Blencathra and the Earl of Lonsdale


Blencathra has stood the millions of years relatively unchanged and will continue to do so, unlike the Lowther estate which has a long and interesting history.

Lowther CastleThe most interesting chapter in the history of the Lowther Estate is the period of Hugh Lowther, the 5th Earl of Lonsdale. He was known as the Yellow Earl and sounds like quite a character. A great sportsman, he had not been expected to inherit the estate and did so unexpectedly at the age of 25. Lacking the preparation, education and guidance for such a role, he spent his time indulging his many costly passions from horses, servants and musicians to motor cars and hunting. It was this free spending that ruined the estate and forced the sale of the contents of Lowther Castle.

Hugh Lowther was a well-connected man, spending his time forging links across society. He was an MP, a senior member of the Jockey Club and the founder of many organisations including the Blue Cross, the International Horse Show at Olympia and even the AA (Automobile Association). To this day the AA retain his favoured colour yellow. He bought cars and dressed his servants in this colour and thus became known as the Yellow Earl.

He was to be the last of the Lowther family to live in the castle. His extravagant lifestyle forced the sale of many family treasures to try and clear the debts. He died in 1944 passing the estate to his elderly brother who died in 1953. The estate then passed to the 7th Earl of Lonsdale, James Lowther, who took steps to secure the future of the estate, despite the poor financial state of his inheritance. He had already been managing the estate on behalf of his grandfather and took full control in 1953.  He sold off property owned in Whitehaven and concentrated his efforts on the ancestral seat of the Lowther family.

Unable to find a way of maintaining the castle, James Lowther made the decision to demolish all but the shell of the castle. The grounds had been used by the army during WWII and were significantly damaged. The Earl created a chicken factory, pig pens and a timber plantation under the impressive outline of the castle ruins. In addition, he established the annual Lowther Horse Driving Trials and the Lowther Show. Both shows remain well attended to this day, with Prince Phillip being a regular competitor in the horse driving.

In more recent years, the Lowther Estate began a programme of regeneration for the garden. The ruins of the castle have been consolidated to protect them from further decay. The grounds were opened to the public in 2011 although it is expected that restoring the gardens will take a further 20 years.

As part of the regeneration, the site continues to hold the Lowther Show and the Lowther Horse Driving Trials and Country Fair. Newer events include Born Survivor, an obstacle course for endurance runners and the music festival Kendal Calling.

Now in the hands of Hugh Lowther, the 8th Earl of Lonsdale, the estate seems to be returning to something of its former glory. The grounds and castle ruins are open to the public. The redevelopment of the castle is a visitor attraction in itself and the grand gardens are being slowly being rediscovered and replanted to bring them back to their original designs.

We have several self catering cottages near Lowther Castle, click on the link for more details.