Short Break - Lodore Falls Hotel, Keswick
00:43 23 February 2014
The Lodore Falls has to be in one of England’s finest hotel locations, writes Roger Borrell
As a young married man, I stood at the bar of what was then called the Lodore Swiss Hotel, chatting to a chap who seemed vaguely familiar.
When I returned to our table, my wide-eyed daughter gasped: ‘Dad, do you know Brendan Foster?’ A year earlier he’d run the 10,000 metre final of the 1980 Olympics – his last major race – and was in the process of setting up the Great North Run.
‘Like a brother,’ I replied, basking in a rare shaft of familial glory, albeit one based on an outrageous lie.
Like Foster, this hotel has a fine track record. How could it not? It’s an extraordinarily imposing building – Lakeland slate meets Victorian Gothic. It rises up to greet Borrowdale’s cathedral-like hilltops with the Lodore Falls to the left and the spectacular tail end of Derwent Water directly ahead. It has to be one of England’s finest hotel locations.
For years it has attracted the well-known and the well-heeled. Earliest among them was the Prince of Wales, affectionately known as Bertie and destined to become King Edward VII, and his brother Arthur, who was to become a Kleeneze Brush salesman in Warrington. William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody also stabled his horses there in 1888 while touring his Wild West Show.
It was in the vanguard of modern communications, too, having one of the first telephones. The number was Keswick 2 which probably limited the local calls you could make.
But it was really put on the map just after World War II when it was bought by a man called Robert England and his wife, a wonderfully-named Swiss lady called Merthie Muggler (I haven’t made that up, unlike the career path of dear Prince Arthur).
She was a human dynamo who, helped by her family, turned the hotel into a landmark destination and renamed it the Lodore Swiss Hotel. After many successful years they sold it in the late 1980s to a multinational chain. Happily, it is now in local hands as part of the Lake District Hotels group run by the Graves family.
They have introduced improvements and upgrades but the core of the hotel remains true to the original style. I returned after 30 years to find some of the public areas reassuringly 80s in style with colourful carpets and soft velvet sofas. It’s not a place that latches onto fads – you won’t find stripped floors or the merest whiff of walls painted in Elephant’s Breath. With its roaring fires, it’s unashamedly homely and it has three great virtues.
The staff are friendly, the welcome is warm and they are eager to please in a way that isn’t over-familiar or obtrusive. The young man who carried our bags upstairs was an energetic Hungarian with a manner that made you glad to be there.
Secondly, our bedroom was terrific. Modern, well-furnished with a comfortable settee, large bed and a luxurious bathroom. Picture windows gave grand, mesmerising views of the lake.
Finally, came the food. Executive head chef Mike Ward has been there for 25 years and clearly knows his stuff. He and head chef Loredan Gargalac picked up an AA Rosette last year.
Dinner is beautifully presented and locally sourced, big on flavours but low on fripperies. Lakeland lamb cooked three ways made you wish there were four or, maybe, five ways.
If Brenda Foster, Edward VII and Buffalo Bill were to meet in the bar today I suspect all three would have a good time. And Prince Arthur could clean up after them.
The Lodore Falls Hotel stands in 40 acres with an Elemis beauty salon, swimming pools, hot tub, gym, tennis and squash courts. There are great walks all around and they even have their own walks book and can arrange free boot hire. Keswick is a couple of miles away up the Borrowdale Road so the Pencil Museum is never far away. For more information, go to www.lakedistricthotels.net/lodorefalls or call 0800 840 1246.