The vast gardens that provide a magnificent setting for the castle and hall are also largely Sir Charles’s work.
The garden he inherited from his father in 1795 was mostly in the style of a fellow Northumbrian, ‘Capability’ Brown. This included informal planting, a serpentine drive and a lake.
Sir Charles, however, was influenced by the emerging Picturesque movement, which favoured the shaping of landscapes less conventionally beautiful and more wildly naturalistic.
His romantic Quarry Garden, created where stone was cut for his hall, has ravines, pinnacles and sheer rock faces inspired by Sicilian quarries. Contrasting with the strict geometry of the hall, and linking it with the castle, it is a remarkable example of the Picturesque style, with a microclimate that makes it possible to grow tender plants beyond their normal northern limit.
The layout of the Belsay gardens has remained largely unchanged since Sir Charles set them out in the early 19th century. His grandson Sir Arthur Middleton, likewise a pioneering plantsman, added the Winter Garden, Yew Garden and Magnolia Terrace. His influence was largely confined to these formal gardens around the house, but he also added an extra section to the quarry and introduced a wider range of exotic plants there.