The northern Lake District is not as well served by good restaurants and places to stay as you might imagine for a place so dedicated to visitors, so our stay at Liam and Kath Berney’s Cottage in the Wood, high on the Whinlatter Pass, was a bit of a revelation and a mighty welcome discovery.
Ten bedrooms are beautifully done out with big soft duvets, immaculate linen, fabulous bathrooms and home-made biscuits on the tea tray. Rooms Oak and Ash have views across Bassenthwaite Lake to Skiddaw and the Garden Room has maximum glam with a super-king sized bed and a glitzy wet room.
Not only do the staff know how to welcome their guests on arrival: with a smile, and they’re impeccably briefed before dinner so that they know what’s on the menu and talk knowledgeably about it. And what’s well worth talking about is the Cumbrian terroir: Solway Firth wild salmon, west coast brown crab, Whitehaven turbot, Yew Tree farm Herdwick hogget, samphire, cockles, meadowsweet and wood sorrel.
Liam Berney is in the kitchen working alongside his head chef Ryan Blackburn whose c.v. takes in the Angel at Hetton, Holbeck Ghyll and Restaurant Martin Whishart in Edinburgh, a local lad come back to his roots. His commitment to his produce spills out of every pore and, judging by our excellent dinner, so does considerable skill.
We ate very well across three courses. Like the sound of girolles mushrooms in a spelt risotto; turbot on rosti with pig’s trotter croquette, samphire and cockle vinaigrette; Grasmere gingerbread ice cream and soft fruit? We did. Ideally, bag a table in the window of the conservatory dining room where you’ll have a cracking view of Skiddaw, birds flocking to the feeders, and – with a little luck – a red squirrel.
A couple of years ago, I spent a happy few months researching the Lakes for the Time Out Guide to the Lake District and like to think I know its hotels and restaurants pretty well. Take it from me that if you’re looking for either a superior bed or a quality dinner there’s nothing to beat Cottage in the Wood in the Derwentwater, Buttermere, Bassenthwaite sector. Simple as that.
Cottage in the Wood, Restaurant with Rooms, Whinlatter Forest, Braithwaite, Nr Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5TW. Open: Tue-Sat 1130-1430 & 1800-2100. T: 017687 78409 E: [email protected] W: www.thecottageinthewood.co.uk