Review: Hassness House - The Lake District in style
- Credit: Archant
From high up on the fell we could see Derwent Water and many of the hills made famous by the journals of the great Alfred Wainwright.
The long but leisurely upward walk to the top of Latrigg ? completed in warm sunshine ? was rewarded with a fantastic panorama.
Sitting just down the slope, with protection from the breeze, we ate our packed lunch with other members of the 19-strong walking group and gazed at what must be one of Britain’s finest views.
Our base for a week of Lake District exploration was Hassness House, which stands in its own extensive grounds overlooking Buttermere in the quieter and less busy north west of the National Park.
The property, about 20 miles from Keswick, has been extensively refurbished in recent years and is a warm and comfortable place to stay.
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All the bedrooms are on the lake side of the house and the views are terrific.
Downstairs there is a residents’ lounge and a kitchen where guests can make tea and coffee. There’s a fridge for storing drinks and personal items of food.
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There is a terrace where, in the kind of exceptionally good weather we enjoyed, you can sit with a pre-dinner glass of wine, read a book or newspaper or chat to fellow guests.
It was on this terrace that I saw the first red squirrels I had seen for many years, since they became extinct in Thetford Forest and almost everywhere else in England.
One was feeding in a squirrel box in a tree. Another came within a few feet of our terrace table – no doubt after dropped fragments of cake, served in the late afternoon when guests return after hours in the fresh lakeland air.
Meals at Hassness House are first rate – produced by chef Brian Wood, a Bob Dylan fan who is also the property’s manager. They are served with amazing efficiency by his partner, Carol.
Afternoon cake is cooked by Carol’s daughter Ruby, who also offers a range of therapeutic massages for guests returning from walks.
Breakfast consists of an array of cereals or porridge and, for those with bigger appetites and sometimes facing a long day in the hills, individually-served hot breakfasts of sausages, bacon, eggs, beans and tomatoes.
Evening meals are beautifully cooked, ranging from fish to poultry and meat, while my wife, a vegetarian, was very pleased with the dishes prepared for her and other like-minded guests.
Hunger was rarely a factor during the Grade E walks – the lowest of the walking grades offered by Ramblers Countrywide Holidays. For several of the walks passed or ended at tearooms. Though we will no doubt be labelled “softies” by the more adventurous walking fraternity, a refreshing cup of tea and a scone worked wonders.
One bonus of staying at Hassness House is that there are no televisions and no mobile phone signals, although there is a landline telephone and wi-fi is available.
So people get more opportunity to talk to each other instead of staring at a box or holding a small electronic device close to their ear.
But, for those who worry about this sort of thing, mobile phones do work in many parts of the Lakeland area.
There is, of course, a drying room for boots and clothing – for the Lake District is hardly famed for its dry weather. But during our stay it was never used.
So what’s wrong with Hassness House? Well, for some potential guests it is the fact that the modern, excellent and pristinely kept showers and toilets are across the corridor from the bedrooms.
But in an era where many demand en-suite facilities – and we usually fit into that group – I can honestly say that the inconvenience was minimal.
Rarely during the week did we find the nearest shower or toilet occupied, and then there was always one or the other vacant a few yards further away.
And this was when the house at the time was full to capacity, with its 19 guests spread among seven twin, one double and three single rooms.
The other “problem” is that Hassness House is not licensed to sell alcohol. Guests are advised of this before they come and simply bring their own supplies.
The house is the base for all grades of walking: from the leisurely E, which we enjoyed, to C and C+, which appeal more to those wanting to go higher, with steeper ascents and descents, and to walk for greater distances.
The main key to an enjoyable walking holiday is usually the calibre of the leader, and in this we were very fortunate.
Ian Foster, a former police detective inspector and college lecturer, proved to be an amiable and knowledgeable companion and managed to cater for all needs on the walks with great sensitivity and humour. He also organised a fun quiz on two of the evenings and we were also entertained with an illustrated talk by a member of the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team.
Each year the team, one of several in the Lake District, go to the aid of dozens of walkers who sustain injuries or lose their way in the fells and are in danger of suffering from exposure.
The mobile phone is obviously invaluable when this happens!
Ramblers Countrywide Holidays01707 386800