Country houses for sale

A heartbreakingly beautiful slice of the Lake District for sale, with a grand Arts-and-Crafts house at its centre

Nanny Brow, near Ambleside, has 14 bedrooms, five acres and 315ft of single-bank fishing, plus superb views to Wrynose Pass.

In 1903, Yorkshire-born architect Francis Whitwell built his family home on a glorious site above Cumbria’s Brathay Valley, a five-minute drive from Ambleside on the Coniston road. Nanny Brow, so named after the crag on which it sits, is now on the market with Strutt & Parker at a guide price of £4.95 million.

The house is set in almost five acres of natural gardens, with 96 metres (315ft) of single-bank fishing on the River Brathay and direct access to the surrounding National Trust land via a private gate from the grounds.

One side faces towards Brathay Church and Windermere; the other side looks down over the gardens to Ivy Crag. The front of the house faces south-west, with views down the valley towards the head of the Langdales, with Wrynose Pass in the distance.

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But the setting is only one of the many charms of this iconic Arts & Crafts property which was, realised from an original painting by Whitwell himself. With 14,581sq ft in the main house and 746sq ft in the annexe, the interior comprises the original entrance hall, sitting room and dining room and the Whitwell suite with its signature oriel window.

There also are six further reception rooms, three kitchens, 13 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms and two annexe cottages.

Whitwell lived at Nanny Brow with his wife, Dorothy, and their three children, until his death in 1943, after which the house was sold and later became a hotel. Sympathetically extended in the 1980s with the addition of the curved north wing, it was showcased in Arts and Crafts Houses in the Lake District (2014) by Matthew Hyde and Esmé Whittaker and as part of the region’s successful bid for UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017.

The hotel closed in the early 2000s and was eventually rescued from dilapidation by Sue and Peter Robinson, who ran a successful holiday-letting business in the Cotswolds and were looking to expand.

Their decision to take on the run-down property was boosted by Mrs Robinson’s childhood memories of family holidays in the Lake District, where she often admired the house perched on the steep side of Loughrigg Fell. In an interview with a local magazine, she recalls how, shortly before their move to the Lakes, a lady moved in next door to their Cotswold cottages.

She turned out to be Francis Whitwell’s granddaughter and regaled the Robinsons with stories of the Whitwell family’s long-standing friendship with Beatrix Potter and their regular picnics on Loughrigg Fell.

Having secured their Ambleside base in 2010, the Robinsons spent the best part of two years restoring and enhancing the many period features in the house, including original oak floors and panelling and carved oak fireplaces.

Typical of the period are the plasterwork ceiling friezes in the main reception room depicting large flowers and plants, less so an additional frieze illustrating small birds, frogs, rabbits and snails — perhaps a nod to the works of Potter.

The house was extended in the 1980s and selling agent Tom David suggests that the bedrooms there could be repurposed, either as additional reception rooms or as a substantial leisure complex.

Nanny Brow at a guide price of is for sale at £4.95 million via Strutt & Parker — see more pictures or enquire with the agent for further details.

Ambleside: What you need to know

    • Location: Ambleside is ten minutes’ drive from Windermere
    • Atmosphere: Ambleside has several shops, inns and a cinema, and several excellent restaurants are situated in the area (Old Stamp House, Lake Road Kitchen, Samling, Drunken Duck, Rothay Manor)
    • Things to do: A wide choice of outdoor activities is available locally, from abseiling and climbing to bushcraft and sailing, plus walking walking (Langdale and Coniston Fells). Also well worth a visit are Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, John Ruskin’s Brantwood, Wray Castle and Brockhole Visitor Centre, with their spectacular gardens, tree-top trek, laser-clay shooting and archery
    • Schools: Ambleside has its own primary school, with just 85 pupils and a ‘Good’ rating at its last Ofsted report.

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