One of my favourite days out during this summer was to Lowther Castle near Penrith. I had never heard of it before but my mum had seen something advertising the building of a new wooden castle playground in the woods of the castle, due to open in Aug 2016, and sent me the link. The pictures looked fantastic and we all immediately wanted to go.
We set off fairly early so we could arrive around the opening time of 10am and I’m so glad we did as we spent the entire day there and loved every minute.
When you first enter the car park you still can’t really see the castle, but once you walk to the end you are met with this very imposing and beautiful sight.
You enter through the gates into a courtyard flanked on three sides by what would have once been the stables but now houses a gift shop, the toilets and a cafe. I’m not the type of person who would normally photograph the toilets but in this case they were amazing and very in-keeping with their stable past, even the sinks were shaped like troughs.
It took us a while to figure out where to pay and tried both the the cafe and the gift shop. As it turns out you go though the arched entrance to the castle grounds and there is a little kiosk just after entering. Entrance fee was £8 for adults and £7 for children (0-2yr olds are free) but if you have an historic houses card you can get in for free.
We walked through the gallery first and looked at all of the old photographs and artefacts and were amazed to see how the castle looked not too long ago and the way the grounds were all concreted over during the war for tanks to manoeuvre on.
The castle itself is a complete ruin and some of it inaccessible, but there is an incredible amount of restoration work ongoing to stop it decaying further and to allow more of it to eventually be opened up. The gardeners here doing an absolutely amazing job and everywhere you look there are beatiful flower beds with old pieces of carved stone from the castle mingled in amongst the plants.
It was certainly a room with a view … Provided you were tall enough to see out.
L was fascinated looking up at the sky through the top of the turret.
Any time L comes across a large rock or piece of stone she just has to stand on it and do a little dance!
I love this picture of L and my Dad framed by the window.
Nature has reclaimed this part of the castle.
After looking at the ruins we headed over to the right (looking away from the castle) and down some steps to the amazing gardens on that side. There is an orchard, a Japanese garden and lots of others that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of. If it wasn’t for little legs already getting tired we could have explored these gardens for hours.
A strange stone bath in one of the gardens.
A look back at the real castle through the trees before heading off to find the wooden castle my son was so excited to visit.
The trees along this route were incredible and hundreds of years old, inevitably there were a few that had fallen down.
Coming out from the first lot of trees there is a big open green with what looks like an old fountain in the middle.
After that we headed to the next lot of trees where the sequels of children gave away the location of the lost castle. This was by far the busiest area and it was hard to get photos without lots of other people’s children in them.
The wooden castle is huge and full of various obstacle courses. You can tell from the smile on M’s face how great it was. Even L had to attempt crossing this netting. Unfortunately that meant I had to as well and was much less graceful than the kids bounding across, let’s just leave it at that!
These narrow wooden walkways were great. Unfortunately the first one we tried led to a zip wire that L was too small for and second one led to a (barely) sloped wall with two ropes to climb up. L desperately wanted to go up but there was no way I’d get up there myself never mind with her as well so we had to turn round. This was also the only route to the big slide (and M tells me there was another huge obstacle to get past after this too) which in a way was quite clever as it kept kids who were really too small from getting to it by themselves.
After a bit of exploring we discovered the toddler section for under 5s. There were two slides (one of which was accessed by a slope, so great for kids who aren’t confident on steps yet), a sandpit, some swings and a couple of zip wires with enclosed seats (like on baby swings) which I have never seen anywhere before and were great fun. Again this area was pretty crowded so I couldn’t get any pictures, but it was a great place to sit so that M could go off exploring the main play castle and always know where we were. It was also at the bottom of the big slide so we saw him come down a number of times.
After the fun of the castle we headed out to the ‘summerhouse with surprise view’. And oh my, what a view! This picture doesn’t do it justice but we were so high up (there’s a sheer drop where you can just make out the rocks in front of M) you could see for miles.
Making our way back we walked down the other side of the gardens this time as we had seen from the map that there were some tree swings, always good fun.
The swings were excellent. Even me and my parents had a go! It brought back a lot of childhood memories although I think my Dad found me a lot harder to push now!
Before leaving we headed round to the front of the castle for some more pictures
You couldn’t get inside from here but there was a big hole in the door and I managed to get this picture of what would have been the very grand entrance.
We stopped of at the cafe before heading home and although a little on the pricey side the food was gorgeous and I’d definitely recommend a visit, even if you just have one of the many cakes!
In the gift shop I bought M one of those make your own adventure books, where you pick a different option at the end of each section and go to the corresponding pages. I used to love them when I was younger but this one was extra special because the story was based at Lowther Castle. He loved the fact that we had just visited all the places being mentioned so he could really visualise what was happening and it’s a great keepsake of our day.
We had a really great time at Lowther Castle and I can’t wait to visit again, you can find out more about the place on their website www.lowthercastle.org
Have you visited any great castles or ruins lately? What was your best day out during the summer?