Short Break - Dale Lodge Hotel, Grasmere
00:00 09 August 2014
It’s a beer-lover’s dream as Dale Lodge combines a classy hotel with a brilliant pub, writes Roger Borrell
This might not be of particular interest to you ladies (or chaps) who prefer to sip a sweet sherry, but not many hotels understand beer. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve stood glumly at a hotel bar desperately trying to find something that hadn’t been pasteurised, homogenised or completely sterilised.
You know that when it eventually arrives it will be the temperature and taste of bath water. True, good beer will not be the top of everyone’s list of essentials for a happy hotel stay, as my mother repeatedly - and firmly - told my father throughout my childhood: ‘It’s my holiday, too.’
So, you can imagine my boyish excitement as I stood in the bar of the Dale Lodge Hotel in Grasmere almost unable to count the serried ranks of handpumps dispensing proper ale. My wife is equally partial so we looked at each other and confirmed: ‘It’s your holiday, too.’
Dale Lodge is a lovely Georgian mansion right in the middle of this famous village. Tagged on the corner, like a slightly disreputable nephew, is Tweedies.
OK, that’s unfair but this vibrant, jolly bar with the biggest beer garden in the county is quite a contrast to the well-proportioned hotel with its tranquil public rooms, original fittings, Persian rugs, ornate fireplaces and comfortable furnishings.
Through one door is a house full of charm and quirky style and, through the other, it’s party time. In my book, that means you can have the best of both worlds.
Dale Lodge was built in the 1820s for a couple who farmed pigs on the site. It went through many incarnations over almost two centuries but it was a bit of a wreck when Gillian and Brian Roberts took it over ten years ago and painstakingly put it back together.
The dining room is a glorious space where you could imagine ladies performing an energetic gavotte, especially after an evening of best bitter. Here, you can relax over dinner, safe in the knowledge you are missing nothing in Tweedies. That’s because son James and his team cook for both the pub and the restaurant.
He started off with fine dining – his apprenticeship was with Raymond Blanc so he knows his stuff – but they changed course when it became clear that the clientele wanted well-cooked traditional dishes such as Cumbrian lamb rump, Coniston beef and good old fish and chips. They do them very well.
Tweedies is looked after by the other son, Alex. His mother has been heard to comment: ‘Before we came here, the only thing he knew about beer was how to drink it…’
If that’s true, he has picked up the cellarman’s skills very quickly because the beer is one of the cornerstones of the business, picking up a hatful of awards and leading to the creation of a beer and music festival. It’s the weekend of September 5-7 this year.
There’s no doubt that holding a beer festival in the middle of this picturesque village meant the smelling salts were required for one or two residents. But its success has helped to boost business in this small community without causing any serious civil unrest.
The house has 12 bedrooms and the one we stayed in was bright with picture windows, contemporary furnishings contrasting with the 19th century architecture and state-of-the-art bathroom. In the grounds, there are four luxury mews rooms with their own terraced areas. The beds are on a mezzanine floor with skylights so you can sleep under the stars.
One word of warning: If you stay in the main house, bedtime after a night in Tweedies can be a challenge as some of the floors in this old building slope, giving you the impression you are walking uphill to get to bed. Always the sign of a good night out!
Dale Lodge Hotel, Red Bank Road, Grasmere, LA22 9SW. 015394 35300. www.dalelodgehotel.co.uk