A Welbeck Welcome…
The Welbeck Estate is a working estate consisting of a beautiful chain of lakes, Grade 2 registered historic park, ancient woodland and forestry and farmland and grazing. I have heard great things about it from various friends and family members so for the past 5 years I have been meaning to pay Welbeck a visit. Well you can imagine my delight when I and my family were invited to go along during the October half term to see the impressive: “Brick City” exhibition that was to be displayed in the “Harley Gallery”.
Unfortunately on the day it was raining and I am not talking a drizzle, I mean it was pouring so the exploitative walk that we planned on taking around the estate (which extends to some 15,000 acres) never actually happened, but all was not lost for it meant that we got to visit many of Welbeck’s other gems such as the: Harley Cafe, Dukeries Garden Centre and Welbeck Farm Shop.
Our first stop of the day after Joseph played in the water feature, was the beautiful Harley Gallery (home to the historic Portland Collection) which I actually first thought was a new building but we later discovered that it has in fact been there for 22 years. The recent renovations and landscaping that have taken place obviously give the courtyard where the gallery, farm shop and restaurant are situated a wonderfully fresh, welcoming and modern appearance.
The Main Attraction…
When we entered the Harley Gallery I was pleasantly surprise by the layout. It felt spacious, light and airy which is perfect as I don’t like to stay too long in places that are dark and cramped which of course this certainly wasn’t. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and there were some beautiful gifts all laid out in the reception area which made a nice change particularly because they were unlike anything I have seen before when visiting places such as this. They had a great selection of products including: crochet kits, unusual note pads, make your own calendars and high end fridge magnets for example and I have to be honest, I thought they were all reasonably priced taking into consideration the quality.
Further on in the gallery there were pieces displayed by local artists, all of which were stunning. I was particularly taken with the work of an artist called “Katie Almond” whose unique masterpieces are inspired by vintage textiles and quirky collage drawings. Within her collection you will find hand-painted porcelain jugs, cake stands and brooches. I could have easily bought her whole collection; but I didn’t much to relief of my husband!
Of course we couldn’t help but we wowed by the vast collection of outstanding Lego models made by the extremely talented former IT consultant – Warren Elsmore. The huge collection which totals over 50 pieces, feature some of the world’s favourite buildings and urban icons. Every model has been carefully constructed using hundreds of thousands of tiny Lego bricks with each one taking an unimaginable amount of hours for him and his dedicated team to construct.
Every child in the gallery was clearly in awe of these magnificent creations; especially the 5ft x 5ft model of St Pancras Station which many little ones certainly found difficult not to touch as they explored the tiny intricate detailing. We even spotted Harry Potter in there, no doubt waiting for the Hogwarts train to arrive!
The entire collection spread over two floors and a total of four rooms so you can imagine how many incredible displays there were to look at. Brick City will be featured in the Harley Gallery until Jan 10th, so not only can you go along and witness this awe inspiring display, you could also go and take part in some of the galleries other activities such as: “Christmas Door Wreath Workshop” which will be running until Mon 14th December. To see more wonderful workshops which will be running over the next couple of months, click here.
The Harley Cafe…
Of course I couldn’t visit a place which is renowned for its tasty, fresh and locally made food and not sample the fine cuisine. I can not stress enough how impressed I was by the welcoming staff; especially one of the waiters Darren who immediately acknowledged us and greeted us warmly upon entering the sleek and stylish building.
We decided to go for a relatively light lunch; ordering pate, sausage rolls and a few pieces of cake. We also ordered some drinks, which again I couldn’t fault. When dining out, I do think it is important that the whole experience is a nice one; after all what is the use of nice food yet rubbish service and vice versa. Luckily we had not just nice food, we had incredible food; not just good service but we received outstanding service.
I was keen to know where the Harley Cafe sourced their food from as it really was one of the most delicious meals I have had in a long time, so later on when I got the chance to speak with Rebecca Wombell (Marketing Manager) I asked her about it. She told me that all of the food including the cakes is made fresh by Hilary O’Donnell. They also bring food over from the farm shop which is available to buy both from the farm shop and from the cafe which is handy if you don’t have the time to stop and eat in.
Dukeries Garden Centre…
My little boy was extremely excited to see what Christmas delights the garden centre had in store, so after lunch we headed over to the building which is located right next to the Harley Cafe. I am a real Christmas lover, so obviously I got very over excited at the sight of Christmas trees, decorations, Santa’s, lanterns and sparkly, twinkling and flashing lights. Much to my disappointment we were a tad too early to see Santa, but all is not lost as from early/mid November (dates to be confirmed) the jolly old elf will be making his way over to greet all good children from across the land. In fact your children can even have breakfast or tea with him, do some fun activities and they will also receive a special gift.
Other things to see in the garden centre are the nursery which stocks a vast selection of plants and other outdoor features, pet shop where I purchased a lovely new house for my two pet rabbits and the aquarium which I have to say was rather impressive and both my son and I really enjoyed looking around at the different breeds of fish.
Welbeck Farm Shop…
As the day was drawing to an end we thought what better way to finish it off than with a trip to the farm shop to purchase some yummy goodies to take home with us for tea.
As with everything else I had seen during our visit to Welbeck, the award winning farm shop didn’t fail to impress. The men working in the butchers (which most recently won the UK’s “FARMA” award for “Best on Farm Butchery 2013) were enthusiastic and helpful. The meat found in the butchers all comes from the Welbeck Estate, which is also home to the “Stichelton” cheese.
Whilst we were there, we purchased some amazing Stichelton topped bread which no doubt was made at: Welbeck Bake house breads. As well as bread, we also went home with a present for my dad so I hope he doesn’t read this. We got him a selection of “sloe alcohol” which was also produced on site at the Welbeck Abbey Brewery ales.
Other food products that can be found in the farm shop deli include: British Cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy and their very own home-made sausage rolls and pasties.
All other produce in the shop including the vegetables; are sourced from surrounding areas such as: Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire. This has earned them a local and national reputation so of course, it is well worth a visit.
Another great reason to pay a visit to the Welbeck Estate in the New Year is the addition of their fantastic new gallery which will house the entire “Portland Collection”. Upon winning a very tough architectural competition, the winners – Hugh Boughton Architects; were appointed to design the new building which features a glazed entrance pavilion and two gallery spaces.
The Welbeck Estate has been in the hands of the same family for 400 years and like any family who have a passion for fine and decorative art, the Cavendish-Bentinck family have collected an unimaginable amount of stunning pieces which consist of work by some of the most highly regarded artists of each era. William Parente, grandson of the 7th Duke of Portland has made the decision that he would like to put this beautiful collection on display for all to see and benefit from.
The Portland gallery collection will be put on display in stages as there are far too many pieces for it all to be shown at the same time.
The end of a wonderful day…
I would more than happily recommend Welbeck Abbey and grounds to anyone who is looking for a fun filled, pleasant, relaxing and enriching day out. All four of us had a fabulous time and as soon as I got home I was on my laptop looking for up and coming events to attend and I actually found details of the Christmas Art and Food market which will be taking place from the 27th to the 29th Nov.
Hopefully I will see you all there!