I REMEMBER quite vividly the point in my childhood when it became clear my dad was beginning to make a success of his tiling business after the shock of redundancy years earlier.

Getting a new Peugeot racing bike for Christmas and going on our first overseas holiday to Corfu were obvious signs, but the moment of true realisation came when, as a family, we started spending Saturday afternoons shopping, or more than often, flicking through the catalogues in a Laura Ashley store.

Living in Doncaster, that meant travelling to new towns and cities and, for me and my sister, usually entailed a couple of hours of being issued with repeated “don’t touch” warnings.

In return, we’d be rewarded with a Wimpy burger on the way home.

The Fletts were hardly South Yorkshire’s answer to the Rockefellers but, assisted with the odd lucky afternoon at Ladbrokes, my dad was bringing enough money in for us to return from our journeys with the odd pair of cushions here and lampshade there, which was enough for my house-proud mum.

Fast-forward three decades and all those memories came flooding back with my own family, during our one-night stay at the Belsfield Hotel in the Lake District.

Personally, on a local journalist’s salary, I have always preferred spending any surplus money on travel, rather than home furnishings, so a break at this majestic establishment on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere seemed the perfect opportunity to appreciate Laura Ashley luxury without the need for the regular shopping pilgrimages my parents enjoyed back in the 1980s.

That logic might have backfired, however, with my wife spending the entirety of our two-and-a-half-hour drive back home browsing eBay looking for second-hand Laura Ashley bargains, which tend not to exist!

A visit to the Belsfield has seen her seduced by the charms of the world’s best-loved fashion and home furnishings company who, in 2014, partnered up with the grand Victorian property to undertake a £3.5million refurbishment.

In doing so, it became only the second Laura Ashley hotel in the country, following the redevelopment of The Manor in Elstree a year earlier.

Even from the outside, before witnessing the internal makeover, the Belsfield is an impressive sight, set high above England’s largest lake amid six acres of landscaped gardens with access available by foot on a windy path from water level to the front door.

As part of the enhancements, a modern, award-winning architect-designed glazed reception area was also constructed, clearly adhering to the old adage of first impressions count.

That marriage between the 21st century and the building’s Victorian heritage – it was originally built as a private residence for the Baroness von Sternberg – runs throughout the Belsfield.

High-ceilinged rooms with strong wooden chests of drawers and wardrobes are, therefore, complemented by underfloor heating in bathrooms, where your tub will take just seconds to fill.

We stayed in a family room that had a partition door, with separate plasma screen televisions for ourselves and our daughter to enjoy, along with locally-produced biscuits and sweets, as well as a coffee machine.

My wife, meanwhile, was quickly logging on to the free WiFi for details of our Laura Ashley light fittings, bathroom mirror and wallpaper.

In the evening, there are two dining options.

The more-relaxed Brasserie restaurant offers the same spectacular Lake views as the main Belsfield restaurant, which was our choice.

Chandeliers, large mirrors and encased candles all made for a stylish setting, but the Lakes are rarely over-pretentious and the waiting staff were as friendly as they were polite.

The food quality matched the stunning scenery outside and inside and, at £40 for five courses, represented good value, with a children’s menu available too.

After a tasty quail egg Amuse Bouche, my starter, consisting of two types of duck, pineapple pickle and gingerbread crutons, was a brilliant mix of flavours.

The Chateaubriand main course me and my wife shared was then out of this world, with the medium-cooked steak of melt-in-the-mouth quality and the chunky chips filled with fluffy potato perfection, accompanied by a juicy flat mushroom and vibrantly-green broccoli of a slender serving, which represented a refreshing change for a vegetable that can often feel like you’re chewing through a clump of tree.

For dessert, having had my sweet touch satisfied earlier by the Apple Sorbet intermediate dish, I selected the cheese option and had no regrets, with four generous examples of local produce, served alongside distinctive-tasting biscuits and tangy chutney.

In the interests of review research, I also sampled a spoonful of my other half’s Sticky Toffee Pudding and the standard was in line with the rest of the menu.

Our eight-year-old daughter’s Crayfish Cocktail, meanwhile, was of a portion size to please an adult and her chicken nuggets were made from untampered meat and covered in a delicious batter.

The drawing room adjacent to the contemporary bar was then a perfect setting to relax after our meal.

Indeed, there are cosy sofas to lounge on everywhere in the hotel.

Breakfast, with the local Cumberland sausage and thick rashers of bacon highlights, was also served in the main restaurant although, on a warmer morning, the option to dine al fresco on the garden terrace would have been a spectacular experience, given the panorama.

After lining our stomachs with sufficient sustenance to last the whole day, we took advantage of our “Stay and Sail” package to travel to the Lakeside Motor Museum by boat.

On our way, we passed boat houses worth up to £1.5million and shore-side properties that fetch up to £8million, with the knowledgeable commentary detailing the history of the lake and interesting contemporary facts.

The museum was also a real treat.

As well as some real historic transport treasures, there are also models that everybody will recognise from a more modern era.

Therefore, you will find the likes of the 1920s Red Bug Electric Roadster, the world’s smallest-ever car the 1964 Peel P50 and the extraordinary 1966 Amphicar (built to navigate land and water), alongside the Sinclar C5, Back to the Future’s DeLorean and 1980s favourites such as the Capri, Cortina, Metro and Allegro.

Having been a big Matchbox car enthusiast as a child, I also spotted lots of old favourites from my long-lost collection, which I used to push around the house in mock Grand Prix races for hours.

There were Speedway and TT championship-winning bikes too, while we ended our visit with a visit to the brilliant Campbell Bluebird Exhibition.

Telling the story of the amazing land and water speed world record achievements of father-and-son Sir Malcolm and Donald, there are original models and replica versions of the boats and cars that propelled them to fame.

Given that Donald perished in the Lakes after hitting 300mph, there are poignant items, such as his recovered lifejacket and, at one point, I found myself alone in the hangar with his words on a video playback echoing around and explaining the reasons for putting his life on the line, which was a very powerful moment.

Sticking with a transport theme, we concluded our Lakes stay with a trip to the nearby Bigland Hall Equine Centre and thoroughly enjoyed a family pony lesson and trek.

We were first taught the rudimentaries of riding in the large indoor arena by very friendly tutors, which was a real thrill for our eight-year-old daughter, who was given the confidence to trot on her own during the 45-minute lesson and steer her Dartmoor pony through slalom course

There are, in total, 52 horses and ponies to cater for all abilities and the 600ft high views we witnessed during our trek were magnificent.

Bigland Hall also opens all year round, unlike many centres of its kind.

For more details on The Belfield hotel, visit www.lauraashleyhotels.com

Information on the Lakeland Motor Museum, meanwhile, is available at www.lakelandmotormuseum.co.uk and enquiries can be made to the Bigland Hall Equestrian Group via their www.biglandhall.com website.