- One of the best family trips in Cumbria, Muncaster Castle is at the heart of the Lake District.
- Discover all the information you could ever wonder about the Pennington family and Muncaster as a site.
- See views of the beautiful Lake District on the garden terrace.
Muncaster Castle, Cumbria, is a medieval castle in the heart of the Western Lake District near Ravenglass, an old Roman port. It's one of the best castles in the Lake District due to its varied history. If you're going to visit Cumbria, whether that's to see Wordsworth's House in Cockermouth or his home in Grasmere or Hadrian's Wall, put Muncaster Castle onto your list for a visit.
The historic Muncaster Castle is privately owned and is a vital part of the region's history, the Pennington family has lived on the site since at least 1208, but potentially since 1026 or even earlier. It might be on the ruins of a Roman castellum for the nearby fort of Glannoventa at Ravenglass as Muncaster might have come from the Latin word for the encampment. The castle was built in the later 13th century and enlarged in the 14th when a Pele tower was erected on Roman foundations. There's a variety of Roman artefacts that have been found on the site. Initially, the house, castle and gardens reached 23,000 acres, so it's a fine example of one of the best Lake District estates.
One of the most fascinating features of Muncaster Castle is it's the only historic home in the UK that still appoints an official Muncaster Castle fool. The most famous was Thomas Skelton, or Tom the Fool, from the 16th-century. The current Pennington family reinstated the historic fool role. They are chosen every year during the Festival of Fools. The fool also fits in with the myth of the haunted castle, as some believe that Tom the Fool is still playing pranks on guests around the castle. Muncaster is one of Britain's most haunted castles, with hauntings happening in the Tapestry Room, with occurrences like footsteps, crying and singing. There are one or two scientific ghost vigils and a tour each year to introduce guests to these spooky experiences.
The Muncaster Castle gardens have gone through many horticultural trends throughout the 800 years they've grown there. The earliest piece is the magnificent terrace from the 1780s built by the first Lord Muncaster. The Georgian terrace is a half-mile long and overlooks the gardens, with views of the Lakeland Fells. There are still a variety of plants throughout the garden, including many rare specimens that you can find plenty of information about within the gardens. Rhododendrons and bluebells flood the Muncaster gardens, and there are constant renewals and restoration ongoing throughout the year to ensure the gardens continue to thrive for future generations.
Muncaster Castle is also home to The Hawk and Owl Centre. The centre is home to a variety of animals and is accessed by going through the Hawl and Owl Centre tea room, named the Owl Garden Tearoom. There are information boards about each bird for you and your family to learn about the huge variety that is available to see, including vultures. Flying displays are available for guests.
Whatever the season, you might enjoy one of the Muncaster Castle events that happen throughout the year. For example, Halloween 2020 included the Seriously Spooky event. With shows, ghost tours, Witch Warbler trails and a juggling Jester, there was so much to see and do. Twilight bird shows were also available. Muncaster Castle adds new events throughout the year, so it's always a good idea to keep an eye on it.
There are plenty of places to eat at Muncaster Castle. Creeping Kate's Cafe is in the former stables and named after one of the horses who lived there. With breakfast and other main meals, but also snacks, there'll be something for everyone to enjoy. There is also the Owl Garden Tearoom near to the Hawk and Owl Centre, which serves hot and cold drinks, snacks, and cakes. Feeling peckish and want to explore Ravenglass? There are lots of places to eat in the surrounding area. Whatever kind of British food you fancy can be found somewhere in Ravenglass, whether that's at The Ratty Arms, The Pennington Hotel, or The Woodland's Licensed Bistro & Tea Room.
If you're looking for a memory of the day, the Carriage House Gift Shop has a variety of gifts for guests, from Muncaster merchandise to books and toys. Don't forget your brilliant day at Muncaster Castle with a gift from here.
What to know before you go
- Muncaster Castle opening times vary throughout the year, especially during holidays like Halloween where it will open late.
- Wheelchairs can be borrowed if needed.
- Accessible toilets are found at the Stable Yard, the Information Centre at the Main Gate and in the Coach Park.
- Most of the Castle's ground floor is accessible, and there is a virtual tour available so disabled guests can see the upstairs rooms.
- Baby changing facilities are available.
- Dogs are welcome in the garden if they're on the lead.
- If driving from the South, the journey takes about an hour and a quarter from Junction 36. From the North, the journey should take about an hour and a half from Carlisle. From the East, it'll be one hour in theory from Ambleside but may take longer during the winter.
- There are two car parks, one with better access for disabled visitors. Both are free.
- Visitors can take the Northern Line to Ravenglass, and then walk or drive to the castle.
- Walking routes are the main road which is 20 to 30 minutes, or the Eskdale Trail, which is 30 to 40 minutes.