Short break - Lindeth Howe Hotel, Bowness on Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 October 2018
A Lake District hotel with a literary history now has a striking new look. Beautiful or just a bit bonkers? Roger Borrell reports
It seems these days every hotel needs something special, something that makes it stand out from the crowd. A unique selling point, to borrow a phrase from the wonderful world of public relations.
If you need a distinguishing feature, then they don’t come much more distinguished than being the former home of the children’s author Beatrix Potter.
The Potters were regular visitors to Lindeth Howe, near Bowness, when it was a private home and Beatrix illustrated some of her books there. She was smitten by the house and when it came on the market, like a good daughter with a few bob in the bank, she bought it for her widowed old mum.
That connection is gold dust to an hotelier. We all love Beatrix but in some countries they are seriously besotted, travelling halfway around the world to buy key rings with Squirrel Nutkin’s features embossed in plastic.
Nevertheless, it seems the owners thought the old place needed a little more oomph so they hired interior designers who spent three months conceiving a new look. A refurb of the downstairs lounges and bar – along with investment in the 34 bedrooms – cost about £1 million.
The owners describe the result as ‘bold’ and aimed at ‘broadening its appeal to visitors.’ You could also call it ‘busy.’ It no longer uses the words ‘country house’ to change ‘outdated perceptions’ about the place.
The result is certainly eye-catching. So eye-catching it’s hard to know where to start so let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. The bedroom was big on comfort, well appointed with the sort of furnishings you’d expect from…well, a country house hotel. The views from the room were breathtaking and the bathroom was ultra-modern. All boxes were ticked.
The main dining room – untouched by the interior designers, as far as I can see – is upmarket traditional in looks and the food is beautifully presented.In the main it is well-cooked. A crab risotto had quite a bit of cartilage that hadn’t been removed but the rest of the meal was just what you would expect from a very competent 2 AA rosette kitchen. It’s not going to get a Michelin star but I don’t think that’s what they want. Besides, Michelin stars are so yesterday in the Lakes.
Back to the décor. I should start by saying most of the online reviews heap praise on the new look. Several say it has the ‘wow’ factor. I agree up to a point. Several times I said ‘Wow’ then added: ‘Why have they done that?’ Barring some high level banquettes near the bar, the furniture is fairly conventional in style with big brass tacks and button backs but it’s upholstered in a glorious miasma of patterns from sober plaids and duck egg leather to zingy kingfisher blue velvet and that trendy multi-coloured patchwork material that makes you cross-eyed if you look at it for too long.
In the lounge the first thing that strikes you is not the beautifully ornate old ceiling but more than a dozen rough-hewn wooden crates attached to the walls and containing what can only be described as ‘stuff’. Knick-knackery like old cameras, fake ferns and toadstools under glass domes. This theme spreads into the main lounge with plaster animals attached to the walls and a profusion of fake greenery and giant light bulbs on pulleys that look like they came from a steam punk’s jumble sale. Linking the two main rooms is an extraordinary cream carpet specially woven to include giant colourful insects and characters, I assume, from Potter stories.
A side function room is festooned with yet more fake plants hanging from the ceiling and it’s impossible to see some of the walls because so much ‘stuff’ has been glued to them.
I asked a couple of staff members what they thought and I think they were being polite when they expressed some bewilderment. But, hey, if the owners wanted different that is just what they’ve got. See it for yourself – I guarantee you won’t be bored by the decor.
Traditionalists might feel some young interior designers have been over-indulged here and question whether in five years anyone will be saying: ‘Well, this has really stood the test of time…’
Perhaps the strangest thing for me was that in a building that once housed one of our great authors, the walls are covered with old hardback books rendered useless because they have been glued on and fanned out to create some sort of trendy origami effect. There seems a certain irony there.
I’m just glad I don’t have to dust it all.
Roger Borrell was a guest of Lindeth Howe Hotel at Lindeth Drive, Longtail Hill, Bowness on Windermere, LA23 3JF. 015394 45759, lindeth-howe.co.uk