There are some English counties I know like the back of my hand as a result of countless family holidays and a period living south of the border. Yorkshire never gets old whether it’s a day in the Dales, a city break in York or a trip to Sheffield for the shops. So when presented with the opportunity to explore Cumbria, I jumped at the chance to scope out somewhere new.
We arrive at The Sun Inn in Kirkby Lonsdale and are surprised to find our room equipped with “visit
Yorkshire” guides. Fortunately, Mark Fuller, who has run the 17th century inn with his wife
Lucy for the last ten years, is quick to put our minds at rest. We were right, Kirkby Lonsdale is in Cumbria, but what makes it interesting is that it’s virtually on the tripoint where Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire meet.
Having three counties’ attractions to choose from is a definite plus point but determined to stick to Cumbria’s finest, we start off with a couple of pints of Tiffin Gold – a light, fruity beer from the brewery just up the lane from the hotel.
The Fullers have transformed the inn into a deserving five-star hotel, complete with an upmarket restaurant and cosy bar which is clearly popular with the locals. Built around 1630, Mark explains that they feel like the latest custodians of the building rather than the owners and they’ve done a great job of retaining the original features. My other half and I are both six feet plus and we each learn this the hard way, forgetting to duck for the low beamed ceiling. Thankfully the vast bath in our room – a tub designed with tall people in mind – makes up for it. Bliss.
The toiletries, including bottles of“his and hers” perfume by the bed, are supplied by the Bath House, a Cumbrian bath and body care company, while a tiny wooden box beside the bed contains two pairs of earplugs to drown out the church bells, although there is something magical about waking up to them ringing on a bright May morning. Behind the hotel, St Mary’s Church, built between 1093 and 1130, sits squat in its churchyard, looking even lovelier for the tall grass and clusters of last-of-the-season daffodils.
The restaurant is named after head chef, Sam Carter, who has devised a seasonal menu celebrating “from farm to fork”. The slices of warm homemade bread flavoured with salt and black pepper go down a treat while we wait for our starters – mine a soft boiled duck egg, coated in breadcrumbs and served with asparagus spears, his a generous serving of sweet, sticky suckling pig with black pudding. For mains we plump for the duck breast with granola, lightly charred cabbage and plum puree, and the chicken boudin which is served with deliciously crispy leeks. Dessert does not disappoint – an indulgent toffee apple brulee and an almost savoury carrot sponge with candied walnuts.
Kirkby Lonsdale excels on all counts as a picturesque historic market town. After a hearty breakfast, we take our host’s advice and set out on a circular route past pretty hedgerows to the village of Whittington and back along the River Lune to Devil’s Bridge. The jewel in the Cumbrian crown is of course Ruskin’s View, which was painted by Turner in 1822 and subsequently described by poet John Ruskin as “one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world”. It is absolutely breath-taking. Fast forward a few centuries and it’s time for Saturday night’s entertainment.
This time last year, The Sun Inn joined forces with Majik House to offer the ultimate home cinema experience for its guests. It is a Tardis situation as the door opens on a unit at Kirkby Lonsdale’s rural business park to unveil an all singing, all dancing automation show home, where some customers arrive by helicopter to kit out their homes with state-of- the-art technology.
When it’s not showcasing the latest in sound and lighting, Majik House moonlights as a private cinema experience complete with pizza, popcorn and ice cream.
We settle into a pair of massage chairs and Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall blasts out of the sound system as Spectre starts on the big screen. The first explosion makes the room shake. This place definitely has a “wow factor”.
As we head back to The Sun Inn, I have a hard time persuading my fiancé that the last thing our Edinburgh flat needs is an￡80,000, 130 inch screen with 4K HD projector and state-of- the-art sound system.
Although it would be pretty cool.