The History of Sharrow Bay


In these days of multi million pound start-ups, it’s easy to forget post-war austerity. When Sharrow Bay, an uninhabited Victorian Villa in an idyllic secluded bay on Ullswater, was leased by Francis Coulson in 1948, he refurbished the interior and its bedrooms on a wing and a prayer with the help of willing friends. Sharrow Bay oficially opened in the easter of 1949 with 5 bedrooms, no alcohol was served and the cost was just over a pound to stay the night. He then gave free rein to his natural welcoming hospitality and the overwhelming wish to provide his guests with a good time, and wonderful food and wine – the like of which had not been seen in the Lake District before.

Positioned by itself, on the remote Eastern shores of the lake, with one small country road skirting the towering fellsides on its way to the tiny hamlets and dramatic glacial valleys at its end, it must have seemed an improbable prospect.  Yet it held a magical secret, hugging the most dramatic and expansive views of Ullswater all to itself in 12 acres of wood fringed gardens, all it needed was bringing back to life – to its tradition of happy abundant hospitality as started by the man who built it, Anthony Parkin, in 1840.

So shockingly new was Francis Coulson’s concept people struggled to put a name to it, until one day when asked again exactly what Sharrow Bay was Mr Coulson replied… it’s a country house that’s a hotel. A very literal description that spawned a genre that became a phenomenon. Sharrow Bay epitomises all that the genre really is at its heart.

In 1952 he was joined by Brian Sack, an ex-Spitfire pilot, who freed Mr Coulson to concentrate in the kitchen. He worked with the best produce of the area, Food Miles didn’t exist in the days of rationing so he pre-empted the current trends of local produce, abundant fish and game, home grown, and foraging, out of necessity and the good luck of being in the Lakes with the benefit of their natural bounty. His swansong was the invention of Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Sticky Toffee Pudding was invented here.

In 1994, both Francis and Brian were awarded MBEs for their services to the Hospitality Industry, which were legendary.

Sharrow Bay is a small hotel with a huge history. It continues to be managed with the love, kindness and attention to detail for which the hotel is renowned, and looks forward to the future.