Inside Appleby Castle: The fairy-tale English property available to buy for $12 million

Near-millennium-old property in Lake District has a magical feel and many stories to tell

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Historic houses aren’t for everyone. But if modernistic minimalism just doesn’t excite, then this majestic property might.

With sandstone structures dating back to the 12th century and stories concerning royal wars and succession feuds, Appleby Castle is no hard sell to history buffs. The memoriam of medieval England is on the market, listing by UK Sotheby’s International Realty.

Gracing an ancient market town in the Lake District, the rare abode is perched on 10,000 hectares of picturesque parkland and its 22 bedrooms and 19 bathrooms await their next patron.

When it comes to hosting, the well-preserved 15th-century dining room ought to do the trick, but two great halls – one built in the 15th century, another in the 12th – await in equal decadence. The unique find even comes complete with a Norman keep and 13th-century round tower, while cottages and a tennis court surround the central structure.

Upgrades over the years mean it can also list crowd-pleasing facilities such as a gym, hot tub and sauna on the grounds.

While every corner is steeped in character, current owner Sally Nightingale says the state bedroom needs to be seen in person to fully appreciate the property. Speaking of its elaborate 400-year-old tapestries, she says “photos don’t do it justice”,

Tempting as it is to list more floor plan features and numerical characteristics, the real charm lies in its history. A Grade-I listed building, Appleby Castle has weathered Norman conquests, been caught up in civil wars and been exchanged between royal Scottish and English hands; it seems there are as many tales to tell as rooms to inhabit.

Yet it’s a 17th-century clash between English Civil War captain, Robert Atkinson, and heiress Lady Anne Clifford that has crowned Nightingale’s favourite story connected to the castle. Trying to lay claim to the property after the civil war, Atkinson set local farmers against Lady Anne, defending them as they refused to pay rent.

Later caught up in a plot to overthrow King Charles II, Atkinson was sentenced to be executed at the castle. “On the morning of his execution Lady Anne was given a letter pardoning Robert Atkinson, which she put in her pocket until after the deed was done,” Nightingale recounts of the legend.

Historical scandal aside, UK Sotheby’s International Realty’s agent Guy Bradshaw sees a brighter future for the once-in-a-generation property. “These types of property don’t change hands often. [It’s ideal for] someone seeking a lifestyle change to enhance an existing business in an area of simply outstanding beauty.”

Located in the Eden Valley at the edge of the Lake District, watercolour-worthy scenes are always within day-trip distance; Lake Ullswater is a mere 20-minute drive. Closer to the castle grounds, the surrounding parkland comes complete with access to fishing rights on the River Eden.

On the market for £9.5 million ($12 million), the property offers bountiful opportunities for interested buyers.

During her 27-year reign, Nightingale transformed the castle into a hotel, but Bradshaw believes there is still untapped potential. “While a successful business model currently operates, there is more that can be done with renewed energy.”

And owning a building of such stature, energy it will take. As Bradshaw puts it: “There’s always something to be done, but that’s the exciting part of looking after something that’s stood for 900-plus years.”

Updated: March 22, 2024, 9:26 AM