We had three days left in the Lake District, and we had to plan them carefully. I wanted to see Sizergh Castle, Muncaster Castle, and Levens Hall. We could take the bus—or, as the English seem to call it, the stagecoach (how Regency!)—to Sizergh and Levens Hall, but the only way to reach Muncaster was by taking a tour. There is a bus that goes there from Windermere, but it only runs during the summer.
And then there’s the weather. You have to plan for rain when you go to the Lake District, and we’d had some, though it was usually pretty light and intermittent. But the weather reports were calling for serious rain. I wanted to see Levens Hall on a nice day—you’ll see why later—so that left Sizergh Castle and the tour for the iffier weather days.
As predicted, the day we went to Sizergh Castle was rainy, but I was prepared. I had a rain coat and rain pants, a rain hat and waterproof hiking boots. I did make one error—I should have used my daughter-in-law Beth’s backpack that has a rain cover, but it’s somewhat boxy, so I took my backpack instead. Fortunately, I put my camera in a plastic bag. I suggested Mr. M wear his rain pants. He declined, and then was very sorry he didn’t take my advice. Turns out we’d chosen the rainiest day in 30 years to head out to Sizergh Castle. (That’s what the news reports said. There was heavy flooding in some parts of the country, particularly Yorkshire, to the east of the Lake District.)
We caught the bus from Bowness to the Windermere train station where we had to change buses to head southeast toward Lancaster. The bus was about 20 minutes late, but at least we had a covered area where we could wait. We changed bus drivers in Kendal, and Mr. M asked the new driver to let us know when we should get off—the stop wasn’t too far from Kendal. And then we had to slog up the drive to the castle—but first we took a detour to check out Low Sizergh Barn. Looking on the map, I couldn’t figure out how Lower Sizergh connected to the castle—they seem to be on opposites sides of the highway (A591). Which they are, but I didn’t notice when we were walking since you go under the highway to travel between them. We saw cows and produce, but we didn’t linger. I was hoping to make it to the castle in time for the house tour.
Sadly, we missed the tour, though Mr. M said he thought we needed reservations, so we might not have gotten on it even if we’d been on time. I bemoaned our bad luck, telling the folks we bought our tickets from that the bus was 20 minutes late. That didn’t solve the house tour problem, but it turns out we got tickets for free drinks because we’d taken public transportation! I had a mocha and Mr. M, already a bit damp, had a hot chocolate. And then, crazy Americans that we are, we ventured out to view the gardens. The folks working the gift shop were quite amused.
I never took my camera out of my bag, and Mr. M only took a few pictures because of the rain. He took a shot of the lake.
And then the castle from the lake.
And a closer view of the caste.
Looking over the guidebook now, I’m not too unhappy that we missed the gardens as it sounds like most of them are 20th century additions. Lovely, I’m sure, if you are into gardens, but not so fascinating if you are more interested in all things Regency or older.
Mr. M also took a picture of the front of the castle.
The front door is where the person with the umbrella is.
The docent in the entrance hall told us they’d had terrible flooding a few years ago and had had to take up the floor to dry it out and then try to reassemble it. As you might guess, if there’s a lot of rain, it can all flow down the yard and under the door. (We visited Sizergh on Monday. When we were at Levens Hall on Wednesday, we learned Sizergh had been closed on Tuesday for flooding—I don’t know if it was flooding that actually came into the house—so we were very lucky we planned our excursions as we did.)
One of the interesting bits about the castle: since the Strickland family was Catholic, they fled England with James II in 1688 (according to the guidebook). However, through some wise arrangements, they were able to protect the castle from being seized, so when they returned, they could take ownership again.
One of the docents, hearing our accents, pointed out that there were a couple of American connections to the castle. Mr. M remembers something about George Washington, but he can’t quite recall the details. (UPDATE: Mr. M did some poking around on the internet and discovered George Washington was indeed a Strickland descendant. This blog mentions that, and has other interesting information as well as pictures of the castle.) The other was, if I’m not getting this wrong, Lady Edeline Sackville, who married Sir Gerald Strickland, was the daughter of the 7th Earl of De La Ware—Delaware. My ears pricked up when I heard her name—the Sackvilles own Knole, one of the estates we visited when we were in England two years ago.
A Strickland (or now a Hornyold-Strickland—the family tree is rather challenging for this American, at least, to follow) still lives at Szergh Castle. I’m pretty sure the docent said that, at Christmas, the family all comes back and all the rooms are used, including the ones we were touring. As the mother of four sons, I have to admit I looked around at all the historical furnishings and shuddered. But, on the other hand, it is wonderful that the house is still a house and not merely a museum.