LOVERS of petrichor, the earthy fragrance made by rain falling on dry soil, will find plenty to delight their olfactory proclivities if they head to the Black Bull at Sedbergh at this time of year. As the autumn mists gather after a long, hot summer, I inhale the scent happily as I explore the wild and beautiful slopes of the Howgill Fells, which surround the Cumbrian market town.
I even smell it inside my sleek, monochrome bathroom in the newly reopened and refurbished 17th-century coaching inn. It’s stocked up with unique-to-the-hotel Sedbergh Soap Company products (sedbergh-soap.co.uk), with bottles labelled ‘petrichor’.
The warren-like building, filled with deep-red carpets and dark wood stairs, has 18 rooms. All are named, in an evocative move, after local fells. Mine, Winder, is a chic vision in misty greys, soft wools and light wood panelling. The green swell of the real Winder can be seen through the bathroom window when I’m lying in a hot bath with the rain falling outside.
It would be wrong to leave without a tramp up that fell, so the next day we climb it and cut across a ridge to Arant Haw, another peak, for raw and wonderful 360-degree views. Wedged between a touristy area of the Lake District and the more popular parts of the Yorkshire Dales, the countryside around Sedbergh is magnificent and fabulously unspoilt — we barely see a soul, apart from a young group toasting something special with a bottle of fizz up on the trig point.
The Black Bull’s owners, James and Nina Ratcliffe, are dedicated to local sourcing, and everything in our room, from the teacups to the carpet, has been made by nearby providers or artists. Fresh coffee, milk and home-made chocolate biscuits arrive outside our door every morning.
The seasonal menu in the restaurant also changes every day, reflecting the ingredients available. My glazed celeriac, salt-baked beetroot, kale and ewe’s curd plate (£15.95) was flavour perfection, and I’m still having worryingly frequent flashbacks about the utterly brilliant (but oh-so-bad and boozy) rum baba with elderflower cream (£6.95).
USP: The restaurant interior is peppered with pretty kokedamas (Japanese moss balls) and terrariums (mini gardens in a glass container).
Who goes there? Couples, families, cyclists, hikers and dog owners (three rooms are dog-friendly). The cosy bar, complete with a log burner, is buzzing with locals and guests alike on a Saturday night (pints from £3.50).
Venture out: Sedbergh is a book town and there are some lovely bookshops — even the bus shelter doubles up as a book exchange. Bookworms could make a mad dash to this weekend’s annual Sedbergh Book Town Festival (Oct 5-7, sedberghbooktown.co.uk).
■ Doubles start from £125 with breakfast included, theblackbullsedbergh.co.uk