Cumbria is well endowed with properties that are free to enter for members of Historic Houses, with ten in total spread around this large, scenic county.
During a short visit to Cumbria in June 2021, we managed to visit three of these sites in one afternoon. All three are just a few miles south of Penrith and in each case the gardens proved to be the main attraction.
Lowther Castle and Morland House Gardens are open almost every day throughout the year, whereas Askham Hall Gardens are closed during the winter months.
It is always advisable to check opening times on a property’s website before visiting as special events can lead to closures.
It became immediately apparent as we approached the magnificent Gothic structure of Lowther Castle that it had no windows or roof!
Nearby there is a building with a roof, but that is the Visitor Centre and Exhibition. There we learned of the Lowther family’s long association with the castle and something of the early history of the site, which apparently dates back to a Viking named Dolfin in 1150.
The ups and downs of the Lowther family are well described in the Exhibition and a high point of the family in the mid-18th Century is evidenced by a massive collection of silver.
Family extravagance in the 20th Century led to castle being abandoned in 1936 and then, following sale of the contents, the roof was removed in 1957. Rescued from dereliction, the site reopened in 2011 with gardens planted both within the castle and throughout its extensive grounds.
Some gardens and borders follow ancient ancient designs, others are completely new in their style. Dotted around the grounds are several attractive wooden summerhouses.
We spent almost two hours wandering through the gardens and along attractive flower-lined pathways in the grounds into the woodland areas, before returning to the castle along the banks of the flower-filled Jack Croft’s Pond. Some of the gardens, like the New Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden, are still being developed.
If you have children in tow, then an Adventure Play Area based around a massive wooden castle should keep them amused for quite some time. There is a café in the Visitor Centre and a small shop.
Askham Hall Gardens
Askham Hall is just a mile or so away from Lowther Castle across the River Lowther. It was the home of the Lowther family for 200 years, but was converted ten years ago into a luxury restaurant and wedding venue.
The day we visited a large wedding was in full flow, but we were still able to wander around the well manicured gardens. A 200 ft herbaceous border stands between two terraces and leads down to formal lawns, woodland and a pond.
There is a small kitchen garden near the restaurant, from where there are sweeping views along the River Lowther. But that was about it, and with the refreshment facilities closed because of the wedding, there was nothing to keep us, so we headed off after about half an hour.
Morland House Gardens
Morland House, which is about five miles east of Askham Hall, is now a hotel, but the gardens are open to the public. It was originally a vicarage and was home to the Markham family for almost 200 years.
The four acres of gardens are set out around Morland Beck, which can be crossed by a bridge or stepping stones. There is a small waterfall in the middle section of the beck and a Victorian quarry garden on the far side with a grotto and cliff top walk.
Nearer the house there is a rose garden and herbaceous borders alongside an old stone wall. All very pleasant to wander around, but once again half an hour there was about long enough.
Entry to the Lowther Castle is £12 for adults and £9 for children. However if you take up annual membership with Historic Houses, you will get free entry, plus free entry to 300 other heritage sites including Askham Hall Gardens and Morland House Gardens. Enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’ and new members will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.
We have reviewed several other properties under Historic Houses and see also: Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?
POSTED 28th OCTOBER 2021 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.