January’s crisp weather makes cosy pubs and barns are a no-brainer for a weekend away. Heading north to get away from it all, Stylist’s features writer Hannah Keegan is reminded why the Lake District is the perfect place for winter comfort.
Growing up, I loathed the Lake District. Every summer, my family holidayed at a tiny cottage next to the sea in what I considered to be a lifeless Cumbrian village. I would sulk in the attic, listen to the wind tussle with the water outside and feel very far away from my friends. There was no internet. Long, aimless walks were encouraged. I wondered how it was possible for a place to be so dull. The thing is, I was wrong.
Allow me to explain: slowly, I began to notice the views. Then, the crisp air. And how had I missed the food? Warm, hearty, delicious. Fires blaze in every pub. Today, in the cold English winter, there is nowhere else I would rather curl up. Here is another thing about the Lakes: you have to know where to go or you will end up queueing for a stale scone with the Beatrix Potter fan tour. The best places have an air of secrecy. The Yan, a relaxed bistro with seven rooms, happily fits this bill.
It sits on a 17th-century sheep farm, surrounded by vast green fields. The main, white-bricked building used to house hay, barley and oats, but today looks like a family home, which it kind of is. Husband and wife Dave and Sally Keighley bought the site, then a hostel, in 2011 and handed it to their daughter Jess and her chef husband Will to renovate.
There’s still a working farm, which provides the lamb and eggs. Inside, the decor is sleek and minimalistic: exposed beams, muted tones, lots of wood. It all feels very cosy.
It’s also perfectly situated for exploring. Walk just 20 minutes into quaint Grasmere village to spend a few lazy hours at the award-winning independent bookstore Sam Read, discovering local art at the Heaton Cooper Studio (and its cool Scandinavian cafe Mathilde’s for great coffee), or tasting the famous gingerbread at the tiny Grasmere Gingerbread shop, where staff dress in Victorian attire, the era the recipe dates back to. You will get tourists here, but it’s so good it’s worth it.
Further afield, it’s a 30-minute drive to Lake Windermere (which arguably has the best views in the whole area) or Coniston (where you can visit the Bluebird Café, rent a boat and row 20 minutes to Wild Cat Island, the setting for Arthur Ransome’s classic childhood tale Swallows And Amazons).
Then there’s the food. For Sunday lunch, the nearby Samling Hotel’s restaurant with local beef, truffle cauliflower and golden Yorkshire puddings is a must. There’s also Lucy’s On A Plate in Ambleside, a 15-minute drive away, where the menu is locally sourced, changes daily and is always very good. Back at The Yan, expect classic British dishes done expertly. For dinner, I ate cow’s mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and fresh figs, and a vegetarian sharing board – their speciality – with buttery corn on the cob, grilled halloumi and brie-filled baked potatoes.
Afterwards, exhausted from the country air, I retired straight to bed (thick cotton sheets; firm mattress, FYI). Outside, I could see the grey-faced Herdwick sheep roaming happily. Rain pattered softly against the window. Everything was calm. I closed my eyes and thought how the best places are often right in front of us.
Rooms at The Yan start from £195, including breakfast.