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Would you like to live in your own little castle?
Wray Castle (Lake District)
Member Name: catsholiday
Wray Castle (Lake District)
Advantages: A very different sort of place to visit
Disadvantages: Limited interest inside as the building is empty
Late last year we had a week in the Lake District and explore a number of National trust properties to make use of our NT membership. One of the places we visited we had not heard of before we saw it in the NT brochure of the Lake District was Castle Wray. It also happened to be fairly close to where we were staying too so after passing it a few times we e felt obliged to call in and see what was there.
PRICES AND TIMES
The grounds are open from dawn to dusk, whilst the castle itself is open from 10:30am until 5pm, (times may vary).
Entry to the grounds is free
Prices for castle entry
£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 plenty of free and some quite close for those with disabilities
Dogs are welcome in the grounds on a lead and providing the owners 'pooper scoop' after them
WHERE IS THIS CASTLE?
We found it was pretty well signed from most directions with NT signs but if using a sat nav use the postcode LA22 0JA and once near enough you wiuill see the signs.
From Ambleside you follow the A593 until you see the B5286 and then look out for NT signs as they are well placed around for the castle.
If you come from Windermere using the ferry then take the A5285, through Near Sawry, then turn onto a smaller road just past Estwaite Water via Colthouse and High Wrayjust keep on this road and eventually you will see the gates to the castle. You can walk from the ferry following the signs so it isn't that far away, around four miles I believe.
Just be aware that the driveway is quite narrow and there are speed bumps for a reason, passing other cars coming from the opposite way needs care.
Despite its name, Wray Castle is not really a castle in its true sense of the word as it has never been a fortification and was in fact built as a private home. What is even more surprising is that the original owners were not a grand family with lots of children, they were a couple but of course they entertained and had a huge number of staff living in to wait on them and their guests when they had them.
Wray castle does however look like a castle. Although it is obviously smaller than many real castles it does still look pretty imposing and it has towers and turrets, huge wooden doors and windows that look out for miles over the surrounding countryside.
This imposing building was the inspiration of a Doctor James Dawson who decided in 1840 to spend his wife inheritance creating this castle. He had an architect called H.P Horner to make his dream a reality. Mrs Dawson however refused to have anything to do with the place and never lived there. After the inspired doctor died his nephew, Preston Rawnsley inherited the place and while he owned it a family who were friends of his from London stayed in the castle during a couple of summers. The daughter of this family was the then unknown author and artist Beatrix Potter.
Beatrix Potter did a number of her paintings here as did her father who was also a keen and quite talented amateur photographer. There are several of his photographs displayed around the castle and quite a number of the exhibits feature the Potter family and show their time in the castle.
The castle has not had a happy history and because of lack of money many of its furnishings and anything of value was sold just to keep up the repair of the place and finally in 1929 the Castle and the 64 acres of land attached were given to the National trust by Sir Noton and Lady Barclay.
Since being handed over to the NT it has been a small hotel and a youth centre sort of loaned by the NT but with strict conditions, a bit like Allan Bank was at one time. Recently though the NT has decided to take back the Castle and repair it and open it to the public.
The castle internally is not furnished as you might think because all the original furniture was sold and the beds and furniture usd when it was a youth and conference centre has largely been removed. There is a board for suggestions as to how people think the NT should make use of the building. It is difficult because it is no longer in its original state and it would cost a lot to refurnish it is the style of the time.
Inside some parts have beautiful wooden carved parts while other walls have be plastered and stripped or partially stripped. Some rooms are better than others but the floors are still good and you can see how beautiful it might have been at one time through displays of Mr Potter's photographs and other evidence.
The castle really is an empty shell of a building with some rooms better than others but you can still feel the size of the place and admire the high ceilings and some of the cornices etc are still in tact.
The NT has put different displays in the rooms so the old library for example has wall paper of empty books that visitors were invited to decorate and is now pretty much covered with coloured and named books.
Another room which was a sort of sun room had a display about Beatrix Potter and her family and their time in the castle.
In order to encourage visitors with families many rooms had activities for families so one room had lots of cardboard boxes which could be arranged to make dens or castles. In the same room there were also lots of dressing up clothes for children to use for their games with the dens or castle.
You can choose to pay for a guided tour on any day. The times of the tours are posted on the door as you enter and you will be told as you pay or show your NT cards to the person at the desk as you enter the castle. The tours last about an hour and give you very detailed explanations about each room and the people who lived in the house. We listened to some of the guide but I can only take in so much information and prefer to enjoy the place for what it is.
FOOD AND TOILETS
There is a pretty basic tea room in one of the rooms which offers coffee and teas as well as cold drinks and a few cakes and cold snacks but it isn't cheap but we do find that NT places can be pricey on food sometimes.
There are toilets on the ground floor but they are not really fully disabled toilets so someone with a wheel chair might have a problem.
There are beautiful grounds around the castle and these are free for anyone to enjoy. Unlike most NT properties there is no person at the gateway charging for parking for the entire property so you can visit, park free and wander around without it costing you a penny if you do not go in the castle even if you are not an NT member.
We read that somewhere in the grounds that there was a very special mulberry tree planted by Wordsworth in 1845 so we had to go and find that. So this castle has two famous Lake District people connected to it, both Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.
We walked all around the gardens and woodlands along the circular pathway and really enjoyed the walk. We saw the castle from different views and went down to the jetty and old boat house which gave us fabulous views over Lake Windermere.
IS IT WORTH A VISIT?
That depends on what you want to see. If you have children and are NT members and the weather is good then a quick tour of the castle followed by longer in the grounds and maybe a picnic would be a great day out.
If you like quirky properties and architecture then this certainly fits the bill.
If you are a NT member and just have time to fill this makes a very pleasant visit with a bit of everything from interesting building, a bit of history and some beautiful grounds to explore.
It is a chance to see the NT in action as this is in the process of being brought back to its former glory.
There are few places where you can park free and take a walk to the lake in the area as most places have pay and display car parks now so take advantage of this and explore these grounds, walk around the lake shore and find somewhere for a picnic with views of the surrounding countryside.
You can picnic with the children while looking at a building that looks just like a real castle so children will be impressed with its castle look.
Although inside is pretty sparse there are still some pretty stunning features in the castle which include the beautiful wooden staircase and the amazing glass roof in the centre of the building. In some rooms the fresco paintings near the ceilings were beautiful as were the window and door surroundings. It must have been a pretty stunning pace in its time.
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.
Part of the castle was for the owners and their guests while another part which less fine in its décor was the area for the servants buts still a lot better than some servants probably had back in the day.
So although the castle is really an empty shell of a building there is still a lot you can see depending on your individual interests.
We really enjoyed our visit as there was enough to be interesting without an overload of information which some places have. It was quirky, novel and like nowhere else I have been. The building is unique and the gardens and grounds beyond are worth a visit in the own right.
This is not a real castle but it does look like one so if you have a Peppa Pig fan this could be 'Windy Castle for you!
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
Summary: One of the the NT properties in the Lake District
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