Exactly 268 miles from London lies the Lake District, home to Beatrix
Potter, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Windermere, England's
largest natural lake. Impressive peaks rise up to meet you the moment
you turn off the motorway. Winding
stonewalled roads, flanked by unspoilt countryside, lead you over hunchback bridges and pebbled streams.
If there was ever a place straight out of a storybook, this is it.
Set among six acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, in the heart of Bowness-on-Windermere, stands The Belsfield Hotel. This majestic 19th century property boasts unrivalled lakeside views and is the first thing you see when crossing by boat.
Check-in takes place in a spectacular glass foyer, where you are acquainted with panoramic lake views and more than likely a bride or two. It's a testament to the stunning landscape and the hotel's recent £4 million renovations, that so many people wish to spend their special day here. And they're in good company, Pippa Middleton's fiancé James Matthews, proposed to the Duchess of Cambridge's younger sister in this part of the world, just six months ago.
Upstairs the 25 lake-facing rooms are incredibly spacious and decorated with a finesse befitting the hotel's grade II listed grandeur. Think egyptian cotton sheets, Downtonesque furniture and cosy under-floor heated en-suites. Everything from the curtains to the cushions is handpicked from Laura Ashley's vast collection but there is no hard sell, just beautifully designed rooms that speak for themselves and a catalogue casually left lying around for you to peruse at your leisure - wild notions of redecorating your home comes with the territory, just go with it.
Downstairs you will find two dining rooms, with local lakeland produce on both menus. Diners in the The Belsfield Restaurant (£40pp) are treated to a five course à la carte feast featuring bestsellers Ravenglass crab, pan-fried halibut and smoked pork belly. While lighter bites, such as Cumbrian lamb hotpot, lager battered fish and chips and afternoon tea (£22pp) can be enjoyed in the less formal Brasserie. Both restaurants are waited on by chatty and attentive staff, keen to ensure you are having a great time. The affable hospitality the north is famed for gives this hotel a family run feel. And it's not just the staff, the guests are equally jolly - during our stay we didn't hear a single grumble from anyone.
For us, the gourmet breakfast was the biggest surprise. Served in a silver cloche and cooked to perfection, we positively looked forward to it. Take your pick from the overflowing buffet or order a plate straight to your room and gwap at the beautiful view from the comfort of your suite.
You can't beat The Belsfield for location. Outside the luxury confines of the hotel, you'll find cobbled lanes, shops, café's and traditional olde-worlde pubs within a stone's throw from the garden steps.
A mere five-minute ferry ride from The Belsfield, is the small hamlet of Near Sawrey - home to Hill Top the former residence of Children's book author, Beatrix Potter. If you're familiar with Miss Potter's biography you might find the National Trust's version of events enhanced for your entertainment but it's utterly charming all the same. You can practically see Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Tom Kitten waddling through the famous cabbage-patch.
In the evening, the hotel's lounge bar is the perfect place to relax. Sample the cocktail menu and retire to the drawing room or if you prefer take a sunset stroll along the lakeside, as we did on the second night - it's a sight to behold.
Rooms start from £119 per night with breakfast. Visit The Belsfield Hotel website for the best prices on your dates.
Images courtesy of Altitude Lifestyle