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Wray Castle (Lake District)

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2 Reviews

Low Wray / Ambleside / LA22 0JA

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    2 Reviews
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      07.01.2013 21:54
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      One of the the NT properties in the Lake District

      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. THE CASTLE 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. OUR VISIT 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. THE GROUNDS 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. ©Catsholiday

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      • More +
        02.10.2012 17:24
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        An Englishman's castle is his home... and in this case that saying fits perfectly

        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. Driving... 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. My opinion... 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). ©Blissman70 2012

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