|Statistics and Files|
|Start: Askham||Distance: 3.7 miles (5.9 km)||Climbing: 145 metres|
|Grid Ref: NY 51307 23661||Time: 2 hours||Rating: Easy|
|GPX Route File||Google Earth File||About Askham|
|Start: Askham||Distance: 3.7 miles (5.9 km)|
|Climbing: 145 metres||Grid Ref: NY 51307 23661|
|Time: 2 hours||Rating: Easy|
|GPX Route File||Google Earth File|
The Walk: This walk explores the parkland surrounding Lowther Castle, the former seat of the Earls of Lonsdale. It begins in the nearby village of Askham, where immaculate 18th and 19th century cottages line the high grass banks beside a road that leads down to the River Lowther. This picture postcard village had often been praised as the prettiest in the former country of Westmorland. This probably now applies to the present county of Cumbria.
You begin by walking past the cottages on the northern side of the village street, towards Askham Hall. This castellated manor house, with its 14th century Peel Tower, is just visible if you peer over the stone wall on the way down to the bridge.
Askham Hall is the current residence of the Earls of Lonsdale, who have long been associated with the village. Perhaps the most famous member of the family was Hugh Lowther, the 5th Earl, known as the Yellow Earl from the colour of his livery. He gave his name to the Lonsdale Belts that are awarded to Britain's boxing champions. He also founded the Automobile Association, which adopted his yellow as the corporate colour.
A lane and a bridleway lead you out of the village, past Askham Hall, into woodlands high above the River Lowther. There is a wide variety of trees here, including oak, ash, beech, silver birch and various types of conifer. Elderberries, blackberries and wild raspberries can all be picked here when in their respective fruiting seasons. At one stage the path passes between massive rhododendron bushes that produce a stunning floral display in spring.
On the northern side of Lowther Park, you cross Low Gardens Bridge over the river and turn into the park itself. The road turns uphill by a field beside the river which is the site of the annual Lowther Show. A steep grass bank here forms a natural grandstand. Beyond this you pass along an avenue of massive oaks.
The magnificent 420 foot long (125 metres) facade of Lowther Castle dominates the view ahead. The castle, built of sombre iron-grey sandstone is now a shell. It has no roof, and its windows are empty sockets, but a great square tower, like a keep, soars above everything. The formidable curtain wall around its overgrown and abandoned gardens is, however, still intact.
In its time, the castle was one of the great stately homes of England, where royalty and statesmen were regularly entertained, but the Earls of Lonsdale left it in 1936 and two decades later, in 1957, the roof and the interior were demolished. It is, however, still a magnificent sight, albeit a rather sad one.
At a T junction you turn right to visit the Lowther's family church, the Church of St Michael, which was extensively rebuilt in 1686. It is full of family memorials and a Viking tombstone depicting, very faintly, warriors arriving in Valhalla. In the churchyard, atop a mound, is the family mausoleum, a gargoyled extravaganza occupied by a larger than life alabaster effigy of William, the 2nd Earl of Lonsdale. There is a quite stunning view from here, down along a steep green valley, with the crenellations of Askham Hall rising above the trees at the far end.
From the church you walk through to the eastern end of the park and the model village of Newtown, a street of fine, two-storey, flower bedecked stone houses. These were built by Sir John Lowther in 1682, to rehouse his tenants when he destroyed their hovels to improve the view from the castle.
Another avenue leads you across the park to the walled up gatehouse and along the curtain walls, before you plunge down the wooded slope of the valley to Askham Bridge. Crossing the river, you walk past the parish church and up through the village to return to the car park at the start of the walk.
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