The Lowther Estate in the eastern Lake District stretches across a whopping 3,000 acres of Cumbrian land in the Lowther Valley. It consists of working farms, fascinating ruins, wildflower meadows, fells and lengths of river, and a network of cycle and walking trails allow you to see much of the estate. Bikes (both standard and electric) can be hired on site.
Lowther & Askham
The ruins of Lowther Castle are the focal point of the estate and are perhaps the most spectacular thing you will see in this area of the Lake District. Built in the 19th century, the imposing building was left to fall apart, finally receiving some much-needed conservation treatment in the 2000s. You can now take a walk around the impressive shell of the original building, which includes an exhibition of its history. However, the gardens are something else entirely: covering over 5.5 hectares, there is lots to explore including summerhouses, ponds, terraces with views of the river, woodland and much more. Kids (and adults!) will love the Lost Castle, a wonderful adventure playground.
Askham is a small, pretty village within the Lowther Estate. With medieval origins, almost every building has some element of historic note, and the results of some quirky local customs are in evidence. At The Punchbowl Inn, you can see coins jammed into the old wooden beams, each one meant to grant a wish to the person who placed it there. At the local bridge, tossing a coin onto a rock under the water is said to bring you luck – the coin must remain on the rock though!
A Jam-Packed Village
For a little village, Askham packs a lot in! The community outdoor swimming pools are a great place to enjoy the sun, while Tale Trails are fun story walks about the local area that kids will adore. St Peter’s Church is a Grade II* Listed building designed by Sir Robert Smirke (who also worked on Lowther Castle), and an annual village show in September makes for a fun day! There’s also a post office, convenience store, and even The Health Barn, which offers a number of complementary therapies!
Askham Hall began life as a peel tower in the 14th century and has developed over the years into a stately home and Michelin-starred restaurant. Take a stroll through the gorgeous gardens, admire views of the River Lowther, and take an animal trail to see cattle, rare pigs, ducks, goats and more. You may even spot some wildlife amongst the domesticated animals: red squirrels, badgers, rabbits and pheasants are known to wander the grounds. After your explorations, head for a bite to eat in the café or restaurant.
Askham Fell & the Cockpit Stone Circle
Askham Fell rises between the village and Ullswater. A loop will take you from Lowther Castle, over the hill and down to the lake before circling back. You’ll take in some amazing views and pretty villages, but perhaps most interesting will be the ancient monuments on the way. Together with Barton Fell, Askham Fell has over 100 Bronze Age sites, and the Cockpit Stone Circle is the most evident. Thought to be a former crossroads, its difficult to date because of a range of features that could point to all sorts of different eras! The other sites are a bit more tricky to find but, with map in hand, you can have an enjoyable time hunting some of them out!
The whole area, in fact, is bursting with historical significance. As well as Askham Hall and Lowther Castle, the ruins of Shap Abbey should be on your list of must-sees in the area. A Neolithic earthwork henge known as King Arthur’s Round Table is a short hop away and was once believed to be King Arthur's jousting arena. Mayburgh Henge and Long Meg are two more stone circles in the region, and the ruins of Kendal and Brougham Castle also make for an interesting visit.
The nearest lake is Ullswater, and you could easily spend several days around the water here! It’s a haven for hikers, with Helvellyn’s Striding Edge one of the most well known routes. You can also take to the water on a heritage steamer, or hire a boat and make your own way! Ullswater is also known for wild swimming, the pretty villages of Pooley Bridge, Patterdale and Glenridding, and gorgeous Aira Force waterfall.
Falconer for a Day
At the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre, you can experience the thrill of flying birds. This sanctuary, set in a walled garden just outside Penrith, runs daily bird displays at 2pm to 4pm between Easter and October. Not only can you admire the professional displays, you can also try a bit of falconry for yourself, under close supervision of course! There’s also a cosy tearoom and a gift shop at the centre.
Penrith is your nearest town and is full of cobbled streets, independent shops and lively entertainment. There’s plenty to keep you active including a climbing wall, golf, and clay pigeon shooting. Or why not give your brain a workout instead with a visit to the museum? Retail therapy is also at its best here with lots of quirky shops selling everything from gifts to books, and clothes to sports equipment! Then there’s the castle park, with ruins, and a handy train station if you want to leave the car and explore Cumbria by rail!
Explore on Foot
Walking in the area around Askham and Lowther is wonderful. You can take your pick from the taller fells that are popular in the Lake District, or head to the more rolling countryside of the idyllic Eden Valley. The Ullswater Way is a 20-mile route that encircles the lake and takes in a number of interesting attractions, or a walk through the hidden valley of Martindale is perfect if you want to escape the crowds. Riverside walks are plentiful, and Askham’s location close to Penrith means it’s easy to get to other areas of the Lakes or even the North Pennines and Scottish Borders!
For those of you who prefer to get out on two wheels, the Askham Fell circular is great for mountain biking. A relatively easy bike ride, it climbs about 1,580 feet and provides great views over Ullswater. If you prefer something more challenging, there are number of popular options in the high fells around the lake.