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Where to stay

Where to stay

We woke to the sight of sheep nibbling in the field below our window and fell asleep to the sound of the stream chuckling past the cottage. After five years of watching Sue and Martin Hawkard create a second self-catering property at their home of Howe Foot near Coniston Water, we were finally here to stay for three nights. We wished it were thirty.

Otley Beck is not just a labour of love and longevity but an example of the highest standards of craftsmanship. Huge oak roofing timbers, Tilberthwaite slate on floors and kitchen worktops, a lovely aqua-coloured Aga, glazed tiles in the bathroom, polished slate for the window cills, underfloor heating and Fired Earth paint colours are some of its features. And all the building work, furnishing and decorating done by Sue and Martin themselves.

By day we toured the immediate area, taking in the Duddon Valley, the wonderful beach of Silecroft near Millom and an area around Coniston Water. By night we cooked on the striking looking Aga, using the Aga cooking pans, the Sabatier knives and Emma Bridgewater plates, and then cosied up beside the wood burning stove in the living/dining room. One night to watch Coldplay at the warm.

Brantwood, John Ruskin’s home for 29 years, lies a few miles to the north of this enchanting little spot and I can pay no greater compliment to Otley Beck than say that the Victorian polymath - himself a champion of the Arts and Crafts movement - would have been full of admiration for the love, care and attention to detail which has gone into creating this perfect ‘cottage for two’.

‘Come up and see the view,’ exhorted the sign at the end of the lane leading up to Linthwaite House Hotel. And what a view it was (and is): Windermere stretching away below, the Lakeland fells stretching away in the distance. But that wasn’t the only thing that made a visit here such a pleasurable experience. Great service and comfort, great food and wine and a lovely ‘unstuffy’ atmosphere became Linthwaite’s trademark as hands-on owner Mike Bevans turned the hotel, over 25 years, into one of the best country house hotels in the north of England.

So the news that he’s selling up and moving on will come as a big shock - and great sadness - to many, many guests and to the Lakeland hotel industry. He was a complete notch, relaxed hospitality in every sinew of his six foot, four inch frame. On a personal level he’s always been a tremendous supporter of the Dymond Guides, so I thank him very much for that as well. I wish him and his wife all the very best for a new future in the south and I wish the new owners of the hotel, the Leeu Collection all the very best too.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Lowther Castle and Askham Hall

Whenever I go past Lowther Castle near Penrith, I think...what a great restoration job this would make. Abandoned in the 1930s, it’s now a skeletal monument to a glorious past, only the gardens now being restored in a huge project. But think of the stonemasons, the carpenters, gilders, painters and architectural blacksmiths who could turn it back to the kind of place that Kaiser Wilhelm visited in the 1890s. Think of the visitors who would love to watch such craftsmen at work. Then think of the cost and forget the idea. In leaving the castle, the Lowther family headed down the road to Askham Hall, now a 15 bedroom hotel run by Charles Lowther, youngest son of the 7th Earl of Lonsdale, and his wife Juno. The couple had already picked up some form at the George and Dragon at Clifton before they started on Askham Hall. And what a job they’ve done here. The Daily Telegraph reckons it’s ‘one of the most romantic hotels in the UK’, The Independent called it one of ‘Britain’s best country house hotels’ and the 2016 Good Hotel Guide has it as Editor’s Choice (Country House Hotels). What those publications don’t mention is that there’s a Dymond Guide to the Lake District and Cumbria in every bedroom, 15 new copies delivered this morning.

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