Once a grand private estate, now an ideal Lake District holiday escape
The history of the land which is now home to our wonderful Lake District holiday park is an interesting and varied one. To gain access to Skelwith Fold’s magnificent grounds before 1950, you would need to have been very well connected. Its 130 acres were in the ownership of the wealthy Marshall family who, in 1890, built a rather unusual mansion house at the highest point on the site.
Commanding breath-taking views over the fells, the house was traditional Victorian in appearance – but, apparently, was equipped with all the latest time-saving and aids-to-good-living gadgets of the period.
Sadly, the mansion was destroyed in the 1950s. The family had lost its fortune, and could no longer afford the building’s financial upkeep – but it was a slow death. Relief from rates could only be obtained if a property was without a roof, so it was removed in order to avoid that burden.
New tourism markets
But as the mansion crumbled a new life for Skelwith Fold began to be constructed – as a park in the heart of the Lake District where folk could bring their tents and caravans on holiday.
It could be argued that Skelwith Fold was among the first tourism businesses to make Lakeland accessible to a much wider cross-section of people. For until camping and caravan sites began to be developed more widely in the fifties, the Lake District was largely the preserve of the well-off.
Popularised by William Wordsworth, the region had plenty of fine country house hotels to comfortably accommodate the comfortably off. But for ordinary families in the towns and cities, Northern seaside resorts such as Blackpool were considered a more fitting holiday destination. However, with its gates open to tents and the increasingly popular touring caravans, Skelwith Fold provided an affordable means to explore Lakeland’s natural wonders – and from a more picturesque and romantic setting than many a hotel could put claim to.
The development of increasingly luxurious “static caravans” also meant that second-home ownership in the Lakes was more widely available – without depleting local housing stock, artificially pushing up house prices, or creating “ghost villages” of empty holiday homes.
Skelwith Fold was bought in 1996 by the Wild family. Although the park had been well cared-for by its previous owners, the once carefully tended grounds had lost their landscaped appearance. Azaleas and Rhododendrons had run riot, and many specimen trees and shrubs were lost, quite literally, in the undergrowth.
Today, more than twenty five years later, our restoration work of the grounds still continues – and the change has been spectacular. Forgotten or neglected features, such as the park’s mystical tarn, have been brought back to their full glory. And pathways have been created to allow guests to explore the delightful woodlands and enjoy the beautiful views which suddenly open up.
Our changes have benefited wildlife too. Elsewhere on this website you can read how our conservation work has brought a new lease of life to Skelwith’s indigenous flora and fauna.
The late, great TV botanist David Bellamy visited the park on a number of occasions. He awarded it his special Conservation Award and declared it to be a “wildlife wonderland”. He was as thrilled as we were to learn that our efforts, and those of holiday home owners, had helped reintroduce colonies of red squirrels in the grounds.
Skelwith Fold is nearing its eightieth year as a holiday park – and, we firmly believe, is in the premier league of sustainable tourism destinations.