Remote Holiday Cottage in Northumberland? Try Dunsdale House…
Regular readers of LittleStuff will know that we’re keen on The Great Outdoors, and this year’s autumn break of choice was a remote holiday cottage in Northumberland. We’re really not so keen on neighbours when we’re on holiday; our ideal holiday home is half way up a mountain, with not a neighbour in site. So over half term it was with not a little excitement that we headed north – wa-a–ay oop North, right on the very border of Scotland – to Dunsdale House in the Cheviots.
On (cyber) paper, it was our ideal holiday home – right at the top of a lonely valley, nearest neighbour out of sight (and only a handful in the valley), surrounded by the open moorland of the Cheviot hills. No TV signal, no mobile signal, no internet – just log fires and comfy sofas and plenty of time…
It was a long drive up from Dorset (7 hours) and even when you think you’re nearly there, you’re not – you’re just entering the valley. It’s another 15 minutes away yet, along the single track road that meanders beside the river all the way up to the head of the valley to finally (3 cattle grids, 4 bridges and a lot of sheep and cows and buzzards later) spot Dunsdale House, nestled into the fork of two valleys.
So – location score? A Perfect 10/10.
Now we had to get inside and see if that matched the sheer stunning spectacular jaw-dropping-ness of the location.
And… it did!
The house inside is very lovely, and far more luxurious than remote holiday cottages tend to be. The old cottage has been extended in recent years, making it a fab place to stay for family holidays.
You get a good sized kitchen, a dining room that seats 8 and a living room with really comfy sofas (and two rather uncomfortable armchairs!). Two twin bedrooms upstairs in the old part of the house along with the family bathroom, and downstairs the side extension houses two new bedrooms, one twin and one double, both of which are en-suite.
It sleeps 8 comfortably (REALLY comfortably – the beds are lovely and the bedding is excellent quality… as are the towels, actually), and has all you need to make your stay easy – the kitchen is well-equipped, the utility has a washer and dryer and the excellent heating is a godsend after a (freezing!) day outdoors.
There is a fabulous range of books decorating every available windowsill or shelf, so you’ll not be short of reading material. There is a TV, but no TV signal, making it videos or DVD’s only.
So all the biggies are covered, and covered very well.
There were some small niggles, however, which are always worth mentioning. Please note that none of these are deal breakers, don’t get me wrong; but we did notice them – and Dunsdale House isn’t a cheap property to stay in, so expectations will in all fairness be really high.
The welcome pack – or total lack thereof. I know this isn’t usually promised, but any one who regularly has a self-catering holiday will know it’s pretty normal. On top of which, we had driven a very long way, and having finally landed at the cottage we were then over an hour round trip from the nearest shop. We piled out of the car to explore the cottage, and naturally headed for the kettle. Disappointed faces all round when we found no welcome tray – no pint of milk in the fridge, no handful of teabags… nothing. The very last thing on earth we wanted to do was unpack and then turn around and go back out again for a pint of milk and a few teabags just so that we could have a cup of tea. Thankfully we had come fully stocked for the week (and I do mean fully stocked – the only food I had to buy during the week was more milk and bread after a few days. I’ve stayed in remote cottages before, and HATE being forced to leave just to go to the shops), but to not even have a means of a hot drink on arrival was pretty poor, we felt. At other, far cheaper, cottages I’ve been greeted by not only means of a hot drink but also home baked bread, cake, wine, flowers or soft drinks for the children. It’s a small thing, but it really does make a huge difference – in particular, as I say, when you are so very far from the nearest shop.
Cobwebs – the cottage was spotless at ground level, but most of the main ceiling lights had large cobwebs on – not very important to us, but such a simple thing to fix with a quick swish of a duster.
The dog – to be fair to Dunsdale, we did read this in the details before we booked, but this dog-friendly cottage in the most dog-friendly of locations actually only welcomes dogs into the kitchen. I totally understand that not every dog-owner is considerate, and no doubt some cause damage or mess – but to most dog owners, having to keep the dog in the kitchen, even if you’re stretched out in front of the roaring log fire in the living room for the evening, feels a bit harsh. We’d far rather be told to vacuum up after her, pay a cleaning fee or sign a disclaimer and take responsibility for our pet’s behaviour. Totally agree those who cause damage must be charged, but on the whole we dog owners do love our pets and wish to spend our holidays with them. And to suggest leaving her in the kennel outside to dry off upon returning from a muddy walk is fine in the summer, but when it’s -3 outside? Well, that’s not going to happen.
Again, previous dog-friendly properties we’ve stayed at have provided dog towels and an outside tap for cleaning up your dog – no one likes a muddy dog in the house, but I’m not going to leave her to freeze!
The bedrooms were slightly odd in their layout – the largest master bedroom with its own en suite (and the only standing shower in the property) is set up as a twin room. The smaller bedroom next door with a jack-and-jill bathroom is the only double in the house, meaning that the 13yr old got to sleep (and bathe) in grand splendour whilst his parents squished into the small double room (which is perfectly large enough to take twin beds).
I think the biggest issue with this property is that it’s not owned by ‘a person’. It is owned by the estate, and it is no one’s home/house. When an owner has a holiday property, they tend to also use it themselves. It then naturally gains small touches which make it feel more homely – plenty of board games, pens and paper, kitchen cupboards stocked with small things like herbs, utilities like dishwasher tabs & washing powder in the cupboards… Those small personal touches were what was lacking. That doesn’t make Dunsdale House a bad place – quite the reverse; we actually cannot wait to go back, and in the summer we anticipate never leaving the valley. But those very small things don’t take a lot of thought or effort, and really do make a difference to the feel of a property, and to your holiday experience.
Dunsdale House can be booked through Northumbria Byways – who were brilliant to deal with, and we can’t recommend enough. Northumberland tends to get a little overlooked, but I can’t remember staying anywhere more spectacular, with such wonderful beaches and so many interesting places to visit. If you’re looking for family holidays in Northumberland, we suggest you make them your first stop.