Sunday 28 September 2014

Barton Hall, near Pooley Bridge, Cumbria

A handsome and substantial Victorian house a mile outside of Pooley Bridge at one end of Ullswater, Barton Hall oozes old-school character.  Spread over two floors and two wings, its comfortable guest bedrooms have very high four-poster beds, vintage wallpaper, velvety curtains and lampshades, distinguished wooden furniture and thick carpets. Some have en-suite bathrooms with roll-top baths, but others rely on spacious communal facilities with lovely old brass fixtures and fittings.

Served in an elegant period dining room on flowery china and lace tablecloths, the traditional breakfast includes a buffet with a choice of cereals, chopped fruit and yoghurts, as well as the classic cooked options. The generous full English includes four rashers of lean bacon, a respectable sausage, fried or scrambled egg, cooked tomato and baked beans, plus a steady supply of toast and orange juice. The only let down is the coffee, which is fairly mediocre. The dining room has a very high ceiling and is flooded with light through a big bay window with a cushioned bench - definitely the place to sit.

Next door, the enormous lounge also has a fine bay window with its own bench, an array of sofas and armchairs, plus a large flat screen television - one of the few concessions to modernity. Another is the free Wi-Fi and there is a handy fridge-freezer in the small guest kitchen. Outside, there is a large gravel driveway, screened by a patch of woodland, and a well-tended L-shaped garden with enticing glimpses of the hills enclosing Ullswater. There is just enough space for ball games, but note this is also the turf of the resident dog. Although the owners and staff can be a tad eccentric,  Barton Hall's stone solidity and timeless ambiance makes it an authentic window into old England. A truly special play to stay. 9/10