Head down the M6, crossing the border at Gretna, and it’s more than likely you’re heading for the Lake District. However, if it’s beautiful scenery on a grand scale, outdoor activities and a rich cultural heritage you’re after then it might be time to reconsider your choice of destination. In an often overlooked part of Cumbria – yet just seven miles from Carlisle – sits Farlam Hall, a traditional family-run hotel with a 12-acre estate that boasts great food in glorious surroundings. Perfect for a weekend when you truly want to get away from it all.
Budget or boutique
Farlam Hall is a country manor with all the luxury that implies. There are 12 comfortable and individually decorated en-suite bedrooms – plus a self-catering cottage – and guests have a choice of drawing rooms with roaring log fires in which to relax. It’s featured in the Good Hotel Guide since 1976 and the Good Food Guide for longer. So definitely not budget.
There’s plenty of room for relaxing in luxury, with twin armchairs and a desk. The bed is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen – but then, I don’t get out much – and it’s one of the most comfortable too. You’ll be woken up by the birds singing in the grounds, but if the sun’s shining and there’s a day out in the countryside to follow that’s no hardship. Even if it isn’t, there’s still breakfast to look forward to.
Wining and dining
Dinner is one of the highlights at Farlam. Wander down to one of the two drawing rooms (where it seems the number of sofas outnumbers the number of possible guests) for a preprandial drink and canapes (pray that the mini Waldorf salad is among them) then be shown to your table in the dining room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the grounds.
Highlights of our two-night stay included starters of a terrine of chicken and wild mushroom and smoked salmon and smoked trout mousse, tenderloin of pork and a beef fillet medallion as mains, and lime and ginger cheesecake and chocolate torte for dessert. Staff are happy to recommend suitable accompaniments from the wine list – the dessert wine suggested for the chocolate torte was sensational. Coffee and petits fours are served back in the drawing rooms and it’s tempting to linger – if only to prepare for the daunting prospect of standing upright again. Breakfast was of a similarly high standard – I’ve eaten a lot of full Englishes in my time and this is one of the best. My partner’s kippers looked tempting too.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hadrian’s Wall is the big draw in this part of the world, but there’s plenty to see even if you have no interest in what the Romans did for us. Nearby is Talkin Tarn, a 165-acre country park with woodlands and meadows surrounding a glacial lake with the Pennine Hills as a backdrop. You can sail and windsurf but we were happy to keep our feet dry on the path round the lake.
The town of Brampton is worth a visit to see St Martin’s, the only church designed by Pre-Raphaelite architect Philip Webb. The church’s exquisite stained-glass windows were designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and executed in the William Morris studio. If you fancy a longer country walk, Farlam can provide you with detailed instructions.
Try to visit Lanercost Priory along the way for more Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movement works of art, including the Lanercost Dossal, a 24ft by 4ft embroidered woollen cloth designed by William Morris to hang on the wall behind the priory’s altar.
The hotel guide for guests advises that you can land your helicopter in the walled garden with advance warning. Maybe next time.
From the moment you arrive at Farlam you’re made to feel at home. The service is relaxed and friendly, and nothing is too much trouble. Many of the staff have worked at Farlam for decades – and it shows. They’ll even find you a pair of cufflinks if you’ve left yours at home like an idiot (so I’m, erm, told).
Double rooms start from £195 pppn based on 2 sharing B&B. Prices for dinner, bed, breakfast are also available. For the best rates, book directly with the hotel by phone: 01697 746234 or email: [email protected] To view rooms visit www.farlamhall.co.uk. Farlam Hall Country House Hotel, Hallbankgate, Brampton, Cumbria CA8 2NG