AN AMAZING love story will reach a true happy ending later this month - on the blushing bride's 88th birthday.

Barbara Coulthwaite will tie the knot with her fiance Alan Ibbotson, himself a sprightly 86, to complete a wonderful romantic tale which has in many ways defied the odds.

Barbara and her first husband Alan ran the popular Watermill Inn and Brewery in Ings for many years, though Alan sadly passed way in 2007.

In 2010, Barbara and a couple of friends took a Shearings coach holiday to Llandudno, and it was on this holiday that romance began to blossom anew when she met widower Mr Ibbotson, a former woodwork teacher from Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.

"She started talking to him and they got on so well, and at the end of the evening, he offered to walk my mum back to her room," said her son Brian, who now runs the Watermill which remains a family concern well loved by locals and visitors alike.

"Apparently, he stole a kiss as her friends peeped out from behind the door trying to see what was going on."

The couple kept in touch by phone and with regular visits, Barbara quickly learned that by a strange coincidence, her new partner's late wife shared her first name just as Alan shared her late husband's first name.

Love continued to blossom despite the couple's age and the distance between them, and in April 2015, Alan called with the news that he had decided to up sticks and move up to the Lake District to be with Barbara, who now lives in a house adjoining the Watermill.

He had been a frequent visitor to the Lake District all his life and to be able to move to the area had always been a dream.

And when Barbara's phone rang again the following day, Alan had even more dramatic news, because he decided to propose.

But at that point, what seemed to be the perfect love story almost ended in tragedy.

Brian recalls that she was so excited at the news, Barbara collapsed shortly afterwards and a brain haemorrhage was diagnosed, and she spent the next seven weeks in hospital.

Yet in true fairytale style, Barbara recovered and the couple were able to begin planning their wedding, which will take place at Kendal Register Office on her forthcoming birthday, followed by a reception which will of course be held at the Watermill.

"She didn't want a fuss and she's tried to keep it quiet, but gradually people got to know and we're all really pleased for them and looking forward to the big day," said Brian.

Everything is now set for the wedding, though Brian said honeymoon plans had not yet been finalised.

"I think a Shearings coach holiday might be appropriate," he laughed.