Tucked away off a quiet country road, Gilpin Hotel immediately gives the impression of a hidden hideaway and I soon realised what sets it apart. The hotel may be high-end, but it’s also family run and retains a sense of homeliness and warmth; especially when it comes to the staff (three of the management team have been at Gilpin for over 19 years).
This sense of homeliness is reflected in the décor too (think cosy fireplaces and mounted antlers on the wall). However, combined with the fresh, modern furnishings – the feel was anything but stuffy.
Gilpin was bought by the Cunliffe in 1919 and since then five generations of Cunliffes have been associated with the property. Now, John and Christine run the hotel, alongside their son Barney and his wife Zoe.
His brother Ben, an architect, has even designed many parts of the hotel including the Champagne Bar, conservatory and the new suites at the exclusive Lake House, which is located a mile down the road.
I was staying at the main part of the hotel in one of their luxurious Garden Suites – ‘Cat Bells’, named after ‘catt belde’ (in old English), meaning the den of the wild cat which were common in the area until the early 19th century.
Our suite certainly had the ‘wow factor’; it was light, roomy, modern and kitted out in earthy green and brown interiors – perfectly matched with the verdant, undulating landscape surrounding the hotel. I made a mental note to re-decorate my living room.
I particularly liked the cute, stuffed cat sitting on our bed (I assure you – I do not mean taxidermy). Instead of putting out a ‘do not disturb’ sign, a little note asked us to “put the cat out”. If we had a cat, I did wonder whether the neighbouring Haystacks Suite had a hay bale on their bed…
The pièce de resistance was undoubtedly our cedar wood hot tub in our own private terrace. After a long day’s hiking around Lake Windermere, there was nothing nicer than soaking our aching muscles in the hot tub (with a glass of champagne…of course!). The only issue seemed to be turning it off, but our inabilities were no doubt to do with the bubbly.
By the time it came to the evening we were famished and looking forward to our five-course meal in the hotel’s restaurant, led by Head Chef Lee Bird. But, first, we decided to brave the weather and enjoy our canapés outside in the lovely terrace. I could imagine how pleasant it would be in the height of summer, with the trickling water features and comfy wicker furniture.
The hotel, seemingly quite small from the outside, is rather maze-like inside and we were dining in one of four separate dining rooms (the lovely waiters managed to steer me back in the right direction on several occasions).
We began with an amuse bouche of cauliflower and smokey bacon soup infused with maple syrup which was absolutely delicious (I stared longingly at my little china cup for a while after it was devoured). I then followed with a tasty starter of salt cod, aioli and cauliflower and a main of beef with ox cheeks which was tender and very moreish. However it was the palette cleanser which really wowed me – tangy, melt-in-the-mouth lime granité and coconut foam. Scrumptious.
At the end of the meal we retired to the lounge, slouched into the comfy sofas and sipped peppermint tea with an array of almost-too-pretty-to-eat petit fours (I managed to find some room).
By morning, I felt thoroughly relaxed; from the great food to our gorgeous suite, I couldn’t have asked for a better stay in the Lake District.
*Originally published on Travelbite.co.uk