Penrith's Askham Hall to become a country hotel.
An historic hall near Penrith gets a new lease of life as a country hotel. Paul Mackenzie reports Photographs by: Kirsty Thompson
It’s as much a part of the Lakeland landscape as the hills and the tarns but Askham Hall is about to be given a new lease of life. The Grade One listed hall has been in the Lowther family since the 1830s but the last generation has now moved out and work is underway to transform the building into a hotel.
Charles and Juno Lowther are designing the hotel, where 13 bedrooms will open next spring, with 13 more following in the following months. The couple, who also redesigned the George and Dragon Inn in Clifton, aim to create a contemporary relaxing country retreat.
The gardens and caf� are already open at the hall, and Charles, who grew up there, said: ‘We’re really excited to have the opportunity to create such a special place for people to come and enjoy. Not only will there be the hotel, which will offer guests a stunning place for a country retreat, but people will also be able to enjoy the beautiful gardens and everything they have to offer.
‘It’s an absolute pleasure to see people enjoying the beautiful gardens and everything we have to offer here at Askham Hall. And by doing this we are protecting the future of this historic and important listed building.’ The hall, which stands near Askham village a few miles south of Penrith, grew out of a 14th century pele tower which was extended in the mid-1500s.
The Lowther family has owned the hall since the 1830s and it has been their home since they left nearby Lowther Castle, where a major renovation project is now underway.
The hotel project is the next step in Askham Hall’s future and Juno said: ‘This is a very important historic building in the area and this can ensure it has a safe future. It’s in a lovely spot, with glorious grounds and it really lends itself to being a lovely, secluded country retreat.
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‘The first rooms will be in old family bedrooms at the hall, so there’s not much restructuring needed. The interior design will be similar to the work we did at the George and Dragon.
‘The hall is a beautiful building and although we want the hotel to have contemporary d�cor, it will also be in keeping with the existing features of the building – we’re not ripping anything out and anything we add will compliment what’s there already.
‘We want the hotel to have a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, not to be a stuffy place where you feel you have to be on your best behaviour.’
The 12 acre gardens have been a long-term passion for Charles’s mother, Countess Caroline of Lonsdale, who is leaving the hall to live nearby. The gardens include long terraces of colourful herbaceous borders, topiary, ponds, meadows and wooded areas as well as a kitchen garden and stunning views of the River Lowther and Lowther Church.In one of the fields alongside the kitchen garden are rare-breed pigs and goats and shorthorn cattle.
A newly-designed, elegant garden room will be added to the existing building where guests can enjoy breakfasts and evening meals. The kitchen will be run by Paul McKinnon, executive chef at the George and Dragon.
He said: ‘The important thing for me will be our ongoing commitment to using the fantastic, simple, home grown garden food.
‘I can step into the garden, pick what I need and cook with it immediately. You can’t get fresher or more local than that.’
Paul will also oversee the Kitchen Garden Caf� which has been created in a Grade Two listed barn and serves coffees, homemade ice-cream and light meals and also has an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.
And Juno added: ‘There will be a private garden for residents too, as well a private spa and swimming pool. We are trying to ensure Askham Hall is a bit different to anything else on offer in the area.’
Askham Hall gardens and the Kitchen Garden Caf� will be open every day until November 4th when hours will be reduced through the winter, opening again on March 25th 2013. For more information log onto www.askhamhall.co.uk.