Even its famously bracing weather is not enough to deter the intrepid fell runners, ghyll scramblers and gorge walkers who descend on the area in great numbers each year - but many also come to experience a more leisurely, tranquil side to the Lakes.
With luxury hotels and restaurants popping up increasingly in recent years, the Gilpin Lodge Country House in Windermere has remained a Lake District institution. Run by the Cunlifee family, the hotel has been attracting luxury travellers for over 25 years, and has evolved during that time to become a stylish, opulent retreat while retaining its distinctive charm.
In 2010, the Gilpin - already a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux Collection - added a six-suite Lake House to its portfolio, situated a mile from the main hotel and set against a picturesque private lake called Knipe Tarn. A Scandinavian style Jetty Spa complete with treatment room with views across the lake and an outdoor Japanese Ofura hot tub demonstrate the hotel's modish intentions.
Our first night was spent in the Lake House’s ‘Harriet’ suite, featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the lake and surrounding woodland. Its sumptuous interior includes Fox Linton woven silk, patterned Larsen wallpaper, luscious Stark carpet, and stylish Italian finishing on the large wooden bedside chests and dressing table. It is a stunning room in an equally beautiful setting.
Having read about the lakeside backdrop, we had called ahead to ask whether the hotel’s private rowing boat would be available, and despite technically being out of season, they brought it out of hibernation and offered us the chance to take it out the next morning. Waking up to crisp Spring sunshine, and following a hearty breakfast in the Lake House conservatory, we enjoyed a serene hour navigating the waters.
It set us up perfectly for a full day’s exploration of the surrounding attractions, starting with the remarkable Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, the brainchild of renowned architect Baillie Scott and located just a few miles from the Gilpin. Further afield, but still easily reachable by car, we traversed some of the imposing peaks and fells for which the region is renowned.
Following our outdoor exertions, returning to the hotel where we would dine and stay that night (a chauffeur is available to take you between the main hotel and Lake House), we were greeted by a pleasing sense of calm and solitude. Dinner was exceptional, featuring an abundance of locally sourced produce, all cooked to a standard that rightfully makes it one of the Lake District’s premier ‘destination’ restaurants.
It it tempting to say that the fusion of contemporary luxury, serenity and charm afforded by the Gilpin Lodge & Lake House would be better left to one of the Lake District’s literary alumni to put into words. Perhaps the best endorsement a comparative layperson can offer is simply to say: go and experience it for yourself.