Boltongate Old Rectory, nr Ireby
Southwest of Carlisle and a smidgen north of the Lake District national park, this luxury B&B is a great base for exploring both the northern Lakes and the less well-trodden north Cumbrian coast, including the Solway Coast AONB. Set in an old rectory, bedrooms here come with big beds, fresh flowers, guest dressing gowns and en-suite shower rooms fitted with underfloor heating; the Plum room also has a huge, freestanding bath. Food is another draw; guests can book in for three-course dinners at weekends or order locally sourced deli platters on other evenings. Unusually for a B&B it's also licensed, with a small but expertly chosen selection of wines close at hand for booze-minded arrivals.
• 01697 371647, boltongateoldrectory.com. B&B doubles from ?120, including afternoon tea, dinners from ?34.50pp, platters from ?13.50
This is a proper village pub at the heart of its community, where new faces are eagerly welcomed into the regular crowd propping up the 16th-century bar. Food is traditional and generous; when you need to walk it off, head into adjacent Coombs Wood along a riverside path that climbs dramatically above red sandstone cliffs. There are five smart bedrooms, of which several overlook one of the finest trout and salmon rivers in the country – landlord Billy can set up a fishing lesson or day permit. The scenic Settle to Carlisle railway (Armathwaite to Carlisle: 20 minutes) is a five-minute walk away.
• 01697 472400, foxandpheasantinn.co.uk. B&B doubles from ?70
Cumbrian stays don't get much more traditional than this two-room B&B tucked in the Eden Valley, between Appleby and the M6. Set in a listed, 17th-century farmhouse, cocooned by wood-panelled walls, antique mirrors and posies of freshly picked flowers, there's also a tennis court on site if you want to brush up your backhand. It's less than five miles to the restaurants and pubs of Appleby but, if you'd rather stay put, owner Lulie will rustle up a three-course dinner given a bit of notice (homemade strawberry and damson ice-cream is one of her specialities).
• 01768 351487, drybeckhall.co.uk. B&B doubles from ?90, dinners from ?25
If you're looking for a boutique B&B or a gastropub with rooms, walk on by because the Miners Arms is neither of those. A fairly unreconstructed pub in one of England's highest villages, what this does boast is a friendly welcome, local ales on tap, filling no-fuss meals and three smart bedrooms; the triple is the most stylish, with leather headboards set against exposed stone walls, plum-coloured furnishings, walk-in showers and underfloor heating. A godsend in these parts, not least for weary-thighed cyclists pedalling their way along the Sea to Sea cycle route, there's also plenty of space for storing wet or muddy clothes, and bikes.
• 01434 381427, nenthead.com. B&B doubles from ?70, mains around ?9
This glam farmhouse B&B, between the M6 and Appleby, has been pulling in punters over the last couple of years with its cosy shepherd's hut "suite" but it also has three more conventional double bedrooms. Lounge in guest rooms laced with age-old chaise longues and chunky woollen blankets, or perch at the oak breakfast table (co-owner Mike runs a separate business making green oak furniture) and peer out at the widescreen views onto the surrounding hills and fields. Deli-style supper trays can be arranged but don't miss a stroll to the local boozer, the Butcher's Arms, one of the UK's first community-run pubs.
• 01931 715205, craketreesmanor.co.uk. Doubles from ?90, shepherd's hut from ?70, both B&B, supper trays from ?15
Despite its Eden Valley location, this grand country house B&B was originally built, in the 19th century, for a Scottish laird and it has a touch of the baronial about it (though the owners prefer to think along auld alliance lines, likening it to a French chateau). Rooms are cosy and colourful, with turquoise throws, violet-blue bathrooms and, in one case, a riot of floral wallpaper. Don't be fooled by such comforts as rose showerheads or properly ironed bedlinen, though. A stay here is more like a visit to a friend's posh country pad than a hotel; two of the four bedrooms share bathrooms and the owners will come and pick you up from the local station free of charge. It's also fatteningly close to one of Cumbria's best cake bakers, The Watermill at Little Salkeld.
• 01768 870300, lazonbyhall.co.uk. B&B doubles from ?80
On the edge of Cartmel village, this modern B&B is technically outside the Lake District national park, though it's so close to its southern fringes that you could fling your toothbrush and almost hit Windermere. There's plenty to do besides visiting the Lakes. Local attractions, beyond the village's 12th-century priory, tend towards the epicurean; fine dining at L'Enclume, less fussy dining at sister restaurant Rogan & Company and sticky toffee puddings. Or stay in and put your feet up in one of two double bedrooms, helping yourself to a nip of sherry and weighing up the local art on the walls.
• 01539 532054, calsfellview.co.uk. B&B doubles from ?65
This village pub, just east of Penrith, punches above its weight in food terms, with fabulous home-cured salmon and plates of local cheeses. Though not the prettiest village in the area, Culgaith is a useful stopping-off point if you're heading up-country or across to Scotch Corner and, with a Center Parcs two miles away, it's no stranger to visitors (go early to get a fireside table in the bar area, a much more atmospheric space to eat in than the dated restaurant). Its seven modern bedrooms are comfortable if not especially fancy but, for the price, they're a good deal with cream walls and beige carpets pepped up by treacle, chocolate and charcoal furnishings and shiny white bathrooms.
• 01768 88223, blackswanculgaith.co.uk. B&B doubles from ?85
Ravenstonedale lies between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, its surrounding limestone plateaus and upland pastures offering an isolation that can be hard to find within the boundaries of its national park neighbours. Such remoteness makes it all the more pleasurable to come home to the Black Swan, where you'll find real ales, fell-reared feasts, country-house bedrooms and locally handmade soaps (which are for sale in the pub-owned village shop). The beer garden, with its tuneful stream, is a blissful place to sink a pint of Black Sheep after a hike in the Howgill Fells.
• 01539 623204, blackswanhotel.com. B&B doubles from ?75
This 19th-century coaching inn turned B&B gets understandably booked up with walkers tackling Hadrian's Wall . Russet carpets, antique beds and plump duvets create perfect surroundings to unwind in post-hike (one bedroom has a kingsize bed and an en suite shower while the other makes up for its smaller double bed with a huge bathroom featuring both cast-iron bath and stylish walk-in shower) and owners Matt and Katie will pick you up or drop off along the trail. If you're too weary to go out foraging, they'll also cook you a very locally sourced dinner (even the honey comes from their own hives).
• 01697 746595, chapelburn.com. B&B doubles from ?70, meals from ?25 for three courses
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