Featured image of Wray Castle

The History Of Wray Castle

LocationClaife, Ambleside, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byThe National Trust
Official WebsiteWray Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Filming)

Wray Castle is a glorious private country house situated in Ambleside, England, on a site overlooking Lake Windermere. You can visit the castle to have a picnic on its grounds near the lakeshore.


Wray Castle was built around 1840 for a prominent Liverpool surgeon James Dawson and his wife, Margaret. The wealth needed to make the castle/private house was sourced from James’s advantageous marriage to Margaret, a wealthy gin-making family. After the death of James, the castle was passed on to his 15-year-old nephew, Edward Preston Rawnsley. Later, the castle became a holiday let when Beatrix Potter’s family rented the castle for the summer in 1882. The castle had continued to exchange hands leading to the loss of a substantial amount of its value during this time.

In the 1930s, The National Trust acquired the castle from Sir Noton and Lady Barclay, who were the owners at that time. It was initially used as a youth hostel for a short time. In 1929, they gained 64 acres of land for £4,500, while the castle originally cost £60,000 to build. They have steadily undertaken the project to restore the castle and grounds to the way they would have appeared in the Victorian era. For some time, from 1931, Wray Castle was used as the office of the Freshwater Biological Association. It hosted the Association up to the 1950s. During 1958-1998, the castle’s tenant was the Merchant Navy, who used it as a residential training college for Radio Officers. Up to 150 cadets lived in the castle while studying radio’s use for the Safety of Life at Sea. In 2011, The National Trust opened Wray Castle to the public during the summer. The castle and grounds were further developed as a visitor attraction.


Wray Castle
Wray Castle”, by Terry Kearney, is licensed under CC0 1.0

Wray Castle is a Victorian Gothic Revival-style country house. In the mid 19th century, James created it as a romantic, idealized castle in the picturesque style of architecture. The castle was designed by John Jackson Lightfoot, an accountant with a keen interest in architecture. It was his first and only design, but he drank himself to death before it was even finished. James then employed H.P. Horner, also from Liverpool, and this was his only known major commission work. James created a garden landscape at Wray Castle inspired by William Wordsworth’s philosophy about the beauty of nature.

The grounds are worth a visit to see the beautiful specimen trees – Wellingtonia, redwood, Gingkoa, weeping lime, and varieties of beech. There is also a mulberry tree on the grounds planted by William Wordsworth in 1845. Among the rooms on display, the most enjoyable to the visitors are the Morning Room, its circular turret, and the Music Room. The Music Room gloriously features pendants hanging from the ceiling. The visitors can also get views of the Langdale Pikes from the turret in the Drawing Room.

Movie Features

Poirot (1989-2013)– Wray Castle is beautifully featured in Episode: Double Sin (1990) of the Crime- Mystery Drama ‘Poirot’ directed by Richard Spence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does anyone live in Wray Castle?

The National Trust in the 1930s obtained Wray Castle, but no one presently lives in the castle. Interestingly even when James Dawson built it, his wife Margaret refused to live in the castle after taking one look at the house.

What was Wray Castle used for?

Wray Castle has been used for varied purposes through the many years and has also exchanged many hands. The castle became the home of the Freshwater Biological Association from 1931 to 1950, and during the Second World War, the castle also housed exhibits from the Natural History Museum. From 1958 to 1998, the Merchant Navy used it as a residential training college for Radio Officers.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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He is a versatile E-Learning Support Officer and former Academic Officer at the University of York, United Kingdom. Not just an expert in education and technology, Debayan also has a deep love for castles and mountains. With a passion for travel, having explored 168+ cities worldwide, and a keen eye for photography, He brings a unique blend of experiences to the table. Specializing in E-learning content, IT support, AR development, and software engineering, Debayan has made a significant impact, educating over 200,000 students on Udemy.

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