When is a castle not a castle? The answer is, because it is, in my view, of modern construction. Wray Castle was constructed in 1840 by Dr James Dawson who was a very rich man who made his fortune as a surgeon in Liverpool. He needed to be because it cost him at £60,000 which was an enormous sum in those days. He intended it to look like a ‘proper’ castle complete with towers, battlements and even arrow slits in the walls. It is impressive from the landward side, but my favourite view of Wray is from the lake. I always begin my walk by taking a trip on one of the ‘steamers,’ which have been popular for more than a century.
This is one of my very favourite winter walks and a perfect place to watch the little roe deer. The males are called rucks and the females does. They are not found in herds as is the case with the other larger deer but in small family groups.
How the get there: Wray Castle is on the western shore of Windermere and to the far north of the lake. It is best reached from a minor road from the B5286 which links Clappersgate to Hawkshead. There are car parks close to the castle area. The grounds, but not the castle itself are open to the public (National Trust).
Map: OS Explorer OL7
Grid reference: 378 013
Length: 4 miles
1 From the car park (pay and display) follow a drive but do not rush. Take the time to appreciate the splendid views of the Langdale Pikes. Turn left in about 200 yards and look for a footpath sign to the right which is marked with a yellow area. Just before this you will see the parish church. The incumbent here was once Canon Rawnsley the founder of the National Trust. Follow the well marked track across a footbridge over a tiny beck. Follow this track through a kissing gate and cross a field alongside the beck. Keep following the signs and lookout for Blelham tarn on the right. This is the place to look out for roe deer.
2 Blelham Tarn is a national nature reserve. In the 16th Century the tarn was an important fishery belonging to the monks of Furness Abbey. As you reach a farm continue along a made up road for about 100 yards and turn right on to a footpath towards Tuck How. Then turn left along another footpath to Loanthwaite where this is a gentle incline with good views of the tarn and Windermere.
3 Here there are a series of signs to reach a double stile. Turn sharp left across meadows and through several gates to approach a farm on Loanthwaite Lane. Turn left and pass between hedgerows. Although this is one of my favourite winter walks it is also a joy in spring and summer, when wild flowers are in abundance. Here is a chance to do some ‘mountain walking’ as there are views of Crinkle Crags and Bowfell.
4 Turn left at a t-junction and look for a sign pointing to Latterbarrow on the right. A gentle ascent leads into a lovely old woodland. Continue to reach the 803-feet summit of Latterbarrow with a cairn on top. Here is another chance to view hill and valley including the How Fills, Duddon Estuary and on the day of my visit I could see the Pennines with a whole icing-like coat of frost.
5 After a rest descend from Latterbarrow towards Windermere. Continue to follow the arrow markers and turn left along a grassy track to reach the National Trust base camp and approach the village of High Wray.
6 Turn right to reach a minor road sign posted ‘to the ferry’ and a pretty house called The Cottage. Take a footpath on the right signed ‘to the lakes.’ Look for a solid stone stile on the left, which leads into a field and then down to the lakeside at High Wray Bay. Turn left and follow the signs. Pass along the shoreline and through some stiles to reach the starting point.
NB: Restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.