How a luxurious staycation at the Casterton Grange Estate became a place to call our own
Tempus visits Casterton Grange Estate in Cumbria to discover how this quintessentially English country pile has achieved a perfect mix of absolute privacy and contemporary charm for the ultimate holiday retreat
When we hear about the latest travel trends, all too often we’re inundated with contradictions. Holidaymakers should be looking for sustainable options but in untouched locales; search for authentic experiences but within well-trodden tourist hotspots; aim for personal wellness retreats but with the whole family in tow. These expectations can often leave us wondering if it’s possible to have it all at even the most well-equipped of resorts. But, perhaps, it’s simply time to look closer to home?
Nestled between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, neighbouring the picturesque village of Kirkby Lonsdale, is the charming Casterton Grange Estate. This quintessentially English country home is a stunning, château-like holiday escape, originally built by celebrated Victorian architect Ewan Christian – who was best known as an ecclesiastical architect, restoring Glyndebourne and designing the National Portrait Gallery.
When Tamaris Kenyon bought the property in 2003 it was already beautiful “but admittedly in need of some TLC”, says her daughter Anneka Sellers. But, with a passion for interior design, Kenyon set about restoring the nine-bedroom property back to its original glory – including rebuilding the regal gothic tower that dominates the main house’s north wing and provides a 360˚ view of the verdant countryside.
Inside the building, Kenyon’s sympathetic restoration emphasises the Victorian structure, which is now complemented with bold, warm colours and decorated with sumptuous fabrics, vintage furniture and a range of artworks. But Kenyon, who originally envisioned Casterton Grange as her family home, also added subtle modern touches to the property, building en suites for each room (adding Travertine tiling and Lefroy Brooks rainfall showers) and extending the chef-quality kitchen, complete with a four-oven electric Aga. Now, Sellers and her brother Patrick run the business, renting out the stately home to guests seeking anything from luxury family holidays, corporate getaways to get the team back together, picture-perfect wedding ceremonies, and other events in need of palace-level security. >>
WHERE THE HEART IS
Casterton is very much a family business and Sellers welcomes us in with a tour of the grounds. Set in a 60-acre estate, the house can host up to 18 in the main building and attached West Wing, while the stables cottage, lodge house, and barn conversion were all recently reincorporated into the estate to offer even more luxurious accommodation for parties of up to 34 guests. These free-standing accommodations all enjoy private access, making them ideal escapes for smaller groups of guests who, perhaps, do not require the space of the full estate.
Newly renovated with the same attention to detail, Sellers’ team has ensured that they, too, capture the grandeur of Christian’s architecture with the warmth and modernity of the Estate’s boutique approach. Each property enjoys the same mod-cons and luxuries as the main house, while benefiting from views of the countryside and the house itself – not to mention private wood-fired hot tubs. The barn has the added bonus of being situated by the picturesque lake that sits on the grounds.
Guests can relax by the lake or explore the walled garden, with its spectacular cherry blossom and monkey puzzle trees, or head inside to relax in the billiards room, which is completed with an elegant cocktail bar and wine cooler that makes it like stepping back in time.
“This is a very special place for us,” Sellers says. “When our mum first bought the estate, it was in need of some TLC, and so to see it come back to life, and then to be able to share it with others who are looking for a home away from home, is wonderful.”
While Casterton Grange is more home-rental than five-star hotel, Sellers is determined to raise the bar for guest experience. Rooms feature the fluffiest of bath towels, dressing gowns, luxury toiletries and espresso coffee machines for the small touches, while guests can also avail themselves of an on-site Michelin-star chef, personal chauffeurs, housekeeping, or even butler service if requested. Activities, such as shooting events, are extremely popular at the venue, and tennis lessons, horse stabling and spa facilities can also be incorporated into a stay. It is also – thanks to the plethora of outdoor space, large interconnecting reception rooms, Sonos sound system and a second kitchen for catering – the ultimate party venue. >>
“It’s important to understand that when a guest comes to Casterton Grange this becomes their own private estate but, of course, with all the little luxuries of a penthouse suite and unobtrusive catering options,” she says. “Therefore, it’s very flexible. We have guests who prefer to come and do their own thing in total privacy, and then other groups who want us to arrange activities, parties or larger events for them.
“There’s nothing we can’t do for our guests, particularly when it comes to special events, like weddings or birthdays. I would love to plan a New Year’s party for our guests. Casterton Grange is a very special location for something like that, and the house is stunning at Christmas-time.”
PRIVACY AND COMMUNITY
Casterton Grange is easily accessible by car, train from London Euston – or, for some of Sellers’ more discreet guests, via helicopter, which can touch down safely within the ample grounds.
For those looking to take in more of the estate’s scenic surrounds, there is also a host of activities available for any time of year or party size. Casterton’s all-weather tennis courts are particularly popular with sporting guests. The team can also arrange a range of clay or game shoots – partridge or pheasant – and provide access to two nearby golf courses.
Casterton Golf Course boasts a relaxing nine-hole course as well as a dedicated ‘rugbygolf’ course; while Kirkby Lonsdale Golf Club, in the picturesque Lune Valley within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is an 18-hole layout that makes full use of the natural terrain (the back nine takes you to incredible views of the Hogwill Fells). This refined club is particularly welcoming to guests – enjoy a customary bacon bap in the clubhouse for the full experience. >>
Good country walks are available in all directions, dotted with local pubs – many of which, like Casterton Grange itself, welcome dogs – while Kirkby Lonsdale is a pleasant 45-minute walk from the location. One of Sellers’ top recommendations, the historic market town is an area of unspoilt beauty, with independent shops and high-end restaurant for guests to enjoy. The town’s beauty was famously captured by JMW Turner in his 1822 watercolour painting of the Cumbrian landscape viewed from the churchyard of St Mary’s Church. The view became known as Ruskin’s View after poet John Ruskin wrote in 1875 of the scene: “I do not know in all my country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine.”
The River Lune is also just 15 minutes from the estate, while nature-lovers can reach the famous caves of Ingleton Waterfalls by car in just a 10-minute and, perhaps the most popular place of natural beauty in the area, Lake Windermere is just 25 minutes away by car. Whatever your choice of adventure, after a long day of fresh country air, ease your muscles with a dip in the estate’s relaxing hot tubs.
“Casterton Grange is surrounded by countryside and feels shut off from all the stresses of the outside world,” says Sellers. “Which means guests can really unplug from the city and explore as much or as little as they like, sure in the knowledge that this secluded and exclusive spot is truly their home for the duration of their stay.”