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Great British Boltholes: The Cumbria inn named in the Good Hotel Guide awards is bordering on the fabulous
- Pentonbridge Inn has just won the Good Hotel Guide’s best newcomer award
- It is a classic 18th Century coaching inn with nine ‘simple yet stylish’ bedrooms
- The food spans from upmarket pub grub to a six-course tasting menu
Sarah Turner For The Mail On Sunday
The hamlet of Penton may be in Cumbria, but only just. Walk five minutes down a lane, cross a river and you are in Scotland.
For centuries, there was open warfare between the farmers who lived here; a wild North West of pillaging and sheep-rustling.
Thirty minutes from Carlisle, with Kielder Water & Forest Park and the Solway coast nearby, this is properly rugged moorland countryside. These days, it’s more about amuse-bouche than banditry. The nine-room Pentonbridge Inn has just won the Good Hotel Guide’s best newcomer award.
Newcomer: Pentonbridge is a classic 18th Century coaching inn
From the outside, Pentonbridge is a classic 18th Century coaching inn, but in the bar, alongside the flagstones and vast stone fireplaces, visitors will now find posh crisps, artisanal gins and craft beers from the Carlisle Brewing Company.
The 21st Century feel extends to the restaurant with an open kitchen, but it’s all done with the same quiet good taste as in the original building. There’s nothing twee here, nor is it overly hearty.
Nowadays, the only forays across the border are by chef Gary McDermott as he searches for venison. He also raids the walled gardens of nearby Netherby Hall – which belongs to Pentonbridge’s new owners – for vegetables to use on his menu.
On Friday nights, the Pentonbridge is packed with locals, many of them probably descendants of the original feuding families. The place is overseen by the manager, Gennaro, who comes from Naples but is here because he loves nature. And after all, the Italians have history here – Hadrian’s Wall lies nearby.
USP: In border country, a neat, friendly inn where designer touches haven’t pushed out the locals.
Dream team: Chefs Gary McDermott and Connor Wilson pictured above
The rooms: Nine, all named after local families, are simple yet stylish. Mine was built into the eaves and featured a touch of Scotland in the furnishings, including chairs covered in tweed and tartan throws. At the bottom of the bed, a television popped up at the touch of a button, while the marble bathroom had both a tub and a walk-in rainfall shower.
The food: All bases covered, from upmarket pub grub to a six-course tasting menu. On the latter, the standout dish was stone bass with celeriac and smoked mussels. But it was breakfast the next morning that would lure me back, with black pudding served alongside golden-yolked eggs and locally made sausages.
Pentonbridge Inn, near Carlisle. Double rooms from £125 including breakfast (pentonbridgeinn.co.uk).
Great British Boltholes: A review of Pentonbridge Inn, Cumbria