Jane Egginton and her son are on the trail of Peter Rabbit in the Lake District
It’s a 110 years ago since Beatrix Potter penned her tales, including the one about the most famous naughty rabbit in the world, and the stories are still as popular as ever with all generations. I took my not so naughty little boy on a very special pilgrimage to the Lake District to mark this important anniversary, introduce him to one of my favourite characters from my childhood and discover a very special hotel.
Emma Thompson’s new book, The Further Tales of Peter Rabbit, based on the famous character created by Beatrix Potter, has just been published. And to mark it, the Lakeside Hotel and Spa has launched a special Beatrix Potter themed package.
The package offers families the opportunity to visit some of the places that inspired Beatrix Potter to write her books, including Hill Top House – the former home of the famous author, Beatrix Potter Gallery – a local gallery in the town of Hawkshead and Wray Castle – opened this summer to the public for the first time in years.
The Lakeside Hotel & Spa has this year been awarded ‘Large Hotel of the Year’ in Cumbria Tourism’s annual awards ceremony. The award recognises excellence in service, quality and facilities within the Lake District’s top hotels. My two year old and me began our trip to the Lake District on the superb Virgin service, which whisked us from Euston to Oxenholme in just three hours.
The charming Tom from the Lakeside Hotel picked us up from the station and was so welcoming that my son spent the rest of the two days asking where he was. In fact, all the staff at the Lakeside were delightful – from heavily pregnant Beverley who greeted us with a huge smile at breakfast and talked so gently with my son, to the smiling pianist who entertained all the children every evening before supper and the wonderful, unflappable manager Jonathan who oversees it all.
It all made for a very relaxed atmosphere, which is perhaps why the Lakeside attracts guests of all ages, from babies to octogenarians. On the terrace overlooking the lovely calm waters of the lake, teenagers fiddled with their phones, while their parents read their kindles and elder visitors perused their paperbacks. All generations sat and had tea together and gathered for the 11am feeding of the ducks – a lovely tradition that had all the younger visitors entranced.
We welcomed too the relaxed – and very unusual – attitude to children in the pool (none of those annoying restrictions as to when they were allowed to use it). I and other parents I spoke to would have preferred the evening meal starting earlier, perhaps at 5.30pm, rather than 6.15pm, but that is a small quibble. Everyone went out of their way to make my small boy feel at home and when he announced ‘it’s disgusting’ as I tried to fob him off with some long life milk for his bedtime drink, one of the waiters happily delivered a cup of warm fresh milk to our room.
The spa at the Lakeside is one that I can highly recommend – this is the only one in the country that uses the sublime Aveda products and people understandably travel for miles to visit it. I have to say that I really challenged Louise in the spa, although not deliberately. She was understandably surprised when I announced that my two year old would be coming into the treatment room while I had my facial. Louise handled it beautifully, chatting to him and treating him with utter respect.
The fact that Lakeside Hotel is on the quieter side of popular Lake Windermere is a real advantage, yet it is only a short trip to Bowness by boat (with the Beatrix Potter attraction, World of Beatrix Potter), and a steam train ride starting nearby. Of course, it does often rain in Lake Windermere, which makes the nearby aquarium and onsite spa and pool very useful if you are looking for entertainment for almost any age group.
I would recommend a ground floor lake room for easy access to the grounds and also that you book ahead – the Lakeside is deservedly popular and is often full to capacity. The free water, tea and coffee in the rooms are a lovely touch and all bathrooms come complete with a Lakeside Hotel rubber duck with a label round its neck reminding you of the daily feeding of the ducks on the lake, which is a very sweet addition.
Kids at dinner get given a dedicated menu from which they can create their own dishes – an inspired concept that I have not seen elsewhere. My little one came up with a rather unusual combination of cheese, prawns and pasta, but thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a stand out pea veloute and crab salad but in general our food was not the finest aspect of the hotel, a little on the pricey side at £22 for fish and chips (grey peas) and £2.95 for an apple juice, with the atmosphere in the restaurant a little formal for me.
The breakfast was extraordinary: endless fresh orange juice, an excellent choice of cereals and yoghurts, delicate pastries, fresh fish (my son had kippers every morning) and a superb English breakfast. The décor, table linen and service in the room where it was served was faultless and the expansive view of the lake the icing on the cake.
It was only at the end of my stay that I discovered there was a no laptop rule in the public areas – a rule that I welcome (unlike those that restrict children using the facilities). And I must give a special mention to the man on reception who dealt so patiently with me when I became stressed about the baby monitor not working (because I couldn’t hear my child breathing) and speedily replaced my room phone when I drenched it in juice.
The unique hotel has a rich history – it began life as a 17th century coaching inn – yet has all modern comforts so it is no surprise that the Lakeside won the Lake District hotel of the year award this year. It is now certainly my favourite hotel in the beautiful lakes area ¬and perfectly located; right on the shores of the spectacular Lake Windermere yet just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of its popular attractions.
The Lakeside Hotel manages to be both luxurious and homely – no mean feat and something that is particularly valued when you are travelling with a toddler. Although we only stayed for two days, we felt as if we had been gone for at least a week, and returned to London more relaxed, rested and altogether happier, with fond memories of this very special place.
I travelled courtesy of Virgin Trains – an amazing service that gets you from London to the Lake District in three hours. First class is highly recommended, providing just about all you can eat (hot food as well as cold) and drink (including alcoholic drinks) and served seemingly throughout the journey. It was with huge disappointment that while I was in the Lake District it was announced that Virgin had lost the franchise for this service. I do hope the government makes the right decision and reverses this.
If you think, as I used to, that you need a car to visit the Lake District, think again. On arrival, we travelled by boat and train, both accessible within metres of the hotel, and the highly recommended Mountain Goat company (www.mountain-goat.com) offer guided tours and exclusive private hire throughout the lakes area.
Lakeside Hotel and Spa
Lead image ©Lakeside Hotel article and all other images ©Jane Egginton