Askham Hall: Staying in an 800-Year-Old Manor House
Lake District was such an unexpected lovely surprise – we often overlook exploring our country’s backyards since the rest of the world seems so much more exotic! – all-encompassing magnificent mountainous scenery, fantastic and challenging hiking opportunities, a proliferation of gorgeous flowers, wonderful boutique hotels and delicious food.Out of all the pleasant Lake District surprises staying at Askham Hall was a major highlight: an imposing family house for centuries past very recently converted into a luxurious 12-room boutique hotel and fine dining restaurant helmed by Richard Swale, who has previously worked at Noma in Copenhagen and a string of other renowned restaurants. The hotel is the brainchild of Charlie Lowther, the current owner of the Lowther Estate and a zealous foodie and restaurateur.
Askham Hall, and its bucolic setting in the beautiful 40 acres of land in the charming village of Askham, is the perfect place to relax both in the sunshine and the rain. Staying here could not feel further from staying in a hotel – regardless of the renovations, the manor house feels very old and authentic.
The wonky floors add an age-old charm. The firm and wide bed offered a comfortable sleep. The mullioned windows afforded splendid views of the surrounding fells and the exquisite gardens at the foot of the manor, and the broad windowsill was the perfect setting for contemplation about life and other things whilst gazing dreamily out. Or for drinking some English sparkling wine.
Ashkam Hall is attached to Lowther Castle and Gardens, a monumental Neo-Gothic edifice, abandoned shortly before the second world war and now under-reconstruction with the help of generous funding from various contributors.
And here is the shell of the castle itself…imposing, isn’t it?At Askham Hall, You do feel like you are a personal guest of the Lowthers. This has been the family home, since the castle itself was abandoned in the late 1930s. The shared area downstairs is an eclectic mix of old and new: antique furniture and family heirlooms are brought up to date with modern artworks collected by Charlie Lowther’s wife, Juno.
And then of course there is the fantastic restaurant, the centrepiece of the whole establishment, run by chef Richard Swale. A small, cosy, light-filled space with an open kitchen allowing the patrons to catch fleering glimpses of the talented young chef at work.The emphasis is put on fresh, local ingredients, many of which are grown in the sprawling hotel grounds or at Lowther Estate, and often-changing menus make the most of what is in season. During our dinner every single plate a taste sensation, the next course even better than the last. This is fine, yet unpretentious dining at its best – on par with what London has to offer (I am talking the Ledbury and Fera here). I would even say it is on par with world-famous L’Enclume, where we lunched en route to Askham Hall. The presentation of the food was absolutely stunning: just look at all the mouth-watering dishes I ate – actually more like devoured – below.
There was also an honesty bar stocked with a dizzying array of bottles, champagne and wine included. Get yourself a scotch and stretch out on the armchair next to the fireplace.