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Wray Castle on the shores of Windermere

November 2, 2013

For sheer over the top awfulness, Wray Castle, at Claife on the banks of Lake Windermere takes a lot of beating.

If you want to see Victorian neo-Gothic at its worst this is the one to go for. It was built in 1840 for Dr James Dawson, a Liverpool surgeon who wanted a holiday home in the Lakes.  His architect drank himself to death even before the building was finished.  Shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but I doubt anyone sober could have designed this great barracks of a monstrosity, which has little at all in the way of intimacy for any family living there.Wray Castle and Brantwood 003

However, it does have some merits in its location and its connection with famous people.

It stands on a beautiful quiet stretch of the shores of Windermere, with perfect distant view of the Fairfield Horseshoe and the Langdale Pikes.Wray Castle and Brantwood 005Wray Castle and Brantwood 001

And in 1875 it came into the possession of the Rawnsley family.  The owner’s cousin, Hardwicke Rawnsley, became the vicar of the recently built Wray church, which adjoins the property but which, irritatingly, seems to be kept locked. He is of course the famous Canon Rawnsley. conservator of the Lake District and founder of the National Trust.Wray Castle and Brantwood 004Wray Castle and Brantwood 002

In 1882 the property was rented out as a holiday home to the Potter family and perhaps rather enjoyed by the daughter, Beatrix Potter, who fell in love with the Lake District at the time. As she went on to use the profits of her books to buy and save much of the Lake District and protect it from developers, perhaps Wray Castle has served a purpose.

In recent years it became RMS Wray Castle, a shore establishment for the Merchant Navy, who sent radio operators there to train.

Worth a look, if only because of the lovely location, but don’t expect a typical furnished National Trust property.

See the NT website for opening times and admission fees.



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