Newstead, fast-falling, once resplendent dome!

It’s that time of year again, and what with a return to lectures, rain and the inevitable freshers’ flu, the chances are that you and your friends would quite like to escape from the drudgery of university life to a place which reminds you of happy summer days. Newstead Abbey, about half an hour north of Nottingham, is that perfect place.

Newstead Abbey is the stunningly elegant former home of Romantic poet Lord Byron. It oozes creative inspiration; therefore it is no wonder that the poet who became ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ chose Newstead as his favourite haunt to escape the turmoil of city life. And at £4.50 entrance to the house and gardens for students, you too can flee the shadows of the Hallward for the haven that is Newstead.

Inside the Abbey discover splendid medieval cloisters, wonderfully furnished Victorian rooms including a magnificent great hall, and Byron’s private suite of apartments. Wander through the library, admire the paintings that ornament the walls throughout the house, and see the cellars where, we were reliably informed, Byron threw his wild parties! Plus, there is the opportunity for you to have fun dressing up in replica clothing of the type Byron would have donned. As a large part of the student experience involves dressing up in costumes, you know it has to be done. If nothing else, Facebook will appreciate the photos.

Newstead Abbey’s 300 acres of gardens equal the house in extravagance, what with varieties to suit all tastes including traditional walled rose gardens, impressively grand lakes or wild woodland. We particularly recommend the Rockery and the Japanese Garden, where the multitude of secret twisty turny paths, hidden streams and breathtaking waterfalls create feelings more akin to excited Lost Boys in Never-Never Land than visitors to a stately home!

A dinky little eatery, named ‘Café at the Abbey’ provides a small yet stylish watering hole for hungry students in their exploration of Byron’s domain. Try the homemade soup and roll – delicious and reasonably priced at £3.50. You may even find, as we did, your table seized as a makeshift den for the resident ducks! The peacocks, however – despite their hauntingly beautiful call and flamboyant strut – are rather vicious.

Themed events are held in the house and gardens throughout the year, such as a ‘Regency Revel’ – a chance to dress and dance in the manner of Pride and Prejudice! And as winter exams loom, the approaching ‘Christmas at Newstead Abbey’ promises to be a piece of visual Christmassy poetry itself.

So if you would like inspiration for those reluctant essays, a place to drag parents on their visits to Nottingham, or a fun day out with friends, go to Newstead Abbey and uncover a little piece of paradise in the heart of the midlands. Enjoy!

Eleanor Matthews


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