Valentine’s in the Lake District: What to Look For in a B&B

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A friend of ours recently decided to hold a surprise 30th birthday party for his wife on Valentine’s Day. How romantic is that! So off we trundled in the Beetle for six and a half hours to the opposite corner of the world, to the Lake District. We thought we’d make a weekend of it and find a cosy retreat for our stay (any excuse).

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I always look for the same thing when I’m googling Bed and Breakfasts; I overlook the places that appear to operate as a business, avoid mahogany furniture at all costs, and instead look for intimate home stays with personal touches. That’s what everyone wants really isn’t it?

You don’t want to feel as though you’re staying in a hotel, you want to feel as though you’ve found a place with a bit of soul – a place where you experience “The Christopher Columbus Effect”, as I call it. (We had a similar experience in Chambery, France last May. You can read about our stay here.) Either way, this lovely secluded B&B had a special energy about it and I think a large part of that was to do with our lovely host.

In my view, these are the three things to look for in a bed and breakfast: 

  • A beautiful house with character: New builds need not apply. It doesn’t have to be a period building necessarily, although it helps, but must have an interesting aesthetic quality and located in a quiet and picturesque spot, if possible with an uninterrupted view.
  • Home cooked food: Fresh ingredients, local produce and little touches in your room that make you smile.
  • A host with the most: You could be staying in a mediocre establishment but if your host bends over backwards, takes an interest in you and makes you feel welcome, then your stay becomes more than average. (Not that there was anything average about our stay at Broughton House.)

You can’t always predict you’ll find all of the above, but I think if you bear these things in mind when you’re searching online, you’ll identify these sometimes subtle signs in the photography or at the mention of “homemade bread and jams” as I spotted on the Broughton House website.

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We had such a lovely stay at Broughton House last weekend which is located in the idyllic village of Cartmel, and not too far from Kendal or Lake Windermere,

We were expecting a slightly chillier climate to Norfolk, only to be welcomed by what felt a change in season. It was mild, the sun was out, the black birds had spoken, the flowers were blooming – seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Had we just stepped out of a fairy tale?

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On arrival, our host Cate welcomed us to our room, explained that she’d been baking chocolate brownies and shortbread that afternoon (the smell wafted throughout the entire house) and that we’d find a supply in our room. This batch didn’t last 10 minutes:

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We would sleep so peacefully on our super-sized bed, enveloped in a marshmallow thick duvet:

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The view from our window:

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The generously-sized en-suite up on the mezzanine level:

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We arrived late afternoon and after showing us to the room and telling us to help ourselves to the well-stocked tea cabinet on the landing, she announced that she had lit the fire in the front room for us, in case we would like to relax for a while. No one else was staying there that evening so we would have it to ourselves:

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The next morning we woke to the first glimpse of spring. The night before Cate asked us to choose from a wide selection of breakfast options including smoked salmon and poached eggs, pancakes, cooked breakfast, to name a few. We ate in the sunny conservatory with only a vase of tulips for company:

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We counted 14 different condiments, around 9 of which were homemade jams – damson, apricot, marmalade, raspberry, strawberry, you name it:

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Another coincidence this Valentine’s Day morning (14th Feb), was that, not only were there 14 jams but there were 14 hens clucking happily outside. I love moments of synchronicity like this:

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These lovely hens laid the rich and creamy eggs for our delicious fry-up. And yes, this is a piece of bacon and a sausage you can see in my “vegetarian breakfast”:

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With a side order of pancakes, obviously:

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And homemade sourdough toast:

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The next evening, being Valentine’s, the B&B was fully booked. So we retreated to the Garden House for our final night – a self-contained garden villa with kitchen-lounge, sun room-diner, double bed room, an en-suite bathroom with an enormous shower and a lovely electric log-burner. Sadly we didn’t take any pictures apart from this one, where this fine looking fellow briefly popped in to say a quick hello:

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After a really lovely evening spent with friends at the surprise party, we returned to the Garden House to this:

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Cate had thoughtfully packed us a hamper full of fruit, homemade sourdough bread, fresh eggs from the hens, freshly squeezed OJ, a selection of her homemade jams, yoghurt, homemade granola and a milkman’s pint of full fat milk. Oh the joys! How happy we were waking on Sunday to a lie in and a selection of goodies:

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A stay at Broughton House cost £150 for two nights. £90 for the first night in the large “East Bedroom” and £60 for a night in the self-catering Garden House (including the delightful hamper of homemade treats). For more info go to www.broughtonhousecartmel.co.uk

A big thank you to our attentive host, Cate, for making our stay so comfortable and enjoyable – all your homely touches made our weekend so relaxing.

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