An Arts and Crafts mansion with stunning views of Lake Winnipesaukee, Castle in the Clouds is a must-visit in New Hampshire's Lakes Region! I revisited Castle in the Clouds for the first time since a grade-school field trip, and I was blown away by the views. Post includes what you need to visit this unique New Hampshire attraction!

Castle in the Clouds—a gorgeous mansion with an even more stunning view

Stepping onto the lawn of the Lucknow mansion, otherwise known as Castle in the Clouds, nestled in the Ossipee Mountains above New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee will take your breath away. I don’t believe a better view of the lake exists.

It’s easy to see how a wealthy factory owner and his wife would choose to retire there. I wish I could retire there. And then, there’s the gorgeous early twentieth century Arts and Crafts mansion that is the Castle in the Clouds. A masterpiece of design and technological innovation, the house is a must-do while you’re visiting New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.

Images in this post are mine and are used with the kind permission of the Castle Preservation Society.

Caslte in the Clouds

View from the Boudoir at Castle in the Clouds. The balcony looks over the green forest in summer down to Lake Winnipesaukee. Inside, the balcony is roped off, and a couch and chair are visible on the half-carpeted floor with a pad leading to the balcony view

Memories of an elementary school field trip

What I remembered most about Castle in the Clouds, though, were the bathrooms. That and being super bitter that another classmate got to ride in Mrs. Bunker’s sparkly blue Corvette when the first-grade classes of Pleasant Street School took our field trip there.

Impressed with the bathrooms

You see, the bathrooms as Castle in the Clouds were impressive, and our interpreter had made a big point of telling our lively group of first graders that  toilets didn’t always flush in those days. Thomas Plant believed that the needle showers (which look like a torture device inspired by a medieval corset) throughout the house would improve his health and the health of his wife and guests.

Learned the word “penniless”

They were apparently also very expensive, because the other thing that I learned while standing in the bathroom at the Lucknow estate all those years ago was that the man who built it died “penniless,” a word I learned that day.

I had not appreciated the view

We had a picnic lunch out on the lawn, and, until I returned last summer to tour Castle in the Clouds, I hadn’t been back to see the castle since the first grade. I didn’t even really remember what the outside looked like.

And, apparently, I hadn’t appreciated the view, because it floored me way more than the bathrooms did. 

Though the needle showers remain a bit disconcerting.

Visiting Castle in the Clouds as an adult

As part of my Summer Bucket List last year, I decided to revisit Castle in the Clouds. One of the most popular tourist attractions in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Castle in the Clouds is much more than an stunning mansion. Castle in the clouds sits on a huge estate that’s now managed by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust. The grounds are free to hike and stroll, and there are also concerts and fairs held on the grounds throughout the summer.

There was a wedding later, but plenty of time to tour the mansion

I drove past a food truck fair on my way in. While I was tempted, I was there to tour the Castle, so I made my way to the gift shop to get my ticket. I’m afraid that I didn’t notice the additional basement tour, but it was OK. An excuse to go back! There was a wedding scheduled for later that afternoon, but I had plenty of time to tour the Lucknow Mansion and the surrounding lawn before wedding guests began to arrive.

Walk up or take the trolley?

I slapped the sticker on my dress and walked up to the Carriage House to catch the trolley. I didn’t remember the trolley from when I was a kid, which makes me think that it might have been a new addition following the acquisition of the estate by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and reducing traffic near the house.

You can walk up to the house, too, but I thought a trolley sounded fun. One had just left for the mansion, so I had a few minutes before the next one. I peeked into the Carraige House and then waited outside with the other guests.

A short ride

Once everyone boarded the trolley, we were off, wending our way up the short, wooded drive to the Lucknow mansion. As I had expected, I didn’t recognize the stunning Arts and Crafts home, built in stone, with exposed beams in the European style along the roofline and a rust-colored roof that softened it. Though stone homes are unusual in New England—most tend to be wood—but the mansion sat in harmony with the stunning natural landscape.

Introductions in the Sun Parlor

A interpreter ushered us onto the Sun Parlor, which has since been glassed in, for an introduction to the house and to Thomas Plant, its original owner. We also learned about the technological innovations in the house, including the aforementioned showers, the intercom system, a central vacuum, and electricity, which was rare for rural New Hampshire at the time.

Rags to riches and back again

We learned of Plant’s rise to riches, his marriage to Olive Dewey (though not about the apparently nasty divorce that ended his first marriage just before he went on the European trip where he met Olive). We then learned about his poor investments, which led to the property being leveraged to the hilt, even prior to the 1929 stock market crash. Plant indeed died penniless, and his wife was forced to leave Lucknow, and she returned to her family in the Midwest.

About Castle in the Clouds

A house that changed hands—and first opened as a tourist attraction

Following the Plants’ departure, the house went into foreclosure, before being sold to a family who used it as a summer home. In the late 1950s, Richard Robie bought it and opened it up as an attraction called Castle in the Clouds. These owners were less concerned with historic preservation—at one point there was a go-kart track! My first-grade field trip was in this era, but maybe our teachers kept us away from them. I definitely think I would have remembered go-karts.

It then sold to an investor who developed part of the property to be the Castle Springs bottled-water company that also had Lucknow Brewery in the 1990s. They kept the museum open, but the main draw was a tour of the bottled-water plant and brewery.

A new focus on preservation

In 2002 the Lakes Region Conservation Trust bought the property. The house and buildings have been restored and maintained by the Castle Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization created expressly for the mansion, and the trust manages the grounds. The Castle Preservation Society has done excellent work in restoring the mansion in a historically proper manner.

Time to explore!

With the introduction done, we were told that we were free to explore the mansion (obviously, keeping our hands to ourselves and following any instructions). In each room, we would find guides providing interesting details about what the rooms contained.

Before I toured the house, I wanted a better look at the grounds. I strolled across the front lawn and through the covered walkway to the back lawn and gasped. What a view! I really must have really been caught up in my jealousy over not getting to ride in the Corvette or still mulling over the needle shower concept to have forgotten this moment from my first-grade field trip.

What an incredible view!

I have seen some stunning views of lakes and mountains around here. The guy who named this place Castle in the Clouds was right. From our vantage point, it appeared that we were looking down at the few fluffy clouds floating over the islands of Lake Winnipesaukee. The lake, surrounded by old, worn down mountains stretched out before us, and the rolling hill down to it was nothing but green from the trees. A warm summer day felt cooler up here.

The lawn

It took a little effort to tear myself away from the edge of the lawn to explore the grounds and the house. Other than a small fountain, with a small metal sculpture placed on natural stone and surrounded by chive flowers, the landscape was minimal, allowing it to blend into the forest below. From what I understand, there had been more of a clearing in its Lucknow years but the hillside had been allowed to grow back.

I then admired more of the exterior of the house, the green-and-white awnings and the unusual-for-New-England exposed wooden supports in the stone. The tower with its rounded roof made me think of fairy tales. I could have spent all day out on the lawn, but I had a house to tour.

What is Arts and Crafts architecture?

Developed in England in the mid-nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts architecture arose as a counterpoint to the industrial revolution. It is most associated with William Morris. Instead of mass production, designs in the Arts and Crafts style focused on the handmade and craftmanship using traditional materials and building methods. The movement spread, and found a foothold in Boston before spreading to other parts of the country. Houses in New England would often have exposed beams, open floor plans, locally sourced materials, and natural influences. Arts and Crafts homes often had art glass, and handmade metallic and tile elements. The style flourished in the US from the late nineteenth century until the first World War.

Entering the Castle in the Clouds

From the rear lawn, you enter the Hall, where guests could gather and play billiards or listen to organ music from the piped organ. The dim lighting accentuated the masculine feel of the room, with hunting trophies in on the walls and dark wood paneling. A wide doorway offered sweeping views. The Dining Room off to the side was surprisingly small, if very well appointed, with flooring that exemplifies the Arts and Crafts style.

Throughout the house, you’ll find helpful descriptions of each room, including laminated guides that point out interesting features. The brochure you receive with your ticket also has a map with the layout of the house.

The Butler’s Pantry, Servant’s Hall, and the Kitchen

We then walked through the Butler’s Pantry and kitchen, where the floors had a green-and-white square tiled pattern. It felt different, and I read that the tiles were made of rubber, which cut down on noise and made them easier to clean, improving the sanitation of the kitchen. And you’ll also find a telephone and intercom, to answer requests, one of the state-of-the-art technological innovations of the house. I learned these from the helpful laminated guides placed in each room of the house to enhance the self-guided tour.

Off the kitchen was the room where the servants ate their meals. It had the same flooring as the kitchen. Windows let in light, though these rooms were brighter than the rest of the house.

Thomas Plant’s Office and the Recreation Room

I continued to walk through the first floor, stopping in Thomas Plant’s office. A replica of a newspaper from the Great Depression era lay on the desk, highlighting the difficult financial situation Plant found himself in in his later years.

The front door led into the Hall as well, and off the front door was a small room with recreational equipment, including golf clubs (there’s a nearby course that had once been part of the property).

Guest Chamber—and the first needle shower!

From there, we entered the first Guest Chamber, which had a bedroom with lovely views and an en suite bathroom, which was very rare at the time. It was there I saw the first of the needle showers in the house. When you see them, you’re going to know why they stuck out in a child’s memory. They do not look inviting at all, but they were the absolute height of wellness for the time. I’m rather surprised that Stephen King hasn’t included these in one of his books.

Be on the lookout for roundels

You also see two examples of the twenty-one ornate painted roundels set into the windows. Pay close attention to these, as they depict scenes from the surrounding landscape.

Up to the second floor

From there, I walked back through the Hall up the main staircase to the second floor, as the Library had a lot of people in it (the advantage of a self-guided tour is that you can just skip around a bit). The majority of the upper floor was devoted to the Plants’ living quarters, but a servant lived on the floor as well (they took a back staircase down toward the kitchen).

The view is part of the décor

The upper floor of the Lucknow mansion takes full advantage of the view, with large windows and a large balcony in the front of the house and a smaller one in back, looking down to the lake. You’ll find more roundels in the master bedroom and on the French doors leading to the rear balcony.

Technological innovations

The rooms have telephones and buzzers so that needs can be met, and elaborate closet space suggests large wardrobes. There are also 3.5 bathrooms on this floor, including a large master bathroom with a needle shower and a bathtub, as well as his and hers commodes. Other bathrooms on the floor had bathtubs.

A Guest Chamber with a stunning wood floor

One of the guest suites had an absolutely stunning wooden floor, laid in a star design. This reflects the Arts and Crafts design of the house, with an emphasis on handicraft. The suite also has more roundels depicting flowers found on the property. In many of the rooms, you’ll find little signs of the Plants’ dedication to health and sanitation. This guest suite has a nail grooming kit from Cutex.

How guests traveled to Lucknow

In the early twentieth century, traveling to the Lucknow estate would have presented challenges. Cars were not altogether common, and the roads would have been rough. One of the placards shares that it was more common for guests to take the train to Weirs Beach and then take a ferry across Lake Winnipesaukee. From there, they would need to hire a coach or be picked up by the estate’s chauffeur. Judging from the arrangements once they arrived, I would have angled for repeat invites, even with this journey!

Trunk Room

The first of my two favorite rooms on the upper floor was the Trunk Room because there you’ll find fabulous 1920s women’s clothing. Guests could use this room to store their suitcases and hang their dresses for parties. The shoe collection is enviable!

The Attendant Room—my favorite

My true favorite room on the second floor was the little sewing room, called the Attendant Room, with a gorgeous Singer sewing machine and a slanted roof and simple wooden flooring. The window let in lots of light and looked out toward the lake, and the wallpaper had these birds flying around delicate vines. I don’t sew, but this was a room I could picture spending hours in reading, writing, and gazing out the window.

The Owner’s Chamber

I have to say, with the exception of the view, the master bedroom underwhelmed me a bit. The beds, two twins placed together in the fashion of the time, were interesting, evoking an Asian feel. but the carpet that would have been the height of fashion back in the day didn’t thrill me, and I found the wallpaper a bit drab. Olive had a dressing area, and both had large closets outside the room, which perhaps was the reason for the simple quarters.

The view, however? Stellar. Roundels in this room depict irises and other flowers found on the estate.

The Servants’ Wing

Off to the back of the second floor was the servants’ wing. While modest, the room with its slanted walls under one of the eves was cozy, with two windows letting in lots of light and showcasing the views. Furnishings in the room were added later, as it is unknown what the room looked like or who lived there. The servant’s quarters only had one bedroom, so most of the other servants lived offsite.

Servants also had their own bathroom with a tub and flush toilet. A telephone in the room allowed them to be available at all times (oh hurrah).

From the servants wing, a steep staircase leads back down to the butler’s pantry and kitchen.

Exploring the Library

With other visitors upstairs, I made my way down to the Library, which is a marvel of Arts and Crafts design—and it has a secret room! I have to say that I’m rather surprised my younger self did not remember such a premium hiding place! The interpreter in the room said that it could potentially be used for eavesdropping on guest’s conversations!

Unique features & artwork

The Library featured hand woven silk wallpaper, which has been painstakingly restored. The plushest furniture is in here, with a library nook complete with a fireplace. There’s a window above the fireplace overlooking a mountain. A placard explained that this required some careful designing of the chimney in order to allow smoke to escape, while still offering the view.

Much of the artwork in the room comes from the Plants’ original collection, and the windows have some of the best roundels, including one depicting what the view looked like at the time of Lucknow’s building.

Winding my way back down from the clouds

From there, I wound my way back out to the yard, where they were setting up for the wedding later that afternoon. I took in the view a bit more, and then decided to make my way down the short pathway back to the Carriage House. As I made my way, I overheard visitors who had done the guided basement tour asking the interpreter about any hauntings at Lucknow. Alas, I didn’t hear the answer.

I walked down the hill, taking in various viewpoints (the one on the terrace of the Carriage House is particularly notable), delighted to have had such a lovely afternoon.

But I still didn’t get to ride in a sparkly blue Corvette.

View of the Lucknow Mansion, now known as Castle in the Clouds, from the Lawn. Image shows a wooden covered walkway in front of an Arts and Crafts stone mansion with a rounded tower, stone chimney, and half-timbered roof, and a lawn ringed with a flower garden on a sunny day

Plan your trip to Castle in the Clouds!

Visiting Castle in the Clouds is a must if you’re in the Lakes Region. Here’s what you need to know to get that incredible view for yourself!

Admission and crowds

  • The great house at Castle in the Clouds is open May to October. You can buy tickets online, which can be used throughout the season (they are not date specific). Besure to check the website for the latest information on hours and the private events calendar for special events that might have an impact on hours for a particular day. This is a popular wedding venue. They were setting up for one as I left.
  • Adult admission is $23 for a self-guided tour of the mansion. If you wish to include a 45-minute guided tour of the basement, total admission is $35 (includes the self-guided tour of the mansion). Be sure to check the website for updated Basement Tour Times.
  • This is a popular attraction, so you may wish to plan your visit for a weekday to ensure admission and parking during peak summer.

For your visit

  • It’s an easy walk up to the castle from the ticket counter, but there’s also a trolley that’s fun. I rode the trolley up and walked down.
  • Note that you cannot have food or drink, including water bottles, in the mansion. They also regulate backpacks, large bags, and umbrellas.
  • Interpreters are happy to answer questions, and there is helpful literature available in each room.
  • The Carriage House Restaurant boasts incredible views from the terrace, and it’s open for lunch and drinks. You’ll also find restrooms there.

Exploring the grounds

  • There’s 28 miles of hiking trails on the property, and there’s something for most fitness levels. Do be alert when walking, as wildlife, including bears, are present.
  • Wear good bug repellent and appropriate clothing if touring the grounds. Deer ticks are common in the area (be sure to check for them after your visit. They are very small).

Solo travel

This is an ideal solo travel activity, as you can visit at leisure, and you’ll be able to move around faster if it’s crowded. The walking trail down is easy and populated, so there shouldn’t be any safety issues.

Accessibility

This isn’t an ideal activity for people using wheelchairs or other mobility aids. They may be restricted, and there are no lifts to the upper floor in the house. The trolley is the only way up to the house, aside from walking. Upon request, video tours of the second floor is available.

Have you visited Castle in the Clouds?

What about you? Have you visited Castle in the Clouds in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region? What did you love the most? Let us know in the comments below!

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