Wray Castle

Low Wray Ambleside LA22 0JA

When a hotel project for Victorian-era Wray Castle fell through, the National Trust stepped in, and it's now Windermere's finest attraction and a stunning all-day family visit. Built as a private residence for an eminent Liverpool surgeon and his wife, the magnificent mock-Gothic, castellated mansion has long had a place in local history, with Beatrix Potter holidaying here as a young woman. But the National Trust has gone for accessibility and enjoyment over fussy restoration – there's nothing fragile or precious on display, children are encouraged to charge around the corridors, try on dressing-up clothes and explore the below-stairs servants' quarters. You are specifically invited to "walk on the grass and sit on the chairs" and have a picnic in the grounds, which boast wraparound, panoramic views of lake and mountains. House tours set off every hour or so, though you can poke around on your own at all times and marvel at the acres of oak panelling, carved ceilings and soaring central staircase. There's also a café with a lake view, and a jetty on the shore so you can arrive by cruise boat from Ambleside – or walk through the grounds and down along the lake to Sawrey where you can catch the ferry back to Bowness instead if you wish.

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