For February half-term this year, we hit the road northwards, destination Skye. A driving trip that packs in the hours, we made sure to overnight each way and the lovely Brownber Hall and Middleton Lodge were on the itinerary…
Up To Brownber Hall
We left London early morning, in part to avoid the coming storm that day (remember the February storms!) – although the rain and wind did catch up with us just as we were pulling into Brownber Hall – you’ll find it just off the A66 at Newbiggin; the perfect halfway point for a London to the Highlands drive.
Owned and run by Peter and Amanda (an outdoor loving couple who left their London jobs in 2016 to take over the Hall) the interior décor is a wonderful mix of countryside cosy and delightful design moments – from wire-framed four posted beds to humorous contemporary artwork.
Saturday night was pizza night (the kitchen provides a small evening menu) – with a homemade sourdough and a (much-appreciated by me!) dairy-free options. After supper, we cosied up in one of the sitting rooms to play a rather fantastic set of Monopoly, before turning in for an early night with cups of tea.
The next morning the weather had settled and with plans for a reasonably early start, we sat down to a hearty breakfast (full English, porridge and cereal doing us all well!) and left with sourdough sandwiches for drive. It was the perfect overnight, wonderfully easy-going and relaxed – a bit like stopping over at friends! – and we could quite happily have stayed another night!
*Complimentary stay – all views my own.
Up On Skye
As those of you who follow me might know, my husband hails from the Isle of Skye and we are often up here visiting family. The weather up here seems to me to be peculiarly unique and capricious and any short stay you are guaranteed to be subjected to the full gamut – from rain, hail and wind, to the most gloriously could-be-a-summer’s-day bright, sparkling sunshine. And this visit, to the south of the island, was no different!
The Misty Isle’s beaches can become quite dreamlike in the sun and it feels like there is nowhere else worth being… seeing the light sparkle on the water and hit the sand and rocks is so incredibly life-affirming. Even the tailend of winter (and trust me, I got hailed on five times one morning in between sunny spells!) can have delightful memory-making moments to offer.
Gus is proving himself quite fearless when it comes to the wet and the cold, so the merest hint of sun will see him splashing right into the water, forget about the wet socks and trousers! It’s lovely, but every time I kick myself for not having brought him up extra clothes…
Back Down to Middleton Lodge…
At the end of the halfterm week, en route back to London, we stopped in at the wonderful Middleton Lodge – just a 20 minutes drive from Darlington (& about an hour’s drive from Browner Hall) it’s an equally good half way point for an overnight.
I first visited a few years ago (and have since been back a couple of times!) but this was my first time staying in the Dairy cottage – exquisitely charming with a mezzanine level and reading nook lined with blue-spined Penguin novels. Sadly the stormy weather precluded a dip in the outdoor hottub, but the huge indoor circular bathtub more than made up for it!
The following morning, we caught up with lovely owners James and Becky and took a walk around the beautiful grounds. The garden was just at the beginning of its Spring journey and I will be watching avidly for updates over on the Middleton Lodge Instagram. If you do get a chance, do visit, it’s quite lovely!
For those so this drive, it’s worth noting that while these stopovers are more or less halfway distance wise, the stretch to and from the Highlands does work out a couple of hours longer as it’s not all motorway and so the driving is slower – so with these stop-offs you will have one short day’s drive, followed by a longer one going up – and vice-versa on the way down! If you wanted to break up the driving more equally timewise, then you might want to look at staying somewhere closer Glasgow.
*Complimentary stay – all views my own.