Martha Hayes discovers a cosy hideaway in Kirkby Lonsdale
Why go: For a nicely-priced short break filled with good old country air, charming scenery and quirky cobbled streets.
Best for: A quiet, low-key getaway. The Sun Inn is a whitewashed 17th century inn in the historic market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, which is situated between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. It's a stone's throw away from a view the Victorian art critic John Ruskin described as 'the loveliest in England' (immortalised in a painting by the artist J.M.W. Turner), as well as the 650 year-old Devil's Bridge over the River Lune. Unsurprisingly, it's great for pottering, exploring and generally recharging your batteries; and popular with couples - and dogs!
Ancient meets modern: bedrooms are cosy and contemporary at The Sun Inn
The look: With its low beams, oak floors and roaring fires, the small-but-perfectly-formed Sun Inn has an abundance of historic character. It dates back to 1630 but has a warm and contemporary feel (it was refurbished by the high-end hotelier couple Mark and Lucy Fuller in 2006). There's a distinctively personal touch that spans further than the fact that Lucy's father (a furniture-maker) made everything from the desks to the bed-heads in the 11 rooms. These vary between standard, superior and deluxe. If space and a roomy bathroom are important, opt for deluxe as there's little difference in price. It's not flash, but very comfortable, and the thoughtful details – a supply of fresh milk, locally-made perfume from the nearby The Bath House and a little wooden box on the bedside containing earplugs 'for church bells or snoring neighbours' – are too charming to go unnoticed.
I'm hungry: Book dinner on at least one night here - you won't regret it. The AA rosette-awarded menu is local, seasonal and delicious, with framed prints of the months of the year scattered throughout the dining room reminding you what's in season when. While there's an à-la-carte menu and substantial bar snacks, the three-course menu (including an amuse bouche, or 'taster soup' as they unpretentiously call it) is good value at £27.50. This boasts, for example, a whole baby camembert with apricot, ginger and saffron chutney as a starter, followed by an array of fish and slow-cooked meat courses before rich but moreish desserts. The spaghetti vongole was so good I wanted to order it again and again. I didn't, because there are some lovely other restaurants - nearby Italian Avanti (baravanti.com) is popular (advisable to book), and there are a good handful of pubs with reasonably priced, hearty dishes. Try The Snooty Fox (thesnootyfoxtavern.co.uk) and The Royal Hotel (royalhotelkirkbylonsdale.co.uk).
Local character: The Sun Inn is in the heart of Kirkby Lonsdale
The bar is clearly as popular with locals (and dogs) as it is with overnight guests because it's so cosy (think quaint little lamps, rugs and fireplaces), with local ales and an extensive wine list (the house, at £17.50, is very good). Even when we ate elsewhere, we'd start at the bar with an aperitif (decent prosecco by the glass… ok, and bottle). The vibe is a bit middle-aged but if you live in a busy city and just want to get away from it all, such ambience is just what the doctor ordered.
In this setting, breakfast feels like a real treat. The morning papers are provided and freshly squeezed orange juice is brought to your table while you order from a traditional menu of hot dishes. Don’t normally go for a Full English? The award-winning sausages from a Kirkby Lonsdale butcher's should convert you, and the overall plate is substantial but not too overwhelming, leaving room to snack on fresh croissants, yogurts and fruit.
While you’re there: Guests staying at The Sun Inn enjoy discounts and offers at the nearby Love Beauty salon (lovebeautykirkby.com). Owners Sue and Carolyn have an impressive range of treatments including a 90-minute hot stone massage (perfect for winter, £60) and ESPA facials. As with everything else in Kirkby Lonsdale – from tea rooms to gift shops – it’s personal service, with a smile, before anything else. And if you love The Bath House (thebathhouseshop.com) products in your room, stock up on supplies at their outlet at 1 New Road, or drive into Sedbergh (also known as ‘England’s Book Town’, you’ll soon see why) to the main store in Busk Lane to see where all the magic happens.
Walk it off: autumn mists over Lake Windermere © Ben Barden courtesy of golakes.co.uk
Once you’re fully relaxed, venture outdoors. Helpful and friendly but not overbearing staff are on hand with maps and advice on nearby walks and activities. Local transport links aren’t bad but you’ll need a car to get the most out of your time here. Kendal is only 13 miles away while Windermere is 20 miles and perfect for a fish and chips lunch and a wander around, say, The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction (hop-skip-jump.com) with a reluctant boyfriend (I hadn’t been since I was little, ok?).
Dress code: Leave your glad rags at home – here's it's all about feeling comfy. I wore jeans, jumpers and brogues – then threw on some Converse trainers for a walk. Anything more practical, like wellies or raincoats, the staff will kindly provide.
Book now: The Sun Inn, 6 Market St, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria LA6 2AU (015242 71965; sun-inn.info). In November double rooms start at £99 with breakfast. Wifi and parking (within Kirkby Lonsdale and surrounding areas) is complimentary. The nearest mainline train station is Oxenholme Lake District at Kendal, transfers by taxi take 20 minutes and cost £35.
Info: Charlotte Bronte’s depiction of Lowood School in Jane Eyre is believed to be based on the school in nearby Cowan Bridge, while Kirkby Lonsdale was Lowton. The BBC’s forthcoming adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn was recently filmed in the town (despite being set in Cornwall!). For more information see kirkbylonsdale.co.uk and golakes.co.uk.