Overflowing with nature, The Lake District’s crystal-clear lakes, rugged hills and blue skies have inspired for centuries with breathtaking scenery that is amongst the finest in the country.
But there’s much more beyond picture postcard landscapes to make The Lakes standout as a scintillating staycation – even in the Covid-era.
Nicknamed “Poet’s Corner” when it was a stomping ground for the likes of Wordsworth wandering lonely as a cloud, The Lakes have continued to reaffirm their iconic status with the creation of Peter Rabbit and, more recently, inspiration for songs on Taylor Swift’s new album.
From the moment you arrive in Cumbria, there’s a laidback air that takes over the senses. The wide open spaces make it ideal for social distancing among old stone cottages, hills and shimmering lakes with boats bobbling along the shoreline. Every season has its joys – from autumnal shades of rust to white frosted hills during Christmas and Winter.
It’s not just the scenery that draws crowds to this historic pocket of England but also its many and varied gastronomic delights, independent boutiques and adventurous pastimes, which have all made extensive efforts to make staycationers feel safe. Frolicking in a boat, walking up a fell or even having a go at wild swimming, everything seems do-able in The Lakes – especially when you can lounge by a roaring fire afterwards.
With so much to choose, here’s a few luxurious highlights you won’t want to miss during a staycation in the Lake District.
— PLACES TO EAT —
Fine dining at Henrock
Acclaimed chef Simon Rogan has made a name for himself at his Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume in Cartmel since his successful stint on TV show The Great British Menu. Rogan has now expanded to open new restaurant Henrock within luxurious hotel Linthwaite House, overlooking Lake Windermere.
With a tantalising menu that emphasises Rogan’s flair for exciting combinations and flavours, this sophisticated restaurant has stylish dishes from a Japanese-inspired Dashi Broth of Wood Fired Onions to Roast Fillet Of Hake with Curried Cauliflower. Save room for dessert with offerings including Rogan’s version of Key Lime Pie with frozen meringue or Honey Roasted Figs with Fig Leaf Ice Cream.
There’s excellent service and recommendations from the helpful team, especially if you are treating yourself to a wine pairing. Henrock is a more casual setting and menu than L’Enclume but feel just as deluxe. Plus it has tech savvy additions, like the menu available through QR codes. Find out more and make a reservation for Henrock here.
Afternoon tea at Windermere
Laura Ashley’s The Belsfield Hotel stands tall overlooking Windermere-on-Bowness, so what better spot to take afternoon tea.
The afternoon tea is a grand affair and has a refreshing twist on the norm within its three-tiers of delights, but after all, it is a 2AA Rosette Awarded restaurant. There are chorizo sausage rolls and bagel sandwiches for starters, fruit and plain scones for each person and an array of mouth-watering creamy and light cakes such as mini salted caramel eclairs, trifles and chocolate ganache cake. There’s also a vegan version now on offer.
It’s an excellent spread accompanied by the finest teas and surrounded by Laura Ashley’s luxurious décor – plus a heavenly lake view. Choose between a spot in the elegant dining room, a sofa in the lounge or on the outdoor terrace. Then walk it all off with a leisurely stroll through the Grade II listed boutique hotel’s pretty gardens that lead down to the marina. One of the best afternoon teas I have ever tasted. Reserve a table at The Belsfield Hotel here.
Make sure you don’t miss the famous flavours of Cumbria. Take a trip to Kendal to visit historic Farrer’s tea and coffee house. The business dates back to 1819 and is one of the UK’s oldest coffee roasters. You can tell from the creaky old three-storey Georgian building that has a café overloaded with character to sit back and enjoy delicious lunches.
Choices include Welsh rarebit, quiches, cakes and more. There’s also a take-away counter selling the region’s treats and Farrer’s many coffees and teas.
While in Kendal, remember to also buy some of its famous mint cake. And then head to Grasmere to try some gingerbread made from Sarah Nelson’s original recipe. Venture to the charming old Grasmere Gingerbread Shop – but expect to queue. The slices come wrapped beautifully in decorated paper parcels and are a real treat.
— PLACES TO STAY —
The Swan at Newby Bridge
Set on the banks of a stunning river and amid tree-lined hills, The Swan boasts a wonderful location, with an outside terrace to sip on a drink or two. Behind the frontage of an old inn are modern interiors including a pool, gym and spa to pamper yourself with a variety of treatments on the first floor.
Newby Bridge is an ideal central location at the edge of Windermere to explore the Lake District. This dog-friendly hotel features large, welcomingly bright and spotlessly clean rooms that are stylishly decorated. They come with ESPA products, a gloriously comfy bed and include a hearty breakfast. There are also glamorous cottages on the grounds for larger groups with log burners to cosy up to and luxury bathrooms.
Set away from the main towns, the hotel has its own excellent Cygneture restaurant that serves an eclectic mix of mouth-watering dishes to suit all tastes. From Morrocan tagines to steaks and chips, it doesn’t disappoint and has a good range of puddings, ales and wines that will keep you feeling well looked after. Rooms range from £180 to £390 a night while cottage stays start at £1650 for three nights. Find out more at The Swan website here.
Beech Hill Hotel and Spa
The stunning view across Lake Windermere to the Western Fells is the big-pull of this 4-star hotel. Take in that view from most of the 57 rooms, the spa and even during a drink on the outdoor terrace. Follow the garden path down to the eastern banks of Lake Windermere where you can paddle or sit on two jetties or relax on a secluded pebbled beach.
The glamorous spa gives you time to relax in the Himalayan sauna, steam room, indoor pool or outdoor spa pools – but you need to secure a timeslot with reception due to Covid restrictions. Within the hotel, Burlington’s restaurant offers locally-sourced three-course evening meals with a menu full of traditional fayre from flame-grilled veal sirloin steak to sea bass.
Breakfast serves up a bountiful delight of offerings to set you up well for a day exploring. Double rooms start from £168 without a lake view, but it’s worth spending a bit more for that exquisite view with those rooms starting from £178. Find our more at the Beech Hill Hotel website here.
— THINGS TO DO —
Independent state of mind
Shopping is a delight in Cumbria as there are independent shops at every turn. From the larger towns of Keswick and Kendall to the quaint villages of Grasmere, Ambleside and Coniston.
As a haven for artists, there are paintings and crafts galore and shops where you will discover one-of-a-kind jumpers, jewellery, home furnishings and handbags. While Ulverston prides itself on having over hundreds of independent shops including many vintage stores and craft beer venues.
The beginnings of the National Trust
The Lake District was the inspiration for the creation of the National Trust and Beatrix Potter left her land and property to the organisation after her death. That means there are plenty of National Trust grounds to explore – but remember to book at least 24 hours in advance during the Covid-era. Some of the most charming sites include Fell Foot, the orchards and gardens at Sizergh and Beatrix Potter’s 16th Century cottage at Hill Top. Discover where to visit at the National Trust website here.
Water, water everywhere
Rent a rowing, electric or speed boat or try watersports from waterskiing to kayaking on the various lakes across this region, including England’s largest – Windermere. Everything is set up to make it as easy as possible for you to enjoy an adventure with training for beginners. If you prefer dry land, then there is always England’s highest mountain, Scaffell Pike, to tackle.
Walk in the footsteps of heroes
The Lake District has nurtured many famous names and there’s plenty to see and do at numerous museums. Whether its Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere, Beatrix Potter’s legacy or a former cinema turned into a Laurel and Hardy museum to honour local Stan Laurel in Ulverston.