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Muncaster Castle Gardens and Owl Centre (Ravenglass)

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4 Reviews

Ravenglass, Cumbria, CA18 1RQ. Telephone 01229 717 614
Fax 01229 717 010. E-mail info@muncastercastle.co.uk

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    4 Reviews
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    • More +
      20.06.2013 23:35
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      Something for Everyone

      As soon as we pulled up into the car park we were filled with the excitement of Muncaster Castle and what the trip would bring. I have visited numerous castles all over England but still get overwhelmed with excitement over what the next castle will bring.

      Firstly as you drive to Muncaster Castle if you can't see it on the hilltops it is clearly signposted along all main roads so is fairly easy to find as we found when our sat nav died on route! We were staying in a cottage not too far from Muncaster Castle and knew that we would be paying this place a visit during a stay so on New Year's Eve we pulled into the car park opposite Muncaster which is free parking (Rare these days!) and headed over the road and into Muncaster.

      When you first head towards the castle there is a huge stone built gate and you pass through this (which is amazing on its own) and head towards the little glass hut on your right hand side which is the information centre, here you pay for your tickets and can buy any drinks, sweets or souvenirs you want.

      Ticket prices are £13 per adult and £7.50 per child and under 5's free - this includes entry to the castle, gardens, owls and maze. Money very well spent in my opinion and I thought the costs were worthwhile especially with the number of owls they look after (Over 200).

      Our first stop was the owl sanctuary where we must have spent a couple of hours wondering around, lucky for us it was New Year's Eve and we were the only people in the park! So we were looking at the owls and different birds, amazed at their size and beauty - what an amazing place!

      We are a young(ish) couple who love birds and thoroughly enjoyed this experience, I am sure that families and people of all ages would enjoy this as much as we did.

      We then headed towards the castle which was sadly closed the day we went but the beauty of the castle from the outside was amazing, it was stunning almost a sense of being 'untouched' and the views from the castle were like none I had ever seen before. You could see across the valley and it was so beautiful, even if the temperature was about minus 3 degrees.

      We continued exploring around the castle and being on our own this was rather 'Scary' if that is the correct word, being so high up it was misty and being the only people around it gave the castle a beauty like I have never experienced. Although I'm sure this will be a completely different experience and just as amazing at any other time of the year regardless of the amount of people there.

      After a thorough look around the gardens and finding hidden paths etc. we decided to head back as the sun had started to set. We had wandered around for hours with 70 acres of land there is a lot to explore. We even found a little bird watching hut at the top of the hill and if you walk far enough you have amazing views over the sea.

      In the evening Muncaster Castle is lit up with illuminations which unfortunately I never got to see but will do when I go back, I can imagine this is amazing!

      The facilities at this castle really are brilliant for families; there are toilets, restaurants and a child's play area although the restaurant wasn't open the day that we went.

      I will be going back to Muncaster Castle but this time I am going to stay in the castle grounds as they offer apartments and a cottage to rent which are very reasonably prices and with unlimited access to the castle and gardens, personally I couldn't think of anything better.

      Muncaster Castle can be found in Ravenglass - the only coastal town in the Lake District, the postcode is CA18 1RQ and is accessible via car, bus and train.

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      • More +
        08.09.2011 21:20
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        Mr Pennington's house is very grand indeed, and it comes with a few spirits too

        I had a trip to the Lake District recently, visiting many places as I went, a lot being owned by the National Trust, due to the fact that I had become a member a few months back, so that I could get into the properties and parking for free, (so to speak)
        But some places I visited weren't owned by the National Trust so I had to dig into my pocket if I wanted to get into them, and one of them places I chose to have a look at, as I had heard many good things about it from friends, was a place just out side a little town called Ravenglass, which is on the West coast of the Lake District in Cumbria.

        ** BIT OF HISTORY FIRST...

        The Castle is owned by the Pennington family and has been for many centuries, since around the 11th century.
        The oldest part of the Castle, being the Great Hall and the Pele tower, are from the 14th century. The castle has had a few alterations over the years, including adding extra chimneys, rooms, windows and towers. But towards the end of the 1700's the castle had fallen into disrepair, with the then owner Sir Joseph Pennington, having to find the money to try and repair the property so that he could carry on living in it.
        Now the castle has been almost fully restored and contains several artefacts of English history and architectural monuments for people to enjoy. And it is said that the library inside the castle contains a staggering 6000 books, (according to online facts).

        Close by there are the remains of a Roman fort, adding to the suspicion that the Castle itself is actually built on Roman foundations.
        The entire estate began is a staggering 23,000 acres but over the time has dwindled down to just under 2000 acres, this was mainly due to the fact that money was needed to rebuild the castle so things had to be sold off, starting with the land.

        The current owner is Patrick Gordon Pennington who does tend to wander around the castle during visiting times, talking to people as they look around, which seems like a good idea.


        ** HOW TO GET THERE...

        As we were in Coniston at the time we decided to carry onto the Castle, along the A593 and onto the A595, then following that road towards the Castle, watching out for the brown signs as we went.
        It did take a bit of time to get there along that route but the drive was quite beautiful in parts, although a little boring in others, but when we did finally get there it was well worth the drive.

        There are other ways of getting there, depending on where your coming from, but one way to go if your in or around Ambleside then try your fear factor by going along something called Hard Knott Pass... I haven't gone that route as yet, due to my wife and kids being a bit on the 'wimpy' side, but I plan to do so as soon as I can.


        The car park, which is free, is not inside the grounds itself, it is opposite the main entrance, and it is quite a good size for many many cars. You do have to cross the road to get into the castle grounds, and this road can have a few, shall we say, speed freaks, dashing along it, so do be careful.

        ** AND WHAT ABOUT THE COST..?

        The gardens, owl centre and maze is £9.50 adult, £6.50 for children and £30.00 for a family.
        Or you can add an extra £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for children to get into the castle as well. But you can't just pay the add on Castle price in the hope of just going into the castle, you have to pay for the first three options first.

        Under 5 years of age can get in for free

        ** OPENING TIMES...

        The garden, Owl sanctuary and maze are open from 10:30am until 6pm, with the owl sanctuary having displays around 2:30pm.
        The Castle itself is opened at 12 noon and closing at 4pm.
        NOTE:
        The castle is closed to the general public on a Saturday.

        Although these opening times are seasonal of course and it may be wise to check before visiting, either by looking online at www.muncaster.co.uk as all details are there. Or, if you can't get online, then you can telephone them on 01229 717 614


        ** WHAT'S ON OFFER..?

        The place has four main different things to see, those being the Castle itself, the Gardens, the Owl Sanctuary and a Maze.
        The Castle's probably what most people come to see and it is well worth the visit, especially as it only cost a few more pounds on top of the garden entrance fee to get in. Each room has several artefacts, tapestries, portraits, paintings and more, with each one having a fantastic story behind it.
        Look out for something called the 'Luck of Muncaster', which is not a saying like 'the luck of the Irish', it is in fact a glass drinking bowel given to the then owner Sir John Pennington in 1461 as a gift for letting him stay there after a long and tedious battle. Together with the glass bowel there was also a promise that so long as the glass remained unbroken then the castle and its wealth would prosper.

        Then, outside the Castle, you have the Gardens which are covered in a variety of colourful flowers, together with an astonishing amount of trees towering over you as you walk around, seeming to disappear into the sky as you look up,
        There are a vast array of walks, which we didn't have the chance to explore, but those we did walk along were easy to navigate as we strolled along the beauty within.
        Then there's the Owl Sanctuary which is, as the name suggests, full of owls, in fact it has around 40 different species, (I didn't even know there were 40 different species??). This section is not owned by the Pennington family it is owned and run by an organisation called the World Owl Trust.
        Finally, there is something which is aimed more towards the younger visitors, this is the Meadowvole Maze. This is a walk around in what looks like a giant world, or maybe you're just the size of a Vole?
        The place is disability friendly, apart from the castle itself, although there is a ramp up to the main doors. As for the grounds themselves, most of these are easy to navigate for wheelchairs as the paths are quite wide and fairly flat.

        Also, as in many tourist attractions anywhere, there is a Café, toilets and a little shop, plus, there is a child friendly play area for those kids that have still got energy left at the end of the day.
        Everything is clearly sign posted so you should be able to find where you want to go without any difficulties.

        NOTE:
        The Castle also offers special events during the year, such as a Halloween week and a Christmas at the castle. Although I have not been to any of those I do believe that they are quite good indeed.


        ** MY OPINION...

        When we parked up in the car park I was not initially impressed with the layout of the place, mainly due to the fact that the castle entrance was over the road from the car park, and the road we had to cross was quite, a busy one. But as I saw the 'archway' in the wall leading into the grounds themselves I felt a little bit more reassured that the drive maybe hadn't been a waste of time.
        The archway in the wall was large, with the wall designed to look like the castle, giving the impression that the property beyond it should be grand and well worth seeing.

        So, after tackling the road, (think Frogger from the 80's and you'll get the idea, sort of), we walked under the archway and along the road/pathway, with trees looming on either side of us. Heading towards the Castle itself, which soon came to view. When we saw the castle we decided to head into it straight away, walking up the few steps and through the main door. We were immediately offered what looked like a small airport hand held metal detector, this was in fact an audio guide for you to listen to as you wander around the castle. This really came in handy as it explained things about the rooms that I would probably have missed.
        So we set about admiring the interior of the castle, taking our time without the feeling of being rushed. Each room offered something new and surprising as we wandered around.
        We spent some time inside the castle trying to take it all in, but to be honest there was just too much to take in in one trip, so I may have to go back at some point due to the fact that I found it a very interesting, if somewhat spooky, place to be.

        After we came out of the castle we were told that the owl display would be starting in a matter of minutes so we decided to go and watch it, heading towards the large greened area at the side of the castle, where the display was.
        The display involved the owls flying low along the ground, almost scraping the grass as they grabbed their targets, combined with a rather well presented explanation from a chap with a very large and thick looking glove on.
        My kids watched these birds in awe, fascinated by the way they moved as they chased the 'prey' along the ground. In fact they actually fell silent for once in their lives, which was a blessing, until the show was over and there minds went back to normal.

        Once this display was finished we then headed around the garden, taking in the beauty of it all, also looking for somewhere to sit and have something to eat, which didn't take too long as, even though it was it was busy, there was plenty of places to stop and relax. The gardens are vast and simply gorgeous with a brilliant collection of colours throughout, giving out some superb aromas as we walked passed them. Also, scattered around the garden, there are a few wooden huts which people can sit in, but as everyone I passed I someone sat in them I didn't get the chance to see what they looked like inside.

        Then, due to the fact that my youngest daughter wanted to see what it was, we headed for the maze, which is quite a nice little touch, especially if the kids are getting a little restless. It is not designed as a labyrinth you can get lost in, it is simply a pathway, with many turns, giving the impression that you're in a maze surrounded by gigantic blades of grass and enormous creatures.
        There is a great little quiz for the kids to complete in order to help a crazy little character called Max MeadowVole get home through the maze.


        ** OTHER INFORMATION...

        As with most old building and Castles this one has a fair share of intriguing ghost stories to be told, leading to the castle being known as possibly one of the most haunted places in Britain.
        Some of those stories are about spirits that roam the castle and grounds, such as Henry the 6th whose spirit is supposed to wander the halls, and so is the ghost of a worker who appears to be carrying a head. But the one that springs out and is possibly the most frightening story is the ghost of Thomas Skelton, or better known as Tom Fool, the jester at the castle, whose portrait looms menacingly from one of the walls with in the castle. And when I say menacingly I mean menacingly, his eyes seeming to follow me when I walk passed it, watching with what looked like a snigger on his lips.
        The story of Tom Fool is quite an interesting one, especially what he did to passing travellers when they asked for directions is quite frightening indeed, and well worth listening to.

        In all, a fantastic place to visit for a lovely family day out. There are lots to do and even more to see with a the castle itself being full of delights and education for all to enjoy.
        The price to take in the whole package is nearly £40.00, that's the garden, owls, the maze and of course the castle, but as you can make a full day of it then it's probably £38.00 well spent.

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        • More +
          04.07.2011 09:42
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          A very well run, family attraction

          During our recent trip to Cumbria we intended to fit as much into our week in the Lakes as we possibly could. Having watched the ITV series in the Lakes in the early part of the year one of the places high on our list was a visit to Muncaster Castle in the Western lakes. The house itself has a very grand position overlooking the valley near the town of Ravenglass in Western Cumbria. From where we were staying near Penrith we opted to travel over Wynrose and Hardknott Pass to get there but the imposing site of Muncaster Castle on the hill top of the Esk Valley at the end of the road made it a very worthwhile approach.

          Location

          As mentioned the Castle is located about a mile outside of Ravenglass on the A595 where it is signposted well using the traditional brown attraction signs. When you arrive at the attraction there is a large public car park next to the road opposite the entrance, which is free to park in. from here it is only a 2 minute walk on the other side of the road to the ticket office. The location of Muncaster makes it reasonably accessible on the main road between Barrow and Workington. It's pretty easy to find and the imposing view of it when approaching from the South gives an impressive first impression.

          Cost

          The Castle grounds are made up of 4 different sections, the Gardens, the Owl centre, the Maze and the Castle itself. For entry to the Gardens, The Owl Centre and the Maze it costs £9.50 for adults and £6.50 for children up to the age of 15, with under 5's going free. Entrance to the Castle costs an extra £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for children aged between 5 and 15. The cost of our tickets was actually included within a Freedom of the Lakes pass we had found on the internet, review to follow, however we opted to include the Castle as well as the other areas and are actually very glad we did as the extra £2.50 proves to be great value for money.

          It is also worth noting that if you book your tickets online in advance you will save £1 per ticket on the above mentioned prices.

          Opening Times

          Like the entrance fee's there are two different sets of opening times, one for the grounds which includes the Maze, Owl Centre and the Gardens and a different set of times for the Castle. The Grounds are open from 10.30am to 6pm everyday with the last entry at 5pm and the Castle opens at 12 and closes again at 4. The grounds are open 7 days a week; however the house is closed on a Saturday. The combination of the house and Gardens are only open for the summer months and this period runs from 27th March through to the 31st October.

          Muncaster

          The Castle and grounds at Muncaster belong to the Pennington family and have according to records owned the Castle is 1026. Over the years the estate has shrunk considerable from 23,000 acres to just 1,800, however this is still incredibly impressive.

          With the Castle and its grounds being split into 4 I think it only fair to review each of these elements individually as each presents an excellent and worthwhile attraction on its own.

          The Gardens

          It seems only right to start with the section that dictates the majority of your visit. The Gardens are mightily impressive with tall trees plenty of different plant types and enough ground, almost 1,800 acres, to keep you preoccupied for days. That is perhaps one of the most important points I can make about a trip to Muncaster is that one day will simple not be enough to see everything properly. The gardens are immense and with a wide variety of walks and areas to explore it would take a day alone to really explore this side of the Muncaster grounds. Without the addition of the other three elements the Gardens alone are worth a visit and make the entrance fee look reasonable. The grounds are very well maintained and provide a very impressive and serene setting for our day out.

          The Maze

          We didn't explore the Maze properly, however it was another very interesting addition to the grounds and something we promised to spend more time in next time we visited. The Maze is cut out of 7m high grass and the guides suggest it gives you a view of how a Meadow Vole would see ordinary long grass. Due to the amount there is at Muncaster though and the time we had available we chose to sacrifice the Maze on this occasion for the Owl Sanctuary and the Castle.

          The Owl Sanctuary

          Within the grounds at Muncaster the Pennington family have given the World Owl Organisation a large section of land in which to work and bread Owls. All of the Owls within this centre are on display for the public to view as part of the entrance fee. The centre is home to 40 different Owl's and gives information about the environment each Owl would enjoy in the wild and their status on the Endangered species list. From their base at Muncaster the World Owl Organisation do a lot of good work and the details are also displayed within the Centre.

          This was by far my favourite aspect of our trip to Muncaster as it is clear that all of the Owls are well looked after and through the conservation work the World Owl Organisation are doing and the breeding programs they are really making a difference. The Organisation also put on a flight display at 2.30pm each day where you get to see a couple of the Owl's flying about and this really was the highlight of our day. They are a beautiful bird and like the Gardens could easily have made a very worthwhile attraction on their own

          The Castle

          Onto the main attraction and as I mentioned earlier in this review it was very much worth the extra £2.50 to enter the Castle. Once you enter you are handed an audio guide, which takes you on a room by room guide around the Castle with the Pennington family as your guides. If you are lucky there is a chance you will run into Patrick Gordon Pennington Duff the current owner of Muncaster Castle who wanders around whilst the doors are open chatting to visitors. We seen him with a number of different people throughout the day and I think this adds more of a personal touch to the Castle visit as he tells you the history himself.

          Throughout the Castle there are displays and artefacts to accompany the guide and really make the £2.50 additional fee for visiting the Castle itself seems like superb value. There is a lot of history in a building like this and for the Pennington's to open it up to the public like this preserves the history of houses such as Muncaster.

          With all four element combining so much it is hard to fit it all into one day and we shall certainly be returning on our next trip to the Lakes to visit Muncaster again.

          Café, Shop and Facilities

          As we had decided to spend the day at Muncaster we thought it would be nice to treat ourselves to a spot of lunch in the Café and afterwards were very glad we did. The food was excellent quality as both my Jacket potato with chilli and Jen's ham and cheese Panini came with a salad and tasted incredibly nice. We also sampled the cakes and found them to be equally as delicious as well as a bottle of drink each and were surprised that all of these items still came to under £15 as the portions were generous, the food tasted good and the café itself was a very pleasant place to eat.

          There are a couple of shops at Muncaster that sell a variety of the usual tourist souvenir's as well as a few more local specialities and although we didn't buy anything like the café it all seemed very reasonably priced. The facilities within the grounds were all very well maintained to a high standard and the whole attraction gave the feel of a very well-run and traditional tourist attraction with a feel of a family run nature that really cared about the services they provided for their visitors.

          Worth a Visit

          I've been to the Lakes a number of times having grown up in and around the area before moving south and had never visited Muncaster Castle prior to this trip. It's clear from this trip that we had really missed out and would certainly recommend anyone spending time in the Lakes to pay a visit to Muncaster on the western edge of the National Park. It is a family run attraction that offers real value for money combined with a very enjoyable day out.

          There is so much to cram into a day at Muncaster that you may even need to make it two trips and we will certainly be returning. We were surprised by how much we enjoyed our visit and look forward to returning. I think the effort that has been put in really make it stand out against the likes of Hutton In The Forest on the other side of the Lakes as it combines an educational trip through history with an impressive setting and beautiful grounds and for a relaxing day out you really couldn't ask for much more. Our visit to Muncaster was a memorable one and gets a full 5 star rating from me.

          www.muncaster.co.uk

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          • More +
            07.07.2009 01:32
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            A great day out for any wildlife/nature lover. Or if seeking piece of mind

            Recently I was a Teaching Assistant on a Primary School Trip to Muncaster Castle. It was clear to see that each and every child and adult alike on the trip thoroughly enjoyed there time looking around the beautifully maintained gardens, castle and owl sanctuary.

            Background:

            Muncaster Castle has been home to the Pennington family since 1208. The Castle itself houses a large variety of artefacts, collected by the family over the centuries. Treasures include a picture painted by Gainsborough for a bet; John of Bologna's Alabaster Lady; Henry VI's drinking bowl, known as the 'Luck of Muncaster', dating from his stay at the Castle during the Wars of the Roses; and the most ornamental dinner service the Derby factory ever made.

            In the splendour of over 70 acres of gardens with the dramatic backdrop of the glorious Lakeland fells, plants from all over the world can be found.

            The World Owl Centre headquarters of the World Owl Trust is based at Muncaster and cares for one of the finest and largest owl collections in the world with over 45 species.

            In all Muncaster Castle really is worth a visit if you are in the Lake District and fancy a nice walk around and some quiet time to appreciate the beautiful environment that we live in!

            It is also worth mentioning that there is a children's play area in case any young ones get slightly too much!

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