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LOWTHER CASTLE & GARDENS

Partner Garden
Free access for RHS members at selected times

Lowther Castle
Penrith
CA10 2HH

130 acres

Tel
01931 712192

Visit website

Opening Hours

Daily, 10am–5pm (summer), 10am–4pm (winter), 1 Jan–24 Dec.

Admission

Non-member adults £12.

RHS members

Free access (Member 1 only) - applies Thur.

Facilities

  • Accessible facilities
  • Accessible garden
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Children’s play area
  • Dogs welcome
  • Free carer entry
  • Gift shop
  • Group rates
  • Parking
  • Picnic area
  • Plant sales
  • Refreshments
  • Toilets

Features

  • Autumn colour
  • Champion trees
  • Herbaceous border
  • Organic management
  • Pond or lake
  • Prairie/naturalistic planting
  • Rock garden
  • Wildflower meadow
  • Wildlife planting and features
  • Woodland

About the garden

Owned by
Jim & Vanessa Lowther

Designed By
Thomas Mawson

Lowther Castle was commissioned in 1806 from architect Robert Smirke. It was built on the site of the burnt-down Lowther Hall and took six years to complete, the finished article a sprawling neo-Gothic palace. For a century and a half, the castle was home to the Lords Lonsdale. In 1936 however, having spent the family fortune, the 5th Earl left the castle for good. The army requisitioned the castle in 1942 and in 1957, thanks to the legacy of war, to family debt and to the prevailing spirit of the time, the castle was deroofed and the 52.6 hectare (130 acre) gardens turned over to commercial chicken-rearing and spruce crops. 

This tide of decline turned in 1999 when English Heritage placed Lowther Castle on the Heritage at Risk Register. The Lowther Castle & Gardens Trust (LCGT) was formed, funds were raised, huge works were undertaken and in 2008, a partly stabilised ruin with gardens cleared of sheds and thicket opened to the public. Real horticultural progress got under way when in 2012 Dan Pearson was appointed to be garden designer-in-chief. His 20-year masterplan continues to inform the gardens' development. Of Pearson's many intriguing contributions, the first to greet the visitor are the hornbeam pillars in the courtyard, clipped into green pillars and boxes to reflect the castellations and corbels of the ruin. 

In the castle ruins themselves, creepers, shrubs, trees and exotic plants reflect the building's long history of ruination. By its formidable south facade, the Parterre Tapestry Garden incorporates a brilliant combination of perennials and yew hedging to recreate the weft and warp of an ancient tapestry. There is space on the South Lawns, there is history in the 17th century Yew Avenue, there are views from the Western Terrace. 

On the western side, you will find the new Rose Garden – Pearson’s latest design, a stunning combination of old-fashioned and modern planting; its adjacent Edwardian Gardens are next on Pearson's list and soon will be home to further contemporary planting as well as some intriguing teahouses. Finally, the lost castle, a huge adventure playground – enjoyed by family members of all ages – is built in the trees.

Plants of special interest

  • Asters
  • Autumn bulbs
  • Bluebells
  • Clematis
  • Conifers
  • Cornus (for winter stems or spring bracts)
  • Daffodils
  • Ferns
  • Fruit blossom
  • Fruit bushes/trees
  • Grasses
  • Hellebores
  • Hemerocallis
  • Irises
  • Magnolias
  • Meconopsis
  • Orchids
  • Rhododendrons/azaleas
  • Roses
  • Shade-loving plants
  • Snowdrops
  • Spring bulbs
  • Topiary
  • Wildflowers
  • Wisteria

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.