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A castle built for two... yes, really, just two
Wray Castle (Lake District)
Member Name: blissman70
Wray Castle (Lake District)
Advantages: nice views, pleasant walks, interesting building and a nice day out
Disadvantages: a bit out of the way and not a lot to see inside the castle itself
I like the Lake District a lot and when I get the chance I like to go there so that I can relax, enjoying the peace and quiet, together with the fresh air and the friendly people, (most of them anyway).
One place that I like to go to, ever since coming across it many years ago. Enjoying the seclusion and the stunning views.
This place is on fact a little place called Wray Castle, which, even though it has 'castle' in the name, is not quite what you think it would be.
Wray castle looks like a castle, it has a grand style to it with enormous doors and windows that tower over the surrounding vista. It also has turrets the same as many other castles have in order to protect the land that that castle is situated in, but this castle was not designed to stand as a protector of the land that it surveyed, nor was it built to house the king and queen who ruled over their subjects.
It was designed and built for the sole purpose of being a place for a family to live in, although when I say family I really just mean a couple as there were no children, together with the myriad of staff members that catered for the couple and their guests.
A brief bit of history...
In and around 1840 a Doctor James Dawson from Liverpool, together with architect H.P. Horner, designed and built Wray castle using Dr Dawson's wife's inherited money to do so, hoping to make it look in the style of the Gothic Revival look.
He also built a church, which is situated near the castle, at the same time.
Unfortunately for the doctor his wife never lived in the castle as she refused to do so.
In 1875 Dr Dawson died and the castle was then inherited by his nephew, Preston Rawnsley
In 1882 a little known author at the time, Beatrix Potter, stayed in the castle whilst on holiday from London. When she became famous and rich, from writing her many well known books, she bought several properties in the Lake District and a lot of land, including nearby Hill Top farm, eventually buying most of the land surrounding Wray Castle, but not the castle itself.
Sadly though, over the years, due to financial reasons, most, if not all, of the possessions had to be sold off in order to try and keep the castle from falling down.
In 1929 the Castle, together with the 64 acres of land surrounding it, were given to the National trust by Sir Noton and Lady Barclay.
In 2012, due to the castle being one of the NT's less known properties, they were almost forced to turn the castle into a 'semi' Hotel with strict conditions attached.
Luckily, due to the castle becoming more popular, that idea was shelved and the property is now fully open to the public to walk around and admire the interior and the stunning views from very single window.
* How do I get there..?
Getting there can be a little tricky at first, especially as the road that the gateway is on has not really got a name, or number.
From Ambleside you follow the A593 until you see the B5286, which is a side road on the left just passed a large hotel type building on the right, (watch out for this turning and the signposts). Then you follow this B road until you see the small sign for Wray castle, pointing to a side road on the left. Then follow this road for a few miles, being careful as the road bends all over the place and is very narrow at points. You will see the Castle entrance to the ground of the castle on the left, being a building made to look like the castle, only smaller, usually with lots of logs of wood housed under a little roof, waiting to be burnt in order to keep the occupants of the gate house warm over the colder months.
If you come from the other way, via the Ferry from Windermere, you simply come off the ferry, along the A5285, through Near Sawry, then turn onto a side road leadingg to Colthouse and High Wray... this road is not named but it is found on the right as you pass Estwaite water. Follow this 'road' until you see the gatehouse to the castle.
There are several little roads leading off this road but they are easy to distinguish as tracks more than roads, compared to this road you should stay on.
If all else fails simply get your SatNav and input LA22 0JA... this should get you somewhere near the castle.
You can also get there on foot by following the signposts from the Ferry, (4 miles of or, if you're really full of energy, from the Ambleside area too.
Once through the gates of the castle you then follow the road, watching out for speed bumps and on coming traffic, until you see the castle. You then follow the road around the castle where you will find the car park, with more parking spaces along the road if this one if full.
There are three parking areas with plenty of spaces for many cars.
So now you're there what is there to do..?
Well, this is where the answer to this question will differ, depending on what you actually expect before visiting this castle.
The castle building itself is not a 'real' castle; there are no ruins as such; in fact it's in pretty good shape for a castle, although everything inside the castle that could have been sold has gone, leaving nothing but the rooms themselves, so there's no furniture or anything like that to stand and admire.
At present the castle is just a shell, so to speak, with some parts looking like they have been decorated by a short sighted man in a bit of a rush, whilst other rooms need some serious work doing to them before the walls come crumbling down.
There's not a lot in the rooms, having no furniture, paintings, beds etc, but it's the styles of the rooms and the actual look of the rooms that make this castle a special place to see.
In one room there are stacks of cardboard boxes which the kids, or even the adults, can move around the make there own castles. Together with some clothing to dress up as a king or a queen maybe.
These days there is a little tea room which, although a little high on prices, lets you get a refreshing drink and, on those few days of sunshine, enjoy a relaxing beverage whilst admiring the views.
Around the grounds there are many stunning views, several special trees, including a Mulberry tree which was planted by William Wordsworth in 1845, and many pathways to enjoy a lovely walk around.
At the bottom of the grounds there is a Jetty and boat house which over looks Lake Windermere
* Other information...
Opening times and prices...
The grounds are open from dawn to dusk, whilst the castle itself is open from 10:30am until 5pm, (times may vary).
Prices for castle entry only, (as entry to the grounds is free)...
£6.00 adult (£6.60 gift aid)
£3.00 children (£3.30 gift aid)
£15.00 family (16.50 gift aid)
National Trust member can enter for free, as long as they show their membership card.
There is ample free parking.
Dogs can walk around the ground as long as they are on a lead and that their 'poop' is cleared up afterwards.
There is a café which serves hot and cold drinks, plus a small selection of cold snacks.
There are guided tours on a daily basis with a clear to understand sign outside the doors to let you know when the next guided tour will be. These tours give you a more detailed story of the Castle's history and the people that have lived and worked there.
The toilets are on the ground floor but they are not fully disabled toilets so people in a wheel chair may struggle.
When ever I am in the Lakes I try and get to Wray Castle as I find it one of the least visited places in the District, although when I visited there a few weeks back there did seem to be a lot more people there than ever before, possibly due to the fact that it now has a refreshment area and is being advertised a little better.
The fact that I could park up and wonder down to the lake at my own pace made my visit there a pleasure, especially with a nice flask of coffee and a few sandwiches to enjoy at the end of my little trek. At the time the ground were the only pleasure I could have there as the Castle itself was closed to the public, being maintained, or more being kept upright by a man and his tower of scaffolding.
When I drove into the car park last year I did notice that the main doors to the castle were open and there was a sign outside stating that the Castle was open to the public, this was to show it off before the upper floor were turned into a hotel. So I parked up and had my first look inside the building without having to peer through the cobweb covered windows.
Once inside I was quite impressed by the design and the grand structure of the entire building, even though there was nothing in there apart from dust, mould, damp and maybe a few mice watching over us.
Firstly. The design of the castle itself is excellent, even if there is absolutely no furniture in there, although with the room being void of anything it gives those that appreciated architecture a little more to admire.
You first walk into the reception area, where you are greeted by the NT staff who offer you a guide/map/information about the castle and its surrounding grounds. You then wonder into the hallway, looking up towards a stunningly high ceiling, being three floors high, with a carved wooden structured landings beautifully attached to the walls on each floor, overlooked by simple, yet stunning mouldings and archways standing proudly above the doorways and cornering the walls.
When you stand in the centre of the ground floor, looking skywards, you will see the simple, yet quite stunning wooden canopy that overlooks the interior walkways, with marble effect alcove which possibly once housed some rather fine statues when the castle was at its best.
Throughout the castle there are many archways, solid doors that would need a tank to get through, walls the thickness of an elephants underbelly. There's also spiral stone staircase leading up and down the turrets which aren't as grand as the rest of the staircase but they do add to the castles 'realism', if you know what I mean.
The staircase leading up to the upper floors is wooden and, even though having a simple style, really do fit the castles design, splitting left and right as you get halfway up to the first floor. Once on the first floor you can look over the wooden rails and admire the mosaic tiles that are perfectly laid on the ground floor below.
The outside of the castle really does look like a castle, which is what it was designed to look like so Horner and Dawson did do exactly what they set out to do... they built themselves a castle in the Lake District...
The slits in the walls look like they could accommodate the archers as they fired their flaming arrows towards the advancing enemies, the turret and battlements tower over the entire building, giving the impression of a castle that could well take care of itself if it came under attack, although this never happened as this castle was never under attack, apart from dry rot and rising damp maybe.
Then there's the grounds themselves, which surround the castle, giving the visitors a lot to gaze upon and even wonder around. There are many pathways to follow, with most leading down to Lake Windermere, but almost all of the paths leading back to the castle in one way or another.
There's more trees than I can count, with a few having a little bit of interesting history surrounding them, and the flowers simply blossom at the right time of year making the entire estate look as colourful as a rainbow in the spring-summer season.
In all, if you want to see a castle with lots of 'stuff' inside, giving you something to read and take in for hours on end, then go to Wales as the place is full of them. But if you want a simple castle with some rather interesting architectural history together with some stunning views that you can admire all day long, then this castle and its ground may well be worth visiting.
You just have to weigh up the pros and cons...
It costs between £6.00 (or £3.00 for a child) to £15.00 to get into the castle, and once in there there's not really a lot to see, unless you like structures and architecture.
Just remember that the ground and the parking are both free, so if you want to walk around instead of looking inside the castle it won't cost you a pennie, (apart from petrol and your packed lunch of course).
Summary: An Englishman's castle is his home... and in this case that saying fits perfectly
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