I feel like Snow White. I’m waking up to the sound of chattering birds outside my window. On the decking outside the French doors looking out on to the lake, a pair of Puddle-Duck-perfect ducks on the decking veranda are having a gander in the window.
And who could blame them for wanting a look in? We’re in a cosy log cabin on the edge of the Lake District, a couple of hours and a world away from the hassles of Edinburgh’s working week. It’s Saturday morning and we have two days of relaxation ahead in the beautiful wilds of Cumbria.
Based around a private nature reserve outside Carlisle, the Tranquil Otter comprises seven south-facing lodges with idyllic views across the lake. It’s named for the apparently imaginary creatures which wallow waterside… oh well, I prefer ducks, and there’s even a friendly/greedy swan or two floating around. After they’ve enjoyed some of the duck food we cadged off team member Gillian, we considered following the swans on to the lough – that’s Cumbrian for loch, lake and so on – in the personal rowing boat berthed by every lodge.
Budget or boutique?
The phrase “log cabin” encompasses everything from humble bothy to vast ski lodge; our accommodation, the Egret, nestled on the edge of a wood, is firmly in the middle – large enough to be luxurious, characterful enough to feel homely.
The living room has that fabulous view, two generous double bedrooms mean there’s space for a family and friends break, the kitchen is well equipped, there’s an en suite by one bedroom, a wet room with WC by the other, and a big bathroom with claw-footed free-standing tub. The wooden walls lend a frontier feel, with the woodburning fire providing the finishing touch. There’s super fast wifi, smart TV, DVD… and a private sauna. On the lake side is a decked terrace with table and chairs, bench and hot tub. I’ve only been in a hot tub once, on a cruise ship, and quickly left due to the unnerving water displacement caused by a couple of Americans. A tub for two proved a revelation, the hot bubbles massaging my peely-wally skin as I watched the ducks quack merrily.
Wining and dining
It’s self-catering all the way and as there aren’t any shops within walking distance, bring whatever you fancy eating for at least the first night. After that you can pick up something in Carlisle, or pop to the nearby village of Great Orton, where butchers R & J Mulholland have been serving up top-quality local fare for 55 years – Jimmy and Anne’s pies and quiches, in particular, are the bees’ knees. Shell out a little extra for a Tranquil Otter welcome pack and you get a bottle of wine and mouthwatering breakfast items from Mulholland’s (sausages, black pudding, eggs, bacon, bread, butter and more) while the adventurous could throw some burgers and sausages on the charcoal barbie – just don’t grill any ducks, they’re my mates!
Worth getting out of bed for
The views are stunning and if you tire of listening to birdies and imagining otters (you can’t get a more Tranquil Otter than an absent one), take a walk around the lake through the no doubt fairy-infested forest. A private hide mid-walk lets you observe the birds at close quarters. Loads of little villages and hamlets are nearby, and again, there’s historic Carlisle, Hadrian’s Wall within driving distance, the Lakes... fishing tuition can be arranged on the lough, there are clay pigeon and golf facilities nearby – trust me, you won’t be bored.
Expect a pint of milk in a proper glass bottle, Border biscuits, teabags and pods of Tassimo Americano coffee. There’s also El Jaguar blend coffee from John Watt of Carlisle, so tasty it inspired a trip to the city for packs to take home.
The Tranquil Otter team have thought of everything for a break that’s as lazy or active as you wish. The lodges are a dream and the hot tub a total treat. And we don’t know that there aren’t any actual otters around…
A three-night stay at the Egret is £587-£955 depending on time of year.
A week-long stay varies from £1,030 to £1,540.
The Tranquil Otter, The Lough, Thurstonfield, Cumbria CA5 6HB (01228 576661, [email protected])