Short break - The Leathes Head Country House Hotel, Borrowdale
PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 May 2019
The former hideaways of rich mill owners are now some of the north west’s finest hotels. Roger Borrell visited one.
I'm not sure if this is a record but the last time I had a bath was in 1982. Don't run away with the idea that I have an aversion to soap and water, it's just that the advent of the domestic shower seemed to render baths redundant.
However, if I were to be tempted to grab my loofah and rubber duck and dive back into the water it would be while staying at the Leathes Head Hotel in Borrowdale. Our bathroom, big enough to hold a modest cocktail party, has a bath directly under a window allowing you to gaze upon the heavenly Lakeland scenery while washing away the grime of town life.
I thought all this just before walking into the shower. Never mind, another time perhaps.
Leathes Head is a luxurious little gem of a hotel – oh, go on then, a boutique hotel – set in three acres of countryside with lush green pastures surrounded by high peaks that give it a cathedral-like quality.
Inside, the spirit of the Edwardian era has been maintained, a subtle balance of the old and new typified in the bar where the owner's talented son has created beautiful furniture in fine grained wood with a firm nod to the arts & crafts movement. The bar top is a remarkable piece of graphite engraved with the contour lines of the surrounding fells. X marked the spot where you are standing deciding which one of the myriad gins to choose before dinner.
Head chef Noel Breaks is a man who certainly doesn't need a map to find his way around the kitchen and he has two AA rosettes to prove it. I've given up asking chefs for their style of food – it's always modern British with a twist of something.
Noel's menu doesn't need a tagline. It's tasty, mainly locally sourced, some of it's foraged, and it looks great on the plate. Little extras like an amuse bouche of ransom and potato soup with a surprise of bacon jam in the bottom of the pot shows a chef who is confident about flavours and textures.
Highlights included a delicate plate of cured skrei, the delicious cod that the Norwegians try to keep secret, a chicken roulade in ash, hogget with black pudding and, a particular favourite, chalk stream trout with clams. Treacle tart and rhubarb and custard provided endings that would have had Billy Bunter in raptures. It's worth noting that on fine days it's possible to dine al fresco.
No surprise then to discover the Leathes Head has won several awards, including being named small hotel of the year in the regional tourism awards. That it is not better known is probably down to the fact it only had eleven bedrooms.
The Industrial Revolution had many plus points and several negatives but one positive is that it gave mill owners and business barons enough dosh to build wonderful Lakeland hideaways that were later converted into excellent hotels. And Leathes Head is one of them.
Roger Borrell was a guest of The Leathes Head Country House Hotel, Borrowdale, Keswick, CA12 5UY.