KATE LIPTROT enjoys a room with a view in the Lake District
WILLIAM Wordsworth described the Lake District as "a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy".
It was thanks in part to his insistence that the countryside belonged to everyone, that led to the Lake District National Park being founded in the 1950s. While Wordsworth would be astonished that a remarkable 15.8 million visitors now flock to stay in the Lakes every year, the breathtaking beauty of the park - and its peace and solitude - remain largely unspoiled.
Nestled in the centre of the Lakes, the bustling town of Ambleside served as a base for my weekend away. Easy to navigate by foot, and with plenty of independent shops and cafes, Ambleside feels more like a thriving local centre from which to explore the stunning surrounding scenery, than a tourist trap.
A short walk to the fringes of Ambleside will take you to Waterhead on the banks of Lake Windermere, which was recently voted one of the most photogenic landscapes in the UK.
Taking a prime spot on the banks of the lake, Waterhead Boutique Hotel offers picture perfect views of sailing boats and snow topped peaks. The four star Waterhead looks like a traditional country house hotel, but it has a contemporarily luxurious interior, the ideal setting for a relaxing weekend away. And no attention is spared on detail, with locally made gingerbread and gin and tonics waiting in the lake view room for us.
The Waterhead's restaurant is making a name for itself in the region. Nick Martin, the new head chef at Waterhead, has worked with Jean Christophe Novelli and Keith Floyd, and is ambitious for the high standards of the restaurant. Local produce from Cumbrian farmers and producers are key to his menu. We were served soup and seared king scallops, before a main of steak and a Cumbrian game pie, a mouth-watering combination of slow cooked venison, pheasant, rabbit and partridge with herb dumplings, braised cabbage and creamed mash. Before rolling back to our rooms, we were treated to a delicious apple and blackberry crumble with custard and vanilla ice cream.
While a luxurious weekend away may not have been in Wordsworth's vision for the Lakes, Waterhead Boutique Hotel, with its deep baths and hearty menu is popular with weary walkers after a day wandering the fells.
Inspired by the walking routes provided in reception, and the bright weather, we headed into Ambleside and on a route which takes in Stock Ghyll Force, a spectacular 70 foot waterfall which cuts through the hills over the town.
Looping round through woodland and past former mill buildings and the quirky Bridge House built over Stock Beck, we stopped by at the homely Apple Pie café and bakery in Ambleside for a cup of tea and cake.
In the afternoon we made our way to the Windermere Lake Cruises, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK, with over a million people using the boats each year. Braving brisk temperatures to take in the stunning views from the top deck, we sailed from Waterhead to Bowness for an explore of the picturesque town.
Later on, we got the last table at Fellinis, a very popular Mediterranean restaurant and state-of-the-art cinema showing the latest arthouse films.
The following day breakfast at the hotel offered another opportunity to take in the view from the hotel’s restaurant. Mist drifted across the lake as a hardy swimmer braved the temperatures to take to the water. As with dinner, breakfast was an impressive affair. The huge selection on offer included a full English breakfast with locally sourced ingredients, as well as pancakes, fresh fruit and porridge.
After a wander out into the mists around the lake, we left the Lakes feeling completely relaxed and wishing we could return again.
- Waterhead Boutique Hotel and Dining, Ambleside:
Room reservations - 0330 4042 693
General enquiries - 01539 432566
- Windermere Lake Cruises www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk