Short Break - Armathwaite Hall Country House Hotel and Spa, Keswick
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 November 2013 | UPDATED: 18:59 23 March 2016
It’s got a shiny new spa, brasserie and function rooms, but the real attraction of Armathwaite Hall in the Lake District goes back centuries
Sitting in the cavernous lounge at Armathwaite Hall, gazing up at the hunting trophies high on the walls, I feel I am being reacquainted with old friends.
The moose, the snarling tiger, the water buffalo and sundry gazelles - reminders of an age when conservation meant conserving the head of whatever you shot and sticking it on the wall - were all there ten years ago when I visited here with my two sons, then aged 12 and nine.
Even at that tender age, they were struck by the history of Armathwaite Hall, the majesty of that big lounge with its long-dead animals, the expansive views across Bassenthwaite Lake, the opulence of the hall’s billiards room, its walls covered with Punch cartoons, and the grandness of the main dining room.
Armathwaite Hall still impresses in all those respects. There’s a busy programme of quad-biking, clay pigeon shooting and the like available. There is now a wonderful spa, an infinity edge pool with an outdoor hot tub looking out over the gardens. There are mountains to climb, lakes to circumnavigate, a vantage point, at nearby Dodd Wood, where at the right time of year you can see young osprey in their nest. But, in truth, nothing quite beats simply sitting in the airy lake view lounge and gazing out at nature’s majesty as the light changes with the scudding clouds.
Armathwaite Hall’s history goes back to the 16th century, though there is thought to have been a house here since the 11th century. For several generations, until 1850, it was the preserve of the Fletcher-Vane family - high sheriffs and lord lieutenants. But it was a local mine owner Thomas Hartley who bought the hall in 1880 and turned it into a country gentleman’s residence.
In 1930, the hall was auctioned off, narrowly escaping demolition, and became a hotel. It has been in the ownership of the Graves family since 1976.
With modern facilities grafted on to the historic hall, Armathwaite is now a popular wedding venue, a getaway for spa breaks, a place for foodie indulgence. On a Saturday night in autumn, we dined in the Lake View restaurant and found all the other tables taken. The £46.95 per head menu was an elegant affair: a starter of seared mackerel fillet with red pepper and anchovy compote for me, a goats’ cheese roulade with apple sorbet for my other half, then mains of flambé fillet of beef with a green peppercorn sauce, and flambé sea bass with parsley cream and baked rice, rounded off with blood orange tart and clotted cream for me, and blueberry trifle for my companion.
Then it was out to that lounge for coffee and chocs to gaze at the night sky over Bassenthwaite.
Armathwaite Hall Country House Hotel and Spa is at Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 4RE, 017687 76551.