Otterly lovely in Cumbria
You don’t need sunshine to enjoy a luxury rural retreat across the border, finds Will Slater
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.