The Lake District, England

Cruising Northern England: The Lake District, Muncaster Castle

Muncaster Castle, near the southern end of the Lake District, is located high on a hill overlooking the River Esk. This castle is unusual in that it has been modernized but remained intact. It was to far out of the way to be pillaged by the Scots and also missed the Civil War. The castle has been the home of the Pennington family since 1208. There are extensive gardens but the most special part of the grounds is the Owl Center, home to the World Owl Trust.

There are around 50 species of owls collected here, one of the largest owl sanctuaries in the world. The owls have roomy cages, and you are free to wander about and observe. We were lucky to be there on a bright and sunny day, and many of the owls were contently snoozing in the sun.

It was breeding season and some of the owls were in nesting boxes. The center has an extensive program breeding endangered owls and releasing them to the wild.

There was one breed of owl that was so dangerous, it had been known to kill man. We were kept further away from that owl - no fingers through the fence! - but most of them were pretty close to us.

At 3:30 every afternoon when the weather is fine, there is a "Meet the Owls" program on the castle lawn. The day we were there, two owls, this one and a barn owl, plus a falcon were brought out to fly. This owl was big. She weighed 10 pounds and needed to gain a few. They explained they couldn't let her fly loose because she was hungry and might decide to take a holiday in the sky. These birds were imprinted on man and probably wouldn't survive in the outside world. Watching them was mesmerizing.

After the show, we drove to to Nantwich and the next day, we visited Chester.

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No unauthorized reproduction. Thank you. Text by Nan. Photos Copyright ©2002 Nan Hamilton