LOWTHER CASTLE, LAKE DISTRICT
If you’re looking for an alternative backdrop to stunning peaks and serene lakes, the intriguing Lowther Castle, just 20-minutes’ drive away, is a must visit.
The Lowther family have lived on this site since 1150, occupying several different residences. The last of these, a spectacular castle, was built at the beginning of the 19th century for William, 1st Earl of Lonsdale. It housed an impressive art collection and allegedly, boasted a room for every day of the year. The fate of this celebrated landmark was, unfortunately, entwined with the dwindling fortunes of the 5th Earl who squandered his inheritance and left the castle to a sad fate. By 1957, faced with crippling death duties, James Lonsdale, the 7th Earl, was forced to sell the castle off piece by piece, including the roof. Eventually, and for the next 50 years, the façade and outer walls were all that remained, and the gardens ran wild.
Thankfully, the Lowther Castle & Gardens Trust was set up in 2007 and has raised millions of pounds from public and private sources to make the castle ruins safe, create a visitor centre, and finance a 20-year masterplan for the gardens, led by celebrated designer, Dan Pearson and brought to life by head gardener, Martin Ogle. Jim Lowther, the 8th Earl, has worked tirelessly to transform the chaos he inherited into this fascinating work in progress which celebrates the castle and gardens’ unique heritage and combines tradition and innovation to stunning effect.
As well as the striking ruins, make sure you explore extensive gardens which include summerhouses, wildflower meadows, rambling woodland and tree hives for wild bees - Jim Lowther’s personal project and passion. The estate has planted several new flower-rich habitats and has also embarked on an extensive planting regime with nearly 220,000 trees placed in both parkland and scrubland scenarios.
Discover more about the history of Lowther Castle at the permanent exhibition and let young visitors loose in the ‘lost castle,’ one of the country’s largest adventure playgrounds which is beautifully integrated into the wooded landscape.
If you fancy striking out into the wider park there are some lovely estate walks, including the Lowther Castle Loop - a 7.5-mile circular walk which begins and ends at Lowther Castle and forms part of the Ullswater Way. You can also hire a cycle - or an electric bike - and follow one of the cycle trails and when you’re ready for a well-deserved pit stop, there’s a café on site which offers a tempting eat in or takeaway menu, including a children’s picnic bag.