4th March 2013Something a bit different: Stanley House and The Woolpack Inn, Eskdale

Eskdale is one of our favourite places to visit in the Western Lake District and until last weekend The Woolpack Inn was the only pub we still needed to tick off our list. The Woolpack Inn being fully booked (a common occurrence and I now know why) we were offered a room 10mins down the road at The Woolpack Inn’s sister property, Stanley House.

Stanley House seen from the extensive riverside gardens

Stanley House is a charming and funny old building. It was built in 1894 by the owner of the Woolpack Inn, who intended to use it as additional guest accommodation hence the style of the building – more like an upper crust hostel or luxurious alpine hut than a rural Lakeland residence. As a result, current owners Harry and Paddington Berger have been able to create a rather unique establishment;  a comfortable bed and breakfast with the relaxed, come-and-go feel of a self-catering hostel and the cosy decadence of a country hotel in the shared living areas. But also a property that lends itself well to exclusive bookings – a group of 24-6 can rock up and enjoy their own house in the country without even having to share a bathroom.

Anyway, on arrival we picked up the red phone at the door which connected us to the staff at the Woolpack – within a few minutes, one of the team had whizzed down the road to let us in and encourage us to make ourselves at home. There weren’t many people around – most would still be out walking perhaps to Stanley Ghyll Force, pretty Blea Tarn or even Scafell.

We collapsed by the woodburner in the reception/lounge and thought – there’s nothing like real fire to warm you up. And when owner Harry arrived in the evening to pick us up for dinner at The Woolpack Inn, we discovered that log-burning is central to the ethos of Harry and Paddington’s properties.

After greeting us warmly then rushing down to the basement muttering something about checking on the wood, Harry explained that in 2009 he had decided to stop using fossil fuel entirely and heat both properties using only log from the woodlands in the valley. Expecting to save 42.5 tonnes of CO2 a year, Harry uses logs sourced from woodlands surrounding the property. Their sustainable fuel never needs to travel more than a mile. Using their own firewood processor, they also produce logs for the local school - playing a vital part in the local community.

Giles warming up by the fire in Stanley House’s homely reception and lounge

We set off in Harry’s car to the Woolpack Inn. On the way he told us of his plans to develop a cinema in the basement of Stanley House, giving a unique twist to any group stay at the property.  We arrived at the Woolpack already feeling pretty impressed by Harry and Paddington’s entrepreneurial approach to rural business, and soon found that the approach is no different at the Woolpack: Half heartwarming traditional pub, half contemporary bar and café (converted from the old coach house), packed with happy hikers and serving a superb range of locally-sourced food. As a bit of a surprise, there’s also a vodka bar – we tried and loved the marmalade infused variety, a real winter warmer.

Starters: Crisp local lamb belly on a delicate salad for Giles (to die for), Woolpack Hot Smoked Fishcake for me (ditto).

The Woolpack Inn, the Lake District

Main courses (excuse the mess): We decided to balance our ‘delicate’ starters with a lean towards full-on pub grub with a twist. I chose from the specials menu - local chicken stuffed with black pudding, wrapped with local bacon and served with the Woolpack’s twice-cooked chips. Giles went for Traditional Local Tatie Pot in Yorkshire Pudding – Local Herdwick Mutton, Black Pudding & Potatoes with pickles.

Harry’s wife Paddington popped over for a chat while we were eating and confirmed our suspicion that the pair always have their next project in mind, and probably rarely stop working. Eskdale is lucky to have them, and their two special enterprises at the heart of the gorgeous valley.

Find out more

The Woolpack Inn: www.woolpack.co.uk

Stanley House : www.stanleyghyll-eskdale.co.uk

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Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.