Where: Minutes from England’s largest natural lake, Windermere, in the undulating Cumbrian countryside is a little slice of heaven in the form of the family-run Gilpin Hotel & Lake House. And what a talented family the Cunliffes are, turning a former home into a cosy, yet super chic hotel with interiors to die for, a restaurant that serves food you’ll never forget and second-to-none service.
First impressions: We’ve travelled here to test out the brand new spa suites – five individually-designed lodges situated around a picturesque pond – that, as the name suggests, include their own spa! More specifically, that’s a clever shower-cum-steam room in the bathroom, a hot tub on the private outdoor terrace and a futuristic looking sauna pod in the garden. When we first see our room, The Maglona, we are blown away by the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out across the countryside, the remote control fire (anyone who grew up watching Clueless will understand my excitement), plus the sheer size and beauty of the space, with interiors you wish you could take home with you.
Room for romance: The contemporary spa suites have serious romantic potential with their soft lighting, huge beds and that fire! But, drinking champagne under the stars together in the hot bubbles made for the most wonderfully loved-up moment. The arrival of rain just added to the movie scene magic.
It’s not just about lazying around in the tub though. We were helped on our way to complete relaxation with a massage and facial in our suite (from £75).There’s something rather decadent about being in your own room after a massage with no need to move. There’s also the option of a spa trail (£60), where you lather yourselves up in various body masks and head into your steam room to sweat out the toxins.
Wine & dine: We thought our stay couldn’t get much better, but that’s before we’d tried the food. We’d heard on the grapevine, aka BBC 2’s Alex Polizzi: Chefs on Trial, that Hrishikesh Desai, who won the competition to become head chef, was rather talented. We weren’t prepared for the sort of gastronomic experience you’d expect from a top London hotel in the middle of the countryside though. We started each evening with a huge fishbowl of a G&T in the stylish bar before choosing between the three cosy dining rooms.
The dishes were beautifully presented and tasted even better than they looked, the service was slick, the waiting staff fabulously friendly and the atmosphere just perfect for romance.
With my very sweet tooth, pudding was definitely the highlight for me. The desserts were deconstructed, but not in a pretentious way, and everything went together like a dream.
We love: To be honest it would be quicker to say what we don’t love…and that’s nothing at all!
Go there: Spa Lodges, from £595 per night (midweek) on a half board basis, thegilpin.co.uk