When it comes to beautiful parts of northern England, the Lake District tends to hog the limelight, yet with Wordsworth country still 40 miles away, we’re taking a turn-off from the M6 and heading for the countryside surrounding Lancashire’s former mill towns.
We’re staying in the grounds of historic Samlesbury Hall, sandwiched between Preston and Blackburn, and a stone’s throw from the Ribble Valley.
This green and pleasant land – which includes the Forest of Bowland area of outstanding natural beauty – is officially the happiest place in the UK, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
On a scale of 0 to 10, Ribble Valley residents gave an average score of 8.30 when asked how happy they felt, compared with 7.56 for the country at large.
Staying in the Hamlet in the scenic grounds of Samlesbury Hall, it’s not hard to see why.
The hamlet is made up of 18 brightly-coloured shepherd’s huts, some of which are dog-friendly, and offers a quirky alternative to traditional hotel rooms and B&Bs.
With two double beds in European oak, and extras like plug sockets to keep your phone charged and USB ports, the huts are a good deal more comfortable than camping.
Each cabin can sleep up to four people and they all have an en-suite bathroom, with power shower and soft towels.
They have full central heating, making them suitable for a stay at any time of the year.
Outside is a picnic bench and a fire pit for you to spend a relaxing evening toasting marshmallows around the campfire.
A full English breakfast. including free range eggs from the farm next door, can be taken in the hall’s restaurant.
The striking black and white timber clad hall itself dates from 1325 and is free to visit – though check if it will be open during your stay as it is a popular venue for weddings,
Free guided tours are held most Sundays giving visitors an insight into the fascinating – and often bloody history – of the hall.
Also in the grounds are a wafflery, a menagerie of animals, a woodland playground – and even a bee centre where visitors can learn all about bees and how they produce their honey.
The hall provides a great base for exploring this part of the world, with Brockholes Nature Reserve on the doorstep and the historic town of Clitheroe a short drive away.
Remarkably, five of Britain’s top gastropubs – the Freemasons at Wiswell, the Parkers Arms near Slaidburn, the White Swan in Fence, the Cartford Inn in Little Eccleston and the Assheton Arms in Downham, are located in this neck of the woods – making this a great destination not just for nature lovers – but also for foodies.
Samlesbury Hall, Preston New Rd, Samlesbury, Preston, Lancashire, PR5 0UP; 01254 812010; Email: email@example.com. Prices start from £25 per person.