Why we went
Mum was approaching a big birthday, and since my youngest was born we hadn’t spent much quality time together. So I decided to whisk her away to the Lake District – somewhere neither of us had ever been but, as keen walkers, couldn’t wait to explore.
As our trip was a celebratory affair, I wanted accommodation that was a bit special. The Belsfield fitted the bill. Perched above the town of Windermere, it doesn’t feel too remote, and its impressive white façade is among the grandest on the huge lake’s shore. Built in 1845, the hotel has been brought bang up to date by Laura Ashley, with an impressive glass atrium reception, and the bar, drawing room, dining areas and lounges all decorated and furnished in the brand’s signature elegant style. Being a fan of the store, Mum immediately felt at home!
What we did
After checking out our huge lake-view suite, with sofa, huge TV and luxurious bathroom (complete with Japanese-style high-tech toilet!), we decided to stretch our legs for the hiking we’d planned. We made our way to the base of Orrest Head. The moderate climb up through wooded hillside was mostly on paths and well worth it – at the summit was a 360º panorama of the lake and surrounding peaks.
The next day, after a hearty full English from the sumptuous breakfast buffet, we were ready for more walking. This time, we took the paddle steamer – which sets sail just across the road from the hotel – to Ambleside at the top of the lake. Once there, we set off on our hike that took in some (rather steep!) climbs, sheep-dotted green pastures, wild and rocky heaths, and beautiful wooded glades, and were afforded fine views over Grasmere and Rydal Water. After taking a few wrong turns, we ending up walking at least ten miles, so were more than happy to return to Ambleside for a restorative scone topped with rum butter, by the jetty.
As it was a special occasion, we opted to dine in beautiful The Belsfield Restaurant, which has unrivalled views over Lake Windermere and the fells. We chose the five-course à la carte menu, with stand-out dishes including peppery home-cured rare duck ‘pastrami’ with a crunchy celeriac and hazelnut salad, mildly spiced roasted carrot risotto, and saffron-poached pear with toasted pecans and silky caramel parfait. You can also dine in the less formal, cosy Brasserie, which serves a relaxed menu of British classics.
On our last day, we made the short drive to Grasmere, famous for being poet William Wordsworth’s home for 14 years. Dove Cottage, where he lived, is now owned by the National Trust and remains largely unchanged from his day. We enjoyed touring the cottage, along with the adjacent Wordsworth museum.
And while in the village, we popped in to the tiny Grasmere Gingerbread Shop to sample its speciality: a spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit and cake, which cannot be bought anywhere else in the world. We picked up a bag – needless to say there was none left by the time we'd driven back home to Peterborough!
Rates for a standard double room at The Belsfield start from £119 bed and breakfast per night. For more details, visit lauraashleyhotels.com
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