One of my places to visit in the Lake District is Muncaster Castle by Ravenglass (near Eskdale where we have several Lake District Cottages). This is a great attraction if you're looking to spend a day out with the kids in the South West Lake District. The castle is run by Iona and Peter Pennington, whose family have lived there for over 800 years. Famed for being the most haunted castle in England, you can enjoy a tour of the house and listen to audio commentary, narrated by Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, describing what can be seen in the Great Hall, the Library, the Dining Room, the Drawing Room and the Bedrooms.
I worked at Muncaster over 15 years ago and I remember the guided tours I used to give and all the stories I used to tell about the place. One of my favourites was the three-quarter length portrait of Lord Nelson. It used to be one of only two full length portraits in existence … until one of the Penningtons decided that it would look better in a different frame and cut his legs off!
The castle has a shop, a café, a meadowvole maze for children and more paths through the 77 acre woods. It has fantastic views over the Eskdale valley and The Georgian Terrace walk, described by John Ruskin as ‘The Gateway to Paradise’, is just beautiful, especially during spring and summer when the rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas are at their best.
You can find stunning picnic stops in the woods and enjoy lunch against the backdrop of the Eskdale fells. Within the woods, there is a sino-Himalayan trail bursting with Himalayan plants along the way. The soil and climate around Ravenglass and Eskdale is apparently very similar to that which you find in the Himalayas. One of the gardeners at Muncaster was renowned for his intrepid plant-hunting in China and Tibet.
The Owl and Bird of Prey Centre is home to one of the finest collections of owls in the world. You'll find 48 species ranging from the largest to the smallest owls - my favourite are the majestic Barn Owls. A 'Meet the Birds' display takes place daily at 2:30pm (March-October) where you can learn all about the owls and birds and watch them fly or check out Heron Happy Hours at 4pm everyday.
If you're driving back from Muncaster to Keswick, take the scenic route home – down Birkby lane, into Eskdale, over Hardknott Pass, then Wrynose Pass, through Ambleside, past Grasmere and back to Keswick.
Read more about Muncaster Castle here: