One of my (many) goals for this trip was to stay in a castle. It seemed easy enough. It's the UK for goodness sake, no shortage of castles here! Maybe I didn't search it right because for a long time, I couldn't find anything that met my criteria: fun interiors and not a rip-off. (You'd be surprised how many drab hotels are operating out of castles these days. Jeez...) After my hundredth google search I came across the Augill Castle in Cumbria. It was everything I'd hoped to find in a castle stay with a price tag that wouldn't have us packing up and heading home early. We set off from Glasgow on Wednesday and made our way down.
The final miles leading up to the castle were just incredible. Not in either The Lake District, or Yorkshire Dales, just somewhere in between. It was hard to imagine that this area of Cumbria was not designated as "a must see". Rolling pastures with grazing sheep, storybook farmhouses build of stone, and pristine barnyards that seemed impossibly clean and organized - all of it had us with our noses to the windows as we sped down the two-lane road to our final destination.
When we finally arrived, making our way down the tree-lined, gravel entrance, and caught our first glimpses of the castle, it was all squeals, giggles and cartwheels. Was this place for real?? We immediately checked in, and the gracious staff implored us to explore freely!
Run by a husband and wife team, with a staff of, what appeared to be, good neighbors, Augill Castle is that one-in-a-million place that causes you to start planning your return visit before you've even checked-out. We knew right away that two nights was just not enough for us.
Our favorite spot was the honor system bar, not for the obvious reason, but because it was so festive. Right next to it was the coolest little ten-seater movie theater. So the kids popped a locally bottled soda, wrote their names down, and sat down to watch a Harry Potter movie, while Daddy and I shared a fish platter at the Union Jack table. We were one of only two groups staying that night and it felt like the entire castle was ours!
I'm a sucker for packaging and was mesmerized by all the gorgeous bottle labels, and how most of them were produced locally. So impressive!
The kids could not get enough of the medieval inspired toilets in the common area. Everyone had to give it a go at least once! ;-)
Our family suite was a cozy two-bedroom apartment located where the stables used to be. No detail was missed. Each of the kid's beds was topped with a bag of chips and juice box, there was a fresh pitcher of milk in the fridge, and even a full decanter of some beverage for guests to enjoy freely, just in case.
We woke up after our first night at Augill and wished there was nothing to do because we'd have all been so happy just hanging-out all day, drinking in the clear blue skies and magic that surrounded us. Meg, the gardener's dog, begged us not to go. But Mom had read about a place that we were not to miss, and so off we went for the afternoon. More beautiful countryside and enchanting villages to drive through! ;)
The Forbidden Corner - I'm not even sure how to explain it, so let me steal some copy:
"The Forbidden Corner is a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises created within a four acre garden in the heart of Tupgill Park and the Yorkshire Dales. A tourist visitor attraction unlike anywhere that you have been before, ideal for the adventurers and those young at heart!"
Then it was Daddy's turn:
"The temple of the underworld, the eye of the needle, a huge pyramid made of translucent glass, paths and passages that lead nowhere, extraordinary statues – at every turn there are decisions to make and tricks to avoid."
The Forbidden Corner just went on and on. It was amazing and the 11yo even remarked that it was more fun than Disneyland. We will never forget those elaborate mazes, word puzzles, and doors to nowhere. Such a great excursion! From there, it was only a twenty minute drive to Bolton Castle where we hoped to catch the 4pm boar feeding!
We made it just in time! So cool to see those boars up close. I asked a staff member why there was only one baby in the whole group (boars produce several huge litters a year) and she told me that was because "Boars are despicable creatures and they had a feeding frenzy on all their babies one day in front of all our guests. It was an absolute blood bath!" Yikes! When I pressed on as to why they even keep boars, she told me it was because the medieval castle was once surrounded by forests and that boar hunting was once a way of life there. A very cool experience (minus the bloodbath story, of course).