3 Picturesque Countryside-Retreats Worth the Drive to the English Lake District

3 Picturesque Countryside-Retreats Worth the Drive to the English Lake District

A hallmark of English countryside vacations, the Lake District in Cumbria offers a patchwork quilt of mountain peaks, open fells, lakes and sparkling rivers perfect for autumn travel. The area has also inspired writers as diverse as Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth to write about its landscapes.

Having a wide selection of activities and accommodation options, making the right choice can be overwhelming. To help out, here are three hotels all offering a variety of contrasting locations and ambiance with a diverse selection of things-to-do near each.

The Daffodil Hotel & Spa, GrasmerePhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen
The Daffodil Hotel & Spa, Grasmere

Opened two years ago, this 78-room, three-floor, four-star hotel (named after William Wordsworth’s most famous poem Daffodils), lies within walking distance of the sleepy rural village of Grasmere where the national poet laureate lived. One of the Romantic poet’s former homes, Dove Cottage sits 100 yards away and open to visitors.

Located on an open, grassy area off a winding country road beside a lake, The Daffodil Hotel & Spa offers stunning views over Loughrigg Fell, Red Bank and the Vale of Grasmere. Its exterior blends well with its rural surroundings and its granite stonewalls match the traditional, century-old buildings nearby. Inside is modern and bright with an uplifting contemporary design. Its walls decorated by a series of light-hearted wall drawings, a tribute to former owner Tom Harwood who wanted “a building full of laughter and jokes where people could relax and enjoy themselves.”

The Daffodil Hotel & Spa, GrasmerePhoto Courtesy of The Daffodil Hotel & Spa

Artwork includes Mrs. Dali Hanging Out the Washing with melted clocks on the line and Mrs. Gaughin's Tupperware Party depicting seated topless Tahitian ladies examining various items on a table before them. Other satirical pencil sketches by artist Sue Macartney-Snape reflect the quintessential comedy of daily life hang on different floors featuring caricatures of people in everyday poses snoozing by an open fireside or attending a regatta or horserace.

The property’s spacious restaurant features locally-sourced dishes such as pan-fried haunch steak venison from Holker Hall near Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, roasted cannon of local Cumbria lamb, and grilled sirloin steaks of Cumbrian beef. In the basement, the spa, a Germaine De Capuccini facility, is comprised of a sauna, steam-room, Jacuzzi that fits 10 or more people and a 10-meter thermal pool with a variety of water jets. Facials, massages and exfoliating wraps are among the many options offered on their comprehensive treatment menu.

The Daffodil Hotel & Spa, GrasmerePhoto Courtesy of The Daffodil Hotel & Spa

Activities, all within walking distance, include visits to former homes of William Wordsworth, including Rydal Mount and Gardens, which lies between the villages of Ambleside and Grasmere where it commands glorious views over Lake Windermere and Rydal Water. There are also many scenic walks near the hotel, especially to Easedale Tarn (lake), about three miles away. Paths are marked for both length and difficulty.

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, WindermerePhoto Courtesy of Gilpin Hotel & Lake House
Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Windermere

Owned and operated by the Cunliffe family, the Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is set on 100 acres boasts two separate accommodation choices. Slate-roofed with a stone façade upon which ivy clings in curlicues, a six-bedroom lake house lies in a hollow, leafy glade inviting one to forget any lingering sense of urban angst. A short drive away is a 21-room hotel adjacent to the Gilpin’s main restaurant.

The sense of gentile civility is enhanced by gracious furnishings in the hallway and drawing rooms, including a collection of straw hats, sand-colored wallpaper featuring a white floral motif, soft carpeting, classic period furnishings, standing lamps throughout and shelves filled with books. Delicate crystal and porcelain ornaments stand alongside framed sepia and black-and-white photos of family members from earlier generations.

gilpinPhoto Courtesy of Gilpin Hotel & Lake House

One of the highlights of the property are the multi-stage spa treatments, which include a scent experience by which guests select oils to be used; private leisure time in a swimming pool, with chilled cocktails; a massage or facial in an airy room on stilts overlooking the lake and forest; a delicious assortment of scones and cakes in a converted boathouse; and a soothing session in an open-air, cedar wood hot tub.

For dining options, the hotel’s main restaurant produces West Coast seafood with traditional British flavors. Begin with an imaginative local cocktail such as the Eldersour made with a mix of gin, vodka, elderflower cordial, lime juice, topped off with soda water. Chef Gordon Cartwright prides himself on what he terms the “British Culinary Heritage,” and thus, starters range from potted shrimp from Morecambe Bay in Lancashire soused with white cabbage, tender stem broccoli, cod cheeks and a fine cheese from Stichleton, Nottinghamshire. Mains include grilled hake crispy squid, smoked haddock with champ and crunchy panetta, grilled Dover sole with white asparagus and two-year-old Cumbrian Hogget (lamb) with black garlic.

gilpinPhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen

The property’s large expanse of land also offers active travelers trails for jogging and biking, coarse fishing and swimming or rowing in the lake. Within a short drive is the steam train of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway with short excursions into the surrounding countryside or boat cruises operated by the Ullswater ‘Steamers’ Company on England’s second largest lake.

Moresby Hall,Photo Credit: Columbia Hillen
Moresby Hall, Whitehaven

The granite, crenellated Palladian style façade and leaded windows of this 1,000-old manor building at the edge of the Lake District is a stunning reminder of a bygone era and a coastal alternative to explore the area. The feeling of entering a time portal is intensified even more inside, with a lobby featuring broad, aged oak-wood beams on stair banisters and rafters, bounteous wainscoted paneling and elegant period furniture.

Moresby Hall, a Grade I listed historical building boasting a colorful history stretching from the ancient Romans to the Normans, includes an abundance of original features. In the lobby are terracotta tiles, decorative plates lining the walls, an open stone fireplace and a 150-year old grandfather clock. Hanging on the walls are diverse paintings that owners Jane and David Saxon purchased mainly from auctions.

Moresby HallPhoto Courtesy of Moresby Hall

In the elegant drawing room is a white marble fireplace, framed oil paintings of classical English rural scenes, gilded wall mirrors and delightful window seats. Bedrooms overlook the surrounding countryside and feature assorted elegant furnishings including vanity mirrors, damask chairs and four-poster beds.

Dinner is a most enjoyable affair under an old world ambiance created by oak crossbeams, a candelabra and a hanging chandelier along with floral carpeting and tasseled curtains. Enjoyable not only because of the food quality, which includes succulent lamb, duck and fish dishes all locally sourced, but also because the room’s intimacy lends itself to interactive conversations among diners. Conversing is encouraged by a tradition whereby guests gather at a designated time for pre-dinner and get-to-know-you drinks in the drawing room.

moresbyPhoto Courtesy of Morseby Hall

The Georgian town of Whitehaven, five miles away, presents a variety of activities including the Beacon Museum in the harbor area offering a history of the location from Norse Settlers to 20th century industries, as well as the Sellafield Story about how the destination became the heart of the world’s nuclear industry. In contrast is the Rum Story, a museum focusing on the famous alcoholic beverage and how the port plied its trade through the centuries. Visitors can travel through a tropical rainforest, an African village, a slave ship and Cumbrian cottages on the tour. The town’s Rosehill Theatre also offers a variety of live performances.