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Askham Hall, The Lake District, England

Harriet Upjohn

Where Is It: The Lake District, Cumbria, UK.

Why Go: This is the real deal…a grand old mansion where you’re invited to make yourself at home.

Best For: Couples – the perfect romantic weekend escape.

Three Things We Loved: Huge bedroom, a relaxed vibe, ancient house and gardens big enough to get lost in.

The Ultimate Factor: HRH slept here.


With a cannonball propping open the front door and two weathered stone griffins standing guard outside the entrance, Askham Hall has the air of an eccentric uncle’s rambling country pile. It is the sort of place where you might expect to find a retired colonel reading The Times by the fire in the library or a duchess taking tea in the drawing room. And therein lies its appeal. But you don’t have to be a colonel or a duchess to feel welcome at this luxury boutique hotel. The owners of Askham Hall, which has been in the same family for more than 200 years, invite their guests to treat the place as their own – and that means you’re free to explore the house and 40 acres of gardens to your heart’s content. The small team of staff manages to tread that fine line between discretion and efficiency whereby they’re almost invisible and yet easy to find when you need them.

Set among rolling hills near Penrith in the English Lake District, Askham Hall dates back to the thirteenth-century. The oldest part, a former fortified pele tower with turrets and ramparts, overlooks a sweeping lawn bordered by a yew topiary and lush herbaceous borders. While the original purpose of the building was to keep out marauding Picts and Scots, today, thankfully, the welcome mat is out to all. Askham Hall’s owners first opened the house to visitors in 2014 with the aim of creating not so much a luxury hotel but “a wonderful restaurant with lovely bedrooms”. But while the place looks stately and magnificent – a bit like something out of a Bronte novel – the atmosphere is refreshingly informal.

Having said that, it’s hard not to feel like royalty as you sweep down the main oak staircase, boards creaking beneath you as you go, and cross the stone-flagged hall into an enormous drawing room. Here there is a grand piano, Persian rugs, log fire, sumptuously upholstered sofas and chairs, and tapestry-covered ottomans. The décor is rich, luxurious and eclectic. A modern chandelier hangs from the centre of the high ceiling and there are fascinating old photo albums and books to browse through; on the walls classic and contemporary artworks sit comfortably side by side. The feeling is of a grand family drawing room – full of interesting books and bits and pieces collected from all over the world. Off this room are a snooker room (with full-size snooker table) and a library where you can brush up on Voltaire or the finer points of breeding horses and help yourself to a drink from an honesty bar – they mean it when they say make yourself at home here.

The Accommodation:

The jewels in the crown of Askham Hall’s 12 guestrooms are the six in the pele tower with views of the gardens and River Lowther through leadlight mullioned windows. Each comes with an interesting story and some unique features. The Admiral’s Room, for example, is where the Duke of Edinburgh stayed during private visits to Askham while competing in carriage driving at the nearby Lowther Show. Meanwhile the WC in the Yew Room is in what used to be a priest’s hole. The Wellingtonia Room has an original stone fireplace, while the Lonsdale Room, complete with original 7-foot four-poster bed, used to be the private bedroom of the Earl and Countess of Lonsdale. All these rooms have a Nespresso machine and mini bar/larder including a jug of fresh milk and complimentary still and sparkling water from Askham Hall’s own spring. The six other rooms are in the seventeenth-century wing of the house and have views over either the courtyard and stable block or river and kitchen gardens. All guestrooms have flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, Bluetooth radios, telephones and a beautiful range of natural handmade bath and body products by English company, Bramley.

Where We Stayed:

We were assigned the Admiral’s Room, and it’s not hard to understand why this was HRH’s favourite. Situated in the east corner of the tower, it is a room of grand proportions with a cream carpet, duck-egg blue walls, heavy gold brocade curtains and views to the south and east through two large windows. A separate toilet and bathroom with antique claw-foot bath, both with windows overlooking the gardens, are accessed from the bedroom via a private corridor.

What Else Is There:

At Askham Hall’s award-winning restaurant the emphasis is on fresh, home-grown and locally sourced fare. Much of the produce is grown in the estate’s own orchards and gardens or sourced from neighbouring farms and rivers. It is open to non-residents for lunch and dinner. Fittingly for a large English country house, breakfast in the restaurant has an air of relaxed civility. Guests are offered the morning papers and in summer, if the sun is shining, the doors are opened to the garden giving the space a lovely alfresco feel. And, of course, locally-produced fare has a starring role: homemade jams, muesli and bread; sausages and bacon from Askham Hall’s free-range pork, eggs from the estate’s chickens and local smoked kippers. An alternative dining venue, the kitchen garden café, is open between 10am and 5pm for pizzas, light meals and snacks. Askham Hall has an outdoor heated pool and sauna. In-room spa treatments, while offered, are outsourced so need to be booked in advance. 

Read our full dining review.

The Verdict:

An invitation to “please treat it as your own home” pretty much sums up what a stay at this historic luxury boutique hotel is all about.

Askham Hall is located in Askham, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2PF, UK,

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