The landscapes of the Lake District have been inspirational to many great writers and artists over the centuries. The village of Grasmere is most famous for Dove Cottage, the one-time family home of Britain’s celebrated poet, William Wordsworth. If you are familiar with his work, this is where he actually wandered ‘lonely as a cloud’.
Actually if Wordsworth were alive today he may have written something different as the numerous gift shops and cafes in Grasmere can get pretty busy during some parts of the year these days. One place, Rothay Garden Hotel however is positioned just on the other side of the village (technically in Ambleside). It’s only a few minutes away, but far enough away to allow you to really breathe in the natural beauty of your surroundings and just well, relax.
The Hotel was recently awarded Cumbria Tourism’s ‘Small Hotel of the Year Award 2013’, we stayed in the Rothay Suite on the ground floor, it has a private patio overlooking the immaculate gardens adjacent to the Spa. The suite has been added fairly recently and the bathroom is über sleek, the bed is big and comfy and there is good, fast Wi-Fi too. It’s modern, but homely too. The five loft rooms above us on the first floor have cute little balconies, they’re the ideal place to order room service and spend the morning buried deep in papers and Bonne Maman jam. Of course the correct way to experience the Lakes is to arrive early, walk as far as you possibly can and then spend the next two days recuperating with your socks on the radiator and your feet in the air. To help with this requirement Rothay Garden has a small but modern Spa facility, it’s free for Hotel guests and there are infra-red loungers, a herbal pine Sauna and a fantastic HydroSpa from where you can admire the rolling countryside while the warm jets caress and massage your aching calves.
For an extra charge there are a number of visiting Spa Therapists available for private massages in your room, apparently the Hotel is planning an extension to the Spa so the therapists will soon have permanent spaces available. In addition to its relaxed atmosphere Rothay Garden is well known in the area for its food. Head chef Andrew Barton presides over a crack team of seven chefs and the restaurant is as popular with non-residents.
The AA2 Rosette four course dinner for £39.50pp is good value for money and the dishes are as imaginative as they are heart-warming. A pre-starter of an espresso sized bowl of pea and ham soup favours the ham side and is a perfect taste bud tantaliser. I had the cheese soufflé for the first time in my life and it comes with a delicious Damson Chutney. My partners fillet of mackeral, nicoise salad, egg and balsamic glaze was colourful and tasty and choosing a main course was as challenging as some of the walks here in the Lake District.
After much deliberation I went for the Pork, which was tender and crispy in all the right places. The final culinary star was the (yes, you guessed it) Sticky Toffee Pudding, and a baked cheesecake came a close second. By the way if you are a Brandy Connoisseurs the Hotel boasts a rather large selection of Cognacs too.
If your heading to the Lake District and relaxation is as important to you as walking and exploring Rothay Garden makes a perfect base. An oasis of calm in a glorious location with some modern life necessities thrown in – a real bliss of solitude.
1 Cocoa Hearts
This place is brill if you have a children obsessed with chocolate.
This small artisan chocolate shop in the heart of Grassmere run cools workshops where you can make and decorate your own box of unique chocolates. They workshops cost £15 and run three times a day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. They are really good fun, especially on a rainy day and the kids will love you for it (well at least til they’ve eaten them all)
For more info visit http://www.cocoahearts.net
￼￼2 Dove Cottage
The home of William Wordsworth for eight years between 1799 to 1808 and the place where many of his best know works were written. The simple cottage and Jerwood Centre just down the road are a must for anyone interested in the Poet or the influence the Lake District had on other writers. Fascinatingly Wordsworth sold the cottage to a friend, Thomas de Quincey, he married a local farmer and his book Confessions of an English Opium Eater published in 1821 recalled he time spent in the house addicted to Opium and Alcohol.
3 Brackenfell & Alcock Tarn
There are many lovely walks in and around Grasmere, this one begins and ends in the Village and isn’t too long either (approx 3 miles). The climb up to the woods of Brackenfell is gentle enough for even the most inexperienced walkers and the paths are well maintained too. Once you are at Alcock Tarn (a Tarn is another name for a mountain lake or pool) there are spectacular views of Grasmere below and Windemere towards the south. On a clear day Helm Crag can also be seen towards the North West. It’s the perfect place for a picnic (and to fall in love with England).
Rothay Garden Hotel Broadgate, Ambleside Cumbria LA22 9 RJ
25 Rooms and five loft rooms / Rothay Garden offers special short break and holiday packages throughout the year. August and September see Summer Saver rates running, with up to £20 per person per night off longer stays, and Weekend Breaks are from £224 per person for two nights’ Dinner, Bed and Breakast, and include late checkout and complimentary Sunday lunch.
All guests are able to use the exclusive Riverside Spa. The hotel also runs special Food & Wine, Christmas and New Year Break packages.
Telephone 01539 435334 or visit www.rothaygarden.com for more information.