Thought to have been built over Roman ruins dating from 79AD, Muncaster Castle was first created in the 13th century after the land was granted to Alan de Penitone in 1208. Since then, the castle has remained in the Pennington family and its treasures include a glass bowl granted to the family by King Henry VI in the 15th century, which is known as the ‘Luck of Muncaster.’ King Henry declared that as long as the bowl remained intact, Muncaster would remain in the Pennington family and it has done so ever since.
The gardens at Muncaster were developed much later with the First Lord Muncaster creating several garden walks around the grounds in the 1780s. He also planted many hardwood tress which help protect the plants from the cold winds that sweep down the fells. As a result of this, plant life flourishes in this particular area, including several Mediterranean species that would normally be more at home inside a greenhouse, sheltering from the worst of the British climate.
Flowers start to spring into life from mid April with a sprinkling of bluebells in the woodland gardens. Formal lawns lead down from the castle and are met by a wash of wildflower meadow, while a visit to the garden’s grass terrace, bordered by alternating yew pillars and box hedges, allows you to witness the same far-reaching views of the surrounding fells and countryside that John Ruskin described as ‘the gateway to paradise.’
Muncaster is also home to one of Europe’s largest collections of Rhododendrons, started by the sixth Baronet, Sir John Ramsden, and you can find great pink plumes of them clustered around the grounds like forests of candyfloss. You’ll also find many rare plants now thought to be extinct in the wild throughout the grounds.
The gardening team at Muncaster work closely with the Royal Botanical Gardens at Edinburgh, among others partners, in order to conserve endangered plants and trees, while the estate’s retail plant centre also holds a range of species that are unique to the area, including the primula Ravenglass Vermillion.
While spending time at Muncaster you might also like to pay a visit to the World Owl Trust’s Owl Centre which is home to over 200 of these amazing birds. There is even a chance to see the owls in action during one of the hugely popular Meet the Birds displays.