The whole family just had the most gorgeous January stay in the Lake District. We stayed for three nights in the most fabulous Swan Hotel & Spa in Newby Bridge, Cumbria and couldn’t have loved it more.
Having seen lots of advertisements for The Swan Hotel, it is somewhere that I have been wanting to stay for a long time. So when we were invited as an AD/Press Trip, I jumped at the chance to head to beautiful Lake Windermere and experience this amazing picturesque hotel.
Our invitation was to stay in one of the luxury cottages that are located within the grounds of the hotel. The wonderful thing about these cottages is that whilst they are separate from the hotel, which means they have their own parking and outside space, the hotel amenities including use of the spa, restaurants and even room service, are still available.
We stayed in the largest of the three cottages, ‘The Dormouse’, which sleeps 8 in two super king-sized ensuite bedrooms and an amazing children’s bunk room which sleeps four; it would be perfect for two families of four to share. The bunk room had the most fabulous beds that my children loved as well as a TV and a PlayStation 4!
The Dormouse cottage was very spacious, light, bright, warm and clean and it had everything you might need. There is a “fully equipped kitchen with range cookers, fridge freezers, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer and ironing boards”; as well as a full log basket for the log burner and a private outdoor terrace with an outdoor fireplace (although it was too cold for us to use this). On arrival, there was tea, coffee, milk, butter and everything in the fridge for a fry up – sausages, bacon and eggs, as well as freshly baked scones and bread. Such a fabulously warm and inviting touch.
If you don’t fancy doing too much cooking during your stay, there are two fabulous places within The Swan Hotel to eat which both use locally-sourced ingredients. On our first night we ate at the Swan Inn which has a relaxed and cosy vibe which was perfect with the children. There was a fantastic kid’s menu and lots of pub classics to choose from for the adults, as well as great cocktails and drinks. It was all reasonably priced and there was a great atmosphere.
The Brasserie at The Swan provides a more traditional restaurant experience. It is a little pricier and had a fabulous wine list. James and I went here on the Saturday night without the children and had a lovely meal; we both highly recommend the puddings! Again, there was a real buzz and such a vibrant atmosphere. Both the Brasserie and The Swan Inn seemed to be filled with both people from the hotel and with locals, which definitely suggests a good thing! It does also mean that you should definitely book a table to avoid any disappointment.
A stay in the cottages, and in the hotel, also comes with full access to their Lake District spa and leisure facilities. My children made full use of the swimming pool and went every day we were there. The Swan’s Health Club also has a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and a fully equipped gym (next time I will definitely take my gym kit).
I also managed to escape my family and try out the Holte Spa. The spa is adult only and costs £20 for staying guests. It has a Thermal Suite which includes a vitality pool, 100% humidity steam room, experience shower, outdoor jacuzzi pool, and authentic Finnish sauna, all of which I loved! The spa also has a range of facials, massages and treatments that can be booked, in addition to a café where you can order a wonderful range of drinks and snacks.
This means that there is plenty to keep everyone busy on wet days and for a January stay, which was lucky because we found that lots of the attractions and visitor sites in the area are closed in January and this is definitely not the best time to visit the Lakes for activities.
However, during the rest of the year this is obviously very different and there is usually an incredible number of places, activities and attractions to enjoy in the Lake District. Grange-over-Sands, Pooley Bridge, Ambleside, Bowness-on-Windermere and Kendal all have lots to do and see. Meanwhile of course, the scenery everywhere is just superb; highlights including Ullswater, Windermere, Fell Foot, Wastwater and Buttermere, to name a few! Here are the most beautiful places in the Lake District, according to the Rough Guides.
Although we have been before, one of the things that I was really disappointed not to be able to visit again was Beatrix Potter’s house. Hill Top is run by the National Trust and if you are a fan of hers, you must be sure to make the pilgrimage to this 17th century farmhouse full of Beatrix Potter’s favourite things and set up as if she has just gone for a walk; so magical. For younger Potter fans, there is also the brilliant World of Beatrix Potter at Bowness-on-Windermere. Here Beatrix Potter’s stories are brought to life, children can explore the Peter Rabbit Garden and there’s a great café and shop. There are also lots of great activities, crafts and Peter Rabbit Tea Parties so check out the website before you visit.
Another spot for Beatrix Potter fans is Lingholm Kitchen & Walled Gardens. She wrote and illustrated some of her most famous stories here and the inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was the old Lingholm kitchen gardens. In 2016, this was rebuilt and turned into The Lingholm Kitchen & Walled Garden, which offers fantastic local food in the setting of the walled garden on the Lingholm Estate. There is a café and bakery which offers luxurious afternoon teas.
Brantwood House is another brilliant place to visit. Home to John Ruskin, England’s greatest art critic, thinker and social reformer, and offers a fascinating insight into his world and the last 28 years of his life which he spent living there. There is always lots going on such as exhibitions and concerts as well as the historical house, beautiful gardens and excellent café.
After all that literary focus, there are also lots of fun things for the children to do. In Hawkshead, there is a Children’s Chocolate Factory which offers family group chocolate workshops. Families can create and design delicious chocolate creations and there is also a lovely shop and café.
And The Lake District and Cumbria is also a real foodie destination; with seafood and fish from the coast and game and wild foods from the fells, there is a very creative food scene to be found and a staggering number of very special places to try. The Cottage in the Woods is a Michelin-listed restaurant, which offers food by the chef Sam Miller and boutique-style rooms in a stunning natural setting.
Another foodie Mecca is the medieval village of Cartmel. Not only is Cartmel the home of the famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding (which you can now also buy in Waitrose and on Ocado), there are also cutting edge gourmet restaurants. Cartmel Village Shop is a haven of foodie treasures from the best local artisan producers and where that sumptuous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding has been made and sold for 20 years. L’Enclume holds 2 Michellin stars, worldwide acclaim and eating here is a piece of theatre you will never forget. L’Enclume’s sister restaurant, Rogan & Co, also Michelin starred, is a slightly more laid-back affair in the heart of the village and helps to make Cartmel a true foodie destination!
And that is not all Cartmel has to offer! Although we are yet to go, Cartmel Races on the Spring and Summer Bank Holiday Weekends comes highly recommended from several friends.
With so much to do and see, and with such a great place to stay in the Swan Hotel, we will just have to make a return visit! Their Dormouse Cottage was just perfect for a family, and be sure to keep an eye on their hotel rooms as there as lots of offers and deals!
I hope you are all surviving January and keeping your spirits up.
Love Caroline x