1st May 2012Whisky and a wild escape at the foot of Black Combe

Mountains are humbling, but strangely motivating.“The experienced mountain climber is not intimidated by a mountain; he is inspired by it. The persistent winner is not discouraged by a problem; he is challenged by it.”

Some famous American said that. But the theory we share was demonstrated on my recent trip to Wayside Guest Accommodation and Whisky Barn, at the foot of Black Combe in the Western Lake District. Black Combe really stands out – 1970ft high but 10 miles from any higher ground. It’s often overlooked by walkers but was given a chapter in Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ where he described it as:

”…aloof, rising on the southern seaboard and overtopping all else like a huge whale stranded on a beach, a landmark visible over far distances and always unmistakable...”

Black Combe is the only Lakeland fell from which all the British Isles can be seen. It stands proud, and so it should.

So why has the theory been demonstrated? Well, during 3 years in the shadow of this tantalising mountain, Steven and Lynn Johns transformed a derelict farmhouse and barn into what has recently been hailed the ‘best place to stay’ in its area of the Western Lake District. They did it largely with their bare hands, putting the stars of Grand Designs to shame and completing 80% of the work themselves (builders being allocated only the most basic and “boring” of brick-shifting tasks). I know this is true, because I’ve seen the photos of Steven on the roof and heard the stories of him falling off it.

Ok, I’m not saying that anyone who ups sticks and moves into inspirational scenery will automatically conquer all their niggling ambitions. In actual fact, on entering Wayside and finding out a bit about Steven and Lynn themselves, I realised they are also one of those annoying couples who have endless energy to do lots of different things in no particular order but usually with great success. Even worse, they’ve got taste. I don’t know if there’s such a phrase as ‘barn conversion chic’ but there should be. And then there’s the whisky…

Steven knows a lot about whisky. He’s a collector and a specialist retailer (on top of everything else he does), hence the treasure trove that is Wayside’s very own ‘Whisky Barn’. Here Steven’s indulged his passion, for the benefit of whisky fans as well as hikers who’ve been stuck out in the cold. Over 42 varieties are on display and available to buy. Whisky enthusiasts take note: tasting events are always in the pipeline and will coincide with the Black Combe Walking Festival in June this year.

Steven and Lynn are originally from Yorkshire, where their post office and off license remain too successful to sell. Steven has been a metal worker, designer, textile engineer, problem-solver and shopkeeper to name but a few...but always comes back to working with people. Now he’s added property developer, hotel owner, head chef and Western Lake District whisky celebrity into the mix.

So have I witnessed the power of the mountain? Or just a pair of ridiculously nice over-achievers? I don’t know. But I’ll have another whisky…

Explore nearby

The thing I like about Wayside is that even a whirlwind one-night stay feels like a proper escape. But stay for longer if you can; in delicious contrast to the shadow of Black Combe, the sandy expanses of Silecroft Beach are only a few miles away. Take an easy drive north up the coast on the A595 to reach Muncaster Castle and the chocolate box seaside village of Ravenglass.

Whitehaven - the perfect day out
Millom & Black Combe
Cockermouth
Ravenglass

Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.