Flossie Mainwaring-Taylor follows in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter to discover the Lakes

IT’S not every day you can say you are standing within the same four walls where one of the world’s best-selling, best-loved children’s authors edited a tale about one of literature’s most famous characters. But one Lake District bed and breakfast with a Beatrix Potter trump-card allows exactly that.

Ees Wyke Country House, literally a stone’s throw from Potter’s home in Near Sawrey, is where the renowned writer, illustrator and natural scientist worked on The Tale of Peter Rabbit, during one of several stays in the late 1800s.

Then known as Lakefield, the house was rented by the Potter family as a holiday home. Later the famed author bought Hill Top, a time-capsule of her life, now owned by the National Trust.

(Although a must-see, it was closed during our stay but reopened for visitors earlier this month).

Nestled within a lush green landscape, Ees Wyke is surrounded by mountains, including some of the Lake District’s finest (the Old Man of Coniston and the Langdale Pikes) and lies close to the shores of Esthwaite Water – providing a tranquil, awe-inspiring setting.

On a wild, snowy night in January, the spacious lounge, complete with roaring fire, offered a warm, welcoming refuge for two weary travellers.

Richard Lee, who has run the business for 15 years, greets guests and takes meal orders before heading to the kitchen where he gets to work on what has been named an AA Rosette dinner.

Certainly not your stereotypical bed and breakfast, Ees Wyke is an intimate home from home but you can maintain your privacy – helped by the staff who strike a perfect balance between being on hand when you need them and being scarce when you don’t.

During our stay we both tucked into a three-course meal of creamy, melt-in-the-mouth seared scallops, just-cooked grilled salmon on a bed of pea mash – which, while a modest vegetable, almost upstaged the fish – followed by homemade sticky toffee pudding (a Lake District staple).

An intimate dining setting, it was hard not to be drawn to each other’s conversations and though not usually my idea of fun, we ended the evening supping coffee together in the lounge, fire still roaring.

While the décor is very traditional downstairs, the bedrooms offer a modern, stylish sanctuary, complete with a decanter of sherry, and the views prove magnificent from morning till night – you can even borrow the resident binoculars to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife and stars.

The breakfast room, with yet another stunning, panoramic vista, is the perfect place for indulging in a feast fit for a king.

Fresh-baked pastries, homemade breads and preserves, porridge with whiskey and a full al a carte menu are enough to keep you going for days (the full Lakeland breakfast and the smoked haddock with a poached egg come highly recommended).

Outdoors enthusiasts can rejoice as there are walks aplenty from the front door, but for us inexperienced walkers who rely on our phones for getting round, it’s thanks to Ees Wyke’s very own guides that we were able to dip our toes in rambling waters.

Just to prove how pathetic we are, we went wrong at the nifty picture-booklet’s THIRD instruction!

Undeterred, we made our own way to nearby tarns, along boggy paths, up and down snowy hills, through streams, past sheep, hounds, mountain bikers and walkers and loved every freezing minute.

The snow gave the idyllic scenery a new dimension and dark, grey clouds soon gave way to pockets of blue and peeping sunlight.

For more seasoned walkers there are unlimited possibilities, and dozens of books and guides are at hand to provide inspiration.

It would be quite easy not to get in the car at all in the course of a visit to Ees Wyke and the nearby quaint village of Hawkshead, certainly worth a stroll round, is walkable, but in true urbanite spirit we wanted to explore further afield and opted for mechanically driven wheels.

A useful short cut to Bowness (home to family-friendly The World of Beatrix Potter), we took the Windermere Ferry, which has been transporting people for over 500 years. An attraction in its own right, it offers incomparable views of Windermere, which we were lucky to see on that still evening, just as the sun was setting.

Following a quick sprint around the North-West’s ‘high end’ chain supermarket, Booths, and with hunger calling, we made our way south past Kendal, in the direction of Kirkby Lonsdale, to The Plough Inn, at Lupton.

The perfect antidote to a cold, winter’s night, this historic pub’s menu had us salivating from the outset. I went for the freshest, fishiest-tasting chargrilled octopus with chorizo and Padron peppers, followed by a huge chunk of braised ox cheek with creamy mash and tender stem broccoli. For him, creamy salmon gravlax with celery and hazelnut salad, followed by crispy-skinned trout with soft herb gnocchi, fennel salad and capers. Despite being fit to burst we opted for a third course; a gigantic chocolate delice and a rum baba – a step too far.

If you’ve still an appetite for culture and want to stick on the literary trail, discover Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum at Grasmere where you can also visit the poet and his family’s graves.


http://Ees Wyke Country House eeswyke.co.uk

http://The Plough Inn theploughatlupton.co.uk

http://Hill Top nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top

http://The World of Beatrix Potter hop-skip-jump.com

http://Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum wordsworth.org.uk


Starting from £90 per night for bed and breakfast at Ees Wyke Country House (not including three-course-dinner at £29.95)

Starters from £5.25, mains from £11.95 and desserts from £3.95 at The Plough Inn (accommodation available)