Castle in the Clouds | On Top of the World in New Hampshire
A trip to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, reveals there’s even more here than the architecturally fascinating home offering stunning views high above Lake Winnipesaukee. There’s also a great story—and a full day of exploration and entertainment. The home was built by Thomas Plant (1859-1941), the shoe-manufacturing mogul of his era who lived that age-old tale of building wealth and then dying broke. Poor Thomas. Ahh, but we need not offer him too much pity. He enjoyed this magnificent spot for many years, and thanks to continued preservation efforts, the rest of us can swing in for a visit too.
The climb to the clouds begins by car. The narrow winding pavement is vaguely reminiscent of a Caribbean island main road, but thankfully, this ascent is one-way only.
Carry on past “The Pebble” and up to the first parking area. Now, considering that this is “The Pebble”…
… Expectations for the “Scenic Viewpoint” were quite high. But first, a quick stop at the “Falls of Song.” The cascading waters are just a short stroll into the edge of the woods along wooden decking.
As anticipated, the Scenic Overlook did not disappoint. Since we were not yet at the halfway mark up this “driveway”, it was just a hint of the views to come.
Arriving at the Carriage House, it was time to forego the car. A classic red trolley and its capable driver swiftly transports guests the remainder of the route up to “Lucknow,” the Castle in the Clouds.
Reaching the pinnacle, we’re greeted by one of the many knowledgeable volunteer docents on site, and ushered into the sun parlor (as in fancy enclosed porch) for a short orientation where we learned a little about Thomas, his wives, and how this incredible home came to be built so high on this mountainside. And, then we were off to explore the home and grounds at our own pace.
Although “Lucknow” is a sizeable house, it’s not overwhelming or over the top ornate like, say, the Newport mansions. In fact, it has a warm and comfortable appeal—perhaps that’s owing to the extensive woodwork, or just the way the Arts & Crafts style home is designed to meld with the landscape’s natural beauty. A true country retreat, it’s easy to envision a family enjoying time here (with the aid of hired help, of course). What’s odd is that Thomas Plant created a private little room under the staircase—the most modest “man cave” ever. He had a lovely office, an expansive library, sixteen rooms within “Lucknow” and 6,300 acres of land…. why would he want to sit in a windowless space under the stairs? Shoe moguls; go figure. Personally, I’d be spending time out on the veranda…
Back at the Carriage House, the small art gallery is worth a peek before settling in for a little lunch at the Café (an outside table positions you to enjoy more amazing views). Afterward, a long walk along the many manicured trails (28 miles of trails over 5,300 acres) is hard to resist. Unless you prefer to travel by horse-drawn carriage, or try your hand at horseback riding (reservations recommended). The barn is home to several horses and ponies, the most notable of which is Zeus, the 3000 pound Belgian draft horse. Zeus is impressive, but sorry, mere mortals cannot ride him (no saddle fits, anyway) though the gentle giant will pose for photos.
Just a short distance from the barn is the clear water of Shannon Lake, filled with rainbow trout. Huge rainbow trout. Feeding them from the quarter-for-a-fistful fish food dispensers led to unexpected entertainment as they jumped and jostled for their treats.
Castle in the Clouds is open weekends beginning in mid-May, then daily through late October. Visit now for lush green foliage and flowers in bloom, then again when the place is sporting the vivid colors of fall. It’s, as we say in Yankee’s calendar pages, “well worth the drive.”
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