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Lake District Adventures - Askham Hall Kitchen Garden & Cafe

A couple of weeks ago we headed to Glasgow, my home city. We spent a few days visiting family and welcoming a new baby into the fold. We ate in some truly amazing places (Glasgow has more vegan restaurants than anywhere else in the UK and our particular favourite was Saramago in the CCA),  had brunch at Eusebi Deli (the caramelised peaches with freshly made ricotta and lemon were unbelievably good and I'm still dreaming of it), wandered around the Kelvingrove Art Gallery as well as the Riverside Museum, took a walk around the Botanic Gardens, had a big old glass of wine in the hot sunshine on the Ubiquitous Chip roof garden and bought and consumed a lot of Tantrum doughnuts. I didn't really take any photographs as I was much too busy enjoying every single second of my trip and if you've never been to Glasgow I urge you to put it on a list of places to visit as it is somewhere very special indeed. 

On the long car journey up to Scotland I thought it would be nice to call in somewhere other than the motorway service station for some lunch. As much as I like a stop at Tebay for some farm shop browsing it's not really the most relaxing place to stretch your legs and enjoy a bite to eat. Instead I thought it might be worth a little detour off the M6 to visit a kitchen garden cafe and eat lunch in the warm sunshine. Askham Hall Kitchen Garden and Cafe is close to Penrith and only a short drive from the motorway. It should have taken us around ten minutes to get there but it took a little longer as there were lots of road closures for the get-in for Kendal Calling which was being held at the nearby Lowther Deer Park.  Eventually we found ourselves in the picture postcard village of Askham and followed the signs to the kitchen garden. The Hall is a hotel, restaurant and a popular venue for weddings and is open only to guests. The garden and cafe is open every day except Saturdays to members of the public from March until December.

The old stables on the estate have been converted into the kitchen garden cafe - the ceilings are low, beams run across the roof and the entire room is fairly dark yet it feels cozy and welcoming. Little posies of freshly cut sweet peas adorn the tables and there are enormous jars of pickles and preserves on display. Outside you can sit in the orchard as there are tables and benches to enjoy your lunch in the sunshine but as it was fairly breezy and a tad chilly we opted to have our lunch inside. From late Spring and throughout the Summer the kitchen garden cafe operates an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven using produce made from the garden. I went for the summer vegetable pizza which was delicious, topped with courgettes, tomatoes, red onion and beetroot. The Moody Teenager  also had the pizza and the husband chose the garden vegetable soup with freshly made bread which he also really enjoyed. There were plenty of other options to choose from with a selection of pies, quiches and salads as well as some beautiful looking cakes for afternoon tea. 

After lunch we bought tickets for a wander around the garden. It costs £4 per adult and you are given a sweet little hand drawn map to follow.  Luckily the clouds parted as we walked around and we were bathed in warm sunlight. The gardens are not huge yet there is plenty to see and take inspiration from. A long herbacious border was overflowing with summer flowering perennials and the pond provided a quiet gentle spot to sit and admire the views across the estate. There are plenty of little hidden corners and secret doors as well as a woodland area to explore but as it had been raining the woods were a little muddy and I hadn't brought my wellies.

The kitchen garden was my very favourite spot to spend time in. Stunning dahlias sat happily alongside pretty willow obelisks of violet sweet peas.  I wanted to pick the purple mange tout and just eat it then and there as it looked so appealing. The raised beds shone brightly with rainbow chard and many different varieties of lettuce. Fruit cages were bursting with raspberries and bees were enjoying foraging on the flowering herbs and runner beans. The estate cottages surround the kitchen garden and it looks like an idyllic place to live and work. 

Alongside the beautiful gardens there is also plenty for the kids to keep them occupied. There is an animal trail with pigs, cattle, goats, ducks and chickens  as well as a childrens play area. If you are visiting the Lakes then do pop a visit to Askham Hall on your list of things to do.  We'll definitely be going back again. x

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