THERE had always been something missing on previous visits to the Lake District. No, not a glimpse of the sun, although we had wished for that often enough. What we really wanted was a view of the water.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve stayed in some lovely places, hotels and guest houses alike, but because we always seem to gravitate towards the Windermere area, we’d never actually found anywhere alongside the lake itself.
Then we discovered The Lakeside Hotel at Newby Bridge. With a strapline that reads ‘we overlook nothing but the lake’ it sounded just what we were looking for. And it was.
The Lakeside is indeed the only hotel in the area right on the water’s edge and, although you probably pay a little extra for this in terms of room rates, we thought it was worth the premium.
This former 17th Century coaching inn has been carefully converted and extended over the years. It offers high levels of modern comfort but still retains the old world charm of many original features including oak panelling and timbers.
It has 75 rooms, many with their own view of the lake although it’s always worth booking one in advance to make sure.
We were in one of the Country House rooms, a separate building altogether and quite a different feel to the main hotel. Our room overlooked the hotel’s own cottage garden, full of fragrant herbs with the glories of Windermere beyond.
Many of the rooms feature sunken baths, jacuzzis or walk-in showers. All have crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and the comforts you would expect from a four-star hotel.
But this is no soul-less, corporate establishment. The Lakeside is privately-owned, something of a rarity these days, and one of the owners spends a lot of time in the hotel, dining on a regular basis and chatting with guests to see how they are finding things. This approach clearly works as the hotel has a feeling of real quality, with none of the stuffiness that sometimes comes with it.
The hotel entrance is just a short stroll from the departure point for the lake cruises and we took advantage with the leisurely 45-minute journey to Ambleside, checking out some of the incredible waterside properties which are hidden from view if you make the same journey by road.
The award-winning Lakes Aquarium is part of the same complex, while the Lakeland Motor Museum if just five minutes’ drive away and well worth a a visit. And this being the Lake District, it’s always worth having a couple of indoor excursions in mind just in case.
As it turned out, we were pretty lucky with the weather and drove to the other side of the lake to stroll up to Gummers How, a famous viewpoint bang opposite the hotel which offers stunning views in every direction. Look north and you get the full impact of Windermere, while south is the seas and Morcambe Bay. Over to the west takes in Coniston, Helvellyn and Fairfailed at the lake head, then the Kirkstone Gap, while east is Ingleborough and the Pennines.
It’s a couple of miles there and back from the roadside car park - hardly more than a warm-up stroll for many visitors to this part of the world - but we reckoned we had earned a bit of a treat back at the hotel in the spa.
Set underneath the striking roof garden is a luxurious 17-metre pool and spa complex which is available to hotel guests. Even if you choose not to splash out on one of the many treatments available, it’s a fabulous place to soak away the efforts of the day.
Then, of course, there’s the food. And we found that just about impossible to fault. The standard of the meals in both the 2AA Rosette formal Lakeview dining room and the more informal John Ruskin’s Brasserie was outstanding, but neither was our favourite place to eat.
Stretching right across the front of the hotel is a magnificent conservatory, complete with huge indoor plants and some of the comfiest sofas you’ll find anywhere. We breakfasted in the conservatory on both mornings of our visit and also went mad with an afternoon tea on heading home day. It’s not a cheap treat at £44 for two but, judging by the number of locals who were our companions, it’s something of an institution in these parts.
And, as always at the Lakeside, there’s that view. Priceless.
lLakeside Hotel, Lake Windermere, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, LA12 8AT t
lTel: 015395 30001