Ever wondered what inspired Beatrix Potter to create her characters, known and beloved by children for over a century? Step into the author’s world in one of the most beautiful corners of the country, with a short trip to the Lake District…
Weekender: 48 Hours in the Lake District
What do you go to the Lakes for if not for the views? They don’t come better than those offered at Storrs Hall, perched right on the shoreline of Lake Windermere. A charming Grade II listed mansion, the hall played host to Beatrix Potter herself in its heyday of private ownership, and it’s a stone’s throw from Hill Top itself, the 17th century farmhouse that Beatrix Potter called home, now owned and run by the National Trust. The Georgian Mansion house that is Storrs Hall has 30 rooms, plus the newly-converted one-bedroom boathouse that serves as the perfect lakeside retreat for a couple or family. The Boathouse comes with steam toom, hot-tub, fire-pit and alfresco dining facilities, plus spectacular views over the lake, of course. Room rates at Storrs Hall start from £140 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. Rates at The Boathouse start from £480 per night for two guests. For further information, please visit:storrshall.com
Armathwaite Hall Hotel
Situated in 400 stunning acres of deer park and woodland, the Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa is the perfect retreat for those seeking beautiful countryside, delicious food, and, naturally, a pampering massage. The Spa is contemporary and comfortable with enchanting music, twinkling candles and a sense of tranquillity throughout. For a real skin treat opt for the ‘My Kinda Skin’ treatment, which involves a bespoke facial using Temple Spa products, with skin being peeled and plumped to perfection. Family rooms (with an adjoining bedroom the kids) are generously sized, with lake views and sumptuous beds. The fine-dining restaurant at Armathwaite Hall serves traditional Cumbrian dishes and classical French cuisine, although if you’re dining with little ones, choose the Bar and Brasserie, and tuck into to some less adventurous, yet very tasty, home-cooked pizza and chips! To book: armathwaite-hall.com
You’d struggle to find a better location than this one, overlooking Windermere lake and occupying 76 acres of unspoilt countryscape. There’s nature and tranquility by the bucketload and marvellous walking trails which vary in length. If you don’t fancy doing the walking thing and prefer to stay put, enjoy a picnic in the gardens (British weather permitting), or play a game of croquet on the lawn. No two rooms are the same, but all retain a feeling of discreet luxury that’s present throughout the hotel. For a real splurge, book out the Kentmere suite which is set over three floors, with a Crema Marfil marble bathroom and giant windows boasting some of the most picturesque Lake views in the region. Having recently appointed a new executive head chef, the fine dining restaurant has earned The Samling a Michelin star and the food offering frequently incorporates homegrown ingredients including wildflower honey, micro-leaves and herbs. Rooms rates at The Samling start from £230 per night including breakfast. To book: thesamlinghotel.co.uk
Brimstone Spa & Hotel
16 lavish suites withlog fireplaces,balconies overlooking the woodlands and side-by-side slipper baths make up this modern, simplistic hotel. Rather handily, if you’ve forgotten to pack your walking socks, Brimstone’s Boot Room offers complimentary outdoor kit hire, including outerwear and backpacks. Recover from your daily hike with an afternoon at the spa, where you’ll be given a map of the 7-step thermal suite upon arrival. You will also be asked to choose a bag of scented herbal salts to take with you, which will infuse each step of the journey with your personally chosen scent. With five indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, there’s no shortage of places to put your tired feet up. Back at the main hotel building, Brimstone’s Reading Room is fully stocked with a fully comp spread of drinks, pastries, sandwiches, afternoon tea and even cheese and biscuits in the evening. Top marks if you make it back to your hotel room after dinner without taking a detour for a midnight snack! Room rates at Brimstone start from £350 per night including Reading Room treats, Brimstone Spa access, outdoor kit hire and breakfast in bed. To book: brimstonehotel.co.uk
If you’re in the area in pursuit of the magic of Beatrix Potter, Hill Top is of course a must-visit; on the approach to the house you’ll see scenes from Potter’s iconic drawings throughout the village, and then as you reach the garden you’ll imagine Tom Kitten perching on the garden gate. Much of the interior of Hill Top is as it would have been when Potter resided there, her bedroom even bearing the very same William Morris wallpaper. Every corner of the farmhouse that features in an illustration is flagged, and as with all National Trust properties, the staff are friendly and packed to bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject at hand.
Also worth a visit is Wray Castle, the destination for the Potter family’s very first holiday in the Lakes, the trip that she fell in love with the area and was inspired to make a life there. The chocolate-box village of Hawkshead should also be on the agenda, home of the National Trust Beatrix Potter Gallery, currently hosting ‘The Right Sort of Woman’ exhibition in line with the national programme of Women and Power to tie in with 100 years of suffrage in the UK. If navigating all of this alone is unappealing, Mountain Goat Tours runs a half-day Beatrix Potter excursion, where your driver will not only transport you from place to place but prove to be a fountain (/lake) of knowledge on all things Beatrix Potter and her relationship with the stunning surrounding area of the Lakes.
You’re in the right place for Grasmere Gnigerbread; it would be rude not to stock up. Even if you think you don’t like gingerbread, this stuff is legendary for a reason. And of course, Kendal Mint Cake is a local favourite, too. The Lake Edge restaurant at Storrs Hall led by Head Chef Paul Nicholson serves up a seasonal menu rich in local flavours while the Tower Bar (the ornate bar itself came to Storrs Hall from the Blackpool Tower Ballroom) is the perfect spot for a more casual bite after a busy day exploring.
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