In the heart of the Lake District National Park, on the shores of Lake Windermere, this impressive 62-bedroom, Victorian Italianate building has huge windows, high ceilings and a very relaxed feel about it. The hotel is set in six acres of landscaped gardens and has views over the beautiful surrounding mountains, making it the perfect escape to the country for city dwellers like me. As soon as we arrive we know we're in for a real treat.
Room for romance
The hotel has been refurbished by Laura Ashley and is suitably tasteful. Throw away any pre-conceived ideas of 1980s floral - these interiors are very much of the 21st century variety (think dark wood, statement wallpaper, and plenty of mirrors). In fact I would have happily bought all the pieces for my own home. Being this close to the lake and not having a view of its glittering expanse during your stay would be criminal, so make a point of asking for a lake view room when you book. We found that our favourite rooms for romance were the suites and Four Poster Rooms, which are bigger than some flats and have absolutely huge bathrooms!
Wine and dine
There's no need to go out and about for a romantic dinner, because the best seats in the house are in the hotel's award-winning Belsfield Restaurant. Be sure to book, as couples come from far and wide to celebrate engagements or anniversaries, partly due to spectacular views over Lake Windermere and also because of the delicious food. We ploughed through a scrumptious five course dinner, enjoying lots of local Cumbrian produce as we went. The finale was one of the best cheese plates I've ever tasted - who knew the local area had such a diverse variety of cheese?
For the less full-on dining experience there's The Brasserie, which is open for lunch and dinner. There's a fabulous selection of dishes to choose from, all served in modern surroundings with views over the terrace and Lake Windermere. We opted for the risotto and hake and chips, both of which were seriously tasty. It was the homemade bread that took centre stage for us though, and really made any attempts at healthy eating go straight out the window!
A stay here is all about alternating between eating and exercising. After a swim in the pool and a walk along one of the many mountain trails we settled down for more fine food, this time in the form of afternoon tea. Old school classics like smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, fruit and plain scones and traditional Victoria sponge are paired with just as tasty modern additions like lemon curd Swiss roll and popcorn panna cotta.
So many things: the library (a chilled-out place to take tea and coffee and put your feet up); the views; the ancient lift; the friendly staff; walks in the grounds; and watching the sunset from the deco style cocktail bar where the mixologist worked his magic on our pre-dinner drinks.