Short Break - Holbeck Ghyll, Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:36 17 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:45 20 February 2013
Accident-prone Philippa James visits a Lakeland hotel that combines the great outdoors with a great indoors
Arriving at Holbeck Ghyll felt like coming home. The receptionist welcomed me and took me to the spa where I had a massage booked. On reflection, though, I should have had it just before I checked out.
The current spa consists of beauty rooms with a cosy steam room, sauna and shower but the new owners, Stephen and Lisa Leahy, who bought the hotel in 2010, have big plans for an overall refurbishment
An hour later, a greatly pummelled and very relaxed me was sipping mint tea in the lounge. I would return here just for another excellent massage by Anna - a back problem which I have had for several years has been so much improved and her advice on my computer posture was helpful.
We unpacked into a lovely suite. In the main room was a comfortable double bed, and everything you could need, including fresh milk, and fruit juice in the fridge. The lounge area had an equally good sofa-bed, and a log burning stove for cooler weather. A decanter of locally produced damson gin came with the instruction: Please try! We did and it was gorgeous.
After a pre-dinner drink we tucked into hand dived scallops, with celeriac and balsamic dressing, and marinated tuna with tomato, confit pepper and anchovy followed by roasted sea bass, with butternut squash risotto.
My companion had roast loin of Lakeland venison with juniper, which he pronounced was very good.
Dessert was a platter of exquisite lemon tasting dishes, including mille-feuille of lemon mousse, a perfect lemon tart and lemon crme brulee, which was divine. Head chef is David McLaughlin and the restaurant has held a Michelin star for the 12 years that he has been at the hotel. Always innovative and inventive, David is a chef at the top of his game.
After a walk around the woodland trails being constructed in the hotel grounds, and a relaxed evening, the next morning we had a hike planned.
A full Lakeland breakfast for me and eggs Benedict for my companion, we headed off for the day. An hour later he spotted a doe, and her twin fawns, suckling on a hillside - a truly magical moment. We climbed up, out of Ambleside, to spectacular views across Windermere, and made our way back to the hotel, just over eight miles, arriving to the welcoming sight of a sumptuous, spotless bathroom with a deep whirlpool bath and power shower.
For dinner that night, I chose Cartmel Valley smoked salmon, with pickled beetroot and horseradish cream, and have to say the it was so beautifully presented that it looked like a piece of stained glass; Japanese guests were enthusing, and taking photographs as their meals arrived.
My companion had the tian of crab with avocado and pink grapefruit. I went for the Goosnargh duck, with creamed cabbage, my guest chose Cumbrian lamb in a herb crumb with black olive gnocchi and confit peppers, which was delicious.
Puddings were vanilla poached pineapple, coconut sorbet and passion fruit jelly, with banana beignets, and I chose the strawberry sorbet, cheesecake with Champagne jelly, all of which were delightfully presented and very tasty.
The next day we swapped walking boots for bikes. After around 25 years of not having ridden a bike, I think stabilisers may have been a help to me. I wobbled my way to the end of the drive, where a slight hill caused me to fall off! After much encouragement I set off once again. And one again, I fell off. Again and again. My cycling partner declared it one of the most hysterically funny things hed seen. Time for another massage.
Not just Michelin stars
Rene Zellweger stayed at Holbeck Ghyll when she was filming Miss Potter. It also featured in the quirky BBC comedy The Trip with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan.
It has won a hatful of awards over the years - including Lancashire Life Lake District Hotel of the Year - and it is pet friendly as well as people friendly.
The hotel is just outside Windermere in Holbeck Lane. Tel: 015394 32375