The History Of Muncaster Castle
The historic haunted castle of Muncaster overlooks the Esk River. It is on the eastern side of Ravenglass, located in Cumbria, England. Muncaster Castle is a Grade I listed building, which means it is a site of exceptional architectural, national or historical importance.
Its idyllic setting, along the Lake District coast, offers panoramic views of the Western Lake District fells. The fortress dominates the majestic area, where England’s highest mountains (like Scafell Pike) tumble into the ocean. John Ruskin, an English writer from the 19th century, once described the stunning views as “Heaven’s Gate”.
About Muncaster Castle
Muncaster Castle dates back to the early 1200s and has been home to the Pennington family for over 800 years. Alan de Penitone – later changed to Pennington – inherited the castle estate from King John.
Historical documents show that the location currently referred to as “Muncaster” was originally recorded as “Mulcaster”. The name Mulcaster is supported by various ancient records in the pipe rolls of Cumberland dating back to 1150; other variations of the name from that time include “Molecaster” (1190) and “Mulecaster” (1236).
Muncaster first surfaced in Cumberland church records in 1577.
The fortress is a magnificent structure, with its imposing high castle walls, turrets and the beautiful Muncaster gardens. The architecture bears witness to the various medieval eras it has been through. Elements of the medieval castle, such as Pele Tower and the Great Hall, are said to be the oldest parts – dating back to the 1300s – and are still seen today.
These giant structures were built during a time when tensions between England and Scotland were high. Over 1860 – 1866, the fortress was remodelled for the Barons of Muncaster.
Muncaster Castle is surrounded by 70 acres of immaculate gardens and woodlands, including the Himalayan Gardens. The gardens are famous for their collection of exotic plants, such as rhododendrons and azaleas. The Fortress is also known for its Hawk-Owl Centre, where you can see a variety of owls and birds from around the world.
Muncaster’s high castle walls offer more than just protection: the haunted Muncaster oozes history and has its fair share of ghosts that wander around its halls and corridors!
Let’s leave the history bit for now and move on to what you came here for… Ghosts!
Ghosts Of Muncaster Castle
There is a full-length portrait of a former castle jester, Thomas Skelton, hanging in the fortress. This is said to be the “Tom Fool” (from the 16th century), after which the term ‘tomfoolery’ was coined. The story goes that Wild Will of Whitbeck instructed Tom to decapitate a woodworker’s son – poor, unbeknown Dick.
Helwise Pennington, Sir Pennington’s unbetrothed daughter, was in love with Dick. But it was deemed an unsuitable partnership for a lady of her class – the classic Romeo and Juliet scenario. Tom lured Dick to the fortress and gave him far too much cider. Once Dick was intoxicated beyond measure, Tom hacked off his head with a chisel and mallet!
“There, I have hid Dick’s head under a heap of shavings, and he will not find that so easily, when he awakes, as he did my shillings.”
Rumours say that Tom and Dick’s spirits have inhabited Muncaster ever since. The soft thud of a body dragged down the stairs, evil laughter, merciful screams, and the mourning of a young woman can often be heard…
The Tapestry Room
Muncaster Castle’s Tapestry Room has a particularly eerie ambience. Guests have reported various paranormal activities, such as the rustling of bed skirts, cries of an unseen baby, women singing, footsteps, and witnessing dark three-dimensional shadows lurking around the room.
The room has a chilling feel about it, with many visitors sensing ‘something is off’ before entering.
Ghost stories about the spirit of a young girl, Margaret Pennington have been reported. You see, Margaret was often ill and died in the castle at a very young age. Her ghost has been seen drifting around the castle’s hallways and corridors before vanishing into thin air! Creepy!
The White Lady
Also known as the “Muncaster Boggle,” the White Lady is believed to be the spirit of Mary Bragg who served as a housekeeper at Muncaster in the early 1800s. Mary was supposedly murdered on the main road outside the castle grounds and her ghost is often seen wandering through the castle gardens late at night
Visiting Muncaster Castle
For those brave enough, consider doing the castle’s Ghost Sit; where you spend the night in Muncaster’s most haunted room: Tapestry Room.
This tour begins in the dead of night where you first explore the hidden crevices of the castle and its surrounding grounds. You will learn about the ghosts that lurk within its halls and finally settle down in the Tapestry Room for the night.
Coffee will be provided, to keep you alert, as I’m sure you don’t want to miss any of the spooky action. The next morning – if you make it – you’ll be asked to fill in a report about your evening and document your ghoulish experience.
Over the years, ghost-hunters have been baffled by the strange occurrences of the Muncaster fortress. Evidence shows that eerie entities do indeed inhabit the fortress, but the paranormal investigators are unable to explain why. Could it be their troubled souls are unable to pass over to the other side? Or is there something more sinister about their presence? We’ll let you decide…
- £21 for adults
- £10.95 for children aged 3–15 years old
- Free for kids under 3
Note: Ticket prices are a guideline and may vary depending on the season and which option you choose.
- Dogs are welcome (in certain demarcated areas)
- Enchanted trail walks around the historic haunted castle
What is Muncaster Castle known for?
Muncaster Castle is a medieval castle that was built in the 1200s. It has remained in the Pennington family for roughly 800 years! The impressive structure is known for its immaculate gardens, Hawk-Owl Centre, and its seasonal exhibitions that highlight interesting artefacts from the Castle’s olden-day era. Not to mention a couple of ghosts, too!
How far is Muncaster Castle from London?
Muncaster Castle is roughly 300 miles north of London.
How far is Muncaster Castle from Manchester?
Muncaster Castle is roughly 118 miles north-west of Manchester.
Are there more haunted castles?
Yes, the world is full of haunted castles, each with its eerie tales and ghostly residents. Here are a few more notable ones:
- Chillingham Castle – Situated in Northumberland, this castle is famous for its chilling hauntings, including the ghost of the ‘Blue Boy’.
- Hazlewood Castle – Located in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, Hazlewood Castle is known for its ghostly sightings, including the apparitions of monks.
- Bodelwyddan Castle – This Welsh castle is reputed to be haunted by several spirits, including soldiers from World War I.
- The Lumley Castle Hotel – This 14th-century castle-turned-hotel in County Durham is said to be haunted by the spirit of Lady Lumley.
- Margam Castle – In South Wales, Margam Castle is known for its ghostly sightings, including the figure of a former gamekeeper.
So there it is – the history of Muncaster Castle. Located in the idyllic setting overlooking the Esk River, the mighty castle has stood proudly for centuries. Being the residence of the Pennington family since 1208, its castle walls have stood the test of time.
Now a popular tourist attraction with accommodation quarters, beautifully manicured gardens and an owl centre, the Castle certainly is a fun place for families to enjoy.
But, be careful if you opt for the Ghost Sit in the Tapestry Room (and have your smudge sticks ready), as the ghosts of eras past may be lurking in the darkness…