“ Address: Twice Brewed / Haltwhistle / Northumberland / NE49 9PT / Tel: (01434) 344120 „
As part of my fundraising efforts for VSO, I decided to do a sponsored cheer along Hadrian's wall - like a sponsored walk but with slightly inappropriate cartwheels along the sacred remains, etc etc. We went this weekend gone and had intended staying in 3 places over 3 nights, but the weather had other ideas, rendering our intention to camp on the first night wholly inappropriate. It was about 4pm on Friday when we rang Saughy Rigg to say we'd booked for Saturday night...but could they also fit us in for that night as well, and the answer was yes, albeit in slightly different accommodation.
Saughy Rigg is an 18th Century farm located in Twice Brewed, within walking distance (under a mile) of Hadrian's Wall. It's easy to reach by road (and the distinctive camping pods - more later - act as a great signpost) although it's a slightly treacherous ride when done at night as the path off the main road is steep and winding, and to my city-girl eyes, dangerously un-illuminated. Twice Brewed is about 20 minutes from Hexham (where you'll find various essentials....like restaurants, a cinema and a giant Waitrose) and also an easy drive from Carlisle and Newcastle. It is located within hiking distance of various Roman Forts - we passed two during one of our excursions.
We arrived slightly wet and bedraggled and were immediately welcomed with a pot of tea in the lounge before being shown to our room. Accommodation is provided in rooms in the farmhouse, and camping pods in the grounds, and over the two nights our group stayed in 3 of these. The rooms strike the perfect balance between being tastefully decorated, and full of original character, two things which rarely coexist in British hotels. We had a double room (twins, singles and family rooms also available) and like all the others, ours had a small ensuite with a wonderful power shower. We had a TV with an insane number of channels, especially impressive given the lack of phone signal for most networks on the site (I know the technology is different, but I still link them both as modern day essentials in my mind). We had a hospitality tray filled with Fair Trade goodies, a bathroom stocked with toiletries, and comprehensive in-room information about Saughy Rigg and the surrounding area. The few anomalies - just one bedside table and light, nowhere to sit and write stuff, no Bible! - simply served as a reminder that you weren't in a generic chain but in a family run place that at the same time could give anyone of them a run for their money.
In addition to the rooms, the site has 3 camping pods, for between 4 and 6 people. We had a small one the first night, and the large one for the second night, and these were an incredibly fun and surprisingly comfortable place to sleep. Camping Pods are the 21st Century's answer to harsh British weather, allowing you to camp out with more protection than traditional canvas camping would offer you. They're shaped like little sheds, but much cuter, and ours were supplied with comfy mattresses and pillows, not to mention the electric light and heater, window and lockable door. You can see pictures of them here:
Although we enjoyed our night in the room, the Camping Pod was just as comfortable, and definitely won points for the fun factor. There were 5 of us in a 6 person pod, which meant we had room for our backpacks etc: as they say on the website, the large pods sleep 6 people only 'if they know each other really well' and you would be pushed for storage space at full occupancy, but the area is very secluded and safe, so we happily left things out on the decked terrace overnight.
People staying in the pods have use of a shower room just inside the house. We didn't have any issues with getting in there, and were pleasantly surprised to find it was stocked with fresh, fluffy towels, and a variety of toiletries. Roughing it, we were not. It's the little touches like that that really made this place stand out.
Breakfast is included in room rates, and extra if you're in the pods, but even then costs only £6 which is excellent value for money when you consider the spread. Served from 7.30am to 8.45am (walkers being Sensible People who are Early Risers) it includes a cold buffet of cereals, yogurt, fruit and juices, and is followed by your selection from the a la carte, cooked to order. In addition to a Full English (which included the option of vegetarian sausages) you could choose from smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast, or local kippers. Home made porridge with cream and honey was also available, tea and coffee were in abundance, and virtually every item was either made on site or locally sourced, with the full provenance available in the in room information should you be interested. Everything was beautifully presented, and the homemade butter, jams and lemon curd made a wonderful change from the standard mass produced pats of Anchor and portions of Robertsons you invariably get on breakfast buffets. We ate until we were stuffed, and then ate some more, such was the variety and quality of the food on offer. Without meaning to sound too condescending, it far surpassed my expectations (based on remoteness and size of the property, not to mention its standing as an independent non-chain place) and I was quite disappointed 'only' to have birthday cake for breakfast the next day when we were at our next location.
The restaurant is lovely, set into a conservatory with modern furnishings and fab views of Hadrian's Wall and the countryside, and they serve dinner there as well as breakfast. We ate here on our first night, having arrived late and not wanting to venture back out in the rain. During our stay we were offered a two- or three-course menu, for £15 or £17 respectively. Though this sounds like a lot, there really was nowhere else you could go locally. That said, the service and quality of the food were outstanding and we didn't feel at all as if they were taking advantage of their captive audience. They bent over backwards to be accommodating, offering up an additional vegetarian option for starters since I didn't like the one on the menu, and the food was nicely presented and piping hot when it was served - things you tend to take for granted become worth mentioning when the kitchen is as small as theirs was. There was a good choice of 3 starters (one vegetarian), 4 mains (one vegetarian) and various puddings, and their chocolate fudge cake was simply to die for. Seriously, I ate a lot of cake that weekend (we were burning lots of calories walking....and it was my birthday) and this was one of the best. On the second night we chose to eat out, mainly because the vegetarian option was pretty much the same and 3 of us weren't eating meat this weekend, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the restaurant if you're planning to stay.
Other facilities include a large, comfy lounge, a small bar and a mini library of books and games, not to mention a TV (useful for those in the camping pods). There is a plethora of local information available, and the staff were fantastic. This is clearly a real family run affair, and we were made to feel very welcome. The service was impeccable, everyone was friendly without being overly familiar, and nothing was too much to ask. We felt like we should be thanking them for our stay, rather than the other way around, and when we got our bill and they'd slightly undercharged us, we owned up immediately, rather than gleefully rubbing our hands together and making a swift exit as I tend to do in restaurants...
The farm is understandably proud of the steps it has taken to have less of an impact on the environment. Environmentally friendly features include solar panels on the roof supplemented by a biomass boiler, and a ground source heat pump. Food is locally sourced, light bulbs are energy saving, recycling is integrated into their rubbish disposal - you get the picture. Lots of things you might do yourself at home, but rarely find in hotels. What is most impressive, perhaps, is that you didn't walk through the buildings thinking, wow, look at how dark is, or notice cooler water or lower pressure in the showers: if there hadn't been a board up about their environmental initiatives, you'd probably have been none the wiser. While they welcome walkers and cyclists, the farm also has a small car park (try to avoid the ditch if you can see it...which you might not be able to at night) and also offers free pick up and drop off nearer the wall and the bus stop.
Saughy Rigg is a real gem of a property, and we were delighted to be spending two nights there, rather than just the one, thanks to the weather. We paid £45 for the room including breakfast, this being a discounted rate since it was late in the day when we rang up. Normally double occupancy rates are about £85 which, while not cheap, is still value for money given the location and quality of the accommodation. The camping pods are £40 for the small ones, £50 for the large one. These prices are per pod, and exclude breakfast. Considering the latter would easily sleep a family with 2 or 3 children, again, they're a real bargain. Full details of tariff are on the website:
You can book online, but we found it simpler to ring up. They accept cash or cards, though credit attract a 3% fee so it's worth taking a debit one if you have one. Check in is from 2pm, check out by 10am though we hung around a little on site after vacating the pod.
I never thought I'd be giving a rural B&B a 5* rating, but this one definitely deserves it.
Telephone 01434 344120