DESPITE the complications caused by lockdown closures in the last two years, staff and volunteers at Kiplin Hall & Gardens are celebrating their highest annual visitor figures on record.

In 2021 Kiplin welcomed 30,912 visitors, a 65 per cent increase on the previous busiest year on record in 2017 with visitor figures of 18,700. The independent charity, Kiplin Hall Trust, relies on income from visitors to operate.

In an online review, one visitor describes their experience at Kiplin in 2021 "Exceedingly knowledgeable and friendly staff. Fantastic food. A wholesome place to visit for all the family. Bring your Nan, she'll adore you for it."

Often described as a ‘hidden gem’ the attraction is becoming much more well known, especially with local populations who are enjoying this destination on their doorstep. Kiplin Hall has a rich history grounded in North Yorkshire, but making marks around the globe. The historic house, tea room and 90 acres of gardens and grounds are located halfway between Northallerton and Richmond.

The hall is nearly 400 years old, a Jacobean hunting lodge built by local lad made good, George Calvert, in the 1620s. Rewarded for his service to King James I he was given the title 1st Baron Baltimore in 1625, and in 1632 King Charles I granted him the charter to create a settlement at what is now the state of Maryland in the USA. Kiplin has been owned by four families over 400 years; the Calverts, Crowes, Carpenters, and Talbots, all related through blood and/or marriage.

As a visitor attraction Kiplin relies on what the Trust call it’s fifth family, the volunteers and staff working at Kiplin today. Over 160 volunteers help a small staff team to run Kiplin. Volunteers maintain the gardens, steward the historic house, conduct historic research and much more.

Speaking about the team's approach and resulting success, James Etherington, Director of Kiplin Hall and Gardens, said: “2020 and 2021 have presented all sectors with challenges, especially museums and heritage which rely on visitor income to operate and fulfill our aims to care for the history of these unique places.

"In 2021 we continued with some of the approaches we laid out after the first 2020 lockdown.

“Creating annual tickets to encourage repeat visits and a greater connection to local communities. We also maintained covid secure procedures to a high level and made changes to offer outdoor food options.

"Our events and exhibition programme was designed to make the most of our outdoor spaces, bringing some of the hall’s history into the fresh air to be enjoyed. As we moved forward into 2021 our main challenge was to welcome a more confident growing family audience alongside our more traditional visitors who were more cautious to return.

“Our visitor figures in 2021 have surpassed anything we could have hoped for under the circumstances. We did all of this while also losing nine weeks, equating to 20 per cent, of our season to lockdown closures. I'm incredibly grateful to my team for their work and to our visitors for their support. I hope visitors will continue to support us as we have great things planned for 2022 and beyond.”

During 2022 to 2024 a number of developments will be taking place at Kiplin to continue to enhance its offer to visitors. Redevelopments of historic gardens are taking place this year.

Lady Tyrconnel’s Georgian Garden is being restored to its former glory complete with its tufa pool made from imported volcanic rock. The lime tree avenue at the front of the hall will frame views of a Maryland garden which will burn bright with autumnal colour showcasing the state tree, the Maryland Oak. The lakeside folly will also be used as an ecology centre, helping visitors to learn more about nature and the environment at Kiplin.

A project is also underway to build a new welcome centre near the car park which will house the Annie Marchant Kitchen and Dairy Collection as well as a new ticket office, gift shop and tea room. Creating more space in the hall for historic displays. Currently in the planning phase this project is hoped to break ground in 2023/24.

Given the challenges that lockdowns and travel restrictions have placed on visitor attractions Kiplin has weathered the storm and emerges into the new year hopeful.

The grounds and tearoom re-open for snowdrop strolls on Friday, February 4 and the Hall on Friday, March 11.