A week we will never forget.

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Back in 2005, on a year eleven residential stay at Castlerigg Manor with our high school, Cardinal Allen, a cocky 15 year old boy sat me down on some red chairs on the landing and asked me to be his girlfriend. Luckily for him, I said yes. Fast forward fourteen years and that same person is now my husband. We got married in 2014 and we have two beautiful boys- Nathaniel and Alexander.


We often come to Keswick and drive past Castlerigg and reminisce about our week there. It’s a week we will never forget.

Castlerigg will always hold a very special place in our hearts and we will always have it to thank for the fact we have each other! So thank you Castlerigg! 

Staying for a few days was a real treat

In 1970 I was a 5th year pupil at St Edmund Campion comprehensive school, Lea, Preston. In the summer of that year a party of us stayed at Castlerigg Manor. I remember being amazed by the Lake District; its beautiful hills and the gorgeous setting the Manor is in. Staying there for a few days was a real treat and a revelation both spiritually and emotionally.

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We’d never seen a chapel so informally set out or listened to such meditative music. Our parishes then were extremely formal and traditional. It was all very different from our church or our school settings. Tasks and discussions were undertaken in a much more relaxed manner. We were encouraged to contribute in our mixed groups. We absorbed knowledge without really realising it. We touched on important issues of life and set thinking about the consequences of our actions.

Going out on the hills was also a wonderful experience. Fr O’Dea strolled along with us and chatted to all of as we walked. He had a pleasant, relaxed, easy going manner, with a bit of Irish humour thrown in for good measure. A very genial, warm, person.

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The Games Room also impressed us with its table tennis and snooker tables and the record player. The days of records! I think Simon and Garfunkel was top of the charts, with “Bridge over Troubled Waters”. I know we seemed to play it and “Cecilia” endlessly, on pleasant summer evening.

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Staying at Castlerigg Manor as a pupil was a wonderful experience. It has stayed with me and has enriched each time I went with school parties as a young teacher at St Cuthbert Mayne High School in the late 1970s.

As a young teacher going with a group from St Cuthbert Mayne High School, I have one interesting story to relate. During our free time, I happened to over hear some 5th years say they’d brought with them two bottles of cider. Luckily they hadn’t noticed me.

When they’d all gone in for supper, I mentioned these hidden bottles to our school chaplain, Fr Bede More. Being a quick thinking man, he asked us staff to quickly search their rooms whilst they were all in supper. Sure enough the bottles were found and handed over to the Castlerigg Staff.

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We then casually joined the 5th years for our supper. Soon after, the 5th years had filed our, having finished their meal a little earlier than us, we heard some heated shouting in the hall way. Naturally we went out all concerned as to what they were shouting about. Surprise surprise they wouldn’t say and said everything was okay now.

So we returned to our supper all smiles.

Castlerigg in the 70s

A weekend to Castlerigg, whether with school or youth club, was a cause of serious excitement and anticipation, this was though a time before mobile phones and radio 1 became unreachable when it separated from radio 2 on a Saturday morning. We did though have Frankie Valley, a year with 3 Popes and at mass you could have Eucharist of both kinds, which was unheard of anywhere else.

We were greeted on arrival with a request not to throw the stones from the car park into the trees, due to them being so expensive. Next came your room allocation, boys always exiled to the rooms way down the corridor, could you really sneak out over the Chapel roof? With the girls in rooms adjacent to the top of the stairs. No surprises then, when, after creeping down the corridor after lights out, we were unceremoniously dispatched back down the corridor by the guardian, posted there, specifically for this purpose. Weekends like this soon revealed those amongst your friends that had issues with foot hygiene!

At this time Father John Foulkes was synonymous with Castlerigg, he did seem tailor made for this type of ministry. I also remember a sister Sheila? A nun who had no problem defending receiving a speeding ticket, this, in a time before speed cameras.

Saturday afternoons involved a hike up Walla Cragg, was this though, we thought, just a scheme to get us far enough away from any pub that we could have got back to before closing time at 3pm?

Saturday afternoons involved a hike up Walla Cragg, was this though, we thought, just a scheme to get us far enough away from any pub that we could have got back to before closing time at 3pm?

Walking down to Keswick has its own fascinations, there is the street that has trees in the road, not on the pavement. There was also a shop that had a well sunk in its floor, it must have been fenced off though! All the times I went to Castlerigg I never went to see the pencil museum. There was though the trip up the stone circle.

Saturday night entertainment was interesting, as I’d missed our school’s first visit to Castlerigg I should have realised the enthusiasm of my “friends” to assist me into space had ulterior motives, you won’t be surprised to hear “my great step for mankind” ended with a jug of water being poured down my trouser leg. Another favourite was Humanus, a game were the computer controlling your Biosphere shut down, the result was a over-competitive boy sat in a darkened room on his own, confused, wondering what the future would hold, whilst all his friends, having given up ages ago were enjoying the social, laughing at the very lonely, last surviving human, learning a valuable life lesson.

Sunday mass in the Chapel was a real celebration, we had previously prepared our prayers, bidding prayers, which always included “having a safe journey home.” The sign of peace was also not universally included in masses throughout the diocese, but was also enthusiastically undertaken, on what we realised was the final day with our new friends. It was also unheard of to receive Communion under both kinds as we did at Castlerigg, but it was though a special memory that we could share when we got home.

It was at Castlerigg that I saw a picture of Pope John Paul 1 which encouraged me to write to the Vatican to obtain a copy for myself. I still have the picture and always wonder when I look at it, what if?

Someone tried to encourage us to join a “Friends of Castlerigg organisation” but we were the wrong age to engage with this endeavour. There was also a social night in Preston that we were happy to support.

I can also remember a fund raising event at Castlerigg, which may have been a sponsored walk, but again my special memory was an outside mass celebrated on the lower lawn.

It was always interesting to meet children from towns and cities from other parts of the diocese, and as Frankie Valley used to say ” Who loves you pretty baby?”

Ian Hunter.

Holy Family, Barrow, Crusaders Youth Club

August 1990

My late Mother and I took 5 boys and 5 girls for a long weekend to Castlerigg Manor.

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On the afternoon we arrived we had a few hours playing tennis and putting.  On the way back to the Manor we took the children to the Pencil Factory and it was very interesting.

DAY TWO After Breakfast, the boys had a look around the Car Museum and the girls went around the shops and again played tennis and putting.  In the evening the children watched a video, with crisps and various juice drinks they loved it.

DAY THREE In the morning we a leisurely few hours around the Manor before Mass at 12 noon. Some of the boys took part in the bidding prayers.  After lunch we went into Keswick for a sail on Derwent Water, and there was a games room where the children played.

DAY FOUR  After Breakfast we went into Keswick for the last time to do last minute shopping etc.  We visited the park again for tennis, putting, and bowls and then returned to the Manor.  We had a very enjoyable time.  The children that went were getting ready for St Bernard's Senior School.

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Nine children went to Castlerigg Manor for a Diocesan Day of celebration.  There were many activities including Football, Face painting, Glass engraving,  Mask making, Treasure Hunt, our boys got the semi-final in the 5-a side football.  The day ended with open air Mass.

Ms Barbara M Grisdale (Former Youth Leader)

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It’s an amazing place to be

I am so grateful for the experience I had at Castlerigg over a weekend with the Alpha group from my parish. I hadn’t expected it to be a life changing weekend.. but it was!

I had been praying in the chapel with and there I came so much closer to God, my faith grew so much within 2 hours. I hadn’t gone in there intentionally for anything to change but a lot did. Firstly I had been praying for my sister who has struggled with addiction for many years I prayed for her to find God and find peace, then I prayed for myself to find strength in all areas my life to stay positive and strong as it’s quite hard to stay hopeful when trying to help someone suffering with addictions. Then I prayed for my partner to be happy as he was struggling with depression and was quite down at the time. Our group leaders prayed over me during this time.

I left the chapel in floods of tears of relief - feeling that I had got everything out. One of the leaders came to find me with a book called “God’s guide to anti-depression” and I thought oh great now they think I need help and I’m depressed.... So I went to one of the quiet rooms at the front of the house and read the book. Then thought hmm yeah, that’s about right. When I got home had a cigarette which was the last one in my packet and remembered the line in the book “He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. A human being has life and death before him whichever he prefers will be given to him” (Ecclesiastes 15:16-17) So I threw the packet away and that was that (4 months ago) Then to my amazement I said to my partner... read this book!! So he read it, and joined the gym. Then I said to my sister read this book!! She went to an AA meeting the following night. Then onto rehab and is now in recovery and going to Church!

So the book went in my bag to work where I told a girl I work with about it who gave it to her partner who began counselling sessions shortly after to find some long lost peace of his own.

The book is now in our next Alpha and making its way around to those who need it.

So In one short trip to Castlerigg God answered all my prayers, gave me strength hope and faith where I needed it, I made new friends and spent some amazingly peaceful time being able to connect with God and not have any daily disturbances.

Thank you to everyone at Castlerigg. It’s an amazing place to be.


Far too much love

One of the many many positive memories that I have of my school retreats from Our Lady's Lancaster to Castlerigg, was on one of the hikes that we went on over the hills. It was a cold day when we set out, but we soon warmed up & ended up with our jumpers round our waists. However, at the top of a deep ravine, my jumper became undone & tumbled down the very very steep hillside. I was upset (my older sister had spent many hours whilst away at University knitting this beautiful cable knit sweater for me) but resigned to it's loss. However, the young school chaplain who was with us, a certain Father Paul Swarbrick, insisted on heroically climbing down the ravine to retrieve it for me. His reasoning being 'there was far too much love and hard work put into that to leave it'. This, I maintain, was a real indicator of the character and values of the man who would go onto become Bishop of Lancaster!

Castlerigg Manor in the 1980s

We have wonderful memories of three or four visits to Castlerigg in the 1980s.

Beautiful gardens with views of amazing mountains all around – we climbed our first Wainwrights leading to a lifelong love of the mountains.

Prayer sessions and a chapel with cushions on the floor, something we had never seen before. The food was always lovely, especially the apple crumble!

We played games, explored the gardens in the dark and the disco on the final night of our first visit with St Bernard’s is still a memory to smile about.

A special place – long may it continue to shape the young people of the future……..


Julie & Gillian Flanagan (Sacred Heart – Barrow)