|Lowther Castle, recently saved from ruin, sits in 3,000 acres of stunning Cumbria countryside|
Lowther Castle in Cumbria is a property worth watching, even though it's currently covered in scaffolding, following a rescue bid to stop it from tumbling down. This extra-ordinary building, constructed just over 200 years ago, is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the country, but has fallen into complete disrepair and recently had to be rescued from collapse. It has been seat of the Lowther family and Earls of Lonsdale for 800 years, and once sat at the heart of an estate that spanned the countryside from East to West.
|The gardens went to ruin following the departure of the last resident Lowthers in 1936, but are now being restored|
It's now at the centre of an ambitious scheme to turn it into a major tourist attraction for the region and funding has been secured from both the Northwest Development Agency and the Northwest European Regional Development Fund, to the tune of £9 million to date. A major part of the restoration will involve the 130 acres of gardens that had become as ruined as the castle under the stewardship of the Lowther family prior to World War II. The last Lord and Lady Lowther to reside here, left on New Year's Day of 1936 in a yellow daimler, never to return, because they could no longer afford to live in the crumbling castle.
|Stunning views from the Patte d'Oie over surrounding countryside|
The castle and grounds make a stunning setting for a day out, with magnificent views over the surrounding countryside and the promise of restored gardens to come. A huge restoration project has just been completed on the courtyard adjacent to the castle, which now provides a new visitor centre and cafe for visitors, together with an exhibition space showing what has been achieved to date. But the gardens are a work in progress and visitors must use their imagination to visualise how they once looked.
Work in the garden has concentrated on clearing the areas closest to the castle which once housed the formal gardens here. Seventy years of neglect and a chequered history which included the site being used as a secret weapons testing base during World War II, have not been kind to the garden that once existed here and little remains of the original save for battered stone steps, tired railings and odd columns dotted around, plus a rock garden that leaves much to the imagination.
|Remains in the Rock Garden at Lowther Castle|
It will be interesting to see how this project evolves over the next few years. It's certainly ambitious and for garden lovers, it promises to deliver grounds comparable to the Lost Gardens of Heligan once work is underway. But for the time being, visitors must use their imagination to visualise what will be here in future. At present, the brochure you receive on arrival, happily boasts that "there are no keep off the grass rules here", but I suspect that may change once they reach their target figure of 100,000 visitors a year! Open daily from 10.00-17.00. Admission £8 for adults - free for HHA members.