Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Remote Retreats; Follow in the Steps of Withnail and I and Get Lost in Beautiful Cumbria. You Might Even Be Able to Buy a Piece of British Film History, Too, Reveals David Hurst

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Remote Retreats; Follow in the Steps of Withnail and I and Get Lost in Beautiful Cumbria. You Might Even Be Able to Buy a Piece of British Film History, Too, Reveals David Hurst

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HURST

I RECENTLY returned from a pilgrimage where I came upon a travesty.

Uncle Monty's Cumbrian cottage in the stunning Lake District is in danger of demolition. For those unacquainted, Uncle Monty's countryside getaway is the leading location in the cult 1987 British film Withnail and I.

It was 18 years ago that writer and director Bruce Robinson began filming Richard E Grant (Withnail) and Paul McGann (I) as two struggling and spaced-out actors who decide to escape the squalor of their 1969 Camden flat.

"We are drifting into the arena of the unwell. What we need is harmony, fresh air and stuff like that," says Withnail.

Harmony, they decide, is a visit to the remote Cumbrian retreat of Withnail's ruddy, rotund and outrageously camp Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths).

It is known as Crow Crag in the film but is actually a derelict farmhouse called Sleddale Hall, with magnificent views of Wet Sleddale reservoir, 12 miles south of Penrith. Rather excitingly, I discovered on my recent trip that the hall is owned by United Utilities and is, say locals, "open to offers". To experience the utter joy of inviting friends to "Uncle Monty's for the weekend" would cost you about [pounds sterling]180,000, plus more than [pounds sterling]100,000 to renovate the property.

However, there is a stumbling block. United Utilities wants planning permission granted by the National Park Authority in order to gain maximum profit from the building. A United Utilities spokesperson said: "We continue to explore all options open to us for the future of Sleddale Hall."

Locals also say that United Utilities does not really want to sell it to Withnail fans, fearful that thousands of visitors will spoil the beauty spot.

In the meantime, Uncle Monty's is falling into such a state of disrepair that it may soon have to be demolished. …

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