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While on holiday in Poole I recently visited the very imposing Lulworth Castle with my husband. This castle is a very impressive site from the road as it stands proud in its surrounding grounds.
Lulworth Castle and Park is a Heritage and Countryside Visitor attraction and can be found in East Lulworth Wareham Dorset BH20 5QS.
The castle and grounds are open Sunday to Friday at the following times:-
Jan - March 10.30am to 4pm
April to Sept 10.30 am to 6pm
Sept - Dec 10.30am to 4pm
The Castle and estate consists of 12000 acres of parkland, woods and farmland and was purchased in 1641 by Humphrey Weld and has remained the Weld family until present day.
On arriving we found the car parking facilities excellent and the walk to the entrance is well laid out for easy access. We noticed all the tents and flags being put up for the Bestival Spectacular which was to take place that weekend so there was a lot of activity and machine about in the area.
On arriving at the entrance we were greeted by a gentleman who ushered us down to the shop area to pay as a coach party were holding up the usual pay desk. In the shop, which was light and airy we noticed a wide range of the usual souvenirs and gifts. The price for entry was £10 per adult but £9 for over 60's. My husband is 60 so we were asked for £19 but I had some vouchers for £1 off each paying adult. Unfortunately as my husband had already had a £1 off they would only let me use the one voucher so we paid £18. We were then given to orange paper wrist bands to wear. At this point I have to say I was really impressed by the cleanliness and the atmosphere of the place.
On leaving the entrance we walked to the castle. The Castle apparently was originally built as a hunting lodge and has hosted 7 monarchs. Unfortunately after a fire in 1929 only the exterior has been returned to its original glory. I don't know quite what I was expecting but I wasn't impressed by the interior at all - it was basically an empty shell with the odd display scattered about some of which had nothing to do with the castle and the assistants seemed to be more engrossed in conversations between themselves than by talking to the visitors. I think the laminated flooring might have had something to do with the overall disappointing atmosphere. So we walked around the various informative displays and exhibitions and ended up in a children's activity room which was well equipped with paper, pencils crayons etc;
We then left the castle and decided to have an ice cream. We had passed a kiosk as we approached the castle so we made our way to it to find that it was shut. This was annoying as it was a glorious day - hot and sunny and I'm sure they would have been very busy had it been opened. So we decided to have a look at St Mary's Chapel, the first free standing Roman Catholic Chapel in England post reformation. This is a beautiful building and very atmospheric as you walk around it. There are a few displays of robes and documents associated with the wealth of the church on show.
On leaving the Church we passed the area where the jousting displays take place and walked down to the farm. This was very enjoyable seeing all the different breeds and being able to get quite close. I'm sure children really enjoy the experience of seeing ostriches, alpacas, pot bellied pigs not to mention the usual lambs, pygmy goats Shetland ponies and rabbits to name a few. The assistants here were very helpful and hands on - helping children hold and feed the animals. Children are also catered for in the adventure playground with a variety of activities available.
At 12 o'clock the jousting started. This was very impressive and very entertaining showing specatators costumes and regalia associated with the event and was the highlight of the day for me.
Now the real disappointment of the day was the café. The Café is licensed and refreshments on offer consist of light lunches and afternoon teas but the prices are extortionate especially for the sandwiches. I can't comment on the food because I could have had a proper meal for what they were charging for a sandwich so we decided to call it a day and visit Lulworth Cove for something to eat.
The castle holds events throughout the year from Circus skills, Dragon egg hunt, Pirate festival, Camp Bestival, Spectacular Jousting, Wedding Fayres Civil War enactments, Falconry Displays to name a few.
Overall I was impressed by the facilities on offer and although they didn't all apply to us it was great to see that the time and effort had been given to supply the following:-
Designated free parking with wheelchairs and electric scooters available.
The accessibility of the shop, café and castle basement and grounds.
Mother and baby facilities and children's buggies available for use.
Dogs are also welcome in the park on leads but only guide dogs are permitted in the buildings.
To summarise - worth a visit on a sunny day but take a picnic.
Lulworth Castle isn't really a castle before you ask it's a hunting lodge that was designed to look like a castle when it was built by Thomas Howard in the early 17th Century. It's part of the larger Lulworth Estate in Dorset, with local attractions like Lulworth Cover and Durdle Door in the vicinity. It can be found at BH20 5QS for mortals with satnavs and for the rest of us it's just to the west of Poole on the south coast, before you get to Weymouth. If you look at a coastal map you can see the perfectly formed cove of Lulworth standing out on the coast.
We spent a day in the area on a trip from Southampton, it didn't take long to get to, was well signposted all the way in. It is near Ministry of Defence land, and if active exercises were taking place you could expect to have been diverted around them. On the day we visited Lulworth Castle and park, Lulworth Cove, and Kimmeridge Bay. Then on the way back stopped at Tower Park, just outside Poole for dinner.
Back to Lulworth Castle, the estate as you enter is really rather grand and you feel as though you are entering a grand hunting estate of a lord or gentry. As you get up towards the entrance there is ample parking for everybody visiting, it was a fairly nice day when we went there, and there weren't too many people there. When you get out the car you realise how big the estate is, as you walk up to the Castle. The grounds are where they hold the festivals 'Camp Bestival' and others.
It costs £8.50 for adults and £4 for children to get in. You get access to the Castle, grounds, Church, and to the farm for this. They have a shop in the entrance with all the usual tat you can buy, but it is actually quite good for that kind of shop. They also have a restaurant on site, which was the most disappointing part of the visit on the day. Its not bad to look at, but the staff seem so demotivated and don't actually seem to care at all with what they're doing. The prices aren't cheap a little more than you would expect even for it being an attraction. A very disappointing experience and I'm glad I didn't order food as you could see a steady stream of people complaining about the food or the lack of it appearing.
Once you're in we went up to the Church which you walk around, we didn't go inside but it really gives some excellent shots for the camera and is pretty well looked after. From the church you walk up to the castle which is pretty huge as you approach it. You go up the steps to the main entrance to enter the castle. When you enter the "castle" styled Hunting Lodge you immediately see the current state its in. Which is mostly still identical to the state it was after a fire devastated the inside of the lodge in 1929. Since 1988 they restored the windows, roof, and one tower of the lodge to show you what it was once like. Inside where you can see from floor to roof its quite amazing. On the main entry floor you have displays and photos of the castle before and after the fire and what the rooms used to be before they were devastated 80 years ago.
In the tower that has been restored, there is a large staircase up the tower to the roof, from which you can see all over the estate, down to Lulworth Cove, and back inland for miles. I took some really breathtaking shots on the Lulworth Estate which up there. If anyone is interested I can send the pictures. When you get back down the tower and carry on down into the basement there are lots of displays. Some are related to the estate and others seem to be a rather random, like a display on firefighters in Dorset and some on kid's toys through the ages.
Outside the castle, we left at the rear and walked through the grounds we came to the chapel, which was closed while we visited. It's supposed to one of the finest pieces of architecture in Dorset, built in 1786. It's quite impressive alone from the outside. Walking round from the chapel you can head down to the animal farm, which is quite different to anything else on the site. The farm has lots of rare breed's cattle and sheep, and an array of rabbits, peacocks, turkeys, ducks amongst others. Some of the animals are wondering around freely, s o you can get close up. You can also feed some of the animals. There is staff around to help people with the animals and get the most out of it.
Overall I was much impressed by Lulworth Castle, it really is spectacular for a day out and lots of varied things you can do. Just don't go in the cafe on site, use the cafe just outside the castle grounds or go into Lulworth Cove as there are plenty of restaurants around there.