ENGLAND'S most remote hostel has been a surprise addition to the county's live music scene, hosting some unique and unforgettable gigs over the past two years.

Furness duo Paper Cranes were the first act to perform at Skiddaw House, 1,550ft up the Lake District's sixth highest mountain, and since then, a number of leading Cumbrian acts have followed in their footsteps.

Several kilometres from the nearest road, the former hunting lodge and shepherd's bothy can only be accessed by the public on foot or by bike.

Manager Suzy Brett was keen to do something different for their guests, and also spread the word about this fascinating hostel.

She says: "'Fancy doing a gig in the middle of nowhere?' - this was the subject of my first email to Cumbrian band Paper Cranes. To my surprise, they promptly replied, and soon after, played an unforgettable gig up here at Skiddaw House.

"Since then, we’ve been hosting acoustic gigs several times a year, now known as the ‘1550ft sessions’."

The hostel is roughly half-way up Skiddaw, and looks out over an uninterrupted view of mountains, streams and the wild Caldew Valley.

It is a little over an hour’s walk from the nearest other building or road.

Suzy continues: "One of the reasons we first invited bands to play up here was because living in such a remote place, we missed seeing live music.

"But the music nights turned out to be really popular and we soon realised that the hostel’s location made for a pretty special atmosphere.

"The acoustics of our traditional common room are surprisingly good too.

"This year we’ve got four sessions lined up, all talented musicians and singer-songwriters from Cumbria.
Elaine Davidson

The next 1550ft Sessions event is on Friday July 27, with an appearance by singer-songwriter Elaine Davidson.

She has played across Europe and is currently recording her fourth album.

At Skiddaw House, Elaine's stunningly pure vocals and lyrics that tell many stories will also be supplemented by renowned fiddler Nick Jenkin's incredible playing.

Friday September 7 sees the return of Carlisle-based indie band mylittlebrother, who have appeared at the venue twice before.

Don’t Tell Suzy make their debut there on September 14, with the band's Amy Boud running a singing workshop during the day.

The programme so far wraps up on Friday October 5, with the return of Paper Cranes.

Jon Dawes from the band says: "I think it's a great idea and an opportunity for bands like ourselves to change things up a bit.

"The audience are always attentive and appreciative and it allows us to be able to create an intimate relationship with them, especially playing in a completely acoustic environment up on the hills and four miles from civilisation.

"It creates a very surreal yet comforting atmosphere for playing live music and the hospitality we receive from Suzy and Martin (Lyne, co-manager) makes us feel right at home.

"We play a huge variety of shows from large venues, to festivals, to pubs in the lakes to city venues, and Skiddaw House is well up there with the best venue we have played, which is why we've been lucky enough to come back every year.”
Sunset at Skiddaw House

The shows have picked up attention far beyond the local Lake District surrounds, with Sam Dalley of Independent Hostels UK writing about her experiences watching Cumbrian folk band Stooshie there, and superfan David Bisset, from Bolton, who is planning to attend every show this year.

He says: "Skiddaw House is a lovely remote place with no mains electricity, phone reception or Wi-Fi.

"It attracts walkers and cyclists who enjoy the remoteness.

"I have attended most of the band performances and love them for the intimacy and friendliness. The largest audience is around 25 and bands and audience are mixed together in a way that is unimaginable in a conventional venue.

"We cook, eat, drink and enjoy the music together. In the morning we tidy up and go our separate ways.

"I love the way the bands and audience talk and interact before, after, and even during the events.

"The wardens Suzy and Martin are to be congratulated for arranging these events, which to me are amongst the best days of the year.”

For more information about the events, and to book tickets and camping, visit www.skiddawhouse.co.uk/upcoming-events