From Michelin-starred restaurants with rooms and restored country piles to family-run boat houses and new names bringing fresh energy to the Lake District, there’s no shortage of places to rest your trail-wearied self after a day exploring the National Park. Take, for example, The Swan at Newby Bridge which will reopen this summer having taken advantage of lockdown’s travel restrictions to undergo a £7 million renovation that includes 30 new bedrooms and a new spa. The Lakes’ hospitality scene will also breathe a sigh of relief as restrictions begin to ease: the destination ranks as one of Brits’ most popular UK staycation spots. If you’re among the fans of rolling hills and open skies, we’ve rounded up the best luxury hotels in the Lake District for the smartest of stays.
The Black Bull, Sedburgh
From the china teacups by ceramicist Rebecca Callis and the framed photography by Rob Whitrow to the Howgill Herdwick lamb and fish from the North Sea, The Black Bull’s hyper-local approach to both creative and culinary endeavours has made this pub with rooms a must-visit for foodies since its 18-month renovation was completed. The 17th Century coaching inn was converted into an 18-bedroom hotel, and owners Nina Matsunaga and James Ratfcliffe aren’t finished yet (expect a smokehouse, brewery and kitchen designed for cooking classes in the future).
Bedrooms are country but cool, with Japanese bathtubs, fresh-baked cookies on arrival, toiletries by Sedbergh Soap Company, and three dogs to welcome you in. A brilliant base for exploring the Howgill Fells, return to refuel on dishes of wild venison, Swaledale goat or Lancashire blood cake with ingredients foraged by James or locally sourced from the highest-quality suppliers.
Doubles from £125/night
Gilpin Lake House, Windermere
Original owner and lover of the Lake District John Cunliffe passed away last year, but his legacy lives on at this family-run hotel on the National Park’s eastern edge, within 30 minutes of landmarks like Lake Windermere and Beatrix Potter’s house. There are two parts to the property: the Edwardian hotel and the lake house, a reinvented fishing lodge. The latter ups the ante on space, privacy, design and facilities, with a handful of new even-larger lodges that launched in 2020 with access to individual cedar wood hot tubs, an indoor pool and a private garden and spa.
Rooms accommodate just 12 guests in total, making it feel as if you have 100 acres of land all to yourself. Request the Maude room for its views, although every single one features a charming mix of slick design countered with quirky antiques – plus, this summer there are five new spa suites which come with a treatment tailored to your needs. At Michelin-starred restaurant HRiSHi, find Asian twists on local ingredients: Loch Duart Salmon with baby aubergine masala or Cartmel Valley wild duck with spiced pumpkin chutney.
Doubles from £475/night
Simon Rogan’s flagship restaurant with rooms is frequently booked up months in advance. With two Michelin stars and fresh ingredients sourced from its own farm down the road, it’s turned Cartmel from a medieval village famous for sticky toffee pudding into a top-tier dining destination. Can’t wait? Book one of its exclusive bedrooms, which are scattered throughout the village, and you’re guaranteed a table at L’Enclume during your stay.
The restaurant is a sensitively restored blacksmith workshop and rooms echo the stripped back style (previously head chef at The French in Manchester and Claridge’s in Mayfair, with L’Enclume Rogan wanted to leave behind excess fuss and finery to focus on the food). Among the cottage rooms are two suites in a townhouse and two bedrooms over Cartmel Coffee Shop, all centrally located so you can roll from tasting menu to roll-top bathtub in minutes. Ask to be booked onto the development table, where you can watch the team of locally-recruited chefs experiment with new farm-to-fork ideas before they hit the main menu.
Doubles from £240/night
The Samling, Windermere
A sanctuary from the often-intense weather in the Lakes, The Samling offers up a cosy, comforting crashpad to return to after a wet and windy walk to Windermere. Four years ago, the whitewashed Georgian house added a floor-to-ceiling glass conservatory-slash-observatory where diners can order English wines from a 600-strong list and look at the stars – and we don’t just mean the Milky Way: clientele includes the likes of Tom Cruise, Stella McCartney, the Beckhams and Nicole Kidman.
Everything in the hotel is designed to envelop guests in warmth and softness, from the cocooning bedding and soft carpets to the rooms filled with cashmere, velvet and goose-down and a hot tub to soothe the muscles of hikers taking on the National Trust trail starting in the grounds of the hotel. This year, The Samling is also launching a handful of safari-style canvas prospector tents on the hillside, each coming with a personal butler, chef and lantern-lit al fresco meals.
Doubles from £310/night, Prospector Tents from £3,000
Another Place, Ullswater
Most of the Lake District’s accommodation is angled towards walkers, families and foodies, but Another Place in Ullswater has happily filled the gap left for young couples and solo travellers, balancing bright, sexy interiors (think iron four-posters and sheepskin throws) with irresistible details like log fires in the library and antique mahogany furniture.
The Better rooms have dreamy views and there’s a hot tub for late-night stargazing, plus plenty of fun to be had kayaking, horse riding, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing and fishing with experts and instructors organised by the hotel (which will remind regulars of sister property and surfer hotspot Watergate Bay in Cornwall). Service here is informal but informed – staff can point you in the direction of whatever you need, whenever you need it.
Doubles from £190/night
Storrs Hall, Windermere
With its latticed windows, regal busts, marble mantels and gilded mirrors, Storrs Hall upholds the codes of an English country home in honour of its status as a Grade II-listed Georgian mansion, without being too heavy-handed. The property looks over England’s largest lake, Windermere, and its surroundings are some of the most serene in the area.
Afternoon tea is the main event here, served with Cornish clotted cream and chilled champagne in the games room (complete with baby grand piano) or on the croquet-perfect lawn that leads straight down to the water. Lakeside Suites come with biscuits on arrival, iPad-controlled Sonos systems and free minibars (we like the Devon-made Frobisher’s fruit juices), but do make time for a drink in the bar, which came from the Blackpool Tower Ballroom in 1943.
Doubles from £285/night
Brimstone Hotel, Ambleside
A chalet-style spa hotel, Brimstone is about as central as it gets in the Lakelands, and is ideally located for scaling Scafell Pike. That’s if you make it out of the hotel – and Brimstone doesn’t make it easy. The hotel excels at ‘extras’, making it one of the best-value visits, too: guests get free, exclusive access to a taxi service, boots and wet weather gear, navigation assistance.
There’s also a spa and a cosy Reading Room, where complimentary drinks are served and a rotation of snacks is available (think scones by day and cheese and biscuits by night). Staff appear to light your bedroom’s fireplace and remind you that breakfast can be brought to your room at no extra cost, and the turndown service includes a mug of hot chocolate.
Doubles from £310/night
Linthwaite House, Windermere
Part of the South African-based Leeu Collection, this whitewashed Edwardian house was renovated in 2018 with modern art, sculptures and installations dotted throughout the property and its grounds. Its smaller bedrooms are nothing to write home about, but the private cedar-clad lakeside suites a few minutes away from the main building are excellent – one has a telescope and another has a private hot tub with views of the fells – with quality linens, fresh milk in the fridge and Scandi-style interiors.
Dogs and kids are both welcome; Linthwaite operates a ‘b&b’ (bed and bowl) policy for £25 for the former and can arrange babysitters for the latter. The Henrock’s restaurant is run by Simon Rogan and ingredients sourced are from his farm (the same one that supplies L’Enclume), but dishes draw on more international influences, and the dining space is less formal (think clashing leopard print and tartan upholstery). There’s an impressive wine list that features Leeu Family Wines from the hotel’s sister property in South Africa – take a bottle to the swing seat that overlooks the lakes and fells surrounded by wildflowers and woodland.
Doubles from £210/night