Blaise Castle Estate is the 650 acres of beautiful parkland surrounding Blaise Castle House Museum, which once formed the private estate of the house when it was still in use as a family mansion. These days, the estate is open to the public and is free to use. It is also absolutely magical.
The estate was built and landscaped in the the late 18th century, a time when it was fashionable to create an idealised version of a rural idyll in the grounds of big country houses. Blaise is one such place, and the combination of parkland and storybook buildings combines to give a wonderfully fairy tale air. The first hint of this is given by the quaint dairy house, with thatched roof and pastel paintwork. It looks like a cottage straight from a fairy story, and it reminds me a little of the house Giselle lives in at the beginning of Enchanted.
Venturing a little further into the estate, a real life fairy tale castle in miniature rises from the crest of a hill. It is a folly, built in a Gothic style in 1766.
The castle is perfectly positioned at the edge of a beautiful woodland, which really adds to the fantastical feeling of the place.
The wide paths which encircle the estate were once carriageways, for the occupants and guests of the mansion house to drive along in their horse drawn carriages and take in the sights of the estate. This is one of the spectacles created to delight the visitors, a man made cave called Robber's Cave.
It was wonderfully atmospheric an had a lovely view over the woods. There is another cave on he estate called Nymph's Cave, which for obvious reasons I wanted to find, but alas, I did not on this occasion. Clearly another visit is needed.
There is also a third cave called Butcher's Cave, which apparently has a red tint to the rocks. I hope I can visit them all next time. I quite like caves, even man made ones. They seem very mystical.
Further down the path I found the Giant's Footprints, strange rock formations, which according to local legend were created by a giant called Goram stamping his foot in anger. The rich folklore attached to the estate is wonderful.
Approaching Hazel Brook, the tributary which runs through part of the estate, I spotted this mill with a water wheel. It is Stratford Mill, a building moved to the estate in the 1960s because the village it came from was being flooded to form a lake. Even this more modern addition to the estate comes with a fairy tale-esque backstory. I feel this place could inspire so many writers.
The woodlands are wonderfully wild and unspoilt, and I felt like I could wander through them for days without uncovering all their secrets.
There were more magical bluebells bobbing by the brook, as I followed the water deeper into the woods.
The water led me to this strange, grey green pool, shaded by trees. It is called The Giant's Soapdish, an appropriate name as it has the same milky cast as soapy water. The giant in the name is once again the stompy footed Goram.
The pool has a very still and other worldly atmosphere. It is shaded by the tall trees that surround it so is slightly cooler and darker than the rest of the estate, and when I visited it was very quiet, with barely anyone around.
To complete the air of mystery and magic, I looked up when crossing the fairy tale bridge at the far end of the pool, and saw a bat flitting around above the trees. It was an extraordinary moment.
By this point I had ventured quite far into the estate, crossed the river, and started to loop back in the general direction of the house. I passed this tumbledown wall, which reminded me of Stardust. It really does look like passing through the gap in the wall would transport you to another world, far from this realm.
It was at this point that I started to get quite lost-perhaps the faeries on the other side of the wall were trying to confuse me into crossing over! The advantage of getting lost was that I ended up at the top of the gorge which runs through the estate, and had this incredible view of the rocky limestone outcrops and the castle peeking through the treetops. It looked so much like something from a fantasy story or film that I almost didn't believe it was real.
Finally I found the last landmark I had wanted to see before leaving the estate, the Rustic Lodge. The name says it all really, it is a rustic, single storey cottage built almost entirely from unprocessed timber. It looks like it was conjured from the pages of a fairy tale and plonked fully formed into this perfectly fitting landscape, perhaps to house some mystic guardian of the estate. I must have visited this place as a child, because for years I dreamed of this building without knowing where I had seen it. Seeing this dream image in the flesh (or the wood?) was a bizarre experience.
To be honest, the entire Blaise Castle Estate is like something from a wonderful dream, a place where reality and fairy tales overlap and time seems to stand still, where wild woodland and man made additions combine to magical effect.
If you want to visit Blaise Castle Estate (and honestly, why wouldn't you?!) details can be found on here- http://www.friendsofblaise.co.uk/estate.php and here- https://www.bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/blaise-castle-estate