Escaping Twee Cumbria

Of The City, In The Country

Lumbering toward the end of a long year and heading into the festive season, with hordes worshipping in the digital isles of St Amazon, the Maharani sighed, “we need space, I mean we need visual space, somewhere where we’re not looking into other people’s homes. We need somewhere to exercise our eyes and stretch our legs.”

We’re undeniable townies, with a latent countryside gene; a pair of Hunters, Barbours and contrasting wellie socks, plus all the usual hiking stuff we get to use but once a year. All the gear and no idea. So we needed somewhere to legitimise our outdoor wardrobe and improve our cost per wear. It had to be somewhere dramatic, remote with heart stopping views and if the weather turned grim a bolt hole to cosy up in, The Lake District, Cumbria topped our list.

Consulting the Google Genie, we trawled through page after page of holiday cottages, all promising a boutique experience, ‘home from home’. The Maharani's sighs grew deeper, “I hate looking for places to stay, look at what happened last time?” We didn’t need reminding, the rustic, bijou gîte for two in the Loire transpired into a damp, mould infested stone barn with an assortment of musty bric a brac furniture with faint whiffs of eau de urine from the children’s bunk beds. Needless to say we cut our stay short and made a vite exit.

Hart Barn, Cumbria

Flicking through web page after page of what seemed like an out of date Laura Ashley catalogue inspired by 80s country cottage charm, hope seemed to disappear into the ether. Self catering abodes were decked out in rattan furniture resplendent in over varnished orange pine surroundings, skimpily furnished with hand me downs, at best they could be described as twee. Pictures were obviously taken in the summer disguising their draughty, cold, mean winter disposition. A last ditch attempt to find ‘something special’ led us to the promise of Hart Barn, reassuring pictures, warm descriptions and a phone call later with Helen (one half of the duo) had us booked in for four nights. Our mission, lazy breakfasts, indulgent sleep-ins, bracing walks from the doorstep, and no unwanted disturbances.

Hooting up the M6, we cut our away across Kirkstone pass in the near dark and arrived in Hartsop a pasture enveloped hamlet, with no mobile phone signal wrapped by protective lichen mountains dusted with snow. A willowy figure glowing with fresh air, Helen greeted us at Hart Barn with a welcome bottle of choice Prosecco a home-made chocolate cake and a partially stocked fridge. Inside, we felt our shoulders drop as the architect designed interiors soothed away the 5 hour drive with its 5 star status. Spread across three floors, Hart Barn seduces you into ‘slow’, architect Richard (the other half of the duo) has cleverly designed spaces to maximise generous proportions and deliver a luxe which is distinctly better than home (as it should be). Underfloor heating comforted our soles, the Starck inspired bathroom and L’Occitane product eased the townie stress away and the slouchy sofas and alpaca rugs in front of the Morsø woodburner tempted us to ignore the great outdoors and enjoy the great indoors...especially the Egyptian cotton sheets.

With touches from local artists and timber sculptors, they’ve got the balance right between contemporary design and rural warmth. Helen and Richard’s vision for Hart Barn was clearly conceived in the city but well and truly born in the country and like its landscape it’s simply impressive.

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