We visited several castles during our time in The UK and Wray Castle was definitely one of the stand-outs.
Wray Castle, located in Ambleside, Cumbria in the Lake District, was built in 1840 as a Gothic-style house for a wealthy surgeon. It is now owned by the National Trust who have been running it as a tourist attraction since 2014.
Wray Castle is not your typical ‘open to the public’ castle. You won’t find antiques and grand works of art. There aren’t lots of beautifully restored and furnished rooms and there is very little information on the history of the building and era in which it was built. Instead, the focus is on creating an exciting ‘playground’ for children, encouraging them to be free to play and explore, with most rooms set up with fun activities and games.
Our kids had a wonderful time going from room to room. One room is full of large foam blocks for children to use to build their own castle. Our kids spent ages in here and had so much fun. As did I (what grown-up doesn’t secretly want to build a fort once in a while?)!
There is a room set-up specifically for crown making and decorating with a large table full of crayons, markers, sparkly bits and glue. The kids (myself included) loved decorating their own crowns.
Another room is dedicated solely to dressing-up and houses an amazing selection of costumes. We all had a blast dressing up as Kings and Queens and Princesses and Knights. Super fun, especially for the younger kids.
There are several ‘games’ rooms throughout the castle offering games such as giant connect4, tic-tac-toe and skittles. In one room I attempted to teach the kids to play billiards on a massive old table. Despite the fact that the table was so, so much bigger than them, they all gave it a red hot go and actually really enjoyed it.
The absolute highlight of Wray Castle for my children however, was the Peter Rabbit Adventure, a whole area dedicated solely to the popular children’s television series. Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit, holidayed at Wray Castle as a teenager. In this section you can visit four different rooms including Peter Rabbit’s Burrow, the secret tree-house, Mr McGregor’s Garden and Brown Owl’s nest. Creatively designed and decorated with murals, toys and furniture, each room is full of different activities and things to play with. For any kid who watches the show, this is such an exciting experience.
Right outside the doors to the castle are several picnic tables overlooking the extensive, picturesque grounds as well as Lake Windemere, England’s largest natural lake. Definitely a unique and memorable setting for a picnic lunch. There is also a cafe inside the castle serving sandwiches, cakes and hot and cold drinks, as well as a little gift shop with many castle themed toys and souvenirs.
Outside, hidden amongst the grounds behind the carpark, is a fantastic Adventure Playground. Here there are several tyre and rope swings, an obstacle course with many structures to climb and cross as well as a ‘treecastle’ to play in. This is a great place for the kids to tick off some of their ’50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4′ list. This checklist, an initiative of the National Trust, was given to each of our children at the entry to the castle and was a big hit with each of them as well as a great little souvenir.
I really recommend allocating a whole day to explore the castle and grounds. We spent about 4 hours here and could have definitely stayed longer if we had the time.
Wray Castle is open from 10am to 5pm 7 days a week but is closed for the Winter. In 2016 the castle will close on October 30th and re-open March 19th 2017. The grounds remain open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year.
Entry into the castle is £8.50 for adults, £4.25 for children and £21.00 for a family. Parking starts at £2 for one hour. Entry and parking is free for anyone with a National Trust Membership.
We stayed in a family room at the YHA Ambleside hostel which is a clean and comfortable budget option in the area.
Search and book a wide range of other accommodation in the Lake District here.