dan pearson studio

Lowther Castle


















The place

Lowther Castle, in the Lake District National Park, once boasted a room for every day of the year. Today, only the walls still stand in a 3,000-acre medieval deer park, which in turn is part of a 75,000 acre agricultural estate. After the roofs and floors were removed in the 1950s, the historic gardens, some of which were designed by Edwardian designer Thomas Mawson, were given over to a chicken farm and a commercial forestry business.

The brief

The ruin remains in the hands of the Lowther family and in 2007 we were asked to create a landscape and gardens masterplan supporting a Heritage Lottery Fund application for the cultural redevelopment of the castle and gardens. In 2011 we were re-appointed to take over the implementation of the masterplan. We continue to work with the Trust to develop areas of the grounds to their development programme.

The design

Taking some of their inspiration from the Gardens of Ninfa near Rome and the abiding romantic archetype of Gothic ruins reclaimed by nature, we wove climbing roses and clematis through the ruins and introduced a textured palette of ground cover plants in the shade of the walls. A parterre garden of muted grasses and moody perennials creates a magical space in front of the castle. Further out woodland paths lead to the ruined moss-covered Rockery, Japanese and Sweet Scented gardens. A newly designed Rose Garden is due to be completed in 2019. We are currently working with architects Feilden Fowles to site a new education centre within the west wing of the castle.

In the rugged borderland between England and Scotland, there is a renaissance happening. Outside the market town of Penrith, a wild, imaginative garden is rising up, set against the austere ruins of Lowther Castle. Cumbria, with its poetic links to the birthplace of the eighteenth-century Romantic era, could not be a more fitting place for this garden… The garden is far from finished – the best gardens never are – and there are plans to extend the planting further into the ruin and also to create a rose garden where military tanks once churned grass into mud. There is a constant struggle for money and visitor numbers and the harsh weather does not help, but as plants colonise the stone mullions and soaring towers of the crumbling building, Lowther is well on its way to become one of the most atmospheric and exciting gardens in the country.

Clare Foster | House & Garden

With large gardens it is usually important to establish a clear narrative, perhaps a recurring motif or maintenance aesthetic. At Lowther however, Dan has deliberately challenged that notion, instead he has assembled a potential series of conflicts. His aim to create different rhythms, for example the restored courtyard is minimalist and contemporary; there is a ghostly quality about the hornbeam columns he has planted to provide both shade and intimacy, but they also act in stark contrast to the ruinous castle nearby. These same rhythms are in the garden. At once it might feel like its over-whelmed its owners and then you are rewarded with the discovery of a horticultural hotspot in a forest clearing before been allowed to have a breather and then rewarded once again. This slow and gentle unravelling of a space that has been neglected but is actually magical is typical of Dan’s work.

Troy Scott-Smith | Gardens Illustrated

Community involvement and highly-skilled conservation craft have been critical drivers for this extraordinary project which has provided a focus for heritage skills and garden training. The design of contemporary interventions, which have been discreetly integrated into the historic fabric, has been informed by the original palette of materials and construction techniques found in the castle.

The Sculpture Gallery, and West Range housing the Lowther Gallery and access to the castle ruin interior opened late summer 2012, while the gardens project is conceived as a long-term undertaking, with the initial three-year project establishing the framework for gardening in future. The gardens will thrive through the support and enthusiasm of local people who are taking the lead in shaping Lowther for the new century.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards 2017 | Jury Statement

Lowther Castle & Gardens Trust

130 acres



Feilden Clegg Bradley

Feilden Fowles

2018 Cumbria Tourism Awards | Large Visitor Attraction of the Year

2017 Georgian Group Architectural Awards | Best Restoration of a Georgian Landscape

Claire Takacs

Ngoc Minh Ngo