What is it? A new place to stay in the Lake District, which is full of traditional hotels but devoid, until recently, of new-wave addresses where you can kick back in style surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the land. Askham Hall, in a little-known area between Ullswater and the Eden Valley, joins that group with a very unusual combination: a Grade I-listed manor house that’s packed with history, charm and personality but is also funky, contemporary and eclectic.
Behind the scenes Owner Charlie Lowther has, with the permission of his mother Caroline, Countess of Lonsdale, refurbished and reinvented his beautiful family home, with its medieval peel tower and surrounding romantic gardens. He and his artist wife Juno have already made a success of the George and Dragon at nearby Clifton and the stylish Askham Hall Kitchen Garden Café, and are now intent on creating a spoiling Cumbrian bolthole where stuffiness is banished and the place is yours; it’s something between Shoreditch House and a private home. When you walk in, focus on the large portrait by Juno at the top of the stairs depicting a striking black woman. ‘It gives two fingers to all the old family portraits that hung there before,’ says Charlie. ‘It’s my mission statement about the new Askham Hall.’
Sleep To get rid of the hotel feel, room names are on the key fobs but not the doors, so finding yours at first (there are 13) can be an adventure. The rooms range from the extraordinary (Lonsdale, with a marvellously OTT canopied bathroom ceiling and matching wallpaper teeming with busy Balinese prints) to the nicely different (Park View, overlooking the River Lowther, with a gilded and mirrored door, open drench shower, antique sleigh bed and table for two in the window).
Eat Served in the airy bistro-style restaurant with its gaily patterned Spanish floor tiles or in the panelled and candlelit former family dining room, the food is sensational. Chef Richard Swale draws influence from, among others, Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken in Sweden and Shaun Hill of The Walnut Tree. Produce from the huge kitchen garden and the surrounding Lowther estates is key and the combinations are inspired: slow-cooked duck breast in vanilla oil, with fig, glazed foie gras, grilled leeks, walnut and salad burnet; Lowther venison with rosehip, Parmesan gnocchi, squash, kale and nasturtium. Home-preserved fruits and vegetables are used to great effect in winter, wild food such as garlic, mushrooms and alexanders in spring and autumn. Everything looks pretty, even the charmingly illustrated menu.
Who comes here? The arty, literary and lovers of the great outdoors.
We like The honesty bar. The addition of an outdoor pool and small spa.
We don’t like The entrance hall, chilly on our visit.
While you’re here Celebrated ceramicist Stuart Broadhurst made Askham Hall’s lovely dinner plates and his gallery and pottery (stuartbroadhurstceramics.co.uk) is in picturesque Askham, with its two pubs and thriving village stores. Entry to the hall’s gardens and farm is free for hotel guests. Walk through the woods to Low Gardens Bridge and up the drive to enigmatic Lowther Castle, which is surrounded by stately parkland.
Address: Askham Hall, Askham, Near Penrith, Cumbria
Telephone: +44 1931 712350
Price: Doubles from £150