Built by a successful shoe manufacturer named Thomas Plant in 1913, the Lucknow Estate was situated on a 6,300-acre property in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, overlooking the Ossipee Mountains. The original estate was extravagant — it featured a 16-room mansion, stables, six-car garage, tennis court, manmade lake, greenhouse, boathouse on Lake Winnipesaukee, and miles of on-property walking and carriage trails. The mansion and associated property speaks to the success of Plant, who erected the structures at a time when the average individual didn’t own one car, let alone multiple.
The mansion, which featured progressive architectural and construction technology like steel beams and poured concrete, also was designed to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape surrounding it, showing his appreciation for the beauty of the Lakes Region.
The Lucknow Estate was opened to the public in 1959 under the name “Castle in the Clouds,” becoming a tourist attraction in the years ahead while maintaining the grandeur it was originally intended to have.
Today, the Castle’s future continues to be preserved, ensuring guests for generations to come will be able to explore a piece of Lakes Region history. Those who visit will find a number of things to do while they’re there.
Relax at Shannon Pond and the Meadows
Shannon Pond is the manmade pond built by Plant during the early 20th century. While the pond was and continues to be stocked with trout, no fishing is allowed — but watching as the trout surface is encouraged. Café in the Clouds, a small café located near the pond, sells food for guests to feed the fish and birds. On occasion, trout will perform a display of acrobatics when food is tossed their way.
The pond, and adjacent Meadows, is a tranquil place, perfect for relaxing, enjoying a good book, having a bite to eat at the picnic tables, or even simply soaking in the view of Mount Roberts, Mount Faraway, Mount Shaw and the surrounding Ossipee Mountains.
Tour the Lucknow Mansion and gardens
Tours of the mansion begin with a basic orientation, familiarizing visitors with what they will be looking at — Plant’s story and the history behind the estate. Tours through the mansion, which begin after the orientation, are self-guided and shine light on the inner workings of the building, including the central vacuuming system and cutting-edge architectural design work.
Guests also are welcome to stroll through the gardens, which are maintained for the public and are located behind the mansion. There also are special children-focused activities to get the younger members of the family engaged.
Explore the castle’s basement
While touring the basement of a building doesn’t sound appealing at its surface, tours of the Castle’s basement actually reveal a lot about its construction and how it was operated during the early 20th century.
Self-guided tours, which run approximately 45 minutes, give guests a glimpse into the Plants’ lives by highlighting the modern (for the time) appliances and amenities, as well as aspects of the building that were unique at the time of construction.
Hike the trails around the property
The Lakes Region Conservation Trust maintains 28 trails around Castle in the Cloud’s 5,500-acre property. These hiking trails feature a number of waterfalls and scenic views of the Ossipee Mountains. In fact, one of the trails, known as “Brook Walk,” brings hikers to seven separate waterfalls, including a 40-foot plunge waterfall. There are signs along the trails that include historic descriptions of features and old photos, giving visitors a view into what these trails and points of interest looked like over a century ago.
In the winter, the hiking trails and carriage roads are perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Enjoy a meal at the Carriage House Restaurant
Perched on a property high point, the Carriage House Restaurant features an outdoor terrace with mountain and lake views, inviting guests to enjoy a meal in one of the most picturesque locations in the Lakes Region. While operators are not currently serving lunch for the 2021 season due to a labor shortage, they do host a summer music series (keep your eyes open for the summer 2022 schedule).
This fall, the best option for food is at Café in the Clouds, located in the Meadows near Shannon Pond. The café serves ice cream, wraps, salads, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, among other light offerings, making it a great stop after a hike around the trails or a tour of the mansion. If bad weather is expected, check ahead of time to ensure the café will be open.