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The Lake District is home to a selection of fascinating castles ranging from medieval strongholds to mock gothic Victorian forts. Here are some of the best six in the Lake District.
There’s something very appealing about visiting an English castle, no matter what age you are or who you are with. You can walk inside castle keeps that have remained standing for almost 1,000 years, enjoy some of the best views around and learn about the fascinating history of these majestic buildings. Heritage, wonder and intrigue - coupled with fantastic architecture - provide a rich and exciting experience that is not to be missed.
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.
Read on to enjoy some of the best in the Lakes…
1. 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.
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.
Fascinating fact: 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.
Need to know:
- There are daily talks and guided tours to enjoy
- Dogs are welcome in the grounds but are not allowed in the castle itself.
- Wray Castle is free to National Trust members and costs £10 per adult and £5 per child for non-members.
- Kitchen Court Café serving ice cream, cakes, soup and sandwiches
- Location: LA22 0JA
Stay nearby: Beak Head Tarn, sleeping 3, is a cool lodge positioned on the slopes of a woodland area set just outside Ambleside. This would be a great place to retreat to after days out exploring, only made better by the on-site leisure complex with pool, jacuzzi and sauna.
2. 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. Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs.
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. You can explore the grounds extensively which is a nice way to spend an afternoon, keeping an eye out for the limestone rock garden and pretty wildflower borders.
Fascinating fact: There is a magnificent Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber which is one of the finest panelled rooms in the country. Make sure you seek it out!
Need to know:
- Mobility scooters are free to hire, allowing all visitors to enjoy the grounds
- Furry friends are free to explore the wider estate but are not permitted in the castle and garden.
- Sizergh Castle is free to National Trust members and costs £12 per adult and £6 per child.
- Local, seasonal food is available in the contemporary licensed café.
- Location: LA8 8DZ
Stay nearby: Timberwolf, sleeping 4, is a luxury holiday retreat which is close to Kendal and is a wonderful base to explore from. It’s ideal for people who enjoy being active outdoors and want to return to luxury, comfort and tranquillity. Its comfort is enhanced by the indoor heated pool, gym, hot tub, and sauna.
3. 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.
Fascinating fact: Muncaster Castle, nestled in Cumbria, believed to be standing on Roman remains, is a key part of the region’s history. It is a fine example of one of the Lake District's favourite historic houses.
Need to know:
- The Owl Garden Tea Room and Carriage House gift shop offer nice places to stop for a rest and peruse.
- An adult ticket including house, gardens and the Hawk & Owl Centre costs £15 in peak season with online discounts available.
- Location: CA18 1RD
Stay nearby: Carter Ground Barn, sleeping 8, is a short distance from the castle and is a stylish barn conversion with unspoilt views from all its rooms. This would be a touch of luxury to any Lakes holiday and your family or group will love the eight-seater hot tub, balconies and all the surrounding countryside to enjoy.
4. 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. This is an interactive and imaginative attraction that will keep the kids entertained for hours.
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.
Fascinating fact: 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.
Need to know:
- The Lost Castle can be booked for birthday parties and special events.
- Dogs can sniff out adventures at Lowther Castle but are not permitted in the Lost Castle Playground.
- Lowther Castle costs £11 per adult and £7 per child with online discounts available.
- Location: CA10 2HH
Stay nearby: Willow Mill, sleeping 10, is another fantastic barn conversion which comes complete with its own private tennis court and riverside views. It’s in the ideal location for exploring the region and is perfect for a family celebration or friends' get-together. The décor fuses traditional features like the strong wood ceiling beams with trendy furnishings throughout, making this a stylish and aesthetically exciting place to stay!
5. 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.
Fascinating fact: This great keep largely survives, amid many later buildings - including the unusual double gatehouse and impressive 'Tower of League'. The top of the keep provides panoramic views over the Eden Valley.
Need to know:
- Dogs on leads are welcome at Brougham Castle.
- Nearby are the other attractions of Countess Pillar, King Arthur’s Round Table and Mayburgh Henge.
- The on-site shop serves tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Cold drinks and various snacks are also available. Ice-cream is sold in the summer.
- Admittance to Brougham Castle costs £5.70 for adults, £3.40 for children and is free to English Heritage members.
- Location: CA10 2AA
Stay nearby: The Bothy, sleeping 6, is a beautiful Georgian-style property set in a peaceful rural location. Offering some of the finest views of Ullswater and its magnificent fell and mountain, the house is set perfectly for getting out and about to discover Brougham Castle and many more Lake District attractions. The cottage has a light and airy contemporary interior with a spacious open-plan kitchen which will become the social hub for your family and friends.
6. 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.
Fascinating fact: The stone used to construct the castle was taken from the beach, although red sandstone was imported for architectural details.
Need to know:
- 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.
- Other attractions close by include Furness Abbey and the 15th-century Bow Bridge.
- Location: LA13 0QN
Stay nearby: The Woodsman Cabin is one of three trendy log cabins that reside close to the south-east coast of Cumbria. Fully hand-scribed from locally sourced wood (from an estate once owned by Beatrix Potter) these are stunning places to stay! When not exploring castles on remote islands, walkers, mountain bikers and hikers can explore The Old Man of Coniston and Grizedale Forest.
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. You might also be interested in our guide to Pride and Prejudice film locations where some of these castles were featured on the BBC and big screen!