Lake District Historic Houses
17 August 2023

Every September, historic buildings and monuments across the country throw open their doors to the public as part of Heritage Open Days. Heritage Open Days is England's largest festival of history and culture, your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences.

This year, Heritage Open Days runs from 8 to 17 September with events taking place in every corner of the Lake District. From Carlisle to Cartmel, Ambleside to Appleby, there is so much going on.

There's way too much for us to include, so for a full list of events across Cumbria, simply click here.

In the meantime, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to round up a few of our favourite historic houses in the Lake District - our top five in fact. And so that you don't have to travel too far from your Matson Ground Holiday Cottage, we have kept our selection relatively local with a few close to Windermere and couple not too far from Ullswater. We'll start in Windermere.

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

Blackwell has appeared in a few of our posts to date and with good reason. It's well worth a visit. Originally designed as a holiday home for Manchester brewery owner Sir Edward Holt, the house later became a school and then an office space. Nowadays, Blackwell is one of the UK's finest examples of Arts and Crafts movement.

When you visit, you'll discover beautiful furniture and objects from leading designers and makers of the time, including MH Baillie Scott, Archibald Knox and William de Morgan. There are also pieces by local makers and designers such as Annie Garrett and Arthur Simpson of Kendal.

After your visit, soak up the wonderful views of Lake Windermere and the Lake District fells beyond while you enjoy a tasty treat in the tea-room.

Hill Top - Beatrix Potter's Farmhouse Home

Just across Lake Windermere from Blackwell is Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's former home and a time capsule of her life in the Lake District. The house appears as if the author has just popped out for a walk.

Managed by the National Trust, Hill Top was bought by Beatrix Potter with the proceeds of Peter Rabbit in 1905 and the house and its surroundings provided the inspiration for so many of her books. If you're a true fan - and so many of us are, having grown up with the tales - you'll recognise the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddle-Duck laid her egg, as well as the garden where Tom Kitten and his sisters played.

For more information about availability and how to book your trip to Hill Top, click here.

Sizergh Castle, Kendal

Sticking with National Trust properties, our next recommendation is Sizergh Castle, a few miles south of Kendal.

The house started life as a pele tower, built by the Strickland family circa 1350. The tower offered refuge from the frequent border raids which had long troubled this part of the country.

In the mid-1500s, the family undertook a major rebuilding programme, transforming it into a fashionable Elizabethan residence. This included fitting out the interior with some of the finest carved and inlaid decoration ever to be seen in the north of England. This exceptional wood panelling culminates in the Inlaid Chamber, internationally recognised as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan craftsmanship in the world.

Outside, the 647-hectare estate includes wetlands, orchards and breath-taking gardens, home to a mirror lake, topiary yew trees and a superb limestone rock garden.

Lowther Castle, near Penrith

Lowther Castle is arguably one of the most intriguing visitor attractions in the county, possibly even in the UK. Built at the turn of the 19th century, the castle boasted a room for every day of the year and its gardens were the envy of people far and wide.

However, in 1957 the castle was demolished and for the last half century or so, just the facade and outer walls remain standing, while the gardens were left to grow wild. 

For years, the castle decayed until a charitable trust was established to the castle and the grounds as a visitor attraction. Opened in 2011 following the initial restoration, it's now a spectacular Gothic ruin set in 130 acres of ancient and romantic gardens, packed full of treasures such as the garden-in-ruins, the parterres and the Great Yew Avenue.

As the website states, ''Bring your children. Bring your grandchildren. Bring friends and bring dogs (on leads). Dress sensibly, wear stout footwear and outdoor clothing and big smiles and expect to stay a while.''

Hutton-in-the-Forest, Penrith

The last of our Lake District historic houses is Hutton-in-the-Forest near Penrith, a beautiful country house set in woodlands and extensive gardens that have evolved over more than three centuries.

Like Sizergh, the house has been built around a medieval pele tower with substantial additions from the 17th to the 19th centuries, meaning any visit to Hutton is a remarkable journey through time, where the rooms represent a succession of historical eras and styles. This journey extends to the contents of the house where fine period furniture sits alongside contemporary ceramics, as well as an extensive portrait collection, amazing examples of needlework and fierce decorative weaponry.

Outside, it's surrounded by magnificent woodland with the feel of a medieval forest. The layout of the gardens hasn't changed since 1705 and boast some excellent tree specimens, including a 128 feet high Wellingtonia. 

After your trip, be sure to visit the Cloisters Tea Room where you can choose from a range of delicious, home-made light refreshments.

As with so many things, we truly are spoilt for choice when it comes to Lake District historic houses. We've stayed relatively close to our Matson Ground Holiday Cottages, but other jewels include Holker Hall near Grange-over-Sands; Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass; and Mirehouse on Bassenthwaite Lake, to name just a few. The list goes on, so if you would like more information, please get in touch.

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