Wray Castle is a 15th century enclosed courtyard castle, situated on the banks of Windermere in Cumbria. It has been listed as a Grade I listed building since 10 June 1951 and as a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 12 December 1950.
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Visiting Wray Castle
It is best to drive to Wray Castle if you can – there is parking available for up to 71 cars so get there early to be sure of a parking space. You can walk from Ambleside – walk 1.5 km along the shared use pavement beside the A593 Coniston road. But then you will have to walk on the Hawkshead road for 300 metres to reach the start of the off-road path. From Windermere train station it would be a proper hike to Wray Castle and would take approximately two and a half hours depending upon weather conditions.
Wray castle is free to get in. The castle, gardens, play area and woods are all open to tourists. Joey’s Cafe at Wray Castle is currently open every day, 10am-4pm, serving takeaway hot and cold drinks and cakes. There are accessible toilets.
History of Wray Castle
The first mention of Wray Castle is to be found in documents dating to 1212, which state that John de Wray was granted the manor of Wray by King John. The original structure is believed to have been a small square pele tower with thick walls and slit windows, which would have stood in an enclosed courtyard surrounded by a moat. A nearby spring called Souter Fell Well provided water for the moat. The castle was on the side of a cliff, thus providing another natural defence. By 1403 the manor of Wray had passed to John’s descendant John Fawkes, whose family seat it then became.
The original building at Wray Castle would have been built long before gunpowder was invented, which made life more difficult for the inhabitants of castles, as they were no longer able to rely on height or a situation in high places when defending themselves from invaders. A door adjacent to the gatehouse in the southern curtain wall was added during this period in order to provide a more sheltered entrance and giving easier access for visitors in heavy armour.
By 1455 Wray Castle was owned by Sir Richard Stanley and it is believed he lived there with his family during the 1460s. When Sir Richard died in 1495, the castle passed to his son Robert Stanley who resided with his wife Lady Margaret at Wray Castle until 1508 when they moved into Kirkby Lonsdale.
Robert’s son Henry Stanley, the 4th Lord Monteagle and a member of parliament, died without issue in 1523 and so Wray Castle passed to Henry’s brother Sir Edward Stanley. It is believed that was when the octagonal towers were built as part of an enlargement programme.
It is not known exactly when the castle fell into disrepair but there are records of repairs being carried out in 1632. It is possible that following the English Civil War that it fell into disrepair, but this may have been a general slump rather than a specific event. At some point during its history a small hamlet grew up adjacent to the castle and became known as Wray Common; nothing remains of this village today.
During the 20th century, Wray Castle was owned by the National Trust who carried out stabilisation work to preserve it. It is still open to visitors, and given its position on the lakeside, it is a popular location for wedding photography.
Wray Castle Featured on TV
The castle was featured in Episode 10 of Series 2 of “Most Haunted”, where Karl Beattie and Yvette Fielding visited the castle with a team of mediums in an attempt to make contact with its spirits.
The castle was featured in Episode 3 of Series 2 of “Secret Britain”, when Paul Martin and his team investigated the claims that during the 15th century, Wray Castle had been home to a witch, who had been executed at a local crossroads.
The castle was used as a filming location for the BBC TV series “The White Queen”, which is based on Philippa Gregory’s novels about the women of the Wars of the Roses. The scenes set within the castle were filmed in April 2012.
Wray Castle is an important setting in the novel “Sunne in Splendour”, written by Sharon Penman. It is here that Richard III marries Lady Anne Neville, whose dowry then enabled him to gain control of England’s ruling council.
The castle was featured on Channel 4’s First Dates programme where it played host to young couple Josh and Emma who met for the first time over dinner.
The castle was featured in an ITV drama entitled “The Halcyon” which aired between January and April 2017 on Thursday evenings at 8pm. The programme charted the goings-on behind the scenes of a brand new hotel on Regent Street, London during World War II. There were a number of exterior shots of the hotel used throughout the series; these were actually filmed at Wray Castle.
The castle is featured in an episode of Sky One’s “Hooten and the Lady” entitled “Claws”.
Episode 4 (of 8) in Series 3 (of 5) of Outlander was partially filmed at Wray Castle.
The castle is featured in an episode of ITV’s Vera entitled “Episode 1.7”.
Wray Castle was used for the film version of Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (2005). Filming took place mainly outside on the lawn between April and June 2004. The scenes involving cast members were shot in the garden (Karen Ball and Rupert Friend), cloisters (Joss Ackland, Anna Chancellor) and kitchen (Joanna Lumley).
If you are visiting castles in the Lake District then you might also like to read about Kendal Castle.