Bird watcher or cyclist? History buff or rambler? These are some of the reasons why we moved to an unspoilt part of Cumbria, a peaceful and relaxed spot where, from our garden, we can see Brough Castle on the site of the Roman fort, Verterae.
If you enjoy that kind of holiday, then please consider joining us at Coach House Cottage in Church Brough, Kirkby Stephen. This one up, one down old coach house has been updated and offers comfort and privacy, whilst we live in the adjoining converted stables.
Facilities are all new. We created an open plan kitchen with a fridge/freezer, electric hob/stove, microwave, toaster, slow cooker, tv, Freeview and wi-fi. Cutlery, crockery, glass, linen, tableware and cookware is provided. There’s full double glazing throughout, internal insulation and central heating, plus a smoke alarm link to the centralised system.
Upstairs, reached by a staircase from the sitting area is the light, airy double bedroom with en suite shower room. Open beams above and a truly comfortable bed! Bed linen, bath towels, tea towels are provided. Throughout you’ll find comfortable furnishings and some period country items.
There is ample parking in the courtyard and you have private sitting space in the walled kitchen garden with views of the farmland and hills beyond.
The cottage entry door is opposite the door into our house, we share the main entry door. Your privacy is assured, however – both buildings have solid, thick stone walls!
Worried about the weather so far north? Last winter gave us very little snow, which melted within a few hours. Yes, it rains at times – this is Britain, after all! – but when the sun comes out the light is so beautiful it can have an emotional effect. In fact, we get enough sun every day to have made installing the solar panels worthwhile.
So with Coach House Cottage as your base, what can you do around here?
Church Brough village is a three minute walk away. Brough takes about 15 minutes.
The cottage is on the 100 mile Lady Anne pathway from Skipton to Penrith and close to both the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast route. An extensive footpath and bridleway network right on the doorstep means you can explore little known unspoilt countryside seldom meeting other walkers, unlike the Lake District.
For cyclists, Cycle Route 71 is about two miles away and beautiful, unspoilt countryside all around makes it a pleasure to ride.
For golfers, there’s a choice of two local courses – the Appleby (Gary Wolstenholme’s favourite) and the Ravenstonedale course, close to The Black Swan which was voted the pub of the year 2013. A bit further afield, there are top quality courses at Penrith, Alston Moor, Barnard Castle and Hexham.
For gardeners, we encourage your input into our on-going development of our kitchen garden, the big lawned rear garden, a small patio and small walled area, as well as the courtyard. We love talking about gardening especially the demands of this northern location. Throughout the summer, there are many local garden open days, both in small villages and big country house gardens.
For bird watchers, there is a good range of birds in the immediate vicinity and, in our garden alone, we’ve spotted curlew, peregrine falcons, goldcrests, oystercatchers, great spotted woodpeckers, heron, house sparrows, long tailed tits, cole tits, buzzards and possibly a golden eagle! There is an RSPB golden eagle hide at Riggindale, Haweswater, just over 20 miles away.
For nature lovers, a trip to the North Pennines, which an area of outstanding natural beauty just on our border, is a must. There is a field centre at Bowlees Visitor Centre and several nature reserves and wildflower meadows to visit in both the North Pennines and the Eden Valley.
For explorers, there’s a wonderful mix of moors, dales, scenic villages and market towns nearby without ever going near a large town.
For country lovers, we have a string of local shows and events throughout the summer, all within 20 miles, such as the Brough Hound and Terrier show, the Alston Sheepdog Trials, agricultural shows at Skelton, Penrith, Brough, Appleby, Ravenstonedale, Wensleydale, Crosby Ravensworth, Dufton, Moorcock and Alston, plus Harness Racing in Appleby and Horse Trials at Hutton in the Forest.
For train enthusiasts, the Settle to Carlisle railway is close by as are other restored stretches of defunct, railway routes such as Warcop and Alston should be of interest, as would be Kirkby Stephen’s railway museum and enthusiasts’ centre.
For antique hunters, there are regular auctions at Hawes, Penrith and Barnard Castle.
Finally, a bit about the history. The cottage formed part of what was the Church Brough Rectory estate. The rectory, servants’ hall, stables, coach house, barn and glebe land were privately acquired and converted into four separate properties. The coach house and stables are linked by a glassed entry with separate internal access to the two dwellings.
Located on a bridleway, immediately behind the self contained cottage is a flight of stone steps to St Michael’s, a church with Norman origins. Turning left out of the cottage you pass a well on your right. Take a right turn onto the little used lane/Roman road (see photo 5) with its metamorphic sandstone sides leading to the village green and Brough Castle from which there are fantastic views of the surrounding area. The farm beside the castle has a well-known ice cream parlour and tea room.
Brough lies at the foot of the Stainmore Pass that crosses the Pennines. The Romans built a military road from York to Carlisle and a chain of forts one of which was Verterae. A 1,000 years later the Normans built a castle on the Verterae site. Over the years the castle was destroyed, rebuilt, burned down and in the 17th century it was rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford. A 100 mile pathway that follows the route Lady Anne Clifford took to visit her many castles from Skipton, passes through Church Brough going on to Penrith. Market Brough, the northern part of the village, was an important centre of trade from 1330 when a charter for a weekly market was granted. There are multiple sites of historical interest. Castles of note are at Carlisle, Brougham, Brough, Raby, Barnard Castle, Middleton, Shap Abbey and Pendragon Castle, plus Roman fort sites and, of course, Hadrian’s Wall.
A practical note: there are two hospitals within 35 miles away and major supermarkets within about 20 miles, although Sainsburys, Tesco and ASDA deliver on-line orders. Our local market town, Kirkby Stephen, is just three miles away and you’ll find it unspoilt and undeveloped.
Depending on time of year our rates are from £350 to £495 per week. Short breaks are available. To check availability you can either call Val Reynolds on 017683 42530 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. More images on http://coachhousecottage.bksites.net/
So sorry but we are unable to accept pets.
Val & John Reynolds
Here is some recent feedback from our guests this year:
We had a wonderful time at the cottage. First impression on walking in is that everything is clean, neat and looks new. I have not slept so well in years the bed is so incredibly comfortable and large. We found the whole place very welcoming and well appointed. We both like walking and it was so great to be able to leave the front door and walk in stunning scenery without having to use the car. The pubs we went to for lunch provided really good food, people were friendly and helpful. At the end of each meal we had out I never once thought “I could do better than that at home” as so often happens on our walks at home when we try a new place. On the days we did use the car it was so great to drive and find a parking place. I am so used to the overcrowded road conditions and parking wardens so keen to fill their quotas of greater London. So we had a great holiday. Dave, London, UK
Very comfortable retreat in the North Pennines. All mod cons and very attractive, stylish decor. Ideal location for people who love peace and quiet, within easy reach of wonderful walking areas. J & K, London, UK
A quirky, comfortable holiday retreat for two. The Coach House Cottage is very well equipped and beautifully furnished. The peaceful location in a wonderful area for walking and exploring. J&A, Brittany, France
We had a fantastic time at the Coach House Cottage. The local area has plenty of things to do, walking being our favourite. We loved the fact that the cottage was so well equipped, everything we needed was provided. M&S, Doncaster, UK
A surprisingly peaceful break from the rush and bustle of London at any time of year
Durham is just three hours from London on the train. There for the first time in September we were due to specifically experience some of the events arranged for Peace and Tranquillity Week and we were seduced by the city’s atmosphere and eclectic architecture. Small but perfectly formed was a description that sprang to mind.
We were bowled over by the centuries old city centre with its cobbled streets, mysterious alleys – referred to as vennels – home to quirky shops and off beat craftspeople. Beautiful bridges, the reflections of the cathedral in the river, a castle that has been in continuous use for 900 years.
One architectural gem we discovered in Durham was Crook Hall. A few minutes walk from the city centre this medieval building with eleven themed gardens in four acres, is perched on a hill overlooking the cathedral.
A popular venue for keen gardeners, the gardens are a joy. 300 year old pear trees grow on the southern walls of the oldest buildings, they were originally planted to ward off disease and have fruited for all that time. An ongoing programme of events at the Hall for all ages is listed on their website.
We wanted to see more of Durham but ran out of time and instead went onto Teesdale about 25 miles south west from Durham.
We stayed in Northside Farm Retreat near Barnard Castle. Northside Farm is in the process of developing as a centre for visitors to chill out and participate in courses such as tai chi, meditation, yoga. Access to a 14 metre swimming pool with sauna and steam room offers a relaxing environment.
There is a self-contained cottage that sleeps 6. Very well appointed, it had everything needed to make our stay very comfortable indeed, that included the dishwasher, which gave my husband a welcome rest from sink duty!
Gail and her husband Adrian have achieved a huge amount in the short time they have lived there and Gail’s ambition now is to grow lavender on the 100 acre farm.
Nearby was Barnard Castle once the ancient capital of Teesdale. Now a lively market town with a very long high street it has a weekly Wednesday market and the occasional farmers market on Saturdays.
Last inhabited in 1630 and much raided for materials to build in the area, Barnard Castle itself is now a beautiful ruin with wonderful views of the countryside and the river Tees. Turner was inspired to paint it.
On the edge of the town a most beautiful building in the style of a French chateau is Bowes Museum. Famous for one of the finest art collections in the country, it opened to the public in 1892 and has the most comprehensive collection of historic clothing and decorative arts in the UK.
One of the eighteen events in the Peace and Tranquility week on offer was Tai Chi tuition at Bowes Museum. Two groups worked in unison in front of the museum, a memorable experience in such beautiful surroundings. A couple of beginners were surprised and pleased to find they experienced a sense of wellbeing during the session. Our roast beef Sunday lunch at the restaurant was absolutely excellent with an excellent red wine. Followed by an absolutely fab creme brulee … we couldn’t ask for a better finish to our visit.
Another group activity we joined was a two hour painting tuition session with Brian Brown who with a wry humour steered the event along with consummate ease and was able to coax interesting creative results from the group, each with different levels of expertise. He runs similar courses in Durham and France.
By sheer chance we came across an agricultural show in Stanhope. It was outstanding in what it offered in two days, from dog obedience, welsh ponies, donkeys and hunters, open sulky racing, cossack trick riding and much more on Saturday. Sunday included Clydesdale horses, side saddle, bale pulling competition, wife carrying competition … and on it went. Astoundingly these shows are held all over Teesdale and are enormously popular. We loved it, a very friendly and happy event.
About 15 miles north east of Durham we made a visit to Seaham Hall, the leading luxury hotel and spa resort in Northern England which culminated in a wonderful massage in its Serenity Spa. Linked to the hotel by an intriguing underground walkway, The Serenity Spa, designed by Jocelyn Maxfield, has won a string of international awards and has become one of the UK’s top destination spas as voted by Best Spa for Style by The Sunday Times and Best UK Spa Destination by Conde Nast Traveller.
The decor of the four star Michelin Hotel is a fusion of East and West and takes most visitors by surprise. We were quite taken with the airiness and space given to the whole property and the signature pieces of antique and artisan decorative art. In fact a very similar feel and style to the world famous Saxon Hotel in Johannesberg.
Afternoon tea was a magnificent end to our visit, finger sandwiches, good strong coffee, delicious tea, sausage rolls to die for and we won’t go on about the cakes except they were plentiful and delightful!
You can join the Durham Heritage Coastal Walk at Seaham where the beach is sandy, great for kids. The Coastal Walk goes from Sunderland to Hartlepool but you can leave your car in the car park at the end of Lord Byron’s Walk and meander south as far as you desire. The coast has had a lot of investment to restore its natural beauty from the devastation of industrial use throughout the twentieth century.
We seized the opportunity to join an hour of photographic tuition on Seaham beach with Graeme Peacock a well known photographer in the North, who was absolutely excellent – he runs similar courses throughout the year, full details are on his website.
Raby Castle was open free of charge on the Sunday we visited, as part of Heritage Open Day. The grounds were dotted with herds of deer, cattle and sheep and we were able to wander down the paths at will. The gardens were beautiful particularly the ponds and some ancient yew hedges. There is a splendid tearoom and shop. Events are arranged through the year, details on their website,
Our last evening was spent at Headlam Hall, a rather beautiful 17th century country house with beautiful gardens surrounded by rolling farmland. We crammed in a lot in the time we had and we really wanted to stay longer.
With substantial financial investment in the spa it attracts members both locally and further afield. Opened three years ago they have five full time therapists and one student trainee offer an impressive range of treatments. Membership includes access to the gym and swimming pool.
We loved the warm welcome and friendly atmosphere of the staff and stayed for dinner in the Orangery. The food was absolutely excellent, from the tiny appetizer cup of leek and potato soup, through to the chocolate creme brulee. Restraint flew out of the window and we toasted the meal with a glass of champagne! Very highly rated, it was a wonderful end to an excellent five day stay in County Durham.
There is so much to see and explore in County Durham but we particularly wanted to see much more of Teesdale. High Force, a waterfall with the highest unbroken fall of water, 21 metres, in England. Great practice for photographers! It’s the beginning of the wilder area of the Pennines and one we want to see on our next visit.
Of course events don’t just happen in the Peace and Tranquillity week, have look at the Visit County Durham website for programme details. Why not visit next year? Or before that if you can’t wait for a real treat – we can’t!
Visit County Durham www.visitcountydurham.com
Crook Hall www.crookhall.co.uk
Northside Farm Retreat www.northsidefarmretreat.co.uk
Raby Castle www.rabycastle.com/HOD.htm
Graeme Peacock www.graeme-peacock.com
Seaham Hall and Spa www.seaham-hall.co.uk
Durham Heritage Coast www.durhamheritagecoast.org
Headlam Hall www.headlamhall.co.uk
Stanhope Agricultural Show www.stanhopeshow.com
All photography copyright © Pintail Media