Leighton Hall Carnforth Lancashire LA5 9ST
About 10 miles north of Lancaster, just outside the small town of Carnforth, a visit Leighton Hall is like dropping in on your favourite wealthy aunt. The home of the Gillow family of furniture makers since the eighteenth century, it's a crenellated Georgian-Victorian mansion in a wonderful setting, with the lawns of the estate stretching out all around and the Lake District Fells in the far distance. Still a family home, it's beautifully furnished throughout, as you would expect, with plenty of unusual objects to catch the eye, but the nice thing is you always feel like you're walking around a family home – if a rather grand one – with family photographs on display alongside the ancestral portraits of the various Gillow dynasty. If you're lucky you'll be shown around by Mrs Gillow herself, who is a mine of information on the house and the family, and a charming hostess besides. Outside there’s a lovely nineteenth-century walled garden, and a shop and café with outdoor seating, and a walk through the landscaped woodland takes you to to a quirky pagoda used in the making of the film of AS Byatt’s ‘Possession’ ( the house also featured in a few episodes of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes on TV). There are regular Birds of Prey demonstrations and all sorts of special attractions during the summer – performances of Shakespeare in the garden, vintage car events, outdoor film showings staged by local arts groups,and of course numerous weddings. All in all it's one of the most warm and welcoming historic houses in the area – a real treat.
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