Travel review: Discovering peace and tranquillity in the busy Lake District
Getting away from the crowds, Richard Williamson finds a lakeside retreat
IN an area that offers accommodation ranging from youth hostels to five star luxury, the Gilpin Lake and House Hotel stands out from the crowd – because there isn’t one.
The Lake District pulls in more than 16 million visitors every year but the family-run hotel offers the kind of peaceful retreat that would make a Buddhist monk sound like a noisy neighbour.
It can be found only a handful of miles from one of the national park’s biggest tourist honeypots at Windermere and does not take long to locate after leaving the hurly-burly of the M6.
But to cross its threshold is like sinking into the warm embrace of an old friend.
The fact that the Cunliffe family that own the property are very much part of the front of house welcome only adds to that feeling. For service is just one of many hallmarks of the hotel.
Ever attentive but never intrusive, it means guests can shrug off the pressures of everyday life to unwind exactly as they want to – whether that be immersing themselves in the walking trails that can be found in the surrounding fells, pottering across the lake on the all-year round Windermere Lake Cruises or simply retreating to the comfort of the sumptuous rooms. Accommodation comes in a number of guises, but all the rooms have been decorated with an eye on creating a very individual feel.
The attention to detail that has been poured into each is just another example of the exacting standards that the family, who have a strong background in the high end hotel industry, have set themselves.
As well as rooms in the main building, the garden suites offer another notch up in terms of relaxing quality – with the emphasis on bubbles!
Each of them comes with a private decking area, where a cedar wood hot tub can be found.
No matter how chilly the lakeland weather, the water is maintained at a comfortably warming 38 degrees which makes it an ideal place to while away the time while sipping the complimentary champagne that can be found on arrival. It is the most perfect of introductions – even if slightly incongruous given the mist that was draped over the surrounding fells and the sight of llamas in a neighbouring field!
The open plan suites are spacious and well-endowed, with a lounge area offering yet another opportunity to unravel in style. Throw in a bathroom with the dimensions of Texas and it all adds up to a fantastic getaway.
But if the thought of the 20 rooms on the main site feels in any way claustrophobic, then the Gilpin team have an ace up their sleeve. Situated less than a mile away is the Lake House, a stunning property overlooking a private tarn and set in 100 acres of its own woodlands. It is the very definition of tranquility.
It was only opened in September 2010 and hosts six suites, which share a fully-staffed bar, dining room and lounge with an indoor swimming pool. Spa treatments are also available, while future plans include a separate spa facility embedded in the lakeside grounds.
Given its location, it comes with a built-in ‘do not disturb’ sign. There is as much chance of a passing car or group of hikers shattering the peace as Roman Abramovich keeping hold of a Chelsea manager. Guests can sink into the idyllic surroundings or make the chauffeur-driven trip back to the hotel for dinner.
It is a journey worth making. There is a choice of four dining rooms in which to enjoy the hotel’s award-winning food, where the emphasis is on imaginative, modern English cuisine, much of it using local produce.
The walk-in wine cellar is stocked with a variety of 200 choices, which makes the services of the sommelier all the more welcome.
He will offer as much or little advice as you wish, but thanks to him we enjoyed a Lebanese white that would never have occurred to us.
Which helped make a fitting toast to a hotel all on its own.