.

Exploring the Castle

Raby Castle is one of the most impressive, intact medieval castles in the North of England. It was built in the 14th century by the powerful Nevill family and once would have been surrounded by a moat full of water, with a drawbridge across.

Look out for the original pieces of armour in the Grand Entrance Hall and discover the Old Kitchen, which was in continuous use for more than 600 years. Ask our knowledgeable guides to point out the special ledges and windows high up above the kitchen, where knights and soldiers once kept an eye out for danger.

The Castle will be open from Wednesday to Sunday during Half Term, before it closes for the season on November 1st. Buy your Castle, Park and Gardens tickets here.

Spotting deer

Deer spotting is a favourite family pastime at any time of year – and especially in the autumn, during what’s known as the rutting season. If you’re lucky enough you might see two stags locking horns (rutting) amongst the trees.

We have large herds of both Red and Fallow deer. They’re easy to tell apart because the fallow deer are smaller, and some have spots. You can learn more about the deer before you visit by downloading our deer activity sheet.

Woodland Play Area

For those who still have some energy left after running around the Deer Park and exploring our Scaries and Fairies Trail, head to the Woodland Play Area for even more climbing and scrambling before refuelling at the Stables Café.

Café and Kiosk

Our Stables Café is open every day for grab and go food, Spooktacular snacks and hot and cold drinks. Our outdoor Refreshment Kiosk will also be open during Half Term serving the same menu as the café.

We look forward to welcoming you this Half Term for lots of outdoor family fun!

As we continue our Favourite Things series, Senior Guide Keith Simpson shares his fascination with one of the most dramatic paintings in the Castle, ‘Marcus Curtius Leaping into the Gulf’ by Luca Giordano.

This imposing piece of art takes pride of place in the dining room, where distinguished guests would have been entertained.

Keith says:

What a painting! What is it all about? What relevance can it have today? Is it just some old painting by a long dead artist that is antique and antiquated.

I had no idea. My guidebook didn’t tell me much. I was clearly meant to be impressed, but why should I be? Why did it still have pride of place at one end of the Dining Room?

Lots of questions but what are the answers?

Luca Giordano was dead by 1705, so this is a pretty old painting. Born in 1634 in Naples, his career began with him learning his trade there in about 1650. In the 1670s to 1690 he worked in Florence. Between 1692 and 1702 he worked in Spain as a Court painter. From 1702 until his death he worked in Naples.

Marcus Curtius. A legend nothing more, but what a tale: after an earthquake in 362 BC a chasm opened up in the Roman Forum. The seers of Rome said it would never close unless Rome’s most precious thing was thrown into it. Marcus Curtius put on his armour, mounted his horse, drew his sword and declared “Rome can have no more precious thing than a brave citizen!” He then rode his horse into the abyss. The chasm closed, and Rome was saved. Hurrah!

What relevance does it have for a young gentleman doing the Grand Tour? It was about ancient Rome and all that was of interest to any Grand Tourist in the late 17th and early 18th Century.

What about now? Marcus Curtius gave his life to save Rome. The question in the last century, and this, is which of us would be prepared to do the same? Quite a daunting thought, and why this painting although old has a thought-provoking message for us right now.”


The painting of Marcus Curtius Leaping into the Gulf’ by Luca Giordano.


The work of art has pride of place in the Dining Room at Raby Castle.

For more stories and photos of our team’s Favourite Things from the Raby Collections, follow us on Instagram and Facebook

Why not visit the Castle and discover your favourite things? The Castle is open to visitors Wednesday to Sunday throughout October. Tickets must be pre-booked and we are running morning and afternoon sessions to help us manage numbers safely. Book Castle, Park and Gardens tickets here

Read about Castle Custodian Alan’s Favourite Things in our blog

Raby Castle is home to an incredible collection of art, artefacts and antiques which have been curated and cared for over many centuries.

Everyone who is part of the Raby family, whether staff or volunteer, has their own favourite and over the coming weeks they will be introducing these to you on our blog and social media channels.

It seemed appropriate to start this series by asking our Castle Custodian, Alan, about his favourite things in the Raby Collections.

For Alan, it is not so much a single object but the ability the Castle has to show changes in attitude and advances in technology over such long periods.

Alan says:

“With almost 700 years of history at Raby Castle, and the mantra of ‘never throw anything away’ we have a rich bounty of objects giving clues to life at the Castle through the centuries.

My favourite are those which show how servants and staff communicated.

Up until the 17th century it was common to have servants located close to great halls with the buttery, pantry and kitchens nearby. As attitudes changed, servants and their working areas moved out of sight and communication with them became more difficult.

Raby has a number of examples, some of which are still on display in our open rooms. We have many of the iconic Sprung Bells, which were operated by bell pulls and rotary levers of all different styles and controlled from great distances. It fascinates me that some bells at the top of Cliffords Tower are operated from rooms 80ft away and most cables and pulleys are still under the floors or hidden behind plastered walls.

By the mid 19th century, battery technology was developing and this saw the introduction of the Electric Bell which was then coupled with an Indicator Board. There are some great examples at Raby in our Butler’s Pantry and throughout the Servant’s Room located in the upper part of Cliffords Tower. We still have the batteries that powered these in various locations around the castle, hidden from public view.

Raby Castle also has some fine examples of speaking tubes which allowed direct communication with servants. This avoided the need to go to an indicator board first and so reduced unnecessary journeys. These would have a mouthpiece at both ends and there would usually be a whistle at the servant end to attract attention.

Telephones and small exchanges became possible from the 1880s and at Raby I understand there was a small internal exchange in the Porter’s Lodge. Unfortunately, the equipment is no longer there but a large battery bank is still in place behind the panelling. Our Butler’s Pantry has an example of a wind-up telephone and receiver made by Cox-Walker in Darlington. There are a number of Bakelite phones located in redundant offices within the castle and we hope to be able to display them at some point in the future.”


For more stories and photos of our team’s Favourite Things from the Raby Collections, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.  

Why not visit the Castle and discover your favourite things? The Castle is open to visitors Wednesday to Sunday throughout October. Tickets must be pre-booked and we are running morning and afternoon sessions to help us manage numbers safely. Book here.


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