George and Dragon opens gardens and cafe at Askham Hall

By 10th July 2012News

In the picturesque village of Askham, the beautiful gardens and a new café at Askham Hall have opened their doors to the public. Just a couple of miles from Penrith, visitors are now able to enjoy Askham Hall’s twelve-acres of gardens, visit their animals and relax in the Kitchen Garden Café.

This is a new venture for Charles Lowther and his wife Juno. Charles, owner of the award-winning George and Dragon in nearby Clifton, grew up in Askham Hall and has been looking forward to opening up the gardens and café so visitors are able to enjoy it. He said: “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 Grade I listed building.”

Visitors can meander through the beautiful gardens, which 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 andLowtherChurch. And in one of the fields alongside the kitchen garden are the animals which can be seen from a special viewing area with picnic benches (and soon to be children’s play area). Rare-breed pigs and goats and shorthorn cattle are among the animals that live there.

Further more, visitors to Askham Hall can also enjoy coffees, homemade ice-cream or a light lunch in the Kitchen Garden Café, a beautifully designed café housed within part of a Grade II listed barn. One of the more unusual features outside the café is a wood-fired oven. Simone Corrias fromSardiniais an expert in using wood-fired ovens and makes a wide range of pizzas and other hot food. Other food served at the café such as the ice-creams, soups and stews are prepared by chefs at the George and Dragon – under the watchful eye of executive chef Paul McKinnon.

Plans don’t stop at the garden and café. Charles and Juno are already in the process of transforming Askham Hall into luxury accommodation. Once fully completed the hotel will have twenty-six bedrooms and the style will be unpretentious, comfortable and relaxed with a contemporary twist. Historic features will be brought back to life, which will be complemented with high quality contemporary additions.

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 award winning George and Dragon (which recently won silver in the VisitEngland Taste of England Award). Paul, who is working closely with head gardener Colin Myers, said: “The important thing for me will be our ongoing commitment to using the fantastic, simple, home grown garden food. I can literally step into the garden, pick what I need and cook with it immediately. You can’t get fresher or more local than that.”

Askham Hall (dubbed Babington House of the north, Guardian, 6 July 2012) will be the first significant new hotel to open in theLake District for some years and will offer an exciting departure from the traditional country house hotel. Charles 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 it has to offer – animals and all.”

Kitchen Garden Café and Gardens open every day: 10am – 5.30pm

No entry fee to visit animals and café. £5.50 garden entry and free for children under 12.