Picture a tranquil lake fringed by craggy fells covered in lush greenery extending to the horizon. Think of an idyllic, luxurious English country hotel crammed with antique furniture and heirlooms, punctuated with unexpected explosions of modernity. Drop in well-manicured gardens and paint it at the water’s edge. There you have Lakeside, originally a 17th-century coaching inn and now one of the finest hotels in the Lake District.
Nestled at the southern tip of Windermere, England’s largest lake, Lakeside hotel and spa, at Newby Bridge, is almost a destination in itself (it is quite isolated). Push back the hotel’s doorway and you walk into a haven of tranquillity where elegance collides with tradition and helpful, happy people, mainly from the local area, are on hand to greet you.
My room, which had its own garden and looked out on to woods, was what you would expect of this genre of hotel. The bathroom was a superb size. And there was even a good quality hairdryer.
I was hard-pressed to tear myself away from the hotel’s conservatory where I was mesmerised by the drama of the backdrop. The shafts of late-afternoon sunlight highlighted the yachts bobbing on Windermere’s glass-like water and captured the surrounding trees dazzling in shades of red, copper and gold. Only the appearance of a ferry broke the heavy stillness.
|Lakeside Hotel and Spa|
It’s easy to understand why the bucolic charms of the Lake District have inspired the likes of William Wordsworth, who was born in near-by Cockermouth in 1770, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.
The Lake District is all about exploring the great outdoors. So, while there was no sign of rain, (the area is notorious for its four-seasons-in-a-day climate) I embarked on a Windermere Lake Cruise. Autumn is a lovely time to experience the region, the crowds have long gone and the landscape is a magical blaze of colour.
Mountains, secluded bays and wooded islands slowly passed by on my trip to the historic market town of Ambleside. The first passenger ferry was launched in 1845 and I doubt the views have much changed since then.
After strolling around the quaint streets and soaking up the atmosphere, I hopped on a bus to Grasmere, regarded as one of the Lake District’s prettiest villages in the Central Lakes and described by Wordsworth as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found". He lived for some years at the nearby Dove Cottage and is now buried in St Oswald’s churchyard. The draw now is the ever-so-tiny Grasmere Gingerbread shop, snuggled away in the corner.
The homely smell of baking hits you as soon as you enter the store. A cross between a biscuit and a cake, the gingerbread is based on Sarah Nelson’s secret recipe that is approximately 150 years old. Gingerbread doesn’t get better than this. No wonder the shop attracts visitors from all over the world.
Buses seem to be few and far between, but I was lucky that one came just as the heavens opened and I made it back to Ambleside where I caught the steamer back to Lakeside. What was remarkable was that the rain only seemed to intensify Windermere’s beauty as we glided across.
Once back at my hotel, there was time to fit in a visit to the spa and a quick dip in the 17m (56ft) long pool before dinner. Only hotel guests can use the spa which is a luxury these days, so there was plenty of room.
I loved the evenings at Lakeside, cosy fires, candles flickering and a piano playing to accompany your pre-dinner drink. Utter bliss.
The Lakeview Restaurant, reputed to be one of the best in the Lake District, was my choice of venue for my first evening. The menu offers a choice of classic and Cumbrian dishes and prides itself on sourcing local produce where it can. There is also an extensive wine list.
To start, I chose the Inverawe Smoked Salmon served with pan fried scallop and pickled beetroot. For the main course, I had halibut that melted in my mouth. For dessert, I plumped for Vanilla Pannacotta served with poached pear which ended off the meal beautifully. Priced at £39 for three courses, this was value for money.
For a change of scene, the second evening I headed to the John Ruskin's Brasserie, a light airy, modern eaterie that also serves wonderful food and provides exceptional service.
I have to admit that this was my first visit to the Lake District. Getting there from London was easy. Virgin Trains provide an excellent service. (So glad, they are still going to be running for a good few months yet.) The scenery was picture-postcard perfect and Lakeside was a wonderful experience. Maybe there is some truth in that old saying: there is no place like home.
By Daralyn Danns
Virgin Trains offer standard single fares from Euston to Oxenholme from £16. Glasgow to Oxenholme from £11. For more information and to book visit www.virgintrains.co.uk
Lakeside Hotel is a member of Great Hotels of the World Premium Collection. Rooms start from £159. For more information or to book visit www.ghotw.com/lakeside or call +44 (0) 20 7380 3658