In need of an escape to the country? Set your sights on the deliciously cosy Brownber Hall, the perfect base for stomping around the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.
Brownber Hall hotel review
If you’re itching for wide open spaces, fresh cold air and hills on the horizon, I doubt you could do better than grabbing your hiking boots and heading for the Howgill Fells. Hike your heart out around this natural border between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales – and after a busy day exploring, the prize for the warmest welcome belongs to Peter and Amanda, custodians of Brownber Hall.
Brownber Hall has stood loftily looking out at the fells since 1860, but it’s only been open in its latest incarnation as a guesthouse since 2016, after Amanda and Peter swapped London for the Lune Valley and restored Brownber to its current glory. The result of their hard work is a charming and intimate hotel, with plentiful quirky touches, a friendly, laid-back vibe and a feeling of staying in the heart of an epic landscape.
The views from Brownber Hall may make the rambler inside you desperate to pull on boots and make a beeline for the hills, but there’s also plenty to keep you cosy indoors. Walk into the entrance hall to be greeted by a burbling stove, squashy sofas, shelves of books and freshly made cakes. The sitting room is just as inviting, with the added bonus of a pineapple-topped honesty bar where you can shake up a cocktail or pour yourself a glass of wine before dinner.
The restaurant has a short but tempting Italy-meets-Cumbria menu in the evenings – the stars of the show are the sourdough pizzas and fresh pastas, although Mary and I could have eaten a three-course meal composed of just the homemade garlic bread, which I still dream about.
There are eight bedrooms at Brownber, and all are unique. Mary and I stayed in an enormous room painted in soothing white, with a big iron bed frame and tall windows looking out at grazing sheep and the misty Howgill Fells. There’s a real feeling of peace throughout the house – a good night’s sleep is guaranteed.
And once you do finally make it into your hiking boots and out of Brownber Hall, you can go exploring right into the hills you’ve been eyeing up from each window. Hike to the Calf’s Foot, the highest point in the Howgills, or drive further afield to walk the Lake District’s most iconic peaks. If you’re staying in summer, pack your swimsuit for a post-walk dip.
I was in the Lake District for the Kendal Mountain Festival, and Brownber, a 30 minute drive away from town, made the perfect country base. The ironic thing about the festival is that you can end up spending most of the day indoors at talks and film screenings, so I couldn’t wait to make tracks in the Dales the next morning. The day we were at Brownber, clouds had enveloped the hills, but Peter whipped out a map and showed us his favourite local walk, which cuts through a nature reserve and then leads up and over Smardale viaduct. We wandered back the long way over Smardale Fell and stopped for a warming hot toddy in the Black Swan in Ravenstonedale, making it back to the Hall 10 miles later with tired legs and hefty appetites for more pizza and pasta delights.
Our painful 6am start for the journey down south the next morning was made much sweeter with hot fresh coffee and homemade granola from Amanda and a warm goodbye from Brownber’s resident dog. We could have stayed far longer in this house in the hills.
Stay here: Stay at Brownber Hall in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria from £90 per night for a double room, including breakfast.