Some of the Lake District’s country house hotels date back several centuries and were the homes of local landowners. On the other hand, although this may seem strange in a substantially rural area, many of the houses which now serve as hotels come from the early years of the industrial revolution. In this article we look at some of the area’s excellent hotels that were not originally built as such but once were homes to the wealthy.
From homes for the super-rich …
Although the majority no doubt was honestly earned, the wealth that built these houses and estates did sometimes sadly come from less than ethical sources. One example is the Storrs Hall estate with its splendid Georgian mansion that in the early 1800s was owned and expanded by a Liverpool slave trader. Now, however, two centuries later it is thoroughly converted from its murky past to provide elegant and peaceful surroundings for a relaxing Lakeland holiday.
Even in the late-eighteenth century the Lake District had become popular not only with poets and painters but also with people rich enough to build or rent substantial properties either for long summer holidays or for retirement. As the nineteenth century progressed, and the industrial revolution produced a new breed of nouveau riche entrepreneurs many country houses were built close to the shores of the more accessible lakes. These added to the existing stock of substantial properties built by the more prosperous local landowning families and also brought a variety of architectural styles.
… to Lake District leisure hotels
Although some are still family-owned many of these nineteenth century holiday homes now function as country house hotels, and are to be found in some of the most scenic spots. Some are privately owned and operated whilst others belong to larger hotel companies.
Windermere in particular, being the lake most easily accessible from the south, has many such hotels, especially on its eastern side. Other lakes such as Grasmere, Derwentwater and Ullswater also have their share, and such well-appointed country hotels are to be found in many places around Cumbria. Here is a selection.
In the Windermere area, in addition to Storrs Hall already mentioned there is Lindeth Howe, and nearby Linthwaite House. Similar sizeable hotels with an “originally an old house” flavour to them in other areas of the national park include Armathwaite Hall (Bassenthwaite), Rothay Garden Hotel (Grasmere) and Leeming House (Ullswater).
Country houses on a smaller scale
The above examples are now quite substantial hotels in popular areas. There are, however, smaller establishments run as B&B hotels, quite often hidden away in quiet places and that, in many cases, were previously homes to local gentry.
An example, overlooking beautiful Esthwaite Water, is Eeswyke Country House, an elegant Georgian property three miles from Hawkshead. Nearby is West Vale Country House. Both of these are convenient for the Coniston and Tarn Hows area as well as Hawkshead where William Wordsworth went to school (you can still see his name carved into a desk) and Hill Top Farm, famed as Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland home. In a different style there is Nanny Brow, a luxurious arts and crafts mansion at Clappersgate, Ambleside.
Gastronomic Invention at a Lake District Country House Hotel?
The Lake District is known for several gastronomic delights, not least Grasmere Gingerbread and Kendal Mintcake. However, the story goes that sticky toffee pudding also originates here. The chef at the delightfully located Sharrow Bay Hotel on the shore of Ullswater, is said to have first served it in 1960. The claim is disputed, but at the very least he appears to have reintroduced what is now a popular “traditional” English pudding.