Restoration of Cumbrian castle reveals ancient splendour

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The Slater family - Sophie, mother Debbie and grandmother Jean Slater from Carlisle at Lowther Castle
The Slater family - Sophie, mother Debbie and grandmother Jean Slater from Carlisle at Lowther Castle

IT’S one of Cumbria’s most striking sites – in a county filled with exquisite scenery and castles brimming with historical significance.

Now visitors to Lowther Castle and Gardens, near Penrith, are able to see the latest phase of work, securing its future as a “world class” tourism destination.

The attraction has re-opened to the public following part of a £1m refurbishment.

The commitment from the Lowther Estates has seen the 16th century castle undergo two months of work.

The stable courtyard and cafe have been redesigned, while the attraction’s huge Lost Castle play area is also being expanded and was due to open today.

The area in front of the castle now boasts 32 square and column-pruned topiary hornbeams, planted by Dan Pearson, an award-winning garden designer who won Best in Show for his Chatsworth Estate Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015.

Meanwhile, a rare painting by a Flemish artist is once again proudly hanging on the castle’s walls.

A spokeswoman for Lowther Castle said: “The courtyard has been completely re-done. It’s completely changed in atmosphere.

“It’s got wonderful new gates made by James Godbold from Yorkshire and designed by the Lowther Team.

“The cafe has been completely redone as well.

“It’s got an amazing centrepiece light and most importantly it’s got a painting by artist Frans Snyders. It looks amazing.

“The nice thing is that it was one of the objects that was in the house before it had the roof taken off – and he’s now come home to roost.

“There is a new menu in the cafe as well.

“It’s a completely different layout and it’s much more somewhere you’d like to be.

“It’s not so much somewhere to grab a bite to eat. It’s somewhere to sit and enjoy.”

The 11ft x 7ft Frans Snyders painting, which weighs a staggering 350kg, was removed from the castle in 1947 as part of one of the largest country house sales ever to happen in Britain.

Lowther was stripped bare, with every painting and object put under the hammer, scattering an extraordinary family collection.

However, some remarkable objects remained in family hands, including the famous painting.

It’s been reinstated in the newly-refurbished cafe, yards from where it originally hung in the Lowther picture gallery.

The revamped shop will soon be opened and Lowther Endowed Primary School is being invited to the extension to the Lost Castle at the end of March.

Among the projects is a new exhibition telling the story of Lowther’s history, illustrated with items from the family collection.

Improvements have also been made to signs and lighting.

“It’s a much more more user friendly experience if you’re in a wheelchair or accompanying someone in a wheelchair,” added the spokeswoman.

The car park has all been re-landscaped.

“That’s a practical detail but it’s quite important.”

Lowther Castle sits at the heart of a 75,000 acre agricultural estate, within a 3,000-acre medieval deer park originally laid out by the Lowther family in the 16th and 17th centuries.

This was subsequently remodelled in the 18th and early 19th centuries for the first and second Earls of Lonsdale.

The Lowther family is maintaining and restoring this listed parkland, while still farming the estate.

This castle stands on a site occupied by the Lowther family for more than 800 years.

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