The Black Bull
A market-town-handsome, unspoiled 17th-century Cumbrian coaching inn, The Black Bull (pictured above) stands in the centre of the venerable literary town of Sedbergh, where even bus stops house shelves of second-hand editions for passers-by in sudden need of Wordsworth. There’s a jolly buzz in town about the food at the Bull – Japanese-German chef Nina Ratcliffe, who runs the inn with her locally born husband James, serves well-sourced, animal-welfare-conscious dishes with the occasional Asian touch, all kitchen-garden vegetables and foraged berries, as fresh and peppery-sweet as the rain-plump grass all the way up Winder Fell just beyond, with its countless swooping blackbirds. A Victorian tiled floor and deep-wood pub-bar might be oppressive if it weren’t for the enormous windows and red leather seats and bunches of wild flowers hanging from beams. Up the stairs are 18 bedrooms with inimitable, Norse-resonant Cumbrian names such as Frostrow and Tarn Rigg, and solid sunlight falls in from an old, gigantic atrium window patterned with a couple of contemplative bulls. There are big, soft beds, throws and cushions made of Herdwick wool, and a truly covetable, subtle bathroom range called Petrichor (meaning ‘the smell of rain’), concocted exclusively for the Bull by The Sedbergh Soap Company, that made me think of tender watercress shoots and buttercups. At breakfast guests are encouraged to take home-baked jam doughnuts and scones away with them, should hunger strike later on. One of many successful touches.
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The Black Bull hotel review
Address: The Black Bull, 44 Main Street, Sedbergh, Cumbria, LA10
Telephone: +44 15396 20264
Prices: Doubles from £125
Howthwaite stands on a ridge overlooking the lake and village of Grasmere, and it’s a perfect, largely unaltered example of the kind of solid villa built when the Lake District was establishing itself as a paradise for the likes of Beatrix Potter. Contemplatively quiet and gorgeously simple, the sloping gardens run steeply into those at the back of no less than Dove Cottage on the road below. ‘This, our little domestic slip of mountain’, wrote the 29-year-old William Wordsworth of these very gardens when he rented Dove Cottage for £8 a year with his sister Dorothy from 1799 to 1808, staking out beans behind his back door (they’re still there). He would lie motionless on his bed with an uninterrupted and worshipful view of the lake he loved the most. When other houses were built later, somewhat obscuring his view, WW vociferously complained, worrying about over-development and over-gentrification and fuss and noise in an endearingly bustling, local warrior way. He preferred to live and write plainly; it felt more moral.
The same Westmerian family that built Lakeland churches in the 16th century and Windermere’s pretty railway station crafted – and that is the word – Gossel Ridding in 1908. As a child, George Henry Pattinson would tend his father’s sheep on a hill above Windermere, casting his eyes longingly down over the lake and up Troutbeck Valley. The view was impossibly lovely, and he wanted to possess it or frame it at least in the window of the house that he built when he was older. Leased now in its entirety for weddings or parties, Gossel Ridding is Arts and Crafts perfection: a carved oak interior from one vast tree rescued from the garden after a storm and rooms for billiards and reading. Over a century later, George’s view remains undisturbed. Simultaneously awe-inspiring and comely, wild but flawlessly composed, it enjoys the epic tenderness of spring green and September orange in the sunsets stretching vast and away to the Langdales and down the meandering lake to the south.
Address: Gossel Riding, Craig Walk, Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23
Telephone: +44 7810 091008
Prices: Three nights cost £4,500, sleeps 13
Canopy & Stars
Wooden cabin on the river’s edge I think the Lake District’s particularly romantic air of magical isolation and spiritual elevation comes from being not just all about water, but wrapped on all sides by that element too: The Solway Firth, Morecombe Bay, the Cumberland coast and the River Eden, where in a January storm I stayed at The Lodge, pictured, a perfectly private, stove-warmed, frontier-style wooden cabin hand-carved from larch on the banks of its tributory, the Eamont. The river was so high it rushed by in a frenzy, salmon somewhere deep beneath the spinning underboil.
Address: Canopy & Stars, Merchants House, Wapping Road, Bristol, BS1
Telephone: +44 117 204 7830
Prices: The Lodge sleeps 6, for £270 per night