The castles of the Lake District and Cumbria are wonderful places to visit for historical and fun days out with the family. The castles are either old battle fortresses or residences and each one provides a beautiful backdrop for a day out in the gorgeous Lakeland wilds due to their history, location, and ample opportunity to roam around some spectacular landscaped gardens.
The visitor experience at these ancient sites has been lovingly enhanced to include all the family; nowadays children can have fun in the wild play areas, trekking winding woodland trails, whilst grown-ups drink in the impressive views and step back into a historic reverie. There is so much to see and do on a day out at one of the Lake District’s castles.
The main castles to visit in the Lake District were intended as homes. Beyond the borders of the national park in wider Cumbria, you will find some more traditional castles in the fortress sense, where battles were fought, and titles defended. Many lie in ruin today, but everybody loves a dramatic castle to explore and a chance to step back in time. Every castle in Cumbria offers great photo opportunities and a memorable holiday experience.
Read on to find inspiration for some great family days out with your loved ones in the Lake District – there’s something for kids and grandparents alike! Then, why not browse our collection of self-catering holiday cottages to get some inspiration for your next Lake District staycation?
Castles to visit in the Lake District National Park and Cumbria
Lowther Castle, near Penrith
The 19th-century Lowther Castle near Penrith provides a very interesting and fun day trip for budding historians and children (and everybody in-between). This distinctive residential castle was partially demolished in the 1950s, only its impressive façade and outer walls remain these days. However, some of the wings have been restored to house the exhibition and there are some charming landscaped gardens to wander around as well as an adventure playground called The Lost Castle for children to make the most out of. Bring your dog along too, as your four-legged friends are very welcome (on leads) within the grounds of Lowther Castle.
Good to know: There is an exhibition where you can learn all about Lowther Castle’s potted history, an adventure playground (for kids), a café, a gift shop, WCs, parking, and it’s also a dog-friendly Lake District attraction.
Opening times and tickets: The castle and grounds are open 10AM to 4PM in the winter and 10AM to 5PM during summer. For ticket prices, visit the website.
Muncaster Castle, near Ravenglass
Situated close to Ravenglass on the lovely Lake District coast, Muncaster Castle and Gardens dominates views of lower Eskdale from its elevation above the estuary. With 77 acres of woodland and gardens set against the striking backdrop of the Western Lake District fells, a trip to Muncaster Castle is sure to be pleasurable for visitors of all ages. Muncaster Castle is one of the Lake District’s most popular places to visit thanks to its beauty and its Hawk & Owl Centre where you can enjoy aerial displays and chances to get up close with some of the most fascinating species of birds. The landscaped gardens offer scope for pretty walks with many interesting plants and flowers to see; be sure to take in the Georgian Terrace and the riot of rhododendrons during your stay.
Good to know: The Hawk & Owl Centre is a must-see, so book your tickets. Also on site: landscaped gardens, woodlands, walking trails, café, gift shop, ghost tours, dog-friendly, play areas, WCs, and parking.
Opening times and tickets: 10:30AM – 5PM until 1st November (beyond this date consult the website). For ticket prices, visit the website.
Sizergh Castle, near Kendal
This National Trust property. Sizergh Castle, in the Lake District is a residential castle celebrated for its curious medieval architecture. Standing proudly at the eastern border of the National Park, it’s worth a visit if you love to see old stately homes in prime condition. Its rich and beautiful gardens include a pond, an ornamental lake, a national collection of hardy ferns and a bewitching rock garden. The 1600-acre estate includes limestone pasture, orchards, and semi-natural woodland. Be sure to check the website for Sizergh’s fixture of annual events for all the family.
Good to know: There is a café, a second-hand bookshop, and open parkland to explore. Dogs are welcome throughout the estate except for inside the house and landscaped gardens. Also on site: parking, WCs, baby changing facilities.
Opening times and tickets: 9AM to 6PM (see website for details), Adults: £8.00 / Child: £4.00 (see website for details).
Wray Castle, near Ambleside
Overlooking the north side of Lake Windermere, a few miles from Ambleside, this National Trust-managed Gothic revival castle dates back to the mid-1800s. Although it has ramparts, turrets, battlements and a portcullis, Wray Castle, just like each of the other surviving castles in this guide, was envisioned as a residential castle. It’s a superb pick for a gentle day out with your family and loved ones as there are lakeside walks and woodlands to explore as well as a wild play area. Kids can enjoy playing dress up or chateau building inside the castle too. Guided tours are available where you can admire Wray Castle’s architectural features and learn about its history.
Good to know: Visit the in-house art collections all year round and, on sunny days, enjoy a stroll by Lake Windermere or play in the woods with your family. Dogs are welcome in the grounds (assistance dogs are also allowed inside the house). Also on site: café cabin, WCs, parking (pay and display for non-NT members), baby changing facilities, and an outdoor wild play area.
Opening times and tickets: 9AM to 6PM (see website for details), free entry into grounds and estate.
Piel Castle, near Barrow-in-Furness
The impressive 14th-century Piel Castle can be found on a small island close to the Cumbrian town of Barrow-in-Furness. Piel Island can be accessed by boat and a ferry service runs between April and October from Roa Island for those wishing to visit the ruins. Piel Castle is in the history books because of its association with the Earl of Warwick’s imposter Lambert Simnel. The island is a nature reserve, so take your binoculars to see if you can spot any interesting wildlife and seabirds.
Good to know: There is a pub on the island, The Ship Inn, if you fancy a spot of lunch. Combine a visit to Furness Abbey ruins just outside Barrow-in-Furness. Also on site: WCs.
Ferry times: The ferry runs between 10AM – 4PM from April to October. See website for details.
Brougham Castle, near Brougham
The haunting remnants of Brougham Castle sit on the banks of the River Eamont in the Eden Valley – it’s set in an idyllic position that is perfect for picnics on sunny days. The castle has an impressive keep that has survived numerous battles since the castle was built in the 13th century. Managed by English Heritage, you can climb to the ramparts to see fantastic views of the surrounding Eden Valley and beyond. Kids will love poking around and playing in the passageways between the castle’s craggy, embattled walls. You can combine a visit to Brougham Castle with a trip to other local sites that include Countess Pillar, King Arthur’s Round Table, and Mayburgh Henge.
Good to know: Dogs on leads are welcome to join you on your visit; there is a café for drinks and light snacks too. Also on site: Parking, and WCs.
Opening times and prices: 10AM – 5PM, Adults: £6.50 / Child: £3.90 (see website for details).
Kendal Castle, Kendal
Once the home of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, this 12th-century castle stands in ruins today. But it’s well worth a visit for those with an interest in royal history, and you can also enjoy some very pretty views over the rooftops of Kendal. Follow a walk around the ruins with a trip to Kendal Museum where you can learn about the fascinating history of Kendal Castle. It’s here that you can also see models of the castle and other interesting medieval items on display.
Good to know: The castle is within easy walking distance of the centre of Kendal with its great choice of pubs, shops and places to eat. If you coincide a trip to Kendal with bonfire night, then you can see a firework display at the castle.
Opening times and prices: The castle is accessible at all times and there is no entry fee.
Carlisle Castle, Carlisle
Carlisle Castle is an imposing edifice that has watched over the town of Carlisle for nearly 1,000 years. It is characterised by its eye-catching stone keep and you will want to visit it to follow in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie, William Rufus, and Mary Queen of Scots. It has a very intriguing history, and you can read all about it through a series of lively displays within the castle walls. You can even take guided tours of the castle to get an in-depth insight into the battles and upheavals the castle has bore witness to.
Good to know: The castle is also home to the Border Regiment Museum that relates to the history of the local regiments past and present. Also on site: Gift shop, parking, and WCs.
Opening times and prices: 10AM – 5PM, Adults: £12.60 / Child: £7.60 (see website for details).
Cockermouth Castle, Cockermouth
Cockermouth Castle has dominated its position above the town of Cockermouth since the mid-1100s and played an important strategic role in the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. Up until 2013, it was the home of the dowager Lady Egremont. Today the castle has been partially converted into private residences, but some sections remain in ruins and can be seen from the riverbanks below.
Good to know: Cockermouth Castle is one to admire from the outside as it is not a visitor attraction. However, there are good positions around the town to see the castle and to take photographs.
Stay at one of our self-catering Lake District cottages
We have a wide collection of holiday cottages for you to choose from in the Lake District National Park and Cumbria, from small cottages to large family homes. All of our properties are full of features that make your holiday extra special. Visit our charming collection of holiday properties for a Lake District getaway today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.