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Augill Castle, Kirkby Stephen, Lake District
This is as good as it looks: a real castle with baronial rooms, huge fireplaces, hidden staircases and ginormous bedrooms, all colourfully furnished with a mix of quirky and antique pieces plus a dash of the contemporary. It's also the home of owners Simon and Wendy Bennett, so there's no standing on ceremony; and you're welcome to leave boots at the front door, and your book on the window seat. There's casual or smarter eating, a fun 'British' bar, and gardens and terraces - plenty of places for hide and seek. Near Kirkby Stephen, it's equally handy for day trips to the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales - and is particularly well-suited for gatherings with family and friends.
Having the choice of either the Lakes or Dales to explore is comforting, but the Dales are easier. Try walking a stretch of the Pennine Way for an active day.
The market town of Kirkby Stephen is a 10-minute drive away, while Windermere is a 45-minute journey by car.
By car: 2 hours from Manchester, around 3 hours from Edinburgh and 5 hours from London. There is free parking on-site.
By train: trains run from Manchester Piccadilly (just over 1 hour), London Euston (3 hours) and Edinburgh (2 hours) to Oxenholme Lake District station. The hotel is a 40-minute taxi ride from the station. thetrainline.com
Style & Character
The setting and the rooms are romantic but be prepared for other guests running around - it's particularly well-suited to multi-generational family or friends' gatherings. The laidback atmosphere in such a grand building is lovely; you half feel it's your very own castle.
Service & Facilities
We love exploring the castle - messing around on the grand piano, playing a game of chess, poking around the family photographs, or dozing with a book on a window seat. Dogs are allowed in a couple of outside bedrooms, but not in any of the public rooms in the main house.
- Tennis court
We love any of the rooms in the main castle for their atmosphere and surprises, like a wardrobe in a turret. The thoughtful touches - such as china teapots and cups and a cut-glass decanter of sherry and glasses - make your stay special.
Main House Rooms, The Orangery, Stable House Rooms, The Gatehouse, Little Castle Rooms
Facilities include: comfy beds, high quality linen, ensuite bathroom with towels and bathrobes
Food & Drink
Having a late afternoon tea, with one of you choosing the Cumberland (sweet version) and another the Westmorland (savoury version), is a nice twist on supper. We love exploring the gin list, and discovering artisan distillers from Cornwall to Cambridge, as well as Yorkshire and the Lake District.
JustinWoods@Augill: informal modern British cuisine. Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, casual bar food menu served 12-8.30pm. Dinner £35 for three courses.
The Great British Bar: focus on local, independently produced drinks. Open everyday. Afternoon tea served 1-5pm. £20pp or £27 with a glass of fizz.