It was our first ever visit to Lumley Castle and as soon as our car turned up the dark driveway and I saw the castle lit up in the most beautiful lights I knew we were in for a very special night. Lumley Castle is over 600 years old and in its past has played host to Kings and Princes. Its perfect mix of ancient history and modern luxury make it the perfect place for an Elizabethan Banquet.
Our evening began with a warm welcome to the sound of bagpipes followed by drinks in the bar which was packed out with enthusiastic lords and ladies excited for the night ahead. Most had come in their modern clothes but the few that had put in the effort to arrive in fancy dress really did look impressive in the beautiful surroundings of the castle. It was enough to make me wish I'd made more effort!
Suddenly the lights dimmed and the scene was set as we were told we had travelled back in time to 1595 and were about to be lead into the Banquet Hall to enjoy a marvellous five course feast hosted by Sir John Lumley. We were called up in groups by family name and as Simon and I entered the room and were shown to our seats we were immediately transported to a time where folks shared grand tables, ate by candlelight and guzzled wine from goblets.
Most of the banquet goers had turned up in larger groups but with a wonderful friendly atmosphere along the tables it wasn't long before Simon and I were happily chatting to the lovely ladies next to us who entertained us with stories of past banquets held at the Castle. It seems once you've enjoyed an Elizabethan Banquet at Lumley Castle it isn't long before you're back for more.
Before the feasting began we were welcomed by the Chamberlain who helpfully pointed out that we had a lack of cutlery in front of us. We would be feasting tonight using only our "daggers" and as soon as the ladies of the court had provided us all with bibs to wear we knew we were in for a fun night!
The First Remove began with Baron's Brose, that's Home-made Vegetable Broth to us modern day folk. With no spoons to hand we were advised to use the generous chunks of bread to "dunk and suck" and "scoop it oot".
What followed was a hilarious first course of sucking broth from our bread, scooping out vegetables with our crusts and attempting not to dribble the delicious juice down our chins as we picked up our bowls to drain the last bits.
Getting into the swing of things, we were keen for the Second Remove, Fyshe with Potato- that's Fish with creamed Potato to you and I! Smothered in cheese and served in a scallop shell we ate the entire course with our daggers, feeling slightly rebellious after all those years of our parents telling us to never eat food off our knives!
We soon realised that table manners are not required at an Elizabethan Banquet and every rule of dining etiquette we'd been taught as kids we eagerly ignored as we ate with our hands, guzzled from our bowls and sloshed food down our tops without a care in the world.
Each course began with some entertainment from the Lords and Ladies of the Court with plenty of hilarious sketches and songs, all served with a local twist that had us all roaring with laughter. Before each course arrived at the tables we all joined in with a rousing rendition of the "Lumley Feasting Song" which consisted of swaying whilst bellowing out "Hi Ho, a Feasting We Go" followed by some very enthusiastic clapping and banging in anticipation of our food.
The Fourth Remove, and my favourite food of the night, was Chekyn in Mead - Chicken cooked in Mead Sauce served with Jacket Potato, Salad and Basil Butter. Believe me you haven't lived until you've shovelled hot potato into your mouth using only your hands. So much fun and the food was delicious!
By this point we were getting a little bit full but we all know that I will never turn down anything sweet so I enthusiastically tucked into the Fifth Remove - Fruit Crumble served with cream. As we devoured the last few mouthfuls the Ladies of the Court treated us to an enthusiastic sing-a-long including classic local favourites, The Lambton Worm and the Blaydon Races (believe me nothing makes you feel more like a southerner than when you're trying to mumble along the words to a song that everyone else knows!).
For those wanting to return to 2016 and party with new and old friends the Banquet at Lumley Hall ended with a disco until the early hours. For those of us craving our slippers and PJs after too much food we said our sleepy goodbyes and headed back to the car.
We left the Banquet with that wonderful warm feeling of contentment that you only get from spending the evening in the company of great new friends, eating your body weight in food and singing as loud as you want. I honestly can't recommend it enough!
The next Elizabethan Banquet at Lumley Castle takes place on 16 October with three more scheduled for November. Tickets are £35.00 per person which includes your five course banquet (vegetarian option also available), entertainment, two goblets of wine and two goblets of Mead for over 18s and a disco. To book click here or call 0191 389 5848.
We were invited to enjoy a complimentary Banquet for review purposes but all opinions are my own.