Newstead Abbey, originally built as a monastery in the 12th century, is the ancestral home of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, a man once described as 'mad, bad, and dangerous to know'. The house retains something of Byron's essence from the bullet holes in the walls (he enjoyed indoor pistol practice) to the extravagant gardens complete with wild roaming peacocks. However, Byron is not the main reason to visit this lovely estate in rural Nottinghamshire. The gardens and house are open all year round for tours and during the summer the grounds are turned into an open-air theatre to showcase Shakespeare's best loved comedies.
Wild Newstead Abbey Peacock. Photo by Erin Connelly.
The House is only open for tours on Sunday afternoons, but the gardens are open all year round. The gardens cover 300 acres of lakes, cascading waterfalls, duck ponds, and manicured ornamental gardens, including a Japanese Garden, French Garden, Rose Garden, and Victorian Walled Garden.
During the summer, the gardens become the perfect backdrop for Shakespeare's comedies, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado about Nothing. The audience spreads out blankets on the lawn and mingles with the roaming peacocks, who are anxious to join the spectators for a picnic dinner. The play and performers vary each year and are announced close to the start of the summer season. More information is available at Nottingham City's official website.