The Lake District is one of Britain’s most popular destinations for day trips and short breaks, and because of how much there is to do outdoors, it’s extremely popular with dog owners.
We were recently invited to visit the Lake District and decided to ask our friend and Hollyoaks’ actress Sarah Jayne Dunn if she’d like to spend a couple of days in Cumbria, visiting the Lake District with her family, including her Pug, Ming Ming.
We presumed, as you do, that a weekend away in the North Lake District in early June might be a safe time to hope for mild, pleasant weather, however as we drove the long journey up the M6 on the Friday afternoon of our trip we were abruptly reminded that firstly, you are stupid to accurately predict any type of weather in Britain and secondly, the ‘Lake District’ is named so for a reason.
We arrived at our cottage (which was massive), Orchard House, at Tottergill Farm around 6pm on Friday evening, stupidly on our part we trusted the sat nav to take us straight to the door instead of following the provided directions and therefore we struggled to find the site at first.
Following the directions is a must as the farm is located off the main road, down a long single track lane and then up another long dirt track, truly nestled into the countryside. Because of this, however, you are rewarded with the most spectacular views, which our cottage directly overlooked and made the most of with large bi-folding doors leading onto the outdoor terrace.
Unfortunately, due to the torrential (not an exaggeration) rain, we were unable to use our terrace or the private hot tub located on it.
On a clear day
To be honest though, as much as this was a bit of a shame, the cottage itself more than made up for it and was so clean and spotless, and beautifully decorated throughout, that we were more than happy to spend our time indoors. The weather also meant we were able to make use of the log burner in the living room which Stanley was fascinated with and Ming Ming collapsed in front of.
There was no one there to greet us when we arrived but the house was unlocked and we were able to settle in and appoint rooms (three double bedrooms, all stunning). Jon, my husband, and I took the large master room, complete with a luxurious ensuite with a free-standing bath and a large walk-in shower.
My son, Stanley had the large double room next to us which he was thrilled with as the bed was massive. He promptly made a ‘pillow cave’ and was more than happy to sleep in there on his own. Both bedrooms boasted views as far as the eye could see (on a clear day that is).
There was a cake waiting for us on arrival which we all tucked in to with a brew.
A couple of days prior to our arrival I had done a Sainsbury's shop online to arrive between 7-8pm, we were dubious that they would ever find us but at 7pm promptly our shopping arrived. I’d highly recommend doing this, even if you just get in some supplies for the first day.
The house is equipped with everything you will ever need for a home from home holiday, utensils, whisk, flask, pots, pans, gravy boat, you name it it’s there in one of the cupboards.
There’s also milk in the fridge, locally made toffee, fresh coffee as well as the fresh cake on arrival, and a drawer full of leaflets of things to do in and around the area, including walking trails and games for both kids and adults.
The second we found this Stanley was in his element playing all the games, such a great idea for kids. There’s a handy floor tray for you to pop your shoes into in the hallway, storage space and a downstairs toilet too which is really useful when you have a toddler.
Ming wasn’t left out of the equation either, with treats, poo bags and a dog bowl left for her. I would recommend taking a second dog bowl for water as we had to empty her water out of the bowl when she was eating as there was only one bowl, and definitely take an extra dog towel.
Once we’d unpacked the shopping there was a knock on our door and it was the owner Tracey, she was super lovely and very helpful and also apologetic as apparently there’s usually someone on arrival to great you but she thought her husband had met us and her husband thought she had met us. She talked us around the house and the surrounding area and local amenities and said she was on hand, literally in the adjoining (through a secret door in the dining room) house if we needed anything.
I would advise notifying ahead if you have any cat allergies as Jon is allergic to cats on as soon as we walked through the door he started to sneeze and get puffy-eyed, we later found out that Tracey has a cat that sometimes crosses through the secret door into the cottage to sleep. Tracey kindly provided Jon with some antihistamines, but it may be an issue if your allergies are more severe.
Once Tracey left it was Stanley’s bedtime, he took great pleasure in playing in the huge bath and snuggling into his pillow cave as we read his bedtime stories, and in no time at all, he was fast asleep and looking the most comfortable I have ever seen him.
Now it was chill time for myself and Jon and we cooked dinner in the large kitchen, opened and a bottle of wine and cosied down in front of the log burner to watch a film, absolute bliss.
We woke up early, a lie-in isn’t an option with an excitable two-year-old, and hoped the weather may have brightened. It hadn’t. We didn’t let this dampen our spirits and decided to make breakfast, drink the yummy fresh coffee that had been left for us and sift through the leaflets to find somewhere we could go in the wet weather that would allow us to take a dog.
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Stanley played whilst we deliberated over what options were possible, unfortunately, a lot of our indoor options were not dog friendly or were just too far of a drive. Just as we were about to give up hope and resign to a day indoors playing hungry hippo, we discovered a train journey in the not too far away village of Alston.
It was a 45-minute drive away but mainly on country roads so not an unpleasant drive as the scenery was beautiful.
Alston itself is pretty small and quaint, we headed for lunch to one of its top-rated cafes (dog friendly) on Tripadvisor ‘Top Cafe’, named so because it sits at the top of the hill.
We were the only people in there, presumably due to the bad weather keeping everyone indoors. Jon ordered soup which he said was absolutely delicious and I went for a sausage bap while Stanley tucked into beans on toast.
Suitably fuelled we headed the short walk down to the train station. The station is very small and quiet with one little shop and toilets. We purchased our tickets from the shop and boarded the little steam train, we got seats indoors by the window and Ming Ming happily sat under our table.
The train travels all the way to a village called Slaggyford which takes approximately 30 minutes, it then stops and you can alight for 30 minutes before heading back to Alston.
Children are provided with an activity sheet with lots of things they need to look for on the train journey, Stanley absolutely loved this and it kept him entertained throughout the journey, which is very picturesque through the countryside.
When you get off the train in Slaggyford there is a train carriage which has been converted into a small cafe to purchase tea, coffee and ice cream. There are toilets and you get the chance to have a look at the train from the platform, Stanley was thrilled to learn our train was called the ‘Green Dragon’.
We grabbed a brew and ice cream and bravely opted to sit in the open-air section of the train for our return journey as the rain had lifted ever so slightly. This pleased Ming greatly as she was able to sit on Jon’s knee and take in all the wonderful smells on the way back, as we chugged through the open air.
Now a little peckish from all the fresh, damp air we decided to stop off on our way back at 'The Duke of Cumberland' pub.
This pub is actually walking distance from Tottergill Farm and had been recommended by Tracey and most of the comments in the visitors' book. I can only imagine that it’s a beautiful walk down to the pub, around the lake. It wasn’t an option for us unless we chose to wade our way there, but really good to know if you visit and you get nicer weather.
The pub was beautifully decorated inside, very dog friendly and the food was delicious. The staff were very helpful and absolutely lovely with both Stan and Ming.
Fed and worn out from our day we drove the short journey back to the cottage and popped on one of the many available DVDs for Stanley to chill out and watch, ‘Horton Hears a Who’. Jon stoked the fire and we all settled down for a cuddle before putting a very tired Stanley to bed.
I chose to make the most of being away from home and housework by soaking in the humungous bath with a glass of fizz for half an hour, what a luxury. The house is so peaceful and despite being large it feels very cosy and homely, it was a shame we couldn’t have stayed for longer.
Ming snoozing in her George Barclay box bed in front of the fire
Sunday was our day of departure and so we made breakfast before tidying the house and sorting our rubbish and recycling, there’s a recycling house situated next to the barn to dispose of waste.
Tracey’s dogs popped their head in to say hello as we were loading the car, as did the farm’s friendly (most of the time apparently) cockerel, who could be seen patrolling the farm on many occasions.
We decided to break up our three-hour journey home with a visit to Keswick (approximately one hour drive away).
It’s a beautiful town with lots of shops and cafes. We grabbed a coffee and chocolate-dipped strawberries and marshmallows in ‘Java Coffee House’ as it looked busy, always a good sign, and it’s dog friendly.
After a brief mooch around the shops, as someone was getting tired (Stan although Jon wasn’t far behind him), we decided to continue our journey home via Ambleside and a restaurant that lots of people via the powers of Instagram, had recommended to me, ‘The Drunken Duck’.
You can’t book a table but we went at peak time on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t have to wait. I’m so pleased we gave this place a visit as the food was delicious and the atmosphere and surrounding countryside fantastic.
Stanley was entertained with games and crayons and paper and a really generous kids meal and we were able to relax and eat a delicious meal and Ming was welcomed with open arms, cuddles, lots of fuss and dog treats, winner.
Our weekend at Tottergill Farm was wonderful and based on our experience we’d highly recommend, I only wish we could’ve stayed for longer or possibly visited with parents or friends as the house was easily big enough to sleep and home more guests.
We would’ve loved to have been able to take advantage of the hot tub and outdoor area with those spectacular views and to try some of the walks including the all-important one to the pub, but actually it was probably the perfect place to spend inside on a washout of a weekend as we had everything we needed in luxury surroundings.
Go with friends, family and your dogs and stay for at least three nights to make the absolute most of this wonderful place.