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25 May, 2008

Hornby Castle open day

During yesterday's cycle ride, I noticed that Hornby Castle was holding a rare (annual, I think) open day, or rather, open weekend, so I returned today, with my camera.

Like yesterday, the ride up the Lune Valley was very hard work, into a powerful headwind which nearly made me abandon the trip, but I've passed the castle so often and open days are so poorly promoted (beyond Hornby village, anyway) that I really couldn't miss the opportunity, particularly in bright sunshine.

After parking by the river I paid a nominal amount (£3, I think) and walked up the Georgian drive to the Victorian Gothic manor house built around a 16th Century 'real' keep. I stood on the front lawn for a while examining the very familiar façade close-up and from an unfamiliar angle, then walked around the perimeter. It was much as I'd expected, a tapering near-rectangular building with somewhat fanciful turrets, fake arrowslits and genteel gargoyles, but I was slightly surprised that the drive terminated at what seemed to be the back of the castle. Presumably visitors dismounted from their carriages and crossed the garden to the main door.

One of the main attractions of my visit was the opportunity to climb the 100+ steps to the roof of the keep (and a few more to the castle's highest turret), taking in views of the surrounding countryside; I've seen Hornby Castle from most of the northern Bowland Fells & south-western Yorkshire Dales, so it was great to stand at the other end of those sightlines. However, the wind discouraged a long stay.

The castle is a private family residence (plus tenants in apartments), so the only other part of the building open to visitors was the main hall, accommodating a small art exhibition. The photographs of one resident were particularly impressive, and it was pleasant that the 'attendant' who noticed me returning to examine the same photo 3-4 times actually was the photographer.

The castle's fairly extensive grounds were open too, though late May didn't seem to be the optimum time to see the gardens; azaleas were flowering, as were banks of wild garlic, but little else.

I'd arrive quite late, and didn't leave until well after 17:00 (the day officially ended at 16:00, but the 'staff' were very friendly!), so didn't extend my bike ride, instead letting the wind carry me straight home.

I'd certainly recommend the open day (weekend) to others, if you can find out when it occurs. This was the Late May Bank Holiday weekend, so the castle might be open for the same holiday every year. I understand the grounds also host a display of military vehicles in June, but I don't know whether that event includes the castle itself.

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