An Arts and Crafts gem

The suite at Nanny Brow.
The suite at Nanny Brow.

THE Lake District has long been admired for its rare and exquisitely beautiful buildings.

Many different types of architecture can be found in the Lakes but my favourite has to be the Arts and Crafts style that emerged in the late 19th Century.

The philosophy behind the Arts and Crafts Movement originated in England and became increasingly popular between 1860 and 1910. It was instigated by the artist and writer William Morris and inspired by the writings of John Ruskin who lived at Brantwood on Coniston.

In a reaction against industrialism, a return to traditional craftsmanship was advocated. Economic and social reform were also important to supporters of the movement.

One of the most remarkable Arts and Crafts houses is Blackwell on Windermere which was designed by the architect MacKay Hugh Baillie Scott.

It is always a great pleasure to explore remarkable houses such as Blackwell but I could never have dreamt of actually staying overnight in one until I had the opportunity to visit Nanny Brow near Ambleside.

Nanny Brow was designed by the renowned Arts and Crafts architect Francis Whitwell in 1904 and has recently opened as a luxurious bed and breakfast. Whitwell lived there with his family and one of the suites is named after him.

Thankfully, this beautiful house has been lovingly and sensitively restored by its new custodians Sue and Peter Robinson.

Nanny Brow has copious Arts and Crafts features including its lead windows, coving, tiles, fireplaces, wood panelling and stunningly beautiful furniture that Sue has sourced with the help of experts.

However, Nanny Brow is not stuck in time. The high quality renovation of the building has incorporated many state-of-the-art features to make staying there supremely comfortable.

My husband Mark and I stayed at Nanny Brow a couple of weeks ago and we were bowled over by the design, features, location and scale of the place.

Nanny Brow sits proudly on a crag overlooking a delightful valley, the River Brathay and picturesque crags.

“The house had fallen into disrepair and we have had the opportunity to restore it back to its original Arts and Crafts splendour whilst adding all the modern amenities,” said Sue.

“We are hugely excited to be able to open a number of rooms for guests and we hope that they can feel the magic of the place that has so inspired us.”

From the 1940s to 2002 Nanny Brow was run successfully as a hotel. The hotel was closed for eight years before Sue and Peter fell in love with it.

The couple, who also run a successful bed and breakfast in the Cotswolds (Cranborne House), have drawn on Whitwell and the influential Arts and Crafts Movement as a source of inspiration for their renovations.

Sue, a passionate woman with a keen eye for design, took us on a tour of the house. We started off in the bedrooms which afford fabulous views of the surrounding gardens, woodland and valley below. I loved the Delft tiles on the fireplaces, the large lead windows, the gorgeous French antique furniture and the high quality fixtures and fittings.

Sue explained that her team of builders and craftspeople had painstakingly worked to remove layers of thick paint and ugly Artex to reveal hidden glories such as original fireplaces and coving featuring rabbits, frogs and other animals that the architect created for his children. Delightful and impressive.

The house was like an Aladdin’s Cave of Arts and Crafts features that anyone could admire and I found it difficult to tear myself away from the window and those jaw-dropping views. Our room – Lingmoor – was simply divine. The fireplace had amazing tiles with bird designs on them, there was a flat screen TV, a king size bed and the furniture had the wow factor. We also appreciated the double shower and slices of home-made cake that awaited us on arrival. A nice touch.

For Sue and Peter, it was the scenery that really sold the property. “The location on the fell side outside Ambleside is quite magical with stunning views down the River Brathay which change with the moods of the weather and the seasons,” said Sue.

It was heaven to stay overnight at Nanny Brow and yet more delights awaited us at breakfast.

The spacious dining room was also full of character and B&B manager Mark couldn’t have been more attentive.

There was a mouth-watering selection of fresh fruits, cereals and coffee. For the main part of the breakfast we selected our dishes from an extensive menu incorporating delicious local produce.

I had smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toast and Mark had a full English breakfast.

Cooked by Sue, it was the most delicious food I have had at a B&B. It provided the perfect end to our stay.

Thanks to the incredible atmosphere at Nanny Brow, for one night we were transported back to the idealistic days of the Arts and Crafts Movement. It was a dream come true and we’d recommend it to anyone.

n Prices range from £55 per person per night to £120 for the more luxurious suites, which includes breakfast.