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Well, it was supposed to be spring but on waking on the first morning of our holiday we were confronted with this somewhat less than promising sight. Snow in the Lake District can be more of a problem than elsewhere as it blocks roadways and generally gets in the way. But within hours all had changed and we were confronted with blue skies, bright sunlight and best of all, empty roads. So off we set to visit the idiosyncratic church at Wreay, (pronounced ree-ah). Idiosyncratic is certainly the word for this truly extraordinary, if not bizarre, creation of Miss Sarah Losh. Miss Losh, who never married, was one of those indomitable ladies which the Victorian age produced in the likes of Lady Canning and Florence Nightingale. Highly intelligent and with a mind of her own, Sarah Losh travelled widely and came back to her native Cumberland to erect a place of worship unique not only to her native heath but to the world. We had an excellent guide who explained the somewhat individual symbolism of the place, every point of which is elaborately carved with pine-cones, frogs, water-lilies and natural specimens. Nearby is the home of the Hasell-McCosh family at Dalemain. This seemingly Georgian house of pink sandstone is actually a very much older dwelling with a ‘modern’ front. A comfortable, cosy house with panelled rooms, Gillow furniture, some modish touches due to a connection with the East India Company, and approximately 1500 jars of marmalade! For this is the home of the now-celebrated marmalade festival, an idea dreamt up by the present chatelaine, whose success now threatens to engulf her northern home in this sticky confection.

Another house nearby, Sizergh Castle, was on the list of visits. The ancient seat of the Strickland family, this rambling stone mansion has connections with that most romantic of lost causes – the exiled Stuart Kings of England. The recusant Stricklands went into exile with the dethroned James II and stayed loyal to them in their banishment. Here in this remote northern fastness are to be found mementoes of that exile in the shape of a magnificent embroidered purse for the Great Seal of England, an exquisite kakiemon silver-mounted bowl and cover and touchingly, strands of hair of the deprived family. Not to be missed in the same place is the 16th century panelled room, itself for many years in exile at the V & A Museum in London, and now returned and reinstalled in its original chamber. The return and reinstallation of this magnificent piece of joinery was explained in detail for us by John Wynn-Griffiths at Peter Hall, cabinet-makers in Staveley He was the man who oversaw this work, surely the biggest three dimensional jig-saw puzzle in the world.

Whilst on the subject of crafts we should mention the talk and demonstration by Pip Hall. Pip is the leading exponent on the art of letter-carving on stone. How used we are, if aware at all, of those rigid lines on memorials and public buildings. Pip opened our eyes to the fact that letters in stone can be a work of art in themselves. She chipped away at a piece of Lakeland slate and with a few effortless taps created a graceful letter ìeî before our eyes. We were not only fascinated but impressed! For lectures Nicholas offered a range of Royal Subjects to celebrate the fact that this year is the 60th anniversary of the Coronation on 2nd June. These included a talk on the Royal Collection in the Reign of Elizabeth II, a reign which has seen this magnificent assemblage of treasures not only augmented but also displayed, in the shape of the Queenís Gallery, to a world-wide audience.

Whoever thought that there was nothing to do in the Lake District except climb Helvellyns and sail on Windermere, has only to join us at Rothay Manor to find out how wrong that assumption is: country houses, kakiemon porcelain, panelled rooms and marmalade, how is that for variety?

Our next holiday in this favoured spot is from 17th to 22nd November 2013, when we shall revisit Lowther Castle to see how the restoration of the gardens is getting on, a trip to Abbot Hall in Kendal to see a splendid exhibition ‘Bloomsbury & Beyond‘ with a line-up of all the best British 20th century artists from the Radev Collection And much else besides.

We have also arranged for the Autumn a Holiday at Baslow Hall in Derbyshire, where we look forward to your joining us on visits to Chatsworth, Kedleston, Hardwick and Bolsover Castle. Dates, 20th to 24th October.

Bolsover; an Elizabethan pleasure-palace.

From 23rd September to 27th September 2013 we hope you can join us at a new destination, Eshott Hall in Northumberland. From here we shall explore Victorian Cragside, Medieval and Victorian Alnwick with its adjacent gardens and also Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. Details of this visit are being finalised.

Cragside, the Drawing Room

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