Wray Castle is now open to tourist visitors thanks to the National Trust. A Victorian gothic revival folly on the west bank of Lake Windermere that is best reached by boat from Ambleside or Windermere; Wray Castle has long since lost its original furniture and most of its fittings: fireplaces, lamp fittings etc. so the National Trust has installed a number of children’s playrooms, intended to stimulate the imagination. There’s also an adventure play area outside in the woodland.
Wray Castle estate includes some quiet coves and beaches on the lakeside, hugely reminiscent of Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” novels. The Windermere launches passing nearby add to the atmosphere. Yet the National Trust’s play installations so far don’t include any reference to John, Susan, Titty and Roger (Swallows) and Nancy and Peggy (Amazons) and Captain Flint, their uncle Jim… Not forgetting Keswick’s excellent “Theatre by the Lake” production last year of “Swallows and Amazons” adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson and Neil Hannon.
This matters because the outdoor adventurism of the “Swallows and Amazons” characters balances in the canon of Lake District interest the anthropomorphic cuteness of the Beatrix Potter animals (Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tuiggy-Winkle and friends) or the “I wandered lonely as a cloud” bookiness of the William Wordsworh literary legacy.