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Ravenbridge Mill is a very special place. The 6 bedroom house sits in grounds of 21 acres, with its own lake, river, woods and orchards. Every window has beautiful views, but you can’t see another house. There’s a wood-fired outdoor sauna, beside the lake, and a separate games studio. And it’s right at the foot of the fells. The perfect place for a magical holiday. It's in Cumbria, in the Eden Valley, between the Pennines and the Lake District.
The house has 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, and sleeps 12 - in four double and 2 twin rooms. The house began in 1675. At first it was a small cottage, with an adjoining corn mill. The story is that the fellside farmers got fed up with their landlord (an Oxford College) charging high fees to mill their corn, and decided to build a mill of their own. The house stands by the Raven Beck, and you can still just about see the mark of the outside under-shot mill wheel if you look carefully.
Two barns were later built on, together with a separate byre. The byre is now the Studio and games room. The barns have become part of the house. A biomass boiler occupies an early 20th century addition, and most recently a music room and balcony have also been added. Like many old houses it just grew…
So, downstairs there’s the big family kitchen, with local slate worktops, and a pine table big enough for everyone. The barn doorway has been beautifully glazed by a local craftsman. A second door leads out towards the river. There’s a double oven, five induction rings, microwave, two fridges, freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and drier.
One step down from the kitchen, into the oldest part of the house, is the sitting room. Windows look south, onto the garden, and north, to the river. This is a very cosy room when the wood-burning stove is roaring – and I’ll supply plenty of wood for your stay.
Two steps up from the kitchen, at the East end of the house, a spacious hallway leads to a twin downstairs bedroom, a bathroom, and the utility room.
There's another bathroom downstairs at the West end of the house.
Upstairs at the West end of the house above the sitting room (the stairs, made of stone and worn with age, were originally exterior) there are two double bedrooms and a shared bathroom.
The bedrooms all have names, so you can identify them from the plan and the photos, and if you want you can choose your bedrooms before you arrive. There's a story behind every name, of course...
The Ships' Room: its old oak beams were once ships' timbers.
The Low Room: not the ceiling, which is actually one of the highest in the house. But the door is not quite full height.
Granny's Room: because it's on the ground floor, OK?
The Music Room: originally intended for music, and with a rather fine acoustic. The balcony is good for singing from, too.
The River Room: there used to be a tiny window in this room; now there's a big glazed door and a balcony overlooking the Raven Beck.
Jenny's Room: after the teenager who used to occupy it. It's been cleaned and decorated since then, I promise.
Above the kitchen, accessed from the stone stairs or by a “paddle” stair from the kitchen, there’s the wide Gallery, with the best views of the river and its backdrop of trees.
Upstairs at the East end of the house there are three further bedrooms, two with lovely balconies, and a bathroom.
But if you think the house is something, wait until you see outside…
Ravenbridge Mill sits in its own grounds of 21 acres, bounded mostly by the river to the north, and rising up to the south, through gardens, orchard and fields to the old woods at the top. The lake extends to about an acre and a half.
The stone-walled courtyard garden, right outside the kitchen door, is sheltered and lovely when the sun shines (which it often does in Cumbria!) There are plenty of seats, a couple of garden tables, and a little fire pit for cooking. You can pick anything you like from the full herb garden (but do check before you eat it!) And there’s a stone garden – either for meditating, or for artistic stone balancing. It’s surprising how competitive stone balancing can get…
The Studio also looks onto the courtyard. There’s a pool table in the Studio. There’s also a stage and a dressing-up box for the theatrically inclined.
Beyond the courtyard, which is gated, there’s plenty of space for running about. There’s a trampoline, and a badminton net.
The lake is special, whatever the season or the weather. There are a couple of boats available to take on the lake, with buoyancy aids. And the brave will definitely want to swim (please take normal safety precautions – the water’s cold, and up to 6m deep).
And, of course, there’s the sauna. Across the lake from the house, and camouflaged among the trees, the cord-wood and grass-roofed sauna is always a favourite. Plenty of wood will be supplied for you, and you can easily spend a couple of hours alternating between hot sauna and cold lake.
The Raven Beck, and the smaller Kiln Beck which runs into it, are great for scrambling. Just be aware that it’s only safe when the water is low – in spate the Raven can be a spectacular force.
In season you can pick all the fruit you can eat – rhubarb, raspberries, blackcurrants, plums, apples.
There are new, and maturing, coppices to explore, fields to run wild in, and in the woods at the top of the site you can build shelters, and find magical kingdoms…
Ravenbridge Mill is right at the bottom of Hartside pass. Hartside is a magnet for cyclists – it’s the big climb up onto the Pennines on the Coast2coast route. From Ravenbridge, at 600ft, you’re straight into the climb, up to the summit at 1900ft. Bring your bikes, and be careful coming down!
You can also walk up to Hartside – it’s four miles by road, and a bit less by the path – and if the weather’s good you can see Scotland, and the full panorama of the Lakes across the Eden Valley. And if you’ve had enough exercise, you can always drive the winding road – which regularly features on lists of “the top ten drives in the UK”.
When you reach the top of Hartside, you can just admire the view, or you can carry on, to the lovely little town of Alston, and over the Northumberland moors, to Middleton in Teesdale, High Force, Cow Green Reservoir, and all the other places in the wild and beautiful North Pennines AONB.
That’s the beauty of Ravenbridge – the Pennines on one side, the Lake District on the other, and all the red sandstone villages of the Eden Valley in between. You can get to the foot of Blencathra in 35 minutes, and you don’t have to compete with the traffic of Windermere or Keswick.
There’s a good sized Co-op at Lazonby, 10 minutes away, and several supermarkets at Penrith, 25 minutes. Carlisle (40 mins) and Keswick (45 mins) are also easy to get to.
6th August 2020 2:44 AM local time