One of our favourite things to do in the Lake District is to get the ferry over from Bowness to Ferry House and enjoy a long walk around the lake at the opposite side. Although we have attempted it several times, we have never yet made it to Wray Castle, and so this time we were determined we would persevere with the long walk and finally find the castle.
You can take your car over on the ferry but we have always walked (which later we realised was our downfall!) and it literally costs a couple of pounds to get over the other side and, for the children, the excitement of going on the boat is all part of the fun!
From the Ferry House to Wray Castle it claims to be a 5 mile walk and yet I beg to differ! Even with three little ones in tow we walk fairly fast and it took way over two hours to get to even the first sign post which told us we were still 2 and 3/4 miles away! I think this is the point where previously we have turned back, but this time we powered through, although I won’t lie to you, it was hard going!!
For experienced walkers, the route to the castle is beautiful, meandering in and our of the forest with beautiful little openings to the lake. But on a very hot and sunny day, with just two bags of crisps and a bottle or water for supplies, it wasn’t quite the walk I had imagined it to be when we set out that morning!
Thankfully we were able to keep the children going through four long hours of hell by playing games, singing songs, stopping to skim pebbles or watch the boats sailing past, and with every mile we walked we talked about the ice cream we would eat once we got to Wray Castle!!
In all seriousness, I was so proud of the children on that walk as, despite the whining and the scraped knees and the incessant questions of “How much further?”, at four, five and six, their little legs carried them for such a long way and they did amazingly well! That last mile was agony, my feet were bleeding where my shoes had rubbed, the children. were grubby and tired and desperately needed a sit down, and yet with the end in sight we reminded ourselves that it would totally be worth it!
I can’t even tell you how happy we were to finally see the Wray Castle sign, we literally whooped with joy and as we marched up the hill to the entrance that long walk suddenly felt like it had been worth it….until the realisation hit that actually, we would need to walk the ENTIRE WAY BACK AGAIN!!!!
Wray Castle is a Gothic Revival Castle, 180 years old, build by a surgeon and heiress from Liverpool with the sole intention that it would only ever have to defend itself from the Cumbrian weather. Now owned by the National Trust it’s a popular day out at Windermere and we were excited to go inside and see what it had to offer.
Inside we were greeted at the desk by the staff who checked our National Trust passes and handed us a map of the site. When we asked if there was a better way to get back to The Ferry House we were told that actually there is a pier just a couple of minutes walk from Wray Castle which takes you right back over to the other side. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!!
Upstairs the children found a small room where they could make crowns from pre-cut templates and pencil crayons, or draw a design of their own using plastic stencils. I was just grateful for a sit down and took a moment to check out the boat timetable only to realise that the last boat left in just under two hours time which meant our visit was definitely going to have to be a flying one!
In the next room we found a soft play area where the children could build using large foam shapes and I’ll be honest, they loved this part the most. I imagine on a rainy day the room gets very busy but with the sun shining we were the only ones in there and they spend a good twenty minutes building, and knocking down, fortresses.
Other than those two rooms, there wasn’t really very much to do at Wray Castle at all! I always try and give a very balanced review of the places we visit but I just felt totally underwhelmed by the castle and inside it just felt very empty. I have heard such amazing reviews of the castle from others so perhaps ordinarily there is something more going on, or maybe we just expected too much of it, but if we hadn’t stopped to colour and play in the soft play area, we could have walked round and seen everything there is to see in five minutes flat.
We were hopeful that the outside of the castle would be more impressive than the inside and were pleased to discover a play area for the children which was great, as well as the entrance to the cafe which sold our much awaited ice cream, even if it did cost a small fortune to buy!
The children enjoyed our visit to Wray Castle, to them every day is a new adventure, but for Gaz and I we were just so disappointed that a castle we had waited so long to visit hadn’t really lived up to our expectations. That said, it’s a day the kids will always remember, even if it’s not for the right reasons!
But still, at least we didn’t have to face the long walk back and in just a couple of minutes we were down at the jetty waiting for the boat and I have never felt so relieved to know we would soon be back at our apartment with our feet up. Only as we saw the boat pull in and everyone move towards the jetty, we realised that everyone else in the queue had a ticket!
It was at this point we discovered that we needed a ticket to board the boat and that tickets could only be bought from the opposite side of the lake at Ambleside!! On seeing the look on mine and the children’s faces the captain of the boat took pity on us and ushered us on and I swear I could have kissed him!
The boat then goes directly to Brockhole on Windermere before continuing the route further down the lake, and as we hopped off it felt as though we had arrived in the Promise Land. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and there in the distance was the most amazing adventure play area with plenty of seating for us to sit back and RELAX!
I absolutely loved Brockhole on Windermere and there is such a lot to do there with children. With a huge tree top activity zone and play nets, the adventure playground, and the mansion to explore, it is such a beautiful and peaceful place, despite being overrun with children, and with hindsight we could have saved ourselves a lot of walking and spent the entire day right there.
That said, it was one of those adventures which now, a few weeks later, we can really laugh about and remind ourselves that the day of the 20 mile round walk. was not a day we want to repeat any time soon!! Still any day which ends in sitting by Lake Windermere, with our feet cooling in the water, is a good day and they are the moments I will remember, absolutely.