Oct 25
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Lowther Castle & Gardens.

Lowther Castle hides its gardens behind its ruins - a fantasy of every dream-like castle you could wish.

130 acres of garden effortlessly hide uncountable magic moments and a peerless history of amazing facts: The garden dates from the late 16th Century, and was planted to provide for a Vegetarian's table, (imagine); original fish ponds and a dramatically panoramic Escarpment are overlaid with the remains of important high Victorian and Edwardian garden must-haves, a Rock Garden, Rose Garden, and Japanese Garden of course. Though the mantra  of the perfect Japanese Garden being reached when nothing else could be removed, was reversed in this case when you see the period photos - perfection was achieved when nothing more could be added, and secretly this is the one we really yearn to see retored to full period splendour. It's oddly endearing.

Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here and her keeper was in turn imprisoned in the Tower of London, so much for services rendered; a wicked Earl kept his dead mistress propped up at the dinner table - a strange but romantic gesture which we interpret as a desire never to be parted from her. Slightly misguided perhaps, but then how do you tell a powerfully rich, darkly wicked aristocrat something he really doesn't want to hear. The family museum may be small but it has a wild and incredible story to tell; we should mention they were hugely rich and not in the least parsimonious, as bold in taste as they were with their appetite for life - it's an absorbing collection. And of course the place is reputed to be haunted, how could it not be.

As this is one of Europe's biggest Garden restoration projects, we invested in membership so we can watch they seasons as they ignite changing areas of the garden in turn - and watch the development of renowned Garden Designer Dan Pearson's designs for the intermingled garden in the ruins. Moth like flights of Iris Siberica cede to armfuls of Japanese Anemone, (a favourite). The planting is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.

Vast lawns extend to wild woodland and a well concealed Secret Castle playground - not just for Children. The lawned areas were once used for the development of a top secret tank weapon in WWII.

Jack Croft's pond is a thicket of wild iris fringed with Rhododendrons in late Spring - on this visit we were lucky enough to see a Kingfisher hunting through its reeds. It has a secure colony of Red Squirrels, and a rabblesome Heronry. So much more than Gardens.

There is a tasty cafe to match, with homemade temptations - and a gift shop too. The stable toilets are listed and award winning. Pets are welcome, (we have seen a pet rabbit on a lead - beadily watched by the Gardener), and it's heaven for children.

They have an active events calendar, and are open every day except Christmas. Check their website for full details: https://www.lowthercastle.org/ Halloween is a highlight, how could it not be, it's a match made in heaven. The Castle has teamed up with Kendal Calling to deliver unparalleled entertainment under the title 'Night at the Castle': http://www.kendalcalling.co.uk/news/announcing-night-at-the-castle-at-lo...

Prepare to breathless for so many reasons!