Top 10 Historic Houses in the Lake District

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The Lake District is home to a number of historic houses, many of which also have beautiful gardens to enjoy on a warm sunny day. Here we've put together a selection of our favourites.

Some houses close on particular days and for special events, so remember to check opening times before you travel!

Muncaster Castle in the Lake District

1. Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass

Muncaster Castle has been home to the Pennington family since 1208, and has a rich and characterful history. It is believed to be standing on Roman remains, and has been extended and refurbished numerous times in the centuries since it was built. Muncaster is reputedly one of Britain's most haunted castles, with many of its ghostly tales centring around Tom Skelton, otherwise known as Tom Fool, who was court jester at Muncaster in the 16th century.

Today, the castle is bursting with things to do. As well as a tour of the interior, there are over 70 acres of garden to explore, including the spectacular rhododendron, camellia and azalea collections (spring is the time to visit!) and Himalayan Gardens. You can also visit the Hawk and Owl Centre in the gardens (check on the website for times of displays), MeadowVole Maze for children, playground, church and Creeping Kate's Café.

View our cottages in Ravenglass.

Hutton in the Forest in the Lake District

2. Hutton-in-the-Forest, Penrith

Starting out life as a medieval pele tower, Hutton-in-the-Forest has been added to across the centuries to create a fascinating record of architectural and interior style from the 17th century to this day. The gardens consist of a Walled Garden from the 1730s, terraces with topiary, the Low Garden and a woodland walk with a 17th century dovecote.

Home to Lord and Lady Inglewood, the house hosts a number of events through the year including Potfest in the Park, and has a tearoom serving light lunches and teas.

3. Dalemain, Penrith

The home of the Hasell-McCosh family, Dalemain began life as a pele tower in the 1100s. It was added to in later centuries, and now stands as a mixture of Medieval, Tudor and early Georgian architecture.

As well as exploring the house, you can take a walk around the five acres of gardens, which include the Rose Walk, Tudor Knot Garden, ancient apple trees, Wild Garden and stumpery - see if you can spot the grass covered sleeping giant too! Dalemain is host to The World's Original Marmalade Awards, an annual event that takes place in March, with the award-winning marmalades available to buy from the house's Mediaeval Hall Tearoom.

View our delightful cottages in the Ullswater area.

Lowther Castle in the Lake District

4. Lowther Castle, Penrith

Lowther describes itself as 'a hidden place waking from hibernation'. The castle was abandoned in 1937, and now stands as an intriguing historic sandstone shell, while its 130 acres of once magnificent gardens are undergoing a restoration project to gradually peel back the layers of time. You are free to explore its extensive grounds, woods and number of 'themed' garden rooms which are slowly being brought back to life after years of neglect. Why not compliment your visit with lunch or afternoon tea in the modern Café in the Courtyard?

5. Levens Hall & Gardens, near Kendal

Levens Hall is an Elizabethan mansion house which has been home to the Bagot family for generations. It is probably best known for its outstanding topiary gardens, which were recently featured on Monty Don's BBC series, The Secret History of the British Garden, as the only surviving garden from the 1600s. There are over 100 pieces of topiary altogether, with some over nine metres high - look out for the chess pieces!

The Hall itself contains lots to see including oak panelling, Jacobean furniture, paintings, early English patchwork and Cordova leather wall coverings. There is a tearoom, an outdoor play area and a willow maze, and you should also make time to enjoy the stunning walk through Levens Deer Park, which is on the opposite side of the road from the house. Hopefully you'll even spot the park's Black Fallow Deer and herd of rare breed Bagot goats.

6. Sizergh Castle, Sizergh, Kendal

 
A National Trust property, Sizergh Castle has been associated with the Strickland family since 1239, making it one of the oldest historic residences to be inhabited by the same family in the UK. A tour of Sizergh takes you through 700 years of fascinating history, and the house is well known for its beautifully carved Elizabethan oak panelling. 

Sizergh really does provide a full day out. The house has lovely gardens, including the peaceful limestone rock garden with its pond and beautiful acers, as well as a picnic area with benches overlooking the orchard. It is an excellent base from which to take walks of varying length (such as the wildlife walk featured on its National Trust web profile), with footpaths leaving the car park. To complete the experience, why not visit Sizergh's café, which has both indoor and outdoor covered seating - the cake here has been tried and tested, and is very good!

View our properties in the south-east corner of the Lake District.

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House in the Lake District

7. Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere

A modern historic house, Blackwell was designed as a holiday home by the architect MH Baillie Scott. Overlooking Windermere, it is a beautifully crafted example from the Arts and Crafts movement. There are no roped-off areas, and you can sit in the fireplace inglenooks and window seats to enjoy the atmosphere of the house and its views.

Blackwell hosts a number of Arts and Crafts exhibitions and has a contemporary craft shop. No visit would be complete without a visit to its tearoom, which also serves food outside in good weather. The view from the terraces is just outstanding, as is the menu - this is highly recommended!

View our cottages in the Windermere area.

8. Holker Hall, Cark-in-Cartmel, near Grange-over-Sands

Dating back to the early 1600s, Holker Hall is situated just a short distance away from Grange-over-Sands and Morecambe Bay. Currently the home of Lucy Cavendish, the Holker estate has been passed down by inheritance through generations of the Preston, Lowther and Cavendish families, and each owner has left their own unique mark on the buildings and landscape.

As well as exploring Holker Hall itself, you can walk around its elegant gardens and take your time to enjoy the experience with many benches placed throughout. The garden is home to a number of rare and exotic plants and trees because of the local micro-climate, and the estate is host to the renowned annual Holker Hall Garden Festival which takes place in late May or early June.

No visit is, of course, complete without a visit to the Courtyard Café and Food Hall, and there is a pretty little gift shop too. Holker Hall caters well for children, with an adventure playground, outdoor picnic areas, a Labyrinth in the wild flower meadow and plenty of space to explore.

View our properties in and around Grange-over-Sands.

Brantwood in the Lake District

9. Brantwood, Coniston

One way to really understand a person is to visit the place in which they have lived. Brantwood, which was home to the famous writer, artist and social reformer John Ruskin for the last 28 years of his life, is filled with paintings, furniture and his personal treasures, and there's even a 21st century version of Ruskin's slate lithophone for visitors to play. 

Ruskin was a keen horticulturalist, and the gardens have been developed in line with his original vision. Brantwood is set in a 250 acre woodland estate, so there are plenty of walks to be explored to work off a visit to the Jumping Jenny Restaurant.

If combining a trip to Brantwood with a tour of the lake on Coniston Launch, don't forget to buy a discounted Brantwood ticket at the same time!

View our cottages in Coniston.

Mirehouse, near Keswick in the Lake District

10. Mirehouse, Keswick

Mirehouse is situated alongside Bassenthwaite Lake near Keswick, and is a family-run historic house attraction with natural gardens, woodland playgrounds, and walks through woodland and to the lakeside. Inside the house you will find collections that explore the literary connections between Mirehouse and famous writers such as Wordsworth, and relaxing live piano music. Enjoy lunch in the Old Sawmill Tearoom or a picnic in the walled Bee Garden, complete with heather maze to occupy younger members of the family.

View our properties in Keswick.

We have lots of cottages in all the areas mentioned in this article, and you can find your ideal property by using our cottage search facility. For more ideas on things to do in the Lake District, visit our top 10 attractions post.