Lowther Castle

Penrith, Cumbria

Standing in front of this amazing edifice left me speechless. Although now only a shell of a building, the grandeur and majesty still abound.  This statuesque Lake District treasure is certainly a family favourite, with the sheer scale of its 130 acres of grounds, many footpaths and a superb children’s play area with zipwire, slides, sandpit, toddlers’ area and much more. There is plenty of free parking.

The Lowther family have occupied the site since 1150 and history tells us several homes occupied this position until the present castle was built in 1806. With so many colourful characters along the way, from the first Viscount Sir John Lowther who unusually in those days was a committed vegetarian to Wicked Jimmy and the ‘Yellow Earl’, Hugh Lowther, and to so many other exuberant individuals. For me the 5th Earl, Hugh Lowther, stands out by far, learning about his exploits, his achievements, virtually creating the modern sport of boxing and donating the original Lonsdale Belt to being the founder of the Automobile Association, the Earl’s penchant for the colour yellow decided the AA’s livery. It was stated he was ‘almost an emperor and not quite a gentleman’. Very apt for such a colourful personality. Unfortunately, he was too flamboyant and squandered all the money, therefore causing the castle to fall into ruins, and in 1957 it was sadly demolished. But I could wax lyrical about this character, be sure to check him out!

Sadly, the grounds and flower beds were not at their best, as our visit was in winter. Although, ground staff were hard at work. The many paths and network of trails cater for all ages and abilities, with most being wheelchair and buggy friendly. Explore the summer houses and the wild bee tree hives and be sure to visit when the 10,000 daffodils that are to be planted, come out in flower. The routes are signposted and take you through ancient woodlands, pastures and onto the river Lowther. Cycle hire is available, from electric mountain bikes, tagalongs, two-seater trailers and children’s cycles and for anyone using this service will find 10pct discounted entry to the castle.

Admittance to this palace, is either by day ticket, annual pass or in our case, free entry via Historic Houses membership. Entrance is through a very informative museum, dating back to 1150 starting with Dolfin, a Viking descendant, then through the ages to modern times. The exhibit showcases original ledgers, a stunning collection of silver, and with many photographs depicting the gardens in their heyday. When the present castle was built, it boasted of a room for every day of the year! It was a celebrated landmark and even entertained Kaiser Wilhelm 11 of Germany.

Visitors are kept informed of the ongoing restoration works in progress. But that aside, there wasn’t anything that distracted our enjoyment. The only feeling was sadness at the loss of this treasure, and how the actions of one man could cause such grief.

The courtyard boasts a fantastic café, with inside and outside seating and a take-away food gazebo, along with free toilets. A very busy eatery, great food and good prices, serving breakfasts, lunches, a table full of sugary yummies and licensed to boot.  Not only are your two-legged little darlings welcome, but bring along the four-legged ones too.

As the business is based beyond the castle grounds, pop along for coffee and cake, without having to pay any entrance fee. There is a small gift shop inside the ticket office. Check the website for prices and opening times.

Not restored but conserved. How lucky are we.

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