Many times, usually on visits to the Lakes, I have passed big brown signs for a National Trust property named Sizergh Castle, telling myself that one day I must pop in and see what the place has to offer.
So, as I had recently become a member of the national Trust, I decided to take a peek in the castle on another visit to what I consider to be the most tranquil place in England, the Lake District.
** FIRSTLY... A little about the Castle...
The land was initially owned by the Deincourt family and had been since 1170 but in 1239 it became owned by the Strickland family through marriage.
In 1339 it was then turned into an actual estate, with the Castle being built in 1340, courtesy of Edward the 3rd and Sir Walter Strickland.
The initial part of the castle was the 18 metre high 'Pele Tower' with its 3 metre thick walls. Then, as time passed, the castle grew, with the 'Great Hall' being built onto it in 1450.Then, a 'Tudor mansion' was built around the tower, a couple more wings were added and finally, in 1770, the Grand Hall was extended.
The entire estate covers around 1600 acres of land, which includes the Castle, a vast garden, a rock garden, an allotment and a couple of lakes.
The Royal family have many connections to the castle including the story of Catherine Parr, Henry the 8th wife (6th) allegedly living there in the middle of the 1500's.
The main part of the Castle is the tower which is surrounded by the Tudor house. The interior boast many solid oak panels, grand furniture and many portraits of Royalty, such as Queen Mary.
Some of the property from inside the house has been sold off to museums so that the family could keep the building a livable property.
It is a mixture of Georgian architecture and Elizabethan design, with some
In 1950 it was donated to the national Trust although the Strickland family still reside there, mainly living in room that are not open to the public.
So that's a brief history lesson about the castle, although more detailed information can be found at the National Trusts website and others too.
** WHERE IS IT THEN..?
* And how do I get there..?
The Castle is located about 4 miles outside Kendal, just off the A591, about 1 mile from the Brettargh Holt roundabout, which is easily accessed from junction 36 off the M6.
Apart from getting there by car, which I find to be the easiest way, you can also get the 555 Kendal to Keswick stagecoach bus, or cycle there along the NCN6 cycle route, with the RCR20 route passing straight passed the gardens gate, (I haven't got a clue about what all those cycle numbers mean, I just read them off the NT web site).
If you're using a satnav then put in LA8 8AE
If you have to contact them for more details the phone number is: 015395 60951. More details can be found at the National Trust website under Sizergh Castle, (obviously).
** OPENING TIMES AND PRICES...
* Opening times...
House, (Mar-Oct) 1pm -5pm
Garden (Mar-Oct) 11am - 5pm (Oct-Dec) 11am - 4pm
Café and shop (Feb-Mar) 11am - 4pm (Mar-Oct) 11am-5pm (Oct-Dec) 11am - 4pm
* Prices... (gift aid price in brackets)
House and Garden...
Adults £7.65 (£8.45)
Children £3.90 (£4.30)
Family £17.90 (£19.80)
Adults £5.00 (£5.50)
Children £2.55 (£2.85)
Family £10.75 (£11.90)
There is also a reduced rate if arriving by public transport.
(Note: these prices refer to 2011 prices and may fluctuate)
** MY OPINION...
We arrived by car, parking in the good sized car park, which is located down some windy roads, but is well sign posted so finding the Castle is easy.
After we parked up in the car park, which is a short distance from the entrance to the grounds, we simply walked towards what looks like a hut, with flowers and what looked like brick-a-brack scattered outside, it is in this hut that you buy yourself a ticket for the castle or gardens.
Then we wandered through the gift shop, finding ourselves inside the garden itself, deciding which way you go, either having a walk around the gardens, enjoying the peace and quite of your surroundings, or walking a few yards to the left and into the court yard of the castle itself.
Note: this court yard is the second entrance as the first leads into a building which I think is the main offices.
The castle itself looks a little strange, to me anyway, mainly due to the fact that I think the building leading up to it look more like little cottages rather than castle parts. This for me spoils the whole concept of the castle idea.
But the castle itself is quite imposing as you approach the lovely light stone coloured building, making our way along the gravel to the vast double doors.
Inside the castle it is filled with some amazing artefacts, paintings, ornaments, tapestries, more painting, tons of information to read and even more paintings.
The way around the castle is one way, as most National Trust properties are, and the going is defiantly for wheelchair users as the stairs begin more or less straight way.
We were greeted by a gentleman in the main hall entrance, who was there to answer questions and tell people a little bit about the Castles history. He also pointed out the quizzes that the younger kid could do, you know, the usual National Trust ones where they aim to educate them without boring them, a bit of stealth educating and the kids never ever realise.
The wonder round the castle took us about 45 minutes, taking it at a gentle pace, and taking a lot of time helping the kids fill in the questions on the forms they had picked up. But I must warn people that the finale of the walk around the castle takes you down a very narrow spiral stone staircase, which actually made my eldest daughter feel a little claustrophobic, but this stone staircase is short, yet steep.
You can see this stair case at the beginning of the castle in the entrance hallway, it is to the right as you face the large doors as you walk in, just past the desk with leaflets and stuff on it.
The castle itself is not really aimed towards wheelchair users but they can get onto the ground level with ease as the door are wide enough, but after that it is stairs all the way and is defiantly not suitable for wheelchairs or prams.
There is however a ramp leading into the restaurant, reception, café and shops, plus the toilets of course.
Then once we came out of the castle, we wandered around the gardens, which was very pleasant indeed as we followed the winding paths through the multi coloured flowers, over the small bridges and into the well presented allotment which was brimming with organic fruit and vegetables. With some part of the castle tops over looking us as we walked.
We came across some beautiful scenery and some little hidden gems where you could quite easily hide yourself away without anyone passing you at all.
Then we came across a rather strange looking building, which seemed a little eerie at first, but on closer inspection it turned out to be something quite innocent and quite dull really. This building is made of the same material as the castle and, after looking inside I soon realised exactly what it used to be.
To walk around the garden and the castle at a steady pace, allowing you to take everything in, may take a couple of hours at least, with the terrain being a mix of flat walks, a few small hills and maybe a steeper climb along one of the routes.
Although we didn't you can take your dog, so long as he/she is on a lead at all times, although you can't take them into the castle itself.
Apart from the actual castle and the lovely looking garden there are many places to sit and admire the hidden beauties on offer, several estate walks, picnic area and the standard National Trust Café and Gift shop
Plus, it has a licensed café which offers food and refreshment and there is also a shop which sells a lot of locally sourced products. All at the usual National Trust prices.
There are toilets which caters for disabled and also baby changing facilities. Plus you can hire baby carrying equipment in case you forget your own.
And, for the record... (according to what I read).
There is also a holiday cottage to rent which accommodates up to 8 people and looks over the castle and surrounding area.
In all, a cracking day out for all the family which is fun, tranquil and educational for all. The Castle is cram packed with interest, with the garden being a thing of beauty.
Even though it cost nearly £20.00 for a family, for both castle and garden, believe me, if you get there in the morning and take food and drink with you, then £20.00 is all you'll spend and you can stay there all day long.
One word... Lovely.
What can you do on a sunny Sunday afternoon? There are, of course, a whole host of answers to that question, but although it might make me sound twice my age, one of my favourite things to do is to wander off to a castle or historic house and have a nose round. I've always enjoyed visiting castles, ruined or otherwise and in the summer you can find some absolutely gorgeous places to spend a few hours and really escape from the bustle of "normal life".
Sizergh Castle is situated about six miles south of Kendal in the Lake District, just off the A590. The castle is owned by the National Trust and is open to visitors from April to October. The castle gardens are open to visitors throughout the year, and when you arrive you will pay a separate entrance fee for each. The approach to the castle takes you up a quiet, winding drive that twists and turns through the parkland surrounding the gardens. Aim to arrive just before midday, just so that you have to wait outside the main gate until 12:00 when the grounds are opened. The peace and quiet is incredible. Sat in the car with the engine turned off, the only thing you'll hear will be the bees buzzing through the long grass meadow. Fantastic.
The gates open promptly at midday, and you'll soon be trundling into the car park. The parking area is not terribly big - on a busy day, I should imagine that the place can become quite congested. Immediately around the car park are a few lonely picnic tables, but if you want somewhere to sit and eat your sandwiches, there are far more picturesque spots to choose. You pay your entrance fee at a small hut that sits in front of the car park entrance. Make sure you have cash, as credit cards and cheques are not accepted. With your entrance tickets, you are given a small map of the site and then you are free to go off and explore.
After a short walk up a gravel-laden path, you first approach the castle from behind. There are various coach houses, which contain the gift shop, tea room and toilets and then the main part of the house itself. Although the gardens open at 12:00, the castle does not open its doors until 13:00, but this is not a problem, because you have some time to wander around the gardens. The gardens are divided into a number of different areas including a kitchen garden, a formal rock garden and a beautiful lake that is set back below the back wall of the castle. I like to follow the path into the kitchen garden and then circle round behind the shrubbery until you emerge at the bottom of the lake. This is perhaps the most beautiful way to take in the surroundings because you suddenly emerge from the trees, look up and see the imposing, romantic castle looming above you. A short walk around the edge of the lake takes you to a couple of wooden benches where you can sit down, look up and admire the castle and gardens above.
The lake is absolutely teeming with huge, tame fish that come up to the surface of the water and wait for you to drops bits of food in for them. The fish are a great attraction for both adults and children alike, although I am sure that they follow me around the edge of the lake, waiting for me to fall in. At one end of the lake, the water is covered in huge lily pads, and immediately above them is a stone walled balcony that enables you to stand and look out over the lake. The whole scene is incredibly calm and tranquil, and as you sit there looking around there really is no need for banter or chit chat. Around the outskirts of the gardens, the estate contains ancient woodlands and pasture, and on certain dates, you can join guided walks to spot the many rare species of butterfly that live there. For the keen gardeners, all the plants are labelled and I noticed a lot of interest in one or two of the plants from many of the visitors.
It's quite a relief when it turns 13:00 because if you're anything like me, you'll be just about ready to nod off. Wander up the staircase to the castle entrance and make your way in at a gentle pace - don't rush. The castle has existed in one shape or form for over 750 years, and throughout that time it has remained the Strickland family home - who are still resident there today. The house is in a good state of repair, and although not the largest you might visit, it still has an extremely imposing structure. In spite of the scorching heat outside, the castle is pleasantly cool inside, and is quite a nice retreat from the sun. The tour of the interior is not guided, but is clearly marked and you progress from room to room in a specific order. There is a warden or guide in nearly every room, waiting to answer any questions that crop up and generally keeping his/her eye on the proceedings.
When I first came to Sizergh, the first thing that struck me about the interior was how small most of the rooms were. Although visitors are not able to inspect every part of the interior, of all the visible rooms, I can't recall one that is particularly impressive in size or scale and in many cases they were surprisingly small. Most of the walls were oak-panelled and the timber floorboards are beautifully rustic and natural - huge in size, but more solid and substantial than any modern material could ever hope to be. Much of the furniture is made from oak and the interior felt reasonably natural, given the fact that it was actually arranged as an exhibition. In each of the rooms there are laminated A4 fact sheets that detail the particulars of all the paintings and items in the room. I must admit, I tend not to read the detail of everything in the house as I find it rather exhaustive and sometimes, I like to wander round imagining where something came from, or who owned it originally. We'll normally stroll around the interior for an hour or so - if you want to linger on every detail, it will probably take you nearer two.
Sizergh Castle and gardens cost £5 for an adult, £2.50 for a child or £12.50 for a family ticket. If you just want to stroll around the gardens then the cost is halved. The site is free to National Trust members. The castle isn't really suitable for wheelchair users, but the grounds can largely be accessed in full. Children will enjoy the gardens, but keep an eye on them near the lake. The castle itself doesn't really offer much to keep children entertained - you'll need to keep an eye on them around some of the exhibits. There is a gift shop, a tearoom and toilets - the tearoom was REALLY popular.
I think that Sizergh Castle is absolutely beautiful. The garden is stunning and just perfect for lounging in the sun relaxing. For me, the real draw of Sizergh is the incredibly gentle, romantic feel that the whole place exudes. This is the kind of place where you kind of fall of love with people. It's simply a magnificent, special place.