Wray Castle

Low Wray, Ambleside, LA22 0JA
Wray Castle

Wray Castle (Mike Charles / Shutterstock.com)

If you are looking spend a day in a historic castle filled with exquisite artwork, furniture from centuries past, and elaborate suits of armour, then Wray Castle is probably not for you.

Donated to the National Trust devoid of its contents, the castle is presented in its bare state with several rooms filled with activities for children of all ages.

Located on the north-western shores of Windermere close to Ambleside, the castle is an ideal choice for families with young children, particularly when the weather is less than favourable.

Planning Your Visit

Contact Details:
01539 433 250 / Website
Cost:
Adults £11, Child £5.50, NT members Free
Seasonal Opening:
Grounds Open Yearround, Castle Open Mid Feb to Nov (weekends only in Nov)
 

History

Despite its gothic exterior that appears akin to the imaginings of Hans Christian Andersen, Wray Castle was actually built in 1840. It was intended as a retirement home for James Dawson, a surgeon from Liverpool, who used his wife’s inheritance to create the elaborate structure, though it’s said that she found it so unsightly she refused to live in it.

When Dawson passed away in 1875 the castle was inherited by his nephew Edward Rawnsley, and thus played a key part in the establishment of the National Trust. It was Edward’s cousin Hardwicke Rawnsley who became vicar of the nearby Wray Church and who was inspired to protect the land and the buildings he saw around him and went on to found the charitable organisation.

The castle was donated to the National Trust in 1929, though for many years it was used as offices and then a college for the Royal Navy. The trust opened up the property to the public in 2011, offering an alternative to the traditional National Trust experience.

Things To See

You are welcome to explore the castle freely, admiring the eccentric design complete with fairytale turrets and maze-like layout. On the ground floor of the castle there are several exhibition rooms, with past exhibitions including a celebration of women in history.

On the upper floors in many of the rooms you will find activities for children, including a soft play area with padded blocks that can be used to create a castle, and arts and crafts rooms. There is a large Beatrix Potter exhibit, where children can pull up carrots in Mr. McGregor’s garden, as well as rooms for table tennis and a reading room.

The castle has large grounds that you can explore and they include an adventure playground and a tree said to have been planted by William Wordsworth. You can also try out geocaching, with a series of caches that will take you through the surrounding woodlands.

Useful Information

  • Recently the castle’s original kitchen was converted into a new, large café where you can purchase sandwiches, soups, cakes, and other snacks. Children’s picnic style lunches are available here, along with a range of hot and cold drinks.
  • There are picnic benches in the grounds and there is a picnic room inside the castle where you are welcome to bring your own food.
  • The ground floor of the castle that includes the shop and the café is accessible to wheelchair users.
  • Dogs are welcome in the grounds provided they are kept on leads.

Map

Swap Start/End