‘Tottie! You don’t know how beautiful Silverdale is and a tower of our own! Think of that! its a sort of country you never saw before. I’ll answer for it.’
(Elizabeth Gaskell in a letter to Eliza Fox, May 1852)
In her letter, Elizabeth Gaskell was writing of Lindeth Tower in Silverdale, and a more beautiful and dreamy spot you will struggle to spy. On our many walks in the area we have often passed the tower and admired it, little thinking that one day we might stay there. But, stay there we did.
Built in 1842 by the Fleetwood family – a shipping family, who gave their name to the Port of Fleetwood- as a summer house and folly, the stone tower sits in a beautiful walled garden with panoramic views over the coast; presumably a means by which the family could keep a close and careful eye on their ships while on summer retreat. Silverdale became a favourite holiday destination for Elizabeth Gaskell and her family (her daughters Meta & Julia are described as ‘enthusiasts for Silverdale’ whereas her daughter Marianne less so). There are numerous mentions of Lindeth Tower and Silverdale in Gaskell’s letters, some describe the activities the family undertake (farming and country pursuits), some include descriptions concerning the quirks of their accommodation; i.e having to walk across a courtyard in all weathers when transferring a leg of mutton from the larder to the kitchen, and then others including this one; in which she describes the tower thus:
‘In the garden, half flower half kitchen is an old square tower, or ‘Peel’ – a remnant of the Border towers.’
That Gaskell thought the tower to be so old, speaks of its dreamy, fairy-tale quality. Especially when one considers, that when she wrote those lines to Charles Eliot Norton in 1858, the tower was in fact only 16 years old. It seems that the romance of the place captured her imagination and so she transported it to another place and time. I completely understand how she felt, the tower wove a spell over me too. There is something folkloric about it, one could easily imagine border skirmishes or daring deeds having occurred there or indeed it featuring in one of Sir Walter Scott’s ballads. It feels like a place outside reality, a liminal space in which a great change can occur. That change of course being one in the heart, mind and soul.
As a place to stay the tower is simply stunning. Each morning we breakfasted on the roof terrace, and in the evenings we curled up in the cosy sitting room with a book, a roaring fire and a glass of wine. By day we walked. Silverdale is beautiful and is a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’; the landscape always strikes me as magical and otherworldly as it shifts smoothly from twee country lanes to woodlands and then just as seamlessly to rugged coast. It’s a wonderful place to slow down and be present, to enjoy the simple things like walking and soaking up the wonderful scenery. It’s a place to press pause and breathe.
Silverdale village is relatively small but does have a lovely hostelry, The Silverdale Hotel, where of course food and a libation can be purchased. In nearby Arnside; a slightly larger destination, there are more places to eat and drink, some little shops selling pretty gifts etc and a small art gallery. There is of course Arnside Tower to see and of course, no visit is complete without a walk on the Knott.
Next time we hope to stay longer. My beloved and I both noted that as lovely as it was to walk extensively, it would have been just as lovely to spend the day reading and relaxing in the tower and gardens. We had also planned a visit to Cartmel Priory but ran out of time, so plan to do this during our next stay.
To close -as I began- I cite Elizabeth Gaskell once more, who can say in a few words what I could not in a thousand:
‘…..we all go to our dear old Silverdale on the borders of Morecambe Bay, to run wild there…’