After we all got settled into our hotel everyone spent time getting ready for dinner at Muncaster Castle. It isn’t everyday that one gets to eat dinner in a castle with the family who lives there – at least not every day for me! Phillipa Turnbull is friends with the Pennington family and generously organised this special evening for all of us.
As we climbed into our beautiful tour bus we recalled the talk given on our first evening together in Appleby by Belinda Alexander entitled “Manners Maketh Man, From Downtown to Diana”. It was a fun and informative talk about titles of nobility in Britain. We learned about Kings and Queens, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons. It is a maze of detail, protocol and history!
Fortunately the Pennington family was more relaxed with our group and introduced themselves by their given names.
We got to meet Iona Frost-Pennington who, in addition to being the latest Pennington to run their family home with her husband Peter Frost Pennington, was appointed the High Sheriff of Cumbria by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in March, 2011.
We also met the patriarch, Patrick Gordon-Duff Pennington. He is, as he himself told me, a farmer and a poet. He has written two volumes of poetry which are irreverent, thought provoking, poignant, overwhelming, sad and hilariously funny. His gardening is legendary; he, with three other gardeners, have managed to keep the massive gardens of Muncaster Castle beautiful and healthy. To read more about his gardening, and to get a flavour of his delightful sense of humour, take time to read this article from Saga Magazine.
Our excellent bus driver managed to negotiate a series of extremely difficult turns on very narrow roads and we got off with this view of Muncaster Castle in front of us.
It was raining a bit but we all managed to walk – many of us arm in arm to steady ourselves – without mishap down the drive and around the castle to the door which is around the corner to the right in the photo below. On the way we had a glimpse of the stunning scenery that surrounds Muncaster.
Just around the corner to the right n the photo above is the entrance to the castle. We walked through the large double doors and found ourselves in a large hall where the was a fire burning in the huge fireplace. Champagne and hors d’oeuvres were being served. Iona Pennington and her father, Patrick Gordon-Duff Pennington were taking time to meet everyone and the conversation was lively! There is a motto Phyllida and her husband Patrick adopted ‘The ornaments of a house are the friends that frequent it’. Phyllida died in 2011 but her legacy is carried on by her family and, as a result, visitors from all over the world as well as the staff who work at the castle, all became their friends.
When it was time for dinner, the double doors opened to reveal the stunning dining room, with the long, long table laid for a delicious meal. I felt very lucky to sit next to Patrick Gordon-Duff Pennington. He is a brilliant conversationalist and a highly irreverent observer of life. He kept all of us entertained throughout the evening and we were sorry to say goodbye.
When it came time to say goodnight all of us agreed it had been an evening we would never forget!
**No one took photographs inside the Castle that evening – we were guests in their home – so all of the photos in this article come from their own website or from the website of TripAdvisor. This is why you see a Christmas tree in the hall of the photo of the dining room.