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Heritage Tour: Penrith and Lowther Castle

11th July 2015


Northwich Memorial Court


Pickup Times

Penrith and Lowther Castle
Saturday 11 July
8.00am (a) from Northwich
Other pick-up points available - details and booking conditions here.


Penrith was once the capital of Cumbria. The attractive town is the hub of the Eden Valley. It is now an important shopping centre, with a good mix of traditional shops and sophisticated arcades. Leading off Penrith’s main streets are many old yard entrances with interesting inscriptions on the lintels. It was in the 9th and 10th centuries that the town became the capital of Cumbria – a semi-dependent state which, until 1070 AD formed part of the Kingdom of Scotland and Strathclyde. The two oldest streets, Burrowgate and Sandgate, date from the 13th Century.

The imposing ruins of Penrith Castle have an intriguing past. It was begun in 1399, when a stone wall was added to an earlier pele tower. The castle was improved and added to over the next 70 years, becoming a royal fortress for Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The Penrith Museum and Tourist Information Centre are housed in the former Robinson’s School, an Elizabethan building which was altered in 1670 and used as a school until the early 1970′s. The recently refurbished museum covers the history, geology and archaeology of the Penrith area.

After lunch we visit Lowther Castle. The castle stands on a site occupied by the Lowther family for over 800 years. Being the third home on the site in that time, the current castle was completed in 1806 and a beautiful sculpture gallery with decorative plaster ceiling added in 1814; this is the only remaining room of the castle subsequently restored.

The last family resident was the Yellow Earl, the fifth Earl, who left the castle on New Year’s Day 1936. The castle was then requisitioned by the army during the second world war for secret tank weapon testing in the gardens. The sixth Earl sold the castle contents in 1947. After four years of trying to find alternative ways of saving the building, the late seventh Earl decided to remove the roof and all the interior structure of the building in 1957; the best solution in the circumstances to keep the building as well as protecting the rest of the estate from a £25 million death duty bill.

Work to reverse 70 years of deterioration of the castle, gardens and stable courtyard started in April 2011, and a veritable army of craftsmen have been busy stabilising architectural features, restoring the Stables Courtyard, removing hundreds of tonnes of army concrete, and sympathetically installing modern services. The stable courtyard offers café, shop and a display area where visitors can find out more about the process of restoration.

Lowther is a garden that was once asleep but after 70 years of neglect is now springing back to life, with an ongoing programme of restoration. The BBC Antiques Roadshow was recently filmed at Lowther Castle.

Penrith Castle walk here.
Lowther Castle plan here.


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