Hotel Hit Squad: How two former city workers turned a crumbling country manor into Cumbria’s most stylish new hotel
My fellow guests are certainly relaxed, pouring themselves drinks and jotting down on a notepad what they’ve had, bonding over someone’s pet dog, and playing Scrabble. Peter and Amanda make a good fist at looking relaxed too, but in fact they are still working their socks off, they haven’t had a day off in weeks and have precious little time for hiking or climbing. Do they regret their decision to chuck in their careers? Not for a moment. Is running an eight-bedroom hotel as intellectually challenging? Far more so, they say: it’s like running a mini-empire, with so many elements that need to be got right. “And we don’t spend our days wading through paperwork any more, thank God.”
Breakfast, featuring Peter’s home-made sourdough toast, is a feast of local sausages, black pudding, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, eggs any way and more, cooked by Amanda and served by Peter and a helper. They offer simple dinners too: a menu of delicious pizzas made with their own dough and cooked in a pizza oven, plus a few salads and puds.
A good pizza turns out to be just the thing after a walk in this peaceful, little-known corner of Cumbria between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Take the path below the house that runs through Smardale nature reserve, rich in wildlife and industrial archaeology left over from limestone quarrying. It follows a long disused steam railway line to an old viaduct that straddles Scandal Beck, a tributary of the river Lune. Surrounded by hills, with not another building in sight, it’s an unexpected and majestic sight. With such beauty all around them, it’s no wonder Peter and Amanda are glad they quit London. I really hope they can make Brownber Hall work for them and stay the course.