There’s something very appealing about visiting an English castle, no matter what age you are or who you are with. Couples can enjoy a romantic picnic and a scenic stroll around picturesque gardens, children can run around to let off some steam on a fun-filled adventure trail and everyone can explore historic turrets and towers. Dogs are generally allowed in castle grounds too so it’s a good option if you’re on a dog-friendly holiday.
The Lake District is home to a selection of fascinating castles ranging from medieval strongholds to a mock gothic Victorian forts. You can walk inside castle keeps that have remained standing for almost 1000 years, enjoy some of the best views around and learn about the fascinating history of these majestic buildings.
Here is our guide to six of the finest castles in the Lake District:
#01 Wray Castle
Wray Castle is a well-loved National Trust site that sits on the shores of Windermere with grounds that are open all year round. Don’t be fooled by the turrets and towers of this gothic design though – this fairy tale castle was built in the 19th century by a Victorian surgeon.
Beatrix Potter began her love of the Lake District with a summer holiday at Wray Castle and today it’s one of Cumbria’s most popular visitor attractions.
You can take a boat trip across Lake Windermere and land at Wray Castle’s hidden jetty before exploring the house and grounds. Children will love the Peter Rabbit adventure rooms and playing dress-up in the castle.
Dog-friendly: Dogs are welcome in the grounds but are not allowed in the castle itself.
Admission costs: Wray Castle is free to National Trust members and costs £10 per adult and £5 per child for non-members.
#02 Sizergh Castle
The medieval Sizergh Castle near Kendal has been home to the Strickland family for more than 750 years and there are lots of historic treasures to discover within the beautiful rooms. It’s well worth seeking out the magnificent Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber which is one of the finest panelled rooms in the country.
Outside Sizergh, there are numerous walking routes in the surrounding grounds. Take a wander through ancient woodland, join a guided countryside walk then try a range of activities in a wild play trail. Children, especially, will love venturing off the beaten track to discover natural treasures.
Mobility scooters are free to hire at Sizergh Castle, allowing all visitors to go exploring in the grounds - highlights including a large limestone rock garden and pretty wildflower borders.
Dog-friendly: Furry friends are free to explore the wider estate but are not permitted in the castle and garden.
Cost of entry: Sizergh Castle is free to National Trust members and costs £12 per adult and £6 per child.
#03 Muncaster Castle
The historic (and reputedly haunted) Muncaster Castle has magnificent views from a majestic spot above the Ravenglass estuary. The 77-acre site features Himalayan gardens, bluebell woods and a Hawk & Owl Centre where visitors can watch regular bird of prey flying displays.
This family-friendly Lake District attraction also includes an adventure playground, an enchanted fairy trail and the specially created indoor Meadowvole Maze which is ideal for younger children.
Dog-friendly: Dogs are welcome in the gardens and grounds of Muncaster Castle and are also permitted in the Owl Garden Tea Room and Carriage House gift shop.
Cost of entry: An adult ticket including house, gardens and the Hawk & Owl Centre costs £15 in peak season with online discounts available.
#04 Lowther Castle and Gardens
The ruins of the once-grand Lowther Castle have been transformed into an award-winning visitor attraction that includes one of the UK’s largest adventure playgrounds - the lost castle.
Visitors can explore the dramatic castle remains, hire a bike to cycle around the surrounding parkland and enjoy a walk around 17th-century gardens that have been beautifully restored in recent years.
The adventure playground, The Lost Castle, was built from 18,000 metres of sustainable timber and includes turrets, towers, wooden walkways, zip wires, sandpits and slides.
Dog-friendly: Dogs can sniff out adventures at Lowther Castle but are not permitted in the Lost Castle Playground.
Cost of entry: Lowther Castle costs £11 per adult and £7 per child with online discounts available.
#05 Brougham Castle
The remains of Brougham Castle have an idyllic setting on the banks of the River Eamont near Penrith and an impressive keep that has survived numerous battles since the 13th century.
You can enjoy a picnic inside the castle ruins at this English Heritage site and it’s well worth climbing the steps to the top of the keep for stunning panoramic views of Eden Valley.
Brougham Castle is also perfect for a game of hide and seek, thanks to a collection of secret passages, spiral staircases and hidey holes.
Dog-friendly: Dogs on leads are welcome at Brougham Castle.
Cost of entry: Admittance to Brougham Castle costs £5.70 for adults, £3.40 for children and is free to English Heritage members.
#06 Piel Castle
Piel Castle is a 14th-century fortress located on a small island to the south of Barrow-in-Furness. Measuring just 50 acres in total, Piel Island can only be accessed by boat and regular ferry services run daily between April and October. The remains of Piel Castle are free for visitors to explore and include a castle keep and both inner and outer baileys.
The castle was originally built to protect nearby Barrow-in-Furness from Scots invaders and Piel Island is the site where famous imposter, Lambert Simnel, landed while claiming to be the Earl of Warwick and a rival to Henry VII’s throne.
The island is also home to a wildlife reserve and The Ship Inn, so it’s worth taking the time to explore Piel during your visit.
Dog-friendly: Furry friends are welcome to visit Piel Castle as long as they are kept on a lead.
Cost of entry: Piel Castle is free to visit and the ferry to Piel Island costs £5 for a return fare.
Book your Lake District holiday cottage
This selection of Cumbrian castles is just one of the many reasons to visit the Lakes. Whether you are looking for a short break or a longer holiday, we have a range of Lake District holiday cottages to choose from with family-friendly, celebration and dog-friendly options available.
For even more holiday inspiration, read our guide to walking in the Lake District and take a look at some ultimate Lake District activities.