The latest repair work to the castle ruins, 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.

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 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 that has been restored.

The last family resident was the Yellow 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. Many large country houses were demolished in the difficult times after the war, but the seventh Earl decided to leave the castle façade as a monument in the landscape, having removed the roof and all the interior structure of the building in 1957. 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 trees planted close up to the castle ruins. The remaining gardens and castle ruin were left to run wild and decay for subsequent decades.

In 2010 the castle and gardens were leased 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. 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.

Explore Lowther in Pictures by Tony Rumsey