We head to the north west of England in our Lexus CT to a couple of luxurious properties in Cumbria where we felt absolutely at home in a grandiose setting.
Lexus CT compact luxury tour: Scotland
Lexus CT compact luxury tour: The Midlands
Lexus CT compact luxury tour: The South
Lexus CT compact luxury tour: East Anglia
Lexus CT compact luxury tour: The Cotswolds
Near Penrith, Cumbria
When the Lowther family decided to extend a welcome to paying guests in their 13th century, grade 1 listed home in Cumbria, they did so without hiding the place of its homely feel. No matter how grand the surroundings, you will feel like this is a place where you can kick your shoes off at the door and curl up on the couch.
Feeling a million miles away from the rat race, surprisingly it’s only a 10-minute drive from the M6 and it makes a perfect weekend escape for anyone who likes the good things in life.
If you make it past the fierce-looking griffins guarding the main entrance, you’ll find a far warmer welcome indoors. But it’s never formal; staffing levels are not at usual hotel levels, for example. You won’t be clicking your fingers for a drink here, although there is always someone around to look after you. Just help yourself from the well-stocked honesty bar instead.
Askham Hall is surrounded by 40 acres of lush Cumbrian grazing land; the views from the Hall to the Eden Valley are wonderful. Beyond the topiary-lined gardens lie Knipe Scar and the River Lowther. You can feel the stress lift in a place like this, lounging on sofas piled with fat cushions and watching a crackling fire. With nothing to hear but birdsong and nothing to think about but what treats await at dinner time, it’s a hard place to leave.
Here at Askham Hall, your private quarters have more personality than the usual high-end hotel, which at times can feel rather identikit-deluxe. The 13 rooms feature oriental textiles, four-poster bedsteads, patchwork tiling and contemporary paintings and the requisite touches like power showers and Bluetooth radios. The Lonsdale Room is a favourite, with a fantastically decadent bathroom with canopied ceiling and views from its site in the hall’s 12th century Pele Tower.
It’s a hard place to leave
Chef Richard Swale is a local lad who went off to train in London, France and Denmark before returning to make his mark at Askham Hall. His menu makes full use of the on-site kitchen garden and game from the surrounding countryside, so expect the likes of Lowther venison, partridge and grouse to feature. Eat in the bright, restaurant with huge windows or for a cosier gathering, the private panelled dining room for residents is an exceptional setting for a celebration dinner – menus are available from around £45 per person.
The family have a stretch of the River Lowther available for fishing salmon and brown trout they may even ask to buy your catch for use in the restaurant or their nearby pub, the George and Dragon in Clifton. Or take the car to Ambleside, and return (via low gear) for a half of Cumbrian ale at the Kirkstone Pass Inn at the top of the hill known locally as The Struggle.
Back at Askham Hall, you can pre-book beauty and spa treatments so you look your best before that special dinner.
Very relaxed, slightly bohemian, totally wonderful. You’ll want to return.
Need to know:
Askham, Near Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2PF
Phone: 01931 712350
Rooms from £150
Luggage: Briggs and Riley
Driving on to another ancestral seat, the Graythwaite Estate has been home to the Sandys family for 500 years and now they’ve opened the gates to guests. And what a setting. There are more than 5000 acres of forest and woodland here, edging Lake Windermere.
There is a choice of 18 holiday cottages on the estate, but if you want to live in real luxury for a special occasion, there is something very special awaiting the most discerning guest. Silverhome is a magnificent Georgian manor house that sleeps 18, expertly renovated and furnished by Camilla Sandys in 2012.
Huge windows mean you can immerse yourself in those lake views and the best quality furnishings and equipment mean this is a self-catering experience like no other. There’s a surround-sound TV room, library, a private jetty… we could go on. You’ll even take pleasure in being in the kitchen, for example – hand built, with the latest technology and wide doors opening to lake vistas. Now that’s what we call a home from home.
There are eight rooms in the main house, all with light and luxurious soft furnishings, king-size or twin beds and killer views. The noisiest guests in your party won’t mind being ‘banished’ to the gatekeeper’s cottage, which takes the total of guests invited to eighteen. No one will feel short changed here – every room is perfect in its own way, with indulgent bathrooms and plenty of sofas to sprawl on.
You can choose to cook for your guests, with room for everyone to be seated in that that fantastic kitchen, or in the more formal dining room. The team at Silverholme can arrange for full gourmet catering or just a shopping delivery if you’d prefer. Your wish is their command.
Want to keep moving? There’s a concierge service here, so anything from a helicopter tour of the lakes and mountains to a Segway trail along the private roads of the estate can be arranged. Try clay pigeon shooting, take a hot air balloon ride or just get a league going in the table tennis room. You also have access to a fitness room and heated pool, so everyone should be happy, even those who want to sit in the perfect spot, G and T in hand and watch.
The best location for the most fantastic house party or special treat. If you’re on the guest list, you’ve truly arrived.
Need to know:
Graythwaite, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 8BA
Phone: 01539 531178
Silverholme sleeps 18 and is for hire from £4,000 for three nights’ exclusive use.
Lexus CT photography by John Rowley