Townfoot Alston Cumbria CA9 3RN 01434 382 200
Alston House has long been a hotel – the building dates back to the seventeenth century – and locals have known it in various guises over the years, but we like the direction that current owners Mike and Carol are taking the place. With a welcoming cafe and bar-restaurant as its hub, there are seven refurbished rooms upstairs that are really popular with the passing bike-and-hike trade (Alston is on the Pennine Way and C2C routes) as well as with north-country visitors keen to have a gander at England's highest market town. Nothing is too much trouble, and it's a soothing experience all round – earth-tone decor, gorgeously soft beds, cafetieres with proper coffee on the tea trays. A deep sleep is pretty much guaranteed in tiny Alston, especially if you've just walked or cycled in. Three of the rooms have lovely baths – room 1 at the back in particular has a rather singular bathroom fitted into a very bijou space but still manages to offer a huge stand-alone slipper bath for soothing away aches and pains. Another of the rooms has a similarly impressive rolltop bath. Breakfast is a hearty affair, from croissants and fresh fruit salad to the full monty, after which you can retrive your boots from in front of the fire, your kit from the drying room or your bike from the cycle store, and start the day on the trail all over again.
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