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Meet Louise Dinnes, Owner of The Black Swan

By Joanna Roberts
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An Award Winning Hotel in Ravenstonedale

The Black Swan is within easy access to the iconic Coast to Coast trail and only a short drive from the M6 motorway. Located in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria, the hotel is the perfect place for a quiet rural gateway. I sat with owner Louise for this interview in the hotel’s comfortable bar.

Meet Louise Dinnes

Louise Dinnes has owned the hotel since 2006. The Black Swan offers a warm welcome, exceptional hospitality, and award-winning dining. Nestled in the Westmorland Dales extension of the Yorkshire Dales, The Black Swan is a popular place to stay on several Wilderness trips.

Headshot of Louise Dinnes in the bar of The Black Swan

Meet The Black Swan, Ravenstonedale

During our interview, Louise tells me about her first visit to The Black Swan. The trip was with her (now late) husband and her young daughter, Ellie, as part of their nationwide search for the perfect location. Driving into the quiet village, she remembers thinking, “This is gorgeous”, and she knew her search was over. Leaving behind a corporate background and armed with experience in doing up houses, Louise set about upgrading the premises.

Award Winning Dining

Louise tells me how she began her renovation of The Black Swan with the bathrooms and exterior areas. Still, it wasn’t long before she also stepped in to help with cooking duties.

Image of a meal at The Black Swan, including locally sourced meat.

Recent Awards

A decade later, a celebrated Cumbrian chef, Scott Fairweather, joined the Black Swan staff. Together, they have won numerous accolades, including AA Pub of the Year and ranked 20th in the 2023 Estrella Damn UK Top 50 Gastropubs. Louise’s pride and passion shine as she explains, of the Estrella Gastropub placing, “it’s a massive, massive achievement”.

It’s easy to see why The Black Swan has picked up so many awards. Wilderness England trips that stop here enjoy seasonal dishes freshly cooked with locally sourced ingredients. The same level of care is seen across the hotel by guests who spend restful nights here.

A Stay at The Black Swan

As I looked around the Victorian building during our interview, it was hard to imagine the hotel as anything other than the award-winning establishment that it is today. This is a charming venue with its cosy decor and a mix of bedrooms, from singles to family size. There are also ensuite facilities in every room, step-free access to the ground floor, and an array of homely touches. Louise tells me that many guests return year after year to relax in the peaceful surroundings.

A National Park Crossroads

Landscape image of Howgill Fells

Louise shares that even when the hotel is full, you can walk out in the nearby fells of the Yorkshire Dales and almost feel like you have the Howgills to yourself.

Closer still to The Black Swan, around a 4 km/2.5 mile walk away, over gently rolling fields, is Smardale Gill. With its towering 19th century viaduct and quaint packhorse bridge, this peaceful valley is said by some to mean ‘the valley of the clover’.

Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail passes through this area around day six. While many hikers choose to push on to the nearby town of Kirkby Stephen, a visit to Ravenstonedale makes for a wonderfully restorative stop. And, at just under halfway on this 192 miles long path, what’s not to like about relaxed, award-winning gastro dining and a cosy welcome at The Black Swan?

Yurts, the Garden, and Wildlife

Photo of the rear of The Black Swan from the rear.

Today, a quiet road runs outside the hotel. However, it was once a bustling main road – there has been a coaching inn on the site of The Black Swan since the 1600s. Although the occasional horse and rider still trot past, the most likely animals at the inn today are visiting dogs snoozing on the plush bar carpet.

Louise’s eyes light up as we talk of the wildlife outside the window. The Black Swan boasts a quiet garden by the river and a glamping area across the tiny bridge. After experimenting with bell tents, the team switched to more robust yurts in 2020. Despite a rocky start during the COVID-19 pandemic, these new yurts have proven a hit. With king-sized beds and a wood-burning stove, guests can get back to nature in comfort and style.

Wildlife at The Black Swan

Guests strolling into the garden at dawn or dusk might be lucky enough to spot the flash of a red squirrel. These elusive animals scurry through the trees and enjoy hazelnut feasts generously supplied by the hotel. Protected by a local conservation group, red squirrels – threatened by their bigger grey cousins – thrive in Ravenstondale. Other wildlife enjoying the local area includes otters and freshwater crayfish in nearby Scandal Beck, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Meet the Author: Joanna Roberts

Settled now in Cumbria, England. The Lake District National Park is a place I love for work and play. Originally from Devon and brought up in Wiltshire I also spent time living in the Scottish Highlands, working for Outward Bound Loch Eil. So, Outdoor Education and personal development work is within my very core. Over my career I have worked with both adults and young people helping folks learn and grow in some amazing places; from Nepal and Peru to Norway and Poland. In recent years I have guided a lot in Northern England and love enabling guests to get the very most out of their holiday.

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