They say that ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather in the Lake District – only inappropriate clothing’ and that expression couldn’t have been more fitting at the time of our visit to The Ryebeck Hotel.
Upon our arrival, the rain was coming down fast, with sheets of rain pouring down the windowpanes. Luckily, we were greeted with a much cosier atmosphere inside the hotel, which provided a nice respite from the deluge outside.
A ‘Home Away from Home’
Pitched as a ‘home away from home’, this 22-bedroom hotel is a ‘no airs and graces’ country retreat, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Bowness, which is often overrun with tourists during the high season. The Ryebeck Hotel is part of the Wildsmith Hotels Group, which also owns the luxurious Forest Side and Hipping Hall hotels. Perfectly situated near Lake Windermere, The Ryebeck has breath-taking views of the lake, making it an ideal place to relax and unwind.
The clientele here tends to be a mixture of Japanese tourists and Brits who either come for a spot of hiking or burnt out Londoner’s looking to escape the rat race for some peace of mind.
The grounds of the hotel are impeccably manicured and there is a lovely outdoor seating area near the hotel’s lounge, where guests can gaze at Lake Windermere, while enjoying a coffee and reading the morning paper.
The spacious and stylish patio area at The Ryebeck
‘Snacks’ served with a smile
Although we had arrived at The Ryebeck quite late in the evening (thanks to a faulty track), we were informed that the chef had kindly set aside a selection of nibbles for us. We were expecting the usual fare of mixed nuts and a few olives, so you can imagine our surprise when we were presented with two massive sharing platters - the meat platter (chorizo, salami and pastrami served with olives and a homemade chutney) (£15.00) and the vegetarian platter (artisanal breads, artichokes, olives, and mozzarella cheese) (£12.50). A glass of Cotes du Rhone (£8.50) and two sharing platters later, and the stress of our journey – and our disappointment with the dismal weather - had quickly dissipated. We retired to our bed early that evening, bellies full and feeling relaxed.
Don’t forget your umbrella….
The next morning, we awoke only to discover that the weather gods unfortunately were not smiling down upon us, so we mustered up our best dose of British stoicism and decided to forge ahead with our tour of the local area regardless. In my estimation, no trip to the Lake District is complete without a boat tour, so we booked tour with Windermere Lake Cruises and opted for the red route, which journeyed to the picturesque town of Ambleside.
We had assumed that given the inclement weather we’d be the only people on the boat tour, but it turns out that those visiting the Lakes are a hearty bunch, and our boat was packed to rafters. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually see anything on the tour as we were seated in the lower deck and the rain obscured the vision of the land (we were later informed it was a ‘yellow day' for wind and rain – the local barometer for weather severity), but we were reassured that on a good day the landscape looks spectacular (see photographic proof below). I figure, it's as good a reason as any to return to the Lakes soon!
What Lake Windermere looks like on a glorious day...
After a long, wet afternoon in Ambleside, we were pleased to return to The Ryebeck where we holed up in our spacious room (room 21 – one of the best in the hotel) watching the Olympics and reading a selection of complimentary magazines that were laid out for guests in the communal lounge. With such a comfortable bed, we were almost grateful for an excuse to stay in bed all day.
During our stay, I think I had two naps one afternoon, which never happens and is a true testament of a truly relaxing stay! We loved the country chic furnishings and the stylish bathroom with its travertine tiles and a large bath, which was perfect after a day spent in bracing weather.
After dinner, we put on our glad rags and headed downstairs to the bar for a pre-dinner glass of vino in the the gorgeous lounge bar, which had an air of country chic opulence with its Welsh dresser style bar, chandeliers, patterned wallpaper and cute love seats.
Dressed for dinner
The food was one of our main draws for visiting The Ryebeck as we heard that head chef Chris Lee was doing some really interesting things with the cuisine, so we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into some of his dishes and they didn’t disappoint.
For my starter, I opted for the vibrantly green leek and potato soup (£6.50), a seriously hearty soup, which was almost a meal in itself given the generous portion. My husband had the teriyaki beef (£11.50), one of our favourite dishes, which consisted of several generous slices of perfectly cooked, melt-in-your-mouth beef teriyaki served with a crunchy Asian side salad.
The standout dish of the night was definitely the seafood special (a new dish on the menu), which featured grilled halibut with mussels and langoustine; and the sirloin of dry-aged belted Galloway (£27.00), which is a breed of cattle originating from Galloway in the west side of southern Scotland, which came with an onion chutney and one of the tastiest bearnaise sauces I’ve had in a long time. For dessert, we finished with the chocolate three ways (£7.50), a seriously rich, sinful gathering of molten chocolate cake, chocolate sorbet and chocolate mousse.
The beautiful seafood special
After dinner, we went straight to bed for a peaceful, early night’s slumber and awoke the next day our batteries fully recharged and our bellies ready for a traditional English breakfast.
Breakfast at The Ryebeck is a hearty affair with the typical offerings of Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale, Porridge with berry compote and a selection of croissants and yogurts. The full English didn't disappoint and was the perfect start to our day.
As we waited to be picked up for our return journey home, we stole a final few moments of peacefulness in the lounge before we had to begrudginly return to the fast pace of London. Hotel stays really don't get more relaxing than this.
I’m always looking for an excuse to head to the Lake District – one of my favourite areas in England- so I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to go back to the Lakes to visit the magnificent Forest Side Hotel, a Gothic treasure located in the heart of the Lakes.
After we manged to prise ourselves away from our room - no easy feat given how grand it was, we headed downstairs to the lounge area to enjoy a tipple prepared by their talented bartender, Bruno, who whipped up a variety of cocktails for us to enjoy.
We loved the beautiful bar with its opulent wallpaper and cozy armchairs, which are perfect for sinking into as you enjoy one of bartender Bruno’s expertly prepared cocktails. He even has a selection of cocktail bearing his name, which shows what an integral part he plays in the creation of the cocktails.
Our favourite cocktails were The Forager, a sweet tipple comprised of pineapple weed-infused vodka, homemade ginger beer and lime; the Heritage Cocktail, a spicy and potent cocktail, which featured ginger liquour, Fernet Branca, orgeat, celery bitters and lime; and the Rhubarb Spring Sour, a tangy and refreshing cocktail with fresh rhubarb, pisco, chamomile and lemon.
The Dining Room
The bright and airy dining room, with its fabulous views of the hotel’s garden, is the heart of the hotel, with many guests coming to stay just to enjoy the fabulous cuisine and the natural surroundings. The scrubbed oak tables, olive green leather chairs and votive holders, which feature fresh moss, give a nod to its forest namesake.
Chef Kevin Tickle heads up the helm here, focusing his efforts on extracting flavour from the Cumbrian Landscape, which results in unique taste combinations and a truly memorable dining experience. We've eaten in several Michelin Star restaurants over the years, and the quality of the food here is on par with some of the best restaurants we've dined in.
The Forest Side has three dinner menus for guests to choose from: the 3 course a la carte menu (£50 per person), a 6-course menu (£60 per person) and a 10-course menu (£75 per person).
Breakfast at The Forest Side
Before you check out (not that you'll ever want to leave), ensure that you indulge in breakfast, which is superb. The quality of the breakfast offering was second to none and everything was extremely fresh and beautifully prepared. We tried the Eggs Benedict and the scrambled eggs with salmon and the porridge with fresh fruits, all of which were scrumptious.
For a memorable weekend break with top-notch cuisine, bags of charm and an idyllic location, The Forest Side really is in a league of its own.
Prices starting from £349 per night (including breakfast).
Located between the Lake District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales, Hipping Hall is a 3AA rosette restaurant with rooms that’s perfectly positioned for those seeking rural pleasures and stunning natural scenery. Hipping Hall opened 11 years ago, and since then has drawn visitors from both near and far, who come for a restful stay coupled with sensational cuisine served in a 15th‑century banqueting hall with a minstrels’ gallery.
The grounds are gorgeous – we loved the romantic rear garden with its handful of bistro tables where you can relax and take in the perfectly manicured lawns and the flowering wisteria.
Our Suite – The Tatham Suite - 'Beam me up Scotty'....
During our visit, we stayed in the Tatham Suite, an oasis of calm named in honour of Edward Tatham, the man who built Hipping Hall. This charming attic suite is the perfect place to hole up in for the weekend, curled up in bed with a good book and a cup of tea. While lounging in your bed, you can admire the ancient oak roof beams, which have been lovingly preserved with striking effect.
The Suite has a small sitting room with a sofa and a bistro table, a decent sized bedroom with two closets (one for each guest if you’re sharing) and best of all, a huge bathroom, which boasts a seriously ‘Instagrammable’ oversized egg tub built for two (with large wooden ceiling beams serving as the perfect picture frame), a modern rain shower and complimentary Temple Spa toiletries. The attention to detail throughout the suite was superb and you could tell that no expense had been spared with the modern fixtures and fittings.
Five new rooms have been added to the property in what used to be the stables. Guests can also hire the private dining room (with chef service), which is ideal for family gatherings or small events.
One of the highlights at Hipping Hall is its 3AA Rosette restaurant with its striking 15th century dining room, which features a striking beamed ceiling, original wood flooring and a slate hearth, which create a cozy and elegant ambiance. We loved the little touches that made our meal feel like a truly special experience – from the crisp white table cloths to the impeccable service to the comfortable dining chairs, which were perfect for settling in for a long meal –essential if you go for the seven-course tasting menu!
Head Chef Oli Martin leads the helm at the restaurant, preparing an assortment of inventive dishes he describes as ‘modern English dishes with classical roots that have been brought up to date.’ A self-confessed ‘food addict’, he has been cooking for 12 years, having worked in both France and the UK, but it’s here in the UK that he’s happiest, now that he’s returned home to his roots.
Having worked at Hipping Hall for the past two and a half years, he has definitely found his stride and loves coming up with new dishes. He uses local seasonal dishes as/when possible (such as sourcing the fish from Morecombe and the organic vegetables from a grower down the road), but he isn’t a slave to using local ingredients if he can source better ingredients further afield. At the end of the day, it’s all about delivery the best possible quality for his guests. To keep things interesting, the dinner menu changes daily, but every night they offer a seven course tasting menu or a five course table d’hôte menu. Both menus burst with local and seasonal flavour and all dietary requirements are catered for.
The tasting menu
The seven-course tasting menu is a real gastronomic experience – with 80% of the guests opting for it. Given its popularity, we thought it rude not to indulge, so we got stuck in enjoying all seven courses with wines to match. Let’s just say, you really need to pace yourself, both with the food and the wine – or you’ll be feeling a bit sorry for yourself at the end (in a good way, of course)!
Some of the highlights on the tasting menu included the mushroom jerky with crème fraiche (which was paper thin and crispy with a smoky flavour) and the venison tartare with sourdough crisps, which was beautifully presented and had a nice flavour without tasting too ‘gamey’. We also loved the trout sashimi, which were served on toothpicks stuck in a cucumber, which was quite fun! Other firm favourites included the hake (which was flaky and perfectly cooked) and the pork belly with kimchi, yogurt, kale and soured cabbage.
Throughout the menu the friendly sommelier talked us through each of the wines that were expertly paired with each course. We particularly enjoyed the Limney Davenport wine from Kent (2014), which had great minerality and was light and fruity with citrus flavours. In fact, we even sought it out when we returned to London! Guests who want to enjoy a cheeky nightcap before they retire to bed can relax at all hours in the lounge near the bar.
Beautiful isolation in the heart of the Lake District...
Located near the edge of the Haweswater reservoir, the Haweswater Hotel is the perfect place to relax if you're seeking to combine long mountain walks in a stunning, isolated setting with rest and relaxation in a stylish bolt hole.
The hauntingly beautiful surroundings of the Haweswater Reserve, a protected area of dramatic fells, rivers and woodland, is the perfect tonic for city slickers looking to escape the rat race to indulge in the peace and tranquility of nature in all its glory.
The journey to The Haweswater Hotel...
As there is nothing more frustrating than getting stuck in London traffic in the pursuit of a countryside escape, my friend and I caught the train from London to Penrith, the gateway to the Northern Lakes, and home to the Penrith Castle ruins (where my husband proposed to me during my last trip to the Lake District nearly four years ago).
Once I was done reminiscing, we picked up our rental car from local car rental company Eden Garage (0176-836-1212) and were soon on our way. The drive was only 30 mins away, which gave us enough time to appreciate the rolling countryside. You know you're in the countryside when your nearest neighbours are a flock of sheep!
Along the way, we came across the Llama Karma Kafe, and its takeaway arm, the Deli-Llama. This cute Peruvian themed cafe, sells a variety of interesting gifts and even has a llama in the back garden (as you do). It's a great place for families to stop off at to stretch the legs on a long journey as it has a nice garden with unique seating (see pics below). Llama lovers can also enjoy on and off-site llama treks via their sister company, Lakeland Llama Treks.
Arriving at The Haweswater Hotel...
When we pulled up in front of the beautiful stone clad building covered in striking bright red ivy, I was blown away by the hotel's location perched on the edge of the Haweswater reservoir. The construction of the Haweswater reservoir started in 1929, amid great controversy from locals who were up in arms about the decision as the valley at the time was populated by farming villages, which would be flooded to make way for its construction. Today, the reservoir provides water for one in four homes in the Northwest.
As a gift to the local community, the hotel was built in 1935. Many of the furnishings in the hotel are a nod to the era, with 1930s touches to be found in the dining room, lounge and bedrooms.
The hotel changed ownership in February 2015 and is currently being refurbished throughout. I had the pleasure of staying in Loft Room 1, which has been tastefully refurbished with modern industrial touches and 1930s furnishings, which have been harmoniously combined.
Our room was large with a fabulous view looking onto the garden and the reservoir. The antique bed was exceptionally comfortable with high quality sheets and a thick duvet - the mark of a fab accommodation in my estimation.
The urban chic bathroom with its blue, claw-footed bathtub and a sleek, oversized shower cubicle, is great for couples who want to relax or indulge in a spot of romance. As I was with my friend, romance wasn't on the cards, but I was already planning my next visit with my husband.
Enjoy an invigorating walk in spectacular surroundings...
After we checked in with the friendly and laid-back staff and dropped our bags off in our room, we decided to explore the local area and take in the stunning landscapes. The area is extremely popular with outdoorsy types who love to go on long hill walks, so we thought we'd give it our best go.
We took a left out of the hotel property and walked for about an hour along the reservoir, which was eerily quite and utterly breathtaking. I was fascinated by how the reservoir changed colour throughout the day from a steely, slate grey to obsidian as the sun dipped over the hills.
There is something quite grounding about walking in the vastness of nature with nothing other than your thoughts to keep you company as you reflect on how stunning nature can be.
The Golden Eagle Restaurant at The Haweswater Hotel
At first glance, the disjointed menu didn't look very promising - many of the items seemed more akin to pub lunch offerings (e.g. Cajun chicken sandwich, fish and chips, burgers, Ploughman's etc.).
However, after perusing the menu for some time, there appeared to be some standout dishes on offer including the ribeye steak, the Cumbrian pork served with black pudding and dauphinoise potatoes and the risotto of the day.
The wine list is quite limited and the food pairings recommendations list that they give you with the wine is a bit naff, but that being said, the presentation of the food was superb and the the quality was also fantastic, which quickly dispelled any doubts we'd initially had.
During our visit we also had the pleasure of meeting Head Chef Phil Clarke, who was genuinely lovely and takes great pride in his food. He informed us that many of the dinner menu options were dictated by the hill walkers who make up the majority of the hotel's business, so it will be interesting to see how the menu evolves over the next year.
After a fabulous day, we retired to our room and woke up feel totally revitalised, an amazing feat considering we'd only stayed one night! The next morning my friend and I enjoyed breakfast in the dining room. My friend enjoyed the stewed fruits and coffee and I decided to treat myself to the scrambled eggs (very fluffy) and the local sausage (fab quality and full of flavour).
Relax in the garden...
After our lush breakfast, we took a few moments to relax in the private garden before our departure. If we had more time at the hotel, we definitely would have spent a couple of hours in the garden simply reading a book or enjoying a coffee, as it was so magical.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful stay and I would heartily recommend The Haweswater Hotel to anyone in desperate need of a bit of peace and relaxation.
How to book:
Phone: 01931 713232
From £155 (for a loft room).
Penrith, CA10 2RP
*During this trip I was hosted by the lovely team at The Haweswater Hotel. All words and opinions are my own.
Here you'll find our favourite accommodations from luxury hotels, to quaint B&Bs to fabulous cruise liners.
From cosy B&Bs to luxurious 5-Star accommodations, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing accommodations.