Wray Castle is just outside Ambleside in the Lake District. It’s a National Trust property but is special because inside it is specifically designed with families in mind. All the original fixtures and fittings have mostly been stripped out and replaced with child friendly activities and equipment. Kids can roam all over the castle, touch things and play with other children.
Entry was £10 each per adult and Willow was free as she was under two (it’s free if you are a member of the National Trust). This may sound a bit steep but we definitely got our money’s worth. The majority of the entrance fee goes towards the upkeep of the building and its facilities so we didn’t mind paying at all.
After paying the entry fee we headed straight up the grand staircase and into the first room which had cardboard crowns to colour in and decorate. I didn’t think Willow would be interested but we were actually in there for quite a while. I think it was probably because she was allowed to use felt tip pens which we never do at home!
The next room was the Beatrix Potter Room crossed with an Alice in Wonderland style tea party. There were lots of different hats to try on so Anthony and I got stuck in! Willow was very perplexed that the cake on the table was plastic and not nice to eat. We didn’t realise that you could take your own food in and have a tea party at the tables in there. It was nearly lunch time so I nipped back to the car to get our picnic and we had a lovely lunch with lots of other families. Beatrix Potter spent a summer at the castle so it was nice to read about her connection to it.
The next room we went into was themed around countryside activities such as dry stone walling and gate mending. You could try and build your own wall but for some reason Willow insisted on trying to eat the stones so we made a hasty retreat from there!
All fall down
Then we entered the castle building room which was filled with soft building blocks to make walls and towers. There was a man in there that had obviously spent ages building a castle for his little boy. It was huge. Willow took one look at it and gave it a big shove which meant that the whole thing came tumbling down. She thought this was hilarious. We were mortified but the guy took it really well thank goodness. She’s so bloody mischievous!
We then moved on to the dressing up room where children can get dressed up as knights and damsels and climb in a mini castle. The costumes were a bit too big for Willow but we found her a blue cape which she took a shine to. She refused to take it off even when we went into the next room which was a reading room and had lots of books for you to settle down with. No such luck when you are with a toddler though.
After managing to prise the cape off her we moved into the Peter Rabbit and Friends wing which was by far my favourite part. The corridors were decorated like a rabbit warren so you actually felt like you were going down into the burrow. There was a room decked out as Mr McGregor’s Garden where you could plant veg and burrow underneath the garden nets. You also got to go into Peter Rabbit’s house and have a nap in his bed, make a snack in his kitchen and dress up like Peter and his friends. Willow watches Peter Rabbit on CBeebies so she squealed with delight at everything.
We also found a games room but the games were a bit too old for Willow. There was also a camping room with tents where you could pretend to be sleeping under the stars. Willow wasn’t too keen on this as it was very dark so we didn’t spend much time in there.
Had Willow been a bit older I would have loved to have taken part in one of the guided tours to find out a bit more about the history of the building and its eccentric owner. I’m a proper geek for that sort of thing. I think Willow will enjoy the castle for different reasons as she gets older so we will definitely be going back.
They have a café which sells delicious cakes and coffee. They have a baby room so if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or just want somewhere to chill out with baba for a while you can retreat in to there. There was also a microwave for heating up baby food and bottles.
The castle lies on the shores of Lake Windermere so we finished our day by taking a little stroll down to the water. It only took five minutes to get to the lake. Willow loved splashing about in her wellies and tried to chase the swans (much to their annoyance).
I really can’t recommend this place enough for families with children of all ages. If you do decide to go I would advise you to get there before 11am. The car park isn’t very big and it fills up quickly. Parking cost £6.50 but again is free if you are a National Trust member. Just looking at the brochure we got on the way into the castle I think it will be worth us signing up. They have hundreds of sites across England and Scotland to visit.
We had one tired but very happy little girl at the end of our visit. This is proof to me of a fabulous family day out.
Have you been to Wray Castle? Did you enjoy it as much as we did? Do you have any suggestions for other places we could visit like this? We’re based in the North West but would happily travel a couple of hours.