Pull up into the car park of Levens Hall, five miles south of Kendal on the banks of the River Kent, and it’s hard to decide what to do first: visit the venerable old house, wander the magnificent gardens or enjoy a meal in the superb Levens Kitchen.
Like Sizergh Castle just up the road, Levens Hall is an Elizabethan manor house built around an older defensive pele tower. The Bagot family, owners of the estate since it was bequeathed to them by a distant relative in 1883, have opened up parts of their home to the public. Inside, you’ll see oak panelling, fine furniture, paintings, one of the earliest examples of English patchwork and a Cordova leather wall covering. Outside, there’s really something quite unusual...
Ancient yews have been moulded into weird and wonderful shapes in what is said to be the world’s oldest topiary garden, designed in 1694 by Guillaume Beaumont, one of the top gardeners of his time. Tremendous beech hedges, several yards thick and with gnarled, twisted innards, divide up the gardens where fruit grows in the orchard, croquet players battle it out on the lawn, and bees gather nectar from colourful borders.
And then there’s the Levens Kitchen... Opened in 2019, this modern café uses high-quality, locally sourced produce to create excellent and imaginative brunches, lunches, snacks and afternoon teas. The menu changes on a seasonal basis and includes a good range of interesting vegan and vegetarian options.