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Lulworth Castle

Visited August 2013

Location Lulworth, Dorset
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Toilets, play park
Map

 

'My Castle, it is ruined'- cried the owner of Lulworth on the fateful night of August 29th 1929. Herbert Weld had to be restrained from entering his castle, which was engulfed in flames. The disastrous fire left the castle completely gutted, a condition it remained in until the 1980s when restoration finally began. It re-opened to the public in 1998.

 


 

 


Review

 

The castle was built in 1610 as a hunting lodge by Thomas Howard, a grandson of the Duke of Norfolk. It was visited by King James I in 1615 for a hunting party.  In 1641 the castle and estate was bought by wealthy landowner Humphrey Weld, whose descendants still own the land to this day.

 

During the Civil war the castle was occupied by parliamentarians, who stripped lead off the roof to make musket balls, these were later used in the siege of Corfe Castle. At this time the Weld family seat was nearby Bindon House, but this was burned down by the parliamentarian troops, so once the castle was returned to the Weld family it became the main family home. It remained lived in by the family until the fatal fire of 1929.

 

The renovation of the castle after the fire concentrated on making the building water tight, and restoring the exterior. When you first see the castle it does appear to be in good condition on the outside. However, the inside is a very different story. It has not been possible to restore the interior to its original condition, therefore it provides quite a striking contrast- the well maintained exterior giving way to the interior- ravaged by fire and left with bare walls and no internal floors. The kitchen and the cellars remain in a better state of repair, and these contain an exhibition about life in the castle up until the time of the fire.

 


 

 


 

Despite having four circular towers, only one has access to the roof. The spiral stair case was put in during the restoration of the castle, allowing visitors to appreciate the view from the roof of the tower. Lulworth Castle House, the new family home built after the fire, can be seen from the roof.

 


 

 


 

In terms of entertaining the children at Lulworth, there is quite a lot to do. The castle has quite a good trail, the children have to go around the rooms looking for bats (plastic, not real) and then marking them on an outline of the castle interior once they have been found. The prizes for getting all the bats are quite good. There is also a children's room in the basement of the castle, with puzzles, games etc.

 

Outside in the castle gardens there are garden games, mini golf, space hoppers, swingball. A prize can also be claimed for playing some of these games. Then in the grounds themselves there is a squirrel trail which takes you around the woodland, spotting squirrels all the way. Finally, there is a small adventure playground in the woods.

 

Nearby to the playground is a disused zip wire - it has been tied up to prevent anyone getting on it, and the site is overgrown with weeds. This is a relic from the days when the castle operated as a larger attraction. There were animals in a petting zoo, and the stables housed tea rooms, something sadly lacking at the castle these days.  Economic conditions forced these extra attractions to be closed down. The rusting zip wire, and the two peacocks strutting around  the woods, presumably the only survivors from the petting zoo days, are a little bit like the castle itself- remnants of better times in the past.

 

Not wanting to end on such a sombre note- a visit to the castle is actually still worth the while- despite there being no facilities for refreshments on site, and high car-parking charges. There is enough to do there to justify the entrance fee (which is free to English Heritage members) When you have finished at Lulworth, we recommend a drive along the coast to Durdle Door. This is also part of the Lulworth estate, owned by the Weld family. The views are simply stunning.

 


 

 


 

More info:  Lulworth Castle

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