Occasionally a property comes along that ticks all of my personal boxes for the perfect cottage retreat. This is not necessarily one that offers all mod cons, has super slick modern décor and sports a host of brand new furnishings, fixtures and fittings, but one that has a special character, atmosphere and individuality along with a lot of cosy comfort. For me Tom Crag has heaps of the latter, as I trust the pictures show.
Located in the village of Finsthwaite, one of a handful of small villages clustered close by and around the southwestern reach of Lake Windermere, Tom Crag Barn offers true peace and a place to relax and holiday at.
Owners Stuart and Jenny converted this ancient barn back in the 80s as their UK base. Until recently both have spent much of their time at sea, Stuart a captain of large, private sailing yachts, Jenny his No1. On dry land Stuart's passion is for woodwork and design, where along with building this very personal cottage for themselves, many of the fittings have been created in the workshop, much from salvaged masts and other ship timbers. It could therefore be said the kitchen units have seen more of the world than many of us.
The barn, along with a couple of other cottages, lies down a short track where you have parking to the front of the property.
The Living Spaces
From a covered porch you step into the open plan living space. The main living area has a high, pitched ceiling running down the centre, with a large window allowing light to flood in. Off each side of this central isle, tucked under lowered and beamed ceilings are the sitting room area to the right, and the dining area to the left.
A big plump sofa and comfy armchairs sit drawn around a roaring open fire. An eclectic mix of ornament, pictures, furniture and occasional lighting combine to give a rich warm ambience, and a space where you can really tuck up and relax in comfort.
The dining area, again under a lowered ceiling, has a fine table at its centre, perfect for grand dinners laid out in style. There is a spiral staircase to one corner but only leads to a private area used for the owners'; storage.
From the central isle, steps lead down into a bright a sunny kitchen, where double doors open into the conservatory. To the rear of the kitchen a door opens into a scullery and boot room where you have full laundry facilities.
Bedrooms & Bathrooms
The first double bedroom is on the ground floor, just off the kitchen area. With views to the garden, it is small but comfortable and has an adjoining en-suite shower room.
Stairs lead up above the sitting room to a hall, off which is the master bedroom with adjacent bathroom. The bedroom is bright and airy with a pitched ceiling under which sits a large king sized bed.
The conservatory looks out to the large garden. With a backdrop of woodland and meadow, this is a fabulous space with a large grassed areas bordered with trees and shrubs, where through the middle runs a small beck that courses down over little waterfalls. South facing the sun shines down for most of the day and makes the garden the perfect extension to the house.
To summarise, this is for me a very special holiday home where it would equally make the perfect romantic retreat for just a couple or suit a family or friends looking for somewhere to gather and relax in peace and comfort – perfect!
Finsthwaite is a collection of farms and houses strung along a backwater country lane, with a splendid church along with National Trust Stott Park Bobbin Mill.
One of the best walks path is up to High and Low Dam, two of my favourite little tarns, easy to get to and perfect for a picnic or paddle in summer.
For dining or a drink there are some good choices. The Lakeside Hotel lies about a mile and a half around the lane at Lakeside. Overlooking the lake, this fine hotel has a traditional bar serving local ale, a lounge bar and contemporary bistro, along with a more formal restaurant offering fine cuisine, perfect for celebration or just a little indulgence.
At Newby Bridge you have the Swan Hotel, with its gardens overlooking the River Leven and offering a decent bar and bistro restaurant.
Locally there is quite a lot to do. As mentioned, the walk up to and around High Dam is a must. This can be extended by crossing over to the Rusland Valley. At Lakeside, steamers and launches leave for trips on the lake and can be used as a sort of waterbus to explore other areas. Also at Lakeside you have the Haverthwaite & Lakeside Steam Railway, where you can take a short 'there and back' ride on a restored steam engine. The Aquarium of the Lakes is well worth a visit where you get to see close up the habitat and residents of our lakes and rivers, the high point being the glass tunnel which gives you a fish eye view of things.
Around the foot of the lake, on the eastern tip, lies Fell Foot Park. Supervised by The National Trust, there are gardens, a cafe, and at the lake shore jetties for mooring and hiring rowing and sailing boats, along with a ferry crossing to Lakeside.
Nearby at Backbarrow is the famous Lakeland Motor Museum with over 30,000 exhibits.
North, up the Rusland valley, you have the Grizedale forest where you can purchase a map of the trails for both walking and mountain bikes. As you explore the forest you will come across fabulous sculptures, which are part of an ongoing art initiative sponsored by The Forestry Commission. A great attraction of the forest is Go Ape, offering wild fun in a tree top adventure with breath-taking scenery; treetop wires, crossings and wind-in-your-face zip wires.
South lies the Cartmel Peninsular with its winding lanes and rolling hills that tumble down to the coast. There are two villages well worth visiting:
Cartmel with its ancient buildings, an impressive medieval priory, a towering arch and a sweet clear river along with the smallest National Hunt racecourse, is a lively, picture perfect village with a great choice of pubs and fine restaurants. Come bank holidays the village buzzes with arrival of race day.
Grange over Sands lies about a mile over the fell from Cartmel. This pretty Edwardian village overlooks the bay and you will find an excellent grocer, Higginson's famous butchers, two bakers and local stores. On the prom there are nice gardens to stroll and in summer the prom hosts an outdoor art market. Finally Grange offers two golf clubs, both set in quite delightful countryside.
A little further afield you have the coast where you can explore the edges of the bay.
Please note there is a refundable £150 security deposit for this property payable closer to the start of your holiday.