Lying on what, in Lake District-tourism phrases, is the “wrong” aspect of the M6 in that beautiful-but-confusing bit the place Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales nationwide park overlap, Sedbergh is actually a fringe vacation spot. But ever because the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, this tiny city – about 20 minutes by automotive from the mainline Oxenholme station – has labored onerous to take advantage of its pure property: as a base for walkers, birders and cyclists, stargazers or college students of early Quakerism, whereas providing new causes to go to.
Most notably that is one in all solely three UK e book cities (Wigtown and Hay-on-Wye are the others). Main Street – a slender lower of crooked historic buildings and tight ginnels – is home to an uncommon cluster of bookshops, and not far away on Long Lane (Howgill Fells looming within the near-distance) is the huge Westwood Books, which relocated right here from Hay-on-Wye. Each October, Sedbergh Book Town Festival (5-7 October 2018) pulls all this love of print into even sharper focus.
The Black Bull on Main Street, Sedbergh
If you might be scrapping for consideration in Cumbria, good meals helps too – which is the place Nina Matsunaga and James Ratcliffe come in. Veterans of Manchester’s avenue meals scene, they initially moved to Sedbergh (Ratcliffe grew up close by) to open the Three Hares. An formidable “cafe”, it has gained nationwide approval for its principled sourcing (James works intently with Cumbrian farmers), its self-sufficiency in curing and smoking, and chef-baker Matsunaga’s eclectic menus.
The newly opened Black Bull is the couple’s try to transpose that ethos – hyper-local sourcing, global outlook – on to a much-larger canvas. This warren-like 17th-century teaching home is now an 18-bedroom resort (three rooms are dog-friendly), pub and restaurant, with an occasions house and cookery college to come.
Stylish in a sober, luxurious method – glossy, clutter-free, muted color schemes – the bedrooms have been micro-managed proper right down to the heavy paper stock and natty paperclips used within the personalised welcome notes. Your biscuits are recent from the kitchen. The teacups are by an area artist-potter. Bespoke toiletries come from Sedbergh Soap Company. Milk and freshly floor espresso are left at your door every morning.
The Black Bull’s immaculately white-tiled, hi-spec loos could break up opinion, given they’re see-through, glass-walled areas (“It’s a pervert’s paradise,” laughed one of many builders) however you possibly can pull the modesty curtains throughout in the event you choose. The solely important demerit was for an absence of soundproofing (and, boy, was somebody loud night breathing in a close-by room), although that may be a widespread challenge in older buildings. Bring earplugs.
For all its stylistic thrives, that is no hermetically-sealed Cumbrian cocoon. Sedbergh is a working city the place the Black Bull (B&B presents from £99.99 till November) has to compete for commerce with the neighbourhood Italian, Al Forno, or the cosy Dalesman Country Inn. Downstairs within the bar – logburners, darkish wooden, blood-red banquettes, dramatic panorama pictures by Rob Whitrow – you will see a number of generations of locals nattering over pints of Black Sheep (from £three.40) and hipper craft beers from regional stars corresponding to Fell Brewery. There’s an inexpensive bar menu, which adjustments repeatedly. On my go to, it featured maple pea hummus and Hereford beef pie, whereas the burger was an excellent meaty mitt of enjoyment, topped with pale ale cheese sauce that I might drink by the gallon.
If you focus (a decorative beer stein right here, a Japanese bathtub tub there), there are nods to Matsunaga’s heritage – born in Germany to Japanese dad and mom – all through the Black Bull. In the restaurant these references are extra pronounced. There is a Germanic slant to the adventurous wine record. Kokedama moss balls embellish the tables. Yuzu and shimeji mushrooms pop up on dishes of native duck and wild venison. Note: Matsunaga’s meat-free dishes are equally inventive.
The Black Bull’s restaurant
Occasionally, this idiosyncratic strategy jars. I’m not satisfied heavy cardamom and rye brot makes good toast to serve with the Black Bull’s in any other case spot-on full English. But usually Matsunaga’s cooking is probably the most profitable British-Japanese crossover this aspect of Nissan Sunderland. Poached Whitby sea trout served with cucumber, a wealthy cucumber cream and salty cured slices of the identical fish, is obvious and clear – highly effective in its subtlety. A dessert of ewe’s milk cheesecake and tart, apple-y greengages scattered with popcorn-like toasted barley is even higher.
The resort’s heat, affable employees seal what’s a massively persuasive deal. Book-lovers and birders could insist it’s already there however the Black Bull deserves to place Sedbergh firmly on the map.
• The Black Bull, 44 Main Street, Sedbergh, Cumbria (doubles from £125 B&B), 015396 20264, theblackbullsedbergh.co.uk
Ask an area
Heather Thomas, Sedbergh Town venture supervisor, sedbergh.org.uk
Mad Hatter’s Tea Room at No 6 Finkle Street
• Book path
An actual treasure trove, Westwood Books was a cinema and is now home to round 70,000 secondhand books. Other bookshops embrace Clutterbooks and Sleepy Elephant, when you’ll additionally discover books – sellers’ collections and specialist picks – on the Tourist Information Centre, Farfield Clothing and even within the bus shelter, now e book shelter, on Main Street.
• Arts and crafts
A restored Victorian woollen mill, Farfield Mill now homes artist-maker studios and hosts textile-art exhibitions. You can see the artists working, store for domestically made objects and have a cuppa and cake within the cafe.
No 6 Finkle Street is a fantastic boutique reward store that additionally has the Mad Hatter’s Tea Room upstairs. It serves beautiful afternoon teas (from £10.50pp).
The Sedbergh Book Town Festival takes place from 5-7 October, focussing on themes of panorama and wellbeing
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