Muncaster Castle is one of the biggest attractions in the South Western Lake District and is a great day out in a stunning location, which is fascinating for adults and offers loads to do for children. It is also within easy access of lots of our cottages.
The Castle is in a wonderful setting with amazing views of Scafell and the Lakeland fells to the east and south and a stunning vista out to the west, where the river Esk meets the sea at Ravenglass.
The main estate is a 77 acre paradise of history and wonder with beautiful woodland gardens, fabulous views and amazing wildlife. Not only can you enjoy the owls and birds of prey on display in the Hawk & Owl Centre, if you're lucky, you may even spot the odd deer or red squirrel that are visit the edges of the gardens.
Muncaster Castle is a site of tremendous historic interest. The original foundations of the building itself date back as far as 79AD - construction of the castle that you see today was started in 1258. As you can imagine with a castle in such an incredible position on the very edges of the country, it is steeped in history, with tales of kings and queens of murder and intrigue and ghostly presences everywhere.
The gardens and woodland walks are breathtaking, especially in spring and early summer. The bluebell woods are an absolutely essential for anyone staying at one of our holiday cottages in Cumbria in mid to late May and the Rhodedendrons from April to June are equally stunning. The Himalayan Gardens feature many rhododendron specimens that are rarely seen in the West and are Europe's oldest leading collection.
There are 2 children’s play areas and several picnic areas around the grounds as well as large grass areas to run around and endless woodland and gardens to explore. The Max the Meadow Vole Maze is brilliant for over 5’s. It shows what the world looks like to a Meadow Vole, as you scurry around in a super-sized version of a Meadow habitat – it’s great fun and educational as well!
Muncaster Castle's Hawk & Owl Centre has a collection of interesting birds. The centre is home to a diverse range - from bizarre fish owls to diminutive pygmy owls which are not much bigger than a sparrow. During the season, you can also treat yourself to a thrilling flying display by the Hawk Conservancy Trust, reputed for having one of the best flying displays in the country.
The Hawk & Owl Centre is open every day during the season and entry is included in your Gardens ticket. The daily flying displays are a great opportunity to see the birds at close quarters, watch them in flight (weather permitting), and take photographs. You can also watch the wild herons feeding during "Heron Happy Hour".
At certain times of year you can also enjoy the spectacular ‘Darkest Muncaster’ experience; lights, music, sound and special effects transforms Muncaster's famous Gardens and Castle into an enchanting mystical experience after dark, guaranteed to amaze and entertain the entire family. This is an experience not to be missed and is usually included in the day ticket price! (valid on day of purchase) or book a Victorian Tour in advance.
There is also a cafe on site, which serves meals and infamous home-made cakes.
A bit more history:
In 1464 Sir John Pennington gave shelter to Henry VI, wandering after the Battle of Hexham. Many years later, in 1783, John, Lord Muncaster erected the tower known as Chapels to commemorate the place where the fugitive King was supposed to have been found by the shepherds. The legend tells how Holy King Harry on his departure left his drinking bowl behind in gratitude, saying that as long as it should remain quite whole and unbroken the Penningtons would live and thrive in the place. Today the bowl is still intact and is known as the Luck of Muncaster.
Muncaster Castle has a reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in England. Amongst the ghost stories are that of the ghost of Henry VI (who was sheltered at Muncaster after his defeat at the battle of Hexham) and the head carrying ghost of an apprentice carpenter who was decapitated whilst sleeping in the old stable block by jester Thomas Skelton (Tom The Fool) at the orders of Sir Ferdinand Pennington because of his love affair with his daughter Helwise. There were even tales that a lion shot by the last Lord Muncaster in Kenya, and whose skull is kept in the castle, was sometimes heard prowling (& gently growling) around at nightfall.
A bit more information about the Gardens:
The terrace, with its view of Eskdale, is the finest man-made garden structure at Muncaster. As well as extending and remodelling the Castle in the early 1780's, the first Lord Muncaster carried out huge improvements to the gardens. He planted hundreds of thousands of trees, opened up many new walks through the gardens and built the grand entrance gates and laid out the half mile long terrace with its summer houses which were renovated in 1890 and 1999.
The alternating yew pillars and box hedge planted in the 19th Century provide protection from the chill winds which can blow from the high fells. This allows many plants to flourish here including some Mediterranean species which elsewhere in the UK would require a glass house in winter. There is a fine collection of magnolias, camellias, and maples, as well as hydrangeas and a large collection of unusual trees.
The terrace links to Church Wood, home to many winter flowering rhododendrons and to a colourful collection of Japanese maples which are at their best in summer.
The Sino Himalayan Gardens are a particularly fabulous part of the grounds and are a wonderful place to soak everything in in peace and tranquillity. Standing at almost sea level in the Himalayan gardens of Muncaster is startlingly similar to being 3350 metres (11,000ft) high in the Himalayan foothills. Here plants from all over the world nestle in the wild splendour of over 70 acres of gardens with the romantic backdrop of the glorious Lakeland Fells.
If you are staying in one of our Lake District cottages in the Eskdale and Wasdale area, then Muncaster Castle really couldn't be more handy - it is located in the heart of the Western Lake District and, uniquely, is in the only coastal village of the Lake District National Park, Ravenglass.
The castle is well signposted on the A595, just to the east of Ravenglass. The postcode is CA18 1RD.
Parking is free and for visitors with disability/mobility concerns, there is a car park in the heart of the estate which can be accessed via Church Lane. This is approximately 1/2 mile around the corner from the main car park (heading south).
Walking from Ravenglass to Muncaster: There are two routes from the train station either via the main road or via the Eskdale Cycle Trail through the Decoy Wood. This will take you past the Roman Bath House and through delightful scenery.
It is also a fabulous walk out to Muncaster Castle along Muncaster Fell from our cottages in Eskdale Green – you could leave your car at the Ratty station and then hike out to Muncaster and have a leisurely trip back on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Miniature Steam Railway.
Reception at the castle is open 8.30am - 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm Saturday and Sunday and the information office number is: 01229 717 614.
Have a look at our Review of Stately Homes in the Lake District.