Lowther Castle is owned by Lowther Estate Trust and leased to Lowther Castle & Gardens Trust. It sits at the heart of a 75,000 acre agricultural estate in Cumbria's Lake District National Park, within a 3,000 acre medieval deer park originally laid out by the Lowther family in the 16th and 17th centuries. This was subsequently remodelled by Capability Brown, Richardson and Webb in the 18th and early 19th centuries for the first and second Earls of Lonsdale. The Lowther family is today maintaining and restoring this listed parkland, whilst still farming the estate.

This 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 architectural heritage of the site, 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 in some form within its landscape; as well as protecting the rest of the estate from a £25 million death duty bill. The gardens were then used to house a large chicken farm and commercial forestry business, who used the military concreting over of the lawns, with timber planted close up to the castle ruins. The remaining gardens and castle ruin were left to run wild and decay for subsequent decades.

A partnership was established between the Lowther Estate and English Heritage in 1999, resulting in extensive work to prepare the site for the ensuing project, which included vital repairs to the staircase tower and clearance of most of the army concrete over the lawns. 

In 2010 the Lowther Estate granted a lease to the new independent charity, the Lowther Castle & Gardens Trust, and £8.9m of funds secured from the North West Development Agency and European Regional Development Fund to develop the castle and gardens into a major visitor attraction, with additional support from the Architectural Heritage Fund and Lowther Estate Trust. 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 arcitectural features, restoring the Stables Courtyard, removing hundreds of tonnes of army concrete, and sympathetically installing modern services. The stable courtyard offers café, shop, heritage toilets, meeting room and a display area where visitors can find out more about the process of restoration.

The latest repair work to the castle ruins, funded by English Heritage and Lowther Estate Trust, will open up the ruins and complete nine years' work of stabilising the important central staircase tower, the key to preserving the grand silhouette of Robert Smirke's masterpiece, his first and arguably finest architectural commission. Thus preserving this landmark for the future, and allowing us to move into the next stages of the project.

Explore Lowther in Pictures by Tony Rumsey