The term eco-barn is not exactly synonymous with luxury living. For me it conjured up ideas of posh camping and the sense that in order to be kind to the planet you have to be prepared to rough it a little.
Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Angel Barn IS an “eco-barn” in name – and its green credentials are impeccable – but this is a place oozing with more style and luxury than many boutique hotels.
Nestled in a hidden corner of Cumbria – in the appropriately named Eden Valley – between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, the scenery is wild and rugged.
It feels wonderfully remote. You could quite easily stay the weekend and not see another soul, if that’s what you wanted.
But there are actually three pubs within three miles. And the nearest is less than 10 minutes walk.
The question we found ourselves asking was, what could possibly be more appealing than simply staying put in this gorgeous pad?
The converted 15th century barn, which sleeps six and boasts three beautiful en-suite bathrooms, is a masterclass in understated style.
It’s a credit to Debbie Temple and Richard Greaves, who saw the dilapidated old building’s potential, then devoted all their love and energy – as well as roping in family and friends – to transform it. Each room is a perfect fusion of authentic rustic features and the ultimate in modern luxury.
The photographs of Angel Barn on the website are stunning – but amazingly, the reality is even better.
As my travel partner said, almost with a sense of regret, “it’s absolutely faultless”.
Much of the furniture is handmade, lovingly designed and crafted by Richard.
He has turned an old cow shed into the double bed, used cut-offs from wooden beams to create an enviable coffee table, taken a huge old branch from a nearby wood and turned it into a beautiful polished wooden bannister and old church pews provide some of the kitchen seating.
Alongside that you have a Farrow & Ball painted kitchen, complete with six-burner Rangemaster cooker with two ovens; sofas upholstered in British wool – in fabric fabulous enough to wear; free WiFi and a discreetly hidden TV and DVD player.
The en-suite for the master bedroom boasts a huge bathtub with floor lighting that creates the illusion of candlelight, plus a double shower.
And forget any images of a draughty old barn. With the under floor heating and real log fire the cottage feels more like a tropical paradise.
The couple’s goal was to create a luxury environment in as sustainable a way possible, so there’s a ground source heat pump for heating and hot water; Thermafleece – sheep’s wool insulation; photo voltaic panels in an old sheep pen to create electricity; and the water comes from their own spring on the fell.
As it’s self-catering I packed all sorts, from tea bags to coffee and sugar, but I needn’t have bothered.
Debbie and Richard have thought of everything, then taken it a step closer to heaven.
Awaiting all of Angel Barn’s lucky guests is a Champagne welcome hamper, including homemade bread, local bacon, eggs laid by the couple’s own hens, a delicious homemade cake, a bottle of bubbly and plenty of other treats I have been forbidden to mention so they remain a surprise for future visitors.
For everything else they can help you arrange a food delivery from the nearest supermarket and local butcher’s or even arrange for three-course meals to be delivered, all ready to be simply heated up and eaten up.
The couple live next door, so are close at hand should you need anything but they have mastered the art of being available while leaving you alone. And nothing is too much trouble. Within minutes of us asking for a stair gate, Richard had installed it.
And in a location tailor-made for long dog walks, if you don’t have your own, they even lend theirs out. Our daughter’s most treasured memory from the trip was walking Northumberland Terriers Max and Cassie along the farm tracks at sunset.
And there’s walking in every direction – with amazing views. The neighbouring Wild Boar Fell is a dramatic sight and on the clearest days, you can see the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the Lake District fells and even Morecambe Bay.
Jumping in the car, if you head roughly an hour in each direction you can visit Ullswater, Windermere and the ruins of Pendragon Castle.
However, just a couple of minutes walk across the fields takes you to Stonetrail Riding Centre, which is open all year and offers a choice of rides from an hour to a full day, as well as trail-riding holidays lasting several days.
We ventured out for a couple of hours, trekking to the top of Wild Boar Fell, taking in the panoramic views and squeezing in a couple of exhilarating canters along the Pennine Bridleway, a recently restored trail following old packhorse routes and drovers’ roads through the hills and valleys of the Pennines. For anyone who rides, this is the perfect complement to your stay – the chance to get out and experience the area’s rugged beauty in a thoroughly eco-friendly manner.
Angel Barn is a divine experience from start to finish – a heavenly haven where you can completely escape the daily grind. The question is not whether we will be going back but when...
Angel Barn sits alongside a Corner of Eden, a Georgian farmhouse which is also self-catering and sleeps eight.
The Shepherd’s Hut is a 1930’s railway cabin, converted into a cosy hideaway for two.
Visit www.angelbarn.co.uk or ring 015396 23370 or 07759 469059.
Angel Barn prices range from £945 a week to £1,365 and £1,995 at Christmas.
For Stonetrail ring Alison Roper on 015396 23444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A one-hour trek is £25.