Castles and ancient ruins in the Lake District reveal an epic history going all the way back to the Romans, letting you step into the past. Whether you’re viewing the palatial family homes of Lords and Ladies that are still occupied today or the ruins of famous battle sites between Celts and Romans, you’re sure to find a sense of wonder and excitement while viewing centuries-old furnishings, art and artefacts and learning about the legacy of this storied realm.

    The Lake District offers some of the most scenic and famed castles and ruins in all of the United Kingdom. Check out some of the most famous historic sites to explore on your countryside holiday.

    1

    Hadrian's Wall

    See the coast-to-coast ancient Roman wall

    Hadrian’s Wall is actually just north of the Lake District proper but is a World Heritage Site that spans 73 miles coast to coast and is 2,000 years old. While the wall has crumbled over the millennia, many portions still stand and are still solid. The longest remaining stretch is found at the Birdoswald Roman Fort in Brampton, and this section also includes the remains of the actual fort, and offers an exhibition space and tearoom for education and eats.

    Even better, as you explore the wall, you’ll see many other ancient sites that are cared for and maintained by English Heritage. This is among the oldest historic ruins in England.

    Location: Brampton CA8 7DD, UK

    Phone: +44 370 333 1181

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    2

    National Trust - Wray Castle

    Visit a Victorian castle with Peter Rabbit playrooms

    Wray Castle is a National Trust site on the shores of Windermere, is open all year round and is among the treasures of the region with a deceptively modern history. This castle is only a couple of centuries old and dates to the Victorian era when it was commissioned by a surgeon who always wanted to live in a castle. The structure, however, was built in classic Gothic design with towers and turrets surrounded by elegant grounds and gardens, as well as Peter Rabbit adventure rooms for the kids to explore and play in.

    The castle offers guided tours and daily talks. You can reach the castle by taking a ferry across Lake Windermere to the castle’s hidden jetty.

    Location: Low Wray, Ambleside LA22 0JA, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +44 15394 33250

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    3

    Carlisle Castle

    See the prison of Mary, Queen of Scots

    Carlisle Castle is a 900-year-old fortress that played a key role in many battles, including the Jacobite Rebellion, the English/Scottish wars and the Civil War. It was originally built on the site of an older Roman fortification by Henry II and is the spot where Queen Elizabeth I held Mary, Queen of Scots, prisoner. The castle stood as the principal fortress along the north-eastern border of England and Scotland for 500 years.

    The castle has a maze of rooms, hallways and cul-de-sacs to explore on guided tours and also contains the Cumbria Museum of Military Life where you can see hundreds of artefacts, items and ephemera tracing the military history of the region.

    Location: Castle Way, Carlisle CA3 8UR, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 370 333 1181

    Map
    4

    Lowther Castle & Gardens

    See one of the UK’s largest adventure playgrounds

    Lowther Castle & Gardens, located 15 minutes north of the park centre, is an award-winning visitor attraction offering one of the largest adventure playgrounds in the UK, with interactive family activities. This attraction, called the Lost Castle, will keep your family engaged for an entire day. It includes towers, walkways, ziplines, turrets, sandpits, slides and other fun activities. When you’re not playing at the park, you can explore the dramatic remains of the castle and wander the formal 17th-century gardens, immaculately restored to appear as they once did.

    The motte and bailey castle ruins are those of a fortress built for Sir Hugh de Lowther that was the home of the Earls of Lonsdale through the 20th century.

    Location: Lowther, Penrith CA10 2HH, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 1931 712192

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    5

    National Trust - Sizergh

    Visit the National Trust home of the Stricklands

    Sizergh Castle is a National Trust site that has housed the Strickland family for over 750 years and offers historic treasures, legends, stories and stunning interior design. Inside, you will see portraits that are centuries old, and traditional furnishings from centuries past, all juxtaposed alongside modern family photos. Don’t miss the Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber with its fine panelled decor.

    The grounds are also a treasure, filled with ancient woodlands, unspoiled by the ages, through which you can take a guided countryside tour with a wild play trail to entertain kids and adults. Part of the grounds include a limestone rock garden and elegant, colourful tended wildflower beds. It’s all an hour south of the park.

    Location: Sizergh, Kendal LA8 8DZ, UK

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +44 15395 60951

    Map
    6

    Muncaster Castle

    See a falconry show and explore a fairy trail

    Muncaster Castle is historic, majestic and reputedly haunted, offering magnificent views over the Ravenglass estuary and situated on 31 hectares of gardens and woodland 2 hours south-west of the park. Besides the potential for a ghostly encounter, the castle offers an adventure playground, an indoor Meadowvale Maze and an enchanted fairy trail to explore.

    The castle is a key spot in the history of the region and offers Himalayan gardens, as well as a Hawk & Owl Centre with raptors and falconry shows. You can also explore unspoiled bluebell woodlands. Amenities here include a tea room in the Owl Garden to grab a bite and a beverage and a Carriage House gift shop to grab a souvenir.

    Location: Ravenglass CA18 1RQ, UK

    Map
    7

    Holker Hall & Gardens

    Tour the home of Lord and Lady Cavendish

    Holker Hall & Gardens has been the home of Lord and Lady Cavendish for over 400 years, and even today offers an elegant and lavish country family home to explore. It offers antique furnishings and art exhibits, striking red sandstone walls and colourful formal gardens. The appointments of this manor an hour south of the park are largely Victorian, installed after a fire gutted the house in 1871.

    On a tour, you won’t have to deal with ropes or barriers and are free to explore the library, drawing room, dining room and other areas. You’ll see original portraits of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, and see the very bed that Queen Mary used in 1937.

    Location: Cark, Grange-over-Sands LA11 7PL, UK

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 10.30 am to 5 pm (closed Monday–Tuesday)

    Phone: +44 15395 58328

    Map
    8

    Brougham Castle

    Have a picnic in a 13th-century English Heritage ruin

    Brougham Castle offers the impressive remains of an English Heritage Site keep that has survived since the 13th century set in idyllic settings along the banks of the River Eamont. You can spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic meal right inside the castle ruins. Climbing the steps of the keep offers astonishing panoramic views of the entire Eden Valley. Kids love to play hide and seek in the secret passages, cul-de-sacs, cubby holes and spiral staircases throughout the mostly complete ruins. Some of the historic highlights are the double gatehouse and the Tower of League.

    The castle is dog-friendly so long as the pups are on leads. An onsite shop serves snacks, beverages and ice cream in summer.

    Location: Moor Ln, Penrith CA10 2AA, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 370 333 1181

    Map
    9

    Ambleside Roman Fort

    See the foundations of a 2nd-century Roman fort

    Ambleside Roman Fort dates to the 2nd century and is believed to have been built by Emperor Hadrian. While today most of what remains are the foundations, you can walk the design and enjoy idyllic lakeside views. You will also have the opportunity to learn all about the way Ambleside was connected to 2 other important ancient forts by Roman roads and explore the importance of its history in England.

    You can access the ruins of the fort by walking through Borrans Park, a beautiful, unspoiled green space along the lake where you can enjoy a picnic meal. The fort is located in Ambleside, about an hour south-west of Lake District National Park.

    Location: Ambleside LA22 0EN, UK

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +44 370 333 1181

    Map
    10

    Furness Abbey

    See a monastery built by a former king

    Furness Abbey, also known as St. Mary of Furness, is the ruin of a former Catholic monastery dating to the 12th century, and offers expansively complete ruins. This abbey an hour-and-a-half south of the park was erected in 1125 by Count Stephen of Mortain, the Lord of Lancaster. Count Stephen later went on to become the King of England, and the abbey consequently became one of the wealthiest Cistercian monasteries in the nation. Historically, it is second only to the Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.

    You can walk the 900-year-old ruins here and discover the still-standing Outer Court and Precinct, the complete transept and tower of the church, the gorgeous Cloister Court, the dormitories, kitchen, infirmaries and chapter house.

    Location: Manor Rd, Barrow-in-Furness LA13 0PJ, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 370 333 1181

    Map

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