A forward-thinking and lively cluster group of great houses, museums and historic attractions is encouraging visitors to not only head to Cumbria to take a look at their indoor treasures, but to also drink in the unique view through their rear windows.
Cumbria’s Living Heritage believes its members have some of the best views and landscapes in the world to look out upon and has suggestions of just a few of the delights that await window gazers.
The rear windows of the Ruskin Museum’s ‘Bluebird Wing’, home to artefacts relating to the speed ace with matinee idol looks, Donald Campbell, reveal a spectacular panorama of the Yewdale Crags. As recently as just 12,000 years ago, these rugged, 500-million-year-old rocks, which are part of the Borrowdale Volcanics series, were covered in thick ice. Sculpting by both ice and fire has resulted in numerous waterfalls and rills that cascade down the Yewdale Crags both during and after a heavy downpour. When this shrouds the landscape in mist and vapour, the Ruskin Museum, which is located in Coniston, notes the delight that spreads amongst Oriental visitors, as the view is reminiscent of Chinese scroll paintings. If visiting to admire the rear window view, don’t forget to find out all about Donald Campbell’s exploits in Bluebird K7 and many other things of interest that relate to Coniston and its surrounding landscape.
Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin which nestles alongside Coniston Water, is set into an ancient Cumbrian fell side and has unique and beautiful mountainside gardens that can be seen through the charming property’s rear windows. The woodlands were first worked by Norse invaders, who gave the place its name, with ‘Brant’ being Norse for ‘steep’, making Brantwood stand for ‘steep woods’. These ancient, semi-natural woodlands comprise half of Brantwood’s 250-acre estate and are home to a stunningly diverse range of flora and fauna. A little uphill walking is required by those wishing to explore them – including dogs on a lead – but this, and the exploration of other gardens created by John Ruskin, such as the Zig Zaggy (representing Dante’s Purgatorial Mount) and the Hortus Inclusus herbal garden, are well worth the effort.
Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life’s upper level affords a rear window view of majestic Skiddaw, sitting in the distance, with the 270-foot-tall Dixon’s Chimney, dating from 1836, towering above Carlisle in the foreground, as a legacy of the city’s industrial past. Directly outside the Museum of Military Life’s window lie the inner ward of Carlisle Castle, where visitors can see the former Officer’s Mess, former garrison cells, barrack blocks and Regimental Headquarters, where soldiers lived and worked. This perfectly complements a visit to the museum, where you will be humbled by the examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, in times of conflict as well as times of peace.
The Admiral’s Room at Askham Hall is where the Duke of Edinburgh slept when the boutique hotel, which is built around a 12th century pele tower, was the owners’ family home. From the window of this room, it is possible to see historic Lowther Castle – the source of many different historical stories and legends. Askham’s owners have genealogical links to both Lowther Castle and another member of Cumbria’s Living Heritage, Levens Hall and Gardens, near Kendal, so it is well worth visiting both. Other rear windows in their boutique accommodation allow guests to see the bountiful kitchen garden – part of Grade II listed gardens – from which fresh produce is dug or cut each day for the hotel’s menus, whilst also noting animal trails, which add to the joy of being surrounded by Cumbria’s natural wildlife. Do look out for lots of alliums and also stone griffins!
At nearby Grizedale Forest – the UK’s first Forest for Sculpture – the café has a panoramic rear window which provides atmospheric forest views, including sightings of two of the many spectacular sculptures situated around the forest. These are ‘Ancient Forester 2’ by David Kemp (1995) and ‘Flower in a Flower’ by Keir Smith and viewing these often encourages visitors to drink up and go and discover more woodland sculptures, during an al fresco forest adventure. Visitors lingering in the café can also watch the hustle and bustle that accompanies daily life in the forest, which includes seeing visitors hop on hired electric mountain bikes that help them explore further afield, and light up with adrenaline as they zoot down the last zip wire at the Go Ape forest centre.
But a window belonging to one of the member’s of Cumbria’s Living Heritage provided not just a view, or a chance to be at one with nature, but also a welcome means of escape from the unappetising prospect of yet another helping of porridge. This was the window at Dove Cottage in Grasmere through which Sir Walter Scott hopped when feeling himself unable to face the breakfast choice of the Wordsworths any longer. Whether he found a full English down the road in Ambleside has not yet been determined!
For other quirky facts about Cumbria’s Living Heritage, which make heritage and grand houses far less dusty and dry, download a Heritage Past-Port at www.cumbriaslivingheritage.co.uk