Travel review: Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, Lake District

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There is no sound but birdsong. The lake is mirrored calm, the air is still but fresh, the jetty an oasis of peace.

It is Sunday morning and I am surrounded by sweet sounds, then silence. I drink it in.

Where am I? I am a mere hour and a half from my Leeds home. My tranquil retreat is in the Lake District, a place of beauty and contrasts.

There can be crowds, there can be wilderness, but I have found luxurious, special beauty, and I am savouring every moment.

My weekend stay was at the Lake House, part of Gilpin Hotel.

The main hotel is a mile away. towards Bowness, and it is lovely. But this place is something else, not so much a hotel as a country house, complete with house manager to make everything as special as it can be.

It has six bedrooms, a lounge with log fire, a kitchen, a pool, a terrace, and that lake.

There is a little island in the lake and a boat on its shores. It practically begs you to take a picnic and row.

I’m sure that could be arranged. Most things can be arranged at the Lake House. It is a place where visitors travel to celebrate, they come for special anniversaries, for honeymoons and for birthdays.

The house can be hired by a group for exclusive use, and what an amazing destination it would make.

It is impossible to walk through that lounge without sinking onto one of its sofas and gazing into the fire, there are books, papers, knick-knacks. It is like everyone’s idea of the perfect country home, all tasteful, shabby chic – and it works.

We arrive mid-afternoon and travel, via its gated entrance, up a long and winding drive. By the house, the hotel owner is waiting to greet us and show us the delights of our weekend home.

It is indeed delightful, and getting better all the time. Our beautiful bedroom overlooks the lake and, on the jetty, we see a couple taking afternoon tea and champagne in the soft sunlight of early spring.

To the left, we see something intriguing – an outdoor spa room.

Gilpin Hotel has decided to offer an amazing series of spa treatments at the Lake House that will take advantage of the outdoors and the lakeside setting. There is to be no Japanese minimalism. Instead, there will be fires and rugs and outdoor treatments for clients cosily wrapped in blankets and being made serene by the environment as much as the treatment.

On our visit, there is a treat in store for us too.

A knock on our room door signals the presence of the hotel’s head therapist, who arrives along with tea and champagne.

As we eat scones with clotted cream, and sip our drinks, she creates the gift of an individual fragrance.

From a series of essential oils we select our favourites – we choose invigorating over relaxing – because how much more relaxed do we need to be – and choose our favourite 
base note, middle note and 
top note.

It is a soothing and absorbing process, one of those little things that succeeds in drawing a line between the real world of stress, hurly-burly and work, and the pleasure of a weekend break.

Later, she mixes this scent into a rich moisturiser, a massage oil and a bag of salt scrub for the shower.

It’s a little thing, but it has a big effect.

Later still, we take a pre-dinner drink before that fire, and then we are taken to the main hotel for dinner. A taxi arrives and whisks us smoothly away. When we are done, it will return us to our magical lakeside treasure.

At the main hotel we do our customary thing, we see a fire, and we sit and gaze. There is a smart cocktail bar where the wine cellar is on display and full of hundreds of bottles, twinkling in the evening light, but we like our spot on the couch, by the fire.

Menus are brought, drinks are brought, canapés are brought, and the evening begins.

After a while, we are led to our table where I eat a starter of pear and hazelnuts and cheese, a main course of Hereford mutton and an amazing soufflé of plums.

In and amongst, there is an amuse bouche, a pre-dessert, delicious breads, and wines matched to every course.

We drink coffee back in our favourite spot by the fire and eat petit fours. We are replete, pampered.

The Gilpin is family owned, has been since the 1980s, and they are big on the little things – I’m thinking the ducks and the llamas.

The llamas reside in the fields around the main hotel, and they have obligingly had a baby and like guests to feed them carrots. The ducks – well they’re not there yet, but the owners say they plan to train them to arrive to be fed every day at the same time, for the edification of guests.

It was said in jest, but I believe them.

But it would be a crime to visit the Lake District without seeing a very big lake, so we did that.

We ate a fabulous breakfast in our lakeside home and then departed with a bag of fruit, water and essential oils, thoughtfully put together for all departing guests.

We then travelled the short distance to Bowness to gaze at Windermere in all its imposing splendour. And it was marvellous.

But we had been spoiled. A huge lake is beautiful, but we had enjoyed our own private little lake, and it was everything we could have wanted, and more.



Tel: 015394 88818


Gilpin is a Relais & Châteaux hotel (AA 4 red stars) and restaurant (AA 3 rosettes), which was recently named the Most Excellent Country House Hotel 2013 at the prestigious Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence.

The spa will open in early May

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