Brownber Hall – Review
by Rachael Popow
When my friend and I arrive at Brownber Hall, a boutique guest house in the Yorkshire Dales, our first thoughts are that it looks nice but a lot smaller than we expected. Then we realise we have pulled up to the neighbouring Brownber House and the Hall is further up the road.
Our mistake becomes even more obvious when we see the real Brownber Hall, a beautiful and imposing Victorian building with impressive views over a sheep-filled field and the Howgill Fells. Once you find it (and there are directions on the website as apparently sat navs can try to lead you down some impassible lanes), this country house near Kirkby Stephen is well located for exploring both the Dales and the Lake District, and is pretty much guaranteed to make a great first impression, no matter what time of year you visit.
There are chairs and tables outside, which would be lovely for a drink on a warm summer’s evening, while inside are two communal sitting rooms, well-stocked with books and board games, that would be very cosy with a roaring fire in the winter.
Technically, we’ve turned up on a summer’s day, but it’s a windy, overcast one – a bit too chilly to be outside, but not cold enough to require a fire. However, we do get a warm welcome from the co-owner Amanda, who took over Brownber in 2016. She offers us tea and homemade lemon drizzle cake, as well as the key to our room.
We’re staying in the spacious and comfortable master suite which, like the rest of Brownber Hall, has been elegantly decorated to make the most of the period features, while also adding some more modern touches, including splashes of strong colours and a very up-to-date bathroom with a wet-room style shower. It also has a king-size bed and a blue velvet chaise lounges, perfect for reclining on while enjoying either the striking view from the windows or the smart TV, which comes complete with Netflix.
The more 21st-century side of the guest house is also in evidence in the dining room, where you can enjoy a sourdough pizza. The restaurant is open to non-guests Thursday to Sunday, but can provide dinner on other nights by prior arrangement. So, even though it’s a Monday, I tuck in to an olive and anchovy pizza, while my friend opts for fennel and chorizo – made, by request, without too much fennel.
For people who don’t like pizza, or slightly less bafflingly, wouldn’t fancy eating it two or more nights on the trot, Amanda tells us that Brownber will soon be bringing in a chef to expand the menu. However, we’re very happy with our pizzas, and decide we still have just enough room to split a desert. We opt for an Affogato of vanilla ice cream, Baileys and biscotti, without giving much thought to the fact that it isn’t really a desert designed for sharing – although that works out in my favour as I end up with most of it.
Fortunately for anyone who does miss out on a Baileys, Brownber has a well-stocked honesty bar – you help yourself, and write down what you’ve taken.
Along with the booze, the communal area also has some handy folders with maps of local walks, organised by distance and the time they are likely to take. Although you could use the guest house as a base to visit other parts of the Dales or the Lakes, there’s plenty to explore in the Howgill Fells themselves. We had been intrigued at the prospect of the wild swimming spots nearby but as it’s too cold for us to take our wine outside for the last of the evening sun, we decide that realistically, we’re probably not going to fancy jumping into a lake.
So, we pick out a walk from Brownber Hall to the stunning Smardale Viaduct for the following cool, damp day. We’re well set up for it by a good night’s sleep – although there are other guests staying, it’s impressively quiet – and a hearty breakfast.
As well as a full English, a vegetarian option, and the more American-leaning choice of waffles with bacon and syrup, the breakfast also comes with homemade granola and Amanda’s mum’s marmalade, another one of the little personal touches, like the cake on arrival, that make Brownber Hall feel characterful – a traditional country house but with a relaxed, quirky twist.
So, if you’re looking to explore the great outdoors or just to spend a quietly luxurious night away from it all, Brownber Hall is well worth a stay – just remember to read the directions properly.
Brownber Hall, Newbiggin-on-Lune, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, CA17 4NX
Bedrooms from (bed & breakfast) £90 per night
01539 623 208