Saturday, May 30, 2015


Of course, it was not all walking the high fells on our recent break. We also visited some three very interesting gardens, each of them unique in its way.

First, we went to Dalemain.  The house here was developed from a very early pele tower, through an Elizabethan manor house to a Georgian pile, each distinct phase of the building clearly visible today.  Thus, you enter a hallway with high ceilings and elegant proportions, and move back through plasterwork ceilings to very thick walls and uneven floors.  How odd to have all these periods still represented, in a house still used by the original family.

Dalemain's more recent claim to fame is as the setting for an international marmalade competition, and jars of marmalade from across the world are on display. Many varieties are on sale in their shop.

Later in the week we went to Lowther Castle, recently the venue of the Antiques Roadshow.  It was emphasised very clearly to us that the house is a ruin and the vast gardens are only just being brought back to life.  Presumably people have asked for their money back before now.

The story here is fascinating:  the castle was built in the early nineteenth century by the Lowther family who owned huge areas of land and  coalmines in Cumberland.  Anyone with socialist hackles will feel them rise when looking at the crazy extravagance on display here.  One of the Lowthers visited Versailles and on his return laid out three grand avenues in the garden.

However, all is now ruined as the fifth earl squandered the fortune; the roof of the castle was removed after the war, apparently to avoid death duties.  Until recently, huge sheds for rearing chickens stood on the lawns behind the house.  Now, they have been restored. 

Everywhere there is evidence of very elaborate garden layouts still completely overgrown; the effect is actually rather charming.

We took our tea at Askham Hall, another seat of the Lowthers, about five minutes away. 

This is on a totally different scale; the gardens here are impeccable, as it is a wedding venue and country house hotel. 
Tea was served in a converted cow-byre, its wooden stalls and ironmongery still in position.  Very good it was too.

1 comment:

LizM said...

Looks like a you had a marvellous break. Congratulations on climbing those 'mountains', they look to be quite an achievement at any age.