Gillian Parkinson tries out the luxurious Lakeside Hotel, situated on the banks of Windermere and with its own spa treatment centre
In the conservatory of the Lakeside Hotel there is a brochure for its spa treatment centre which encourages you to give in to a bit of ‘pampering.’
In fact, you don’t have to go to the spa to enjoy a spot of pampering, as the ethos of the hotel and its staff – from the manager to the young but well-trained waiters and waitresses – is all about top quality service.
From the moment you pull up in your car to be greeted by the red-coated concierge, you are made to feel special – and that feeling continues throughout a stay here.
The hotel, which dates back to the 17th century but has been gloriously updated, is wonderfully situated on the shore of Windermere.
Our lovely second floor room looked out across the lake, and even on a wet and windy weekend, afforded magnificent views of the water and the fells beyond.
And if you want to explore the Lake District, you couldn’t really be in a better place.
There are plenty of walks all around, plus the Windermere Lake Cruisers set off about 20 yards from the hotel’s front door.
We took advantage of this to take a trip to Bowness for a mooch around the shops, restaurants and cafes for an hour or so without having to worry about parking.
Despite the wet weather, the boat was warm and cosy, and was a great way to spend the morning before we disembarked back at Lakeside and headed into the Aquarium of the Lakes, which is right next door. Even on a quiet weekend, this was packed full of youngsters marvelling at the fishy exhibits.
We stopped for a good 15 minutes to watch the diving ducks before heading off for a look around the Lakeland Motor Museum, which is just a couple of miles from the hotel.
As well as replicas of Campbell’s Bluebird, it also features cars representing more than 100 years of motoring, including those which remind you of your childhood. (Dad’s Morris Minor Estate, in my case)
For another trip back in time, we visited Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house on the outskirts of Bowness.
Despite having spent much of the last 20 years visiting the Lake District on a regular basis, we had never been inside Blackwell.
Built by the architect MH Baillie Scott, this was a holiday home for his client Sir Edward Holt, of brewing fame.
The house retains many of its original decorative features, including leaf-shaped door handles, stained glass and carved wooden panelling, plus some incredible inglenook fireplaces.
The gardens, built as a series of terraces, are a wonderful place for a stroll to enjoy the views of Windermere and at the moment (until July 20) there is an exhibition of Moorcroft pottery in the rooms upstairs and this is worth a visit in itself.
After an action packed day it was back to the hotel for a dip in the luxurious pool and then to prepare for dinner in the main restaurant.
If you like your food accompanied by a spot of theatre, I would recommend that you follow our lead and try the Galloway Chateaubriand (double fillet steak) for two.
It arrived on a huge butcher’s block, brought by the waitress to the table, where after we were asked to check it had been cooked to our liking – medium rare –it was carved onto our plates in front of us.
Two classic sauces, béarnaise and red wine, came with it, along with chips and vegetables.
Let’s just say it was the best steak we had tasted in a long time and left us talking about it not just as we sipped a drink in the bar after dinner, but for days later.
But it’s not just the food which is top notch here. As in the best hotels, it is the service which stands out. Nothing is too much trouble, there is always someone to help.
The Lakeside’s motto is that they overlook nothing but the lake. I’d have to agree.