Ot­terly lovely in Cum­bria

You don’t need sun­shine to en­joy a lux­ury ru­ral re­treat across the bor­der, finds Will Slater

The Scotsman - - TRAVEL & OUTDOORS -

Howl­ing winds and driv­ing rain isn’t the nor­mal recipe for a fan­tas­tic week­end away, but strangely it was ev­ery­thing we could have hoped for. We set off for our log cabin at the Tran­quil Ot­ter near Carlisle with hopes of ex­plor­ing Hadrian’s Wall and the North Lakes area dur­ing our long week­end, but scarcely get be­yond the pri­vate na­ture re­serve and lake where the seven five- star lodges are si­t­u­ated.

We are bil­leted in Alder Lodge, a mag­nif­i­cent A- shaped log cabin made with tim­ber sourced from Bassen­th­waite. The en­tire end wall of the dou­ble height liv­ing area is glass with spec­tac­u­lar south- fac­ing views across the lake and dou­ble doors which open on to a deck.

Ev­ery lodge has a wood- burn­ing stove and its pièce de ré­sis­tance, a hot tub. There is also a row­ing boat moored to our own lit­tle jetty. Dark is rapidly de­scend­ing as we un­pack and the wind whips across the lake. There are two bed­rooms: one up­stairs, which can be con­fig­ured as two sin­gles or a dou­ble, has an en­suite shower room, while the larger dou­ble is on the ground floor. The bath­room down­stairs has a walk- in shower and a free­stand­ing bath. There’s

un­der­floor heat­ing through­out too, so it’s su­per cosy. The open- plan liv­ing area has a gran­ite- topped kitchen area with ev­ery­thing you could need, in­clud­ing a dish­washer, Tas­simo cof­fee ma­chine ( plus a reg­u­lar cafetiere) and a four- slice Dualit toaster. There’s a good size din­ing ta­ble and a cou­ple of comfy re­clin­ing leather so­fas, a large smart TV with a sound­bar and Blu- ray player and a se­lec­tion of films along with books and board games. The bed­rooms also have their own TV.

In the fridge is a wel­come food pack with sup­plies from Mul­hol­land’s Butch­ers in the nearby vil­lage of Great Or­ton, with ba­con, sausages, cheese, milk, eggs, but­ter, jam and so on. There is also a bot­tle of wine, some tea bags, cof­fee cap­sules as well as a loaf of gra­nary bread and crusty rolls; plenty for an evening bite and break­fast. In fact, we pop along to Mul­hol­land’s the next morn­ing and pick up a cou­ple of ki­los of re­gional spe­cial­ity Cum­ber­land sausage for our freezer.

We pop the cork on a bot­tle of bub­bly we packed and fill­ing the thought­fully pro­vided plas­tic cham­pagne flutes – un­der­stand­ably there’s no glass al­lowed in the hot tub – and are soon laugh­ing at the im­prob­a­bil­ity of soak­ing in the

bub­bles and jets while the cold rain con­tin­ues to fall. We put a Blue­tooth speaker in a plas­tic bag so we can en­joy some tunes with­out it get­ting wet.

We have brought sup­plies for a steak din­ner so with the wood­burn­ing stove crack­ling away – fed by the stack of logs sup­plied – the evening slips away as we set­tle back to watch a film ( if you sign on to your Net­flix or Ama­zon ac­count on the TV, re­mem­ber to sign out be­fore you leave).

The next morn­ing doesn’t bring much respite in the weather so we pot­ter and re­lax, al­most grate­ful we don’t have to get up and go to see some­thing. We have an ap­point­ment with Carlisle train sta­tion five or so miles away ( a very hand­some Grade II- listed mid- Vic­to­rian build­ing, in­ci­den­tally), to drop a teenager off so that they can get back to Ed­in­burgh for an 18th birth­day party – there are some things even hot tubs can’t trump. On the way back, we pass the ex­cel­lent Fry­ery Fish and Chip Shop on Newtown Road ( www. the­fry­erycarlisl­e. co. uk) and re­solve to pop back later for a take­away din­ner.

Clock­wise from main: the ex­te­rior of the Alder Lodge; the lodge’s well- lit in­te­rior; the view across the Lough

There are spec­tac­u­lar south- fac­ing views across the lake

Back at the lodge, we leave our other teenager to re­lax while we walk round the lake, known as the Lough, a des­ig­nated Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est. It is muddy so wellies or walk­ing boots are a must, though there is also a wooden walk­way over sec­tions. With trees col­laps­ing into the water ex­pos­ing tan­gles of roots, we saunter, ob­serv­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary greens from the many lichens and mosses cov­er­ing the trunks.

On the other side of the Lough from the lodges is a bird hide. In­side it is a cosy space with win­dows look­ing out on the water. There are posters show­ing the var­i­ous birds in the area and a pair of binoc­u­lars to help you do so. The vis­i­tors’ book at­tests the var­i­ous sight­ings and glanc­ing through we see the fol­low­ing for 20 Septem­ber 2018: “He asked me to marry him!” af­ter which Tony wrote: “She said yes!”

The Tran­quil Ot­ter is that kind of place. ■

The Tran­quil Ot­ter ( 01228 576661, www. thetran­quilot­ter.co. uk), The Lough, Thurston­field, Cum­bria CA5 6HB. The Alder Lodge costs from £ 544 to £ 1,014 for three nights and from £ 1,210 to £ 1,820 for a week , de­pend­ing on the sea­son.

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