Janet Wilson gets a stay of quality and relaxation on the shores of Windermere.
Beautiful, peaceful and unpretentious are the adjectives the Ryebeck Hotel on Windermere chooses to describe itself, and after a brief and relaxing stay it would be hard to disagree with any of them.
Formerly the Fayrer Garden hotel, one of a cluster of classic Lakeland retreats within a stone’s throw of each other in the Lindeth Fell area, just south of Bowness, close to the ferry crossing, the Ryebeck is set back high enough to afford an expansive view of the lake and far enough from the main road to guarantee quiet seclusion amid its pretty gardens.
When we went in early February the Coniston fells across the water were dusted with snow against a brilliant blue sky, so the outlook was certainly beautiful. Apart from the odd fighter jet roaring up the lake below tree level – a feature of modern Lake District life, not too frequent, some even find the spectacle exciting – the Ryebeck was wonderfully peaceful too.
Once through the doors you are instantly made to feel at home and welcome in a cosy world of fireplaces, panelled rooms and lounges with picture windows. For the duration of your stay, you can be sure that the hurly-burly of outside life will not intrude, though each room is equipped with a modern television and radio so guests can be as secluded or as connected as they wish to be. There is even a wi-fi connection in the lobby.
In terms of friendly, helpful staff, the Ryebeck is as down to earth and unpretentious as anyone would wish, though some might find the dining room menu a little exotic. The hotel has won awards for its food, and deservedly so in our opinion, for it successfully adds a modern twist to classic cooking using freshly-sourced local ingredients. If you are in the market for pea panecotta, black pudding puree or white onion broth with spinach foam, then you are in the right place. If your idea of food heaven is monster portions with extra chips, then you probably need a transport cafe. The Ryebeck menu does not run to chips, and in terms of portion size, the maxim seems to be small but perfectly formed.
We both enjoyed our four course dinner, and though neither main course of venison loin or trio of lamb involved plates groaning with giant slabs of meat, the meal was superbly cooked, exceptionally well-balanced and we both felt quite satisfied afterwards.
My rhubarb pudding was one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. Literally, finger-licking good. But don’t just take our word for it. There was a foursome of no-nonsense rugby league followers from no-nonsense Wigan at the next table, and it turned out they were Ryebeck regulars, going back time after time. “Quality over quantity any day of the week” was their recommendation, and they certainly had a point. You normally have to pay a premium for award-winning food, though at just over £30 for the four-course dinner, the Ryebeck prices are hardly prohibitive.
The same is true of the rest of the hotel. Bed and breakfast begins at £139 for a double room, add dinner and the price rises to £199. Stay more than one night and the cost comes down .
The Ryebeck offers lovely bedrooms, adventurous food and a memorable breakfast. You might not want to stay here all the time, but as a treat, a cosy retreat, it is just about perfect. Down the hill Bowness is full of B&B establishments and restaurants that might save you a few quid, but peaceful and relaxing they are not.
At the Ryebeck, quite literally above all that, you get what you pay for. And hopefully what you are looking for too.