Early in my research for Shine Like the Dawn, I was looking for an English estate that would give me an inspiring setting for the story. A photographer who had taken the photo of Tyntesfield that was used on the cover of The Governess of Highland Hall and A Refuge at Highland Hall suggested I might like to investigate Cragside. I did a Google search to see what I could discover about this estate and the family who built it. The more I learned about Cragside, the more it captured my imagination!
Cragside House, with its beautiful gardens and woodlands, is situated near Rothbury, in Northumberland, England, not far from the border with Scotland. It was the family home of Lord William Armstrong, Victorian inventor and industrialist. Cragside was the first building in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and a walk around the property reveals a wealth of ingenious inventions including fire alarm buttons, telephones, a passenger lift, and a Turkish bath suite.
Armstrong was a landscape genius, and he constructed five lakes and planted over seven million trees and shrubs. Built on a rocky crag high above Debdon Burn (river), the estate has more than 30 miles of footpaths and one of Europe’s largest rock gardens sloping down the valley to the Debdon Burn. The Iron Bridge, one of the oldest of its type in the UK, crosses the burn. Cragside’s garden is breathtaking, whatever the season, but especially in the spring when the rhododendrons and azaleas bloom.
Today this magnificent estate is owned by the National Trust and can be explored on foot or by car. Visitors will love the tall trees, tumbling streams, and beautiful flowers. Visit the National Trust website for more information.
The mysterious house with it’s jumbled rooms and unique inventions provided the perfect setting for Shine Like the Dawn. A few of the events in the story are taken from events I read about in the biography of William Armstrong, but most come from my imagination. However, the lovely house, beautiful gardens, and quirky inventions are real and were fun to include.
If you’re ever in Northumberland, I hope you’ll stop by Cragside for a visit. Be sure to take lots of photos and share them with me! Until then, take a look at my Cragside Pinterest board and watch this video tour of Cragside Gardens below. Oh, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Shine Like the Dawn so you can read how I wove these details about Cragside into the story! It releases February 21, so there’s not too much longer to wait!
Blessings and happy reading!