It seems The Lakeside Hotel can cure all ills. Just lately I’ve noticed myself growing a little grumpy about hotels. Twenty years on the road as a travel writer have turned the old excitement of walking into a new and different foyer and sleeping in cool clean sheets into a grouchy wariness. Add to that the advent of the designer hotel and these days I’ve found myself snarling my way through the revolving doors. I’ve had my share of sliding off armchairs that looked like Dali’s ”melting” clocks or hitting my head on oversized ’ironic’ chandeliers in cold, unwelcoming dining rooms decorated in the requisite charcoal and grey. And I’m tired of trying to make myself heard in the cacophonous acoustic of bars with stripped pine floors and formica.
On a recent autumn trip to the Lake District, that region in the northwest of England that is entirely too pretty for its own good, I’d gone through my litany of complaints to the woman at the car rental agency: the cars, the crowds and then I got round to those bloomin’ hotels.
”You should come back a week or two before Christmas and stay at the Lakeside,” she said. ”It’s will be Christmassy but without the crowds.”
And bingo! She cured all my travel writer’s ills in one sentence.
I arrived on a rainy December afternoon. Christmas lights reflected in the puddles in the parking lot. The Lakeside Hotel stands on the lower western side of Lake Windermere; its grounds run right down to the lake. The hotel started life in the 17th century as a coaching inn. In the 19th century it was used as a staging post for workers travelling to the cotton mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire. These days the main traffic is tourists. Boats that cruise the lake moor right alongside the car park. But on this afternoon, the lake looked grey and forbidding – its eastern shores were lost in fog. So much for scenery.
The enormous Christmas tree in the hotel foyer cheered me, as did my plush bedroom in shades of plum and beige which had an alcove in the bay window where I could drink my morning tea and watch the comings and goings on Windermere.
The hotel has 75 rooms some with lake views and some looking over the woodland behind the hotel. From my room I watched the boat that tours the lake coming in to moor and I kept thinking that I really should leave the hotel and go sightseeing. There’s even the Lakes Aquarium right across the parking lot that provides a couple of hours entertainment for children who, let’s face it, are rarely thrilled by scenery. But, back inside the hotel there’s the Lakeview Restaurant, all wood panelling and baronial hall in style, where I want to try the Herdwick Loin of Lamb and maybe the Yorkshire Rhubarb Souffle for dessert and before that there’s afternoon tea in the vast airy conservatory that overlooks the lake, then perhaps a glass of sherry by the roaring fire in the bar and maybe a read of the papers next to the other fire in the library.
Oh and there is an immaculately clean spa and pool where I have one of the best massages of my life. And yes, I’ve grown grumpy about massages too. Either they just stroke you timidly or they pummel you to a pulp. The lovely lass here has just the right touch and best of all, she doesn’t do small talk. Bliss.
Nothing is, of course, perfect. My two small quibbles: I could do without Andrea Bocelli bawling through my breakfast. I’m an opera lover but there’s a time and a place for operatic emotion and breakfast isn’t it. The corridors seem to echo some noise into the rooms if you have the bad luck to have noisy neighbours. I only heard mine once. The rest of the time I was too busy drinking tea, reading by the fire, sipping cocktails in the bar, being massaged and gazing out at the lake. Oh right, the lake….really must get out there next time.
I want to stay at The Lakeside Hotel. How much is it?
The Lakeside Hotel and Spa is on Lake Windermere at:
Newby Bridge, Cumbria LA12 8AT
Room rates for a double start at £129 on low-season promotions.
Expect to pay in the region of £200 for room with breakfast.