As the season draws on be mindful of ‘Tocktober’, we wouldn’t want you to miss out on a visit to some of our attractions that close later in the autumn – the clock is ticking.
Until October 31, you can explore the grounds and gardens at Mirehouse, near Keswick, exploring highlights such as the Bee Garden and Heather Maze and enjoying walks, including the Poetry Walk and the Lakeside Walk, which delighted poet Tennyson. Kids can have daily fun in the historic house’s wonderful playgrounds, delighting in the Steeplechase, the Forest Castle and the Forest Hazard Course. Meanwhile, you can also tour the Mirehouse family home, on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons (1.30pm to 4.30pm), seeing its interesting collection of furniture, portraits, manuscripts and other links to the Duke of Wellington too!
Muncaster, the Western Lake District castle and gardens once an arena for the legendary Tom Fool’s antics, remains open weekends only after November 1 until Christmas, but will celebrate Halloween and October half-term in the spirit you would expect of one of the UK’s most haunted venues. Shows at the Hawk and Owl Centre seem particularly apt at this time of year, when birds of prey would be in winter survival mode and Muncaster’s shows are second to none. This is also the ideal time to book a castle tour and hear about the spooky goings on within it and to also tour the amazing gardens, soaking up the autumnal colours and peace and quiet.
Holker Hall and Gardens close on November 7, other than for specific events scheduled for late November and early to mid-December weekends. Now is the time to explore all the 25 acres of award-winning gardens and parkland, including the amazing Holker Great Lime and the Labyrinth, inspired by both a Hindu temple and Cumbrian stone circles. Head inside the house to see incredible pieces of furniture and breathtaking items, such as the Regulator Clock and the Nursery Yacht; the Hepplewhite four-poster bed, Chippendale chairs and a caricature by Joshua Reynolds. Do not miss out on Halloween fun and Winter Markets (November 5-7).
You should also not miss the chance to visit Hutton in the Forest near Penrith, for a tour of historic gardens and woodland steeped in centuries-old happenings. The exquisite gardens, complete with Walled Garden, terraces and topiary and Low Garden and ponds, and dog-friendly woodland walk, offer much for the nature lover and are open until October 31. However, house tours are only available to October 10. If you can, it is well worth seeing the amazing Cupid Staircase, where winged boys swing on acanthus leaves within intricate carving and design, with echoes from the panel of the ‘Playing Boys’ Mortlake Tapestries at the head of the stairs. Gillow furniture, side-by-side ‘quarrelsome’ chairs and an early Broadwood piano are also must-sees.
As Tocktober ticks down, a dash to Dalemain Mansion and Gardens, close to Penrith would be advantageous, as the house will close on October 31 and not reopen until March 2022. With so much to see, including exquisite hand-painted wallpaper transported by tea clippers from China in 1757, a priest’s hiding hole and the home of Mrs Mouse, it would be a shame to miss all the interesting indoors features and historically significant possessions. The gardens and tearoom will remain open until mid-December, however, and there will be scrumptious Christmas lunches served in the Medieval Hall.
Although Levens Hall and Gardens has now closed for the season, it too will have a Christmas event and wonderful food offering. Between December 16 and 20, the house will be open between the hours of 4pm and 8pm for free-flow visits, whilst the world’s oldest topiary gardens will be lit up. Christmassy food stalls will offer various delights and Levens Kitchen will be serving hot warming food. Artisan stalls in the courtyard area will tempt the purse and the shop will open for last-minute Christmas presents, at a ticketed event. Meanwhile, Levens Supper Clubs will run on October 28, November 24 and December 8 and Levens Kitchen will also be serving delightful Christmas lunches from November 22 to December 15, with tickets now on sale.
One venue remaining open, to welcome visitors within the opening hours of 10am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday throughout winter (other than for the first two weeks of January) is Wordsworth Grasmere. There, you can fully appreciate what life was like in the little Grasmere village abode of Dove Cottage for the up-and-coming poet Wordsworth and his family. After a £6.5m reimagining, Wordsworth Grasmere’s transformation is now complete and open to the public, featuring a new museum and beautifully recreated gardens. By viewing living conditions in the cottage, you are transported back to life in 1800, whilst the new immersive Museum tells the story of Wordsworth’s radical and creative life through the world’s greatest collection of the poet’s manuscripts – including 23 of the 24 that survive of Wordsworth’s major life work, The Prelude.Journals, letters, published poetry, personal items, a new film and 3D models delight and contemporary voices can be heard reading Wordsworth’s work, with these ranging from Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, and Sir Ian McKellen, to people living and working in Cumbria today.Hands-on activities for all ages are available, including operating a working printing press, quill and ink writing and even a Wordsworth version of Minecraft.
House and garden tours through the winter, and self-guided garden tickets, are also available at Wordsworth’s former home of 37 years, the exquisite Rydal Mount, located between Grasmere and Ambleside, to those buying tickets online.Autumn presents a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see gardens which the poet himself landscaped, full of gold and red colours at this time of year. The unique view of both the Lake District’s largest and smallest lakes, will not be obscured, as that was against the style of natural gardening to which William Wordsworth adhered. Meanwhile if you step inside the house, you can see the vista that greeted him from his bedroom, the wonderful light-filled lounge with his famous composing couch and his private dining room, which entertained many a well-known name.
Now is the time to replenish your love of heritage, by visiting these properties before they close but some Cumbria’s Living Heritage members will still be open over winter, namely Blackwell – the Arts & Crafts House, Brantwood, Brockhole, Dalemain and Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, as well as the restaurant, café and accommodation at historic Askham Hall near Penrith.