A true Valentine’s treat?

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When talking about foreign holidays recently a friend said: “There’s so many places in this country that you haven’t seen.”

His words stuck in my head as we drove up the M6 to our weekend away.

Less than an hour later we arrived at the Gilpin Hotel – and we felt like we had entered this whole other world.

Gilpin is a truly elegant hotel, set in well kept grounds and it was obvious from the moment we stepped through the door that this family-run premises would provide the perfect post-Christmas retreat.

Before being shown to our suite we enjoyed a latte and a selection of homemade cookies, brownies and biscuits in the lounge. We sunk into the huge sofas and immediately felt relaxed.

The whole of Gilpin is peaceful and elegance runs throughout. They don’t host weddings, conferences or children under seven, making it the ideal place to relax and unwind.

The staff were incredibly pleasant and nothing was too much trouble, they were also very professional but managed to give a personal service.

Gilpin is the only Relais & Châteaux hotel in the southern Lake District, and is only a stone’s throw from the breathtaking lakes and fells.

The Gilpin Hotel and the newly opened Lake House –which is about one mile from the hotel – are owned and run by the Cunliffe family, Barney, Zoë, John and Christine .

The house that was transformed into The Gilpin Hotel had belonged John’s grandmother.

It was built as a private house in 1901 and Harriet Cunliffe moved in in 1919 and lived there until 1961 – it was a place John spent many childhood holidays.

It was sold after Harriet passed away and by 1987 Gilpin was a bed and breakfast.

It was up for sale in The Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine when Christine spotted it and John was immediately dispatched north from Bath, where they then owned and ran The Hole in the Wall hotel.

Since then the family have created a fine country house hotels, winning scores of awards.

The Lake House, which they opened in 2010, had also been in the family and up until its transformation, it was John and Christine’s home.

Our room at the hotel was a junior suite called Buttermere.

Each of the rooms are named and a guide in the suite explained what they all meant.

The room was superbly grand but also had a lovely welcoming and homely feel to it.

No expense has been spared and there has also been a keen eye for detail throughout – and it is all those little things that add up to a truly wonderful break.

On the side there was a jug of ice cold water and two glasses, the huge windows boasted beautiful views out on to the hills and the spacious suite meant we could relax in the haven of our room.

The grand bed took centre stage and was incredibly comfortable.

Down three steps was a lounge area with chairs, a desk, a television and DVD player, a selection of magazines and a tea tray, while the patio doors and the patio doors opened up on to the gardens.

We didn’t want to leave.

The bathroom was magnificent and spotless. A huge mirror adorned the wall above the bath – which had a Jacuzzi function, with a separate walk in shower next to it.

The toiletries were Molton Brown and there were accessories available just in case we had forgotten anything, including a nail file, cotton wool and ear buds.

See what I mean about the little things?

Inside the triple door wardrobe were gowns and a mini fridge which a selection of drinks and in what we thought was an extremely good idea – a small bottle of fresh milk. There were no little UHT pots in sight.

After unpacking we jumped back in the car and headed for Bowness.

It was less than 10 minutes away and after parking up we had a stroll around and took in some of the breath taking views.

Despite it being early January and a little nippy, it was busy, with plenty of walkers, couples like ourselves and families too.

We wandered up the hill and in and out of the various shops, selling chocolate, sweet, clothes and more.

Bowness also has a great selection of bars and restaurants.

We had planned to go on a boat trip from Bowness across Lake Windermere to Ambleside, but decided to wait until the next day, when we had a bit more time. The day after however, the weather had taken a turn and was very misty, which meant we couldn’t catch the boat. Something to do on our return, perhaps?

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a delicious five-course meal and had a wonderful nights sleep. But, before we knew it it was time to check out. Feeling relaxed and refreshed we spent the day in Bowness and Ambleside before heading for the M6 to come home.

Gilpin is an ideal place to go to forget about the stresses of life and just relax.

There is a reason that numerous awards adorn its walls.- because it deserves them.

It strives for high standards and exceeds them.

The Cunliffe family and their staff made us feel most welcome and our stay exceptional.

From the room décor and food to the location and atmosphere, we were blown away.

For those who want even more privacy, the Lake House, which is set in the centre of a provate lake with boat house, features six stunning suites designed by Christine and award-winning interior designer Sarah-Jane Neilson.

The spa’s traditional sauna and indoor swimming pool lead out on to the lakeshore and outdoor cedarwood hot tub; spa treatments can be taken in the privacy of your room.

The 100 acres of private gardens and grounds is the perfect place to unwind with walks leading to panoramic views of the Lake District mountain ranges.

I think our friend was right – there’s so much in this country to see and some of the best bits are right on our doorstep.