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).
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