Weekend away at the Keswick Country House Hotel in the Lake District
Last week I published a couple of postcards I picked up on my trip to Keswick a couple of weekends ago, in the Lake District. Keswick Country House Hotel invited me to pay them a visit and, despite January not being an obvious choice for a good time to head out into the great outdoors, it proved to be a much needed relaxing weekend after the heady whirlwind of London in December. After a picnic and Prosecco on a surprisingly quick 3-hour train from London to Penrith and a short taxi to Keswick, we checked into our Junior Suite at the Keswick Country House Hotel, discovering that our room, one of their six Junior Suites, overlooked the romantically-lit lawns where Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter Rabbit (this is Beatrix Potter land after all) were happily bouncing about.
Next day we descended the grand staircase of the Victorian mansion, greeted by the welcome smell of a full English breakfast awaiting us in the smart Lonsdale restaurant, once again looking out over the four acres of gardens. While January might be a detox month for some, we had a full day of walking ahead so thought we deserved to stock up on a serious fry up. The hotel is predominantly filled with walkers as that is, after all, one of the main activities in the area.
Amazingly the weather was kind to us for the whole weekend, and sunny blue skies accompanied our walk into the town’s Market Square and on down to the lake shore where we gasped at the views below. Here there is also the Theatre by the Lake which hosts a variety of plays throughout the year. But we were keen to get going and explore the area on foot. The kind receptionist at the hotel had pointed out some of her favourite walking trails and given us a map to follow, so on the Saturday we opted for a 4-5 mile trail that hugs the eastern shore of the lake down, taking us along beaches, up onto rocky outcrops jutting out into the lake, through forests, over marshes and even past the dramatic Lodore Falls.
We stopped in Lodore for a drink before continuing on towards High Brandlehow, where we caught a boat home as the light was beginning to fade. The Keswick Launch service runs regular boats clockwise and anti-clockwise around Derwentwater lake, picking up and dropping off walkers at various stops. It is a very relaxing and predominantly flat walk so it would be an easy for anyone, regardless of fitness, and it gives you some lovely views over the lake from various angles, with an excuse to cruise the lake in the launch at the end of the day.
Heading back into Keswick, there are a number of good pubs and tearooms to treat yourselves to after a hearty walk, and one that came particularly recommended is the Bank Tavern, at the northern end of the main square.
Back at the Keswick Country House Hotel, take a long soak in the bath before heading down to the hotel’s surprisingly lively bar for a pre-dinner drink. A 3-course dinner is served in the Lonsdale restaurant and is included in the price for the room. I opted for the chicken liver terrine (a starter I always pray will be on every menu!), followed by veal for the main course and I finished up with a delicious and very rich raspberry crème brûlée. The menu had a good variety to choose from and the very polite waiters have mastered the fine art of timing – always nearby if needed but never interfering. The combination of a long walk and the abundance of food produced a very soporific effect, but Keswick doesn’t boast wild nightlife to take advantage of, so it’s lovely to have an excuse for an early night to gather energy for the more strenuous walk the next day.
On Sunday morning we again indulged in the cooked breakfast, and to my delight you can order poached eggs and a variety of other special breakfast dishes.
With walk no. 2 we decided to be a little more adventurous and head up into the hills to the south-east of Keswick, along Springs Road, past Springs Farm Guesthouse and up to Rake Foot where we met a bunch of horses. Continue south, keeping along a ridge overlooking the Great Wood, and you’ll find yourself at a viewpoint at Wall Crag, 379m above sea level, from which you can see most of the lake and also look down on Keswick town. After that we headed down into the woods and pottered home to Keswick alongside the lakeshore, clocking up about a 5-mile walk in total. Arriving back in Keswick cued another late pub lunch before we ambled back to Keswick Country House Hotel to pick up our bags and make our way back to London. To top off the day a shower back at the hotel would have gone down a treat, but unfortunately we had to check out in the morning before our walk.
We finished our weekend with plenty of fresh air in our lungs, hearty food in our stomachs, rosy cheeks from a slight January breeze and very relaxed minds. We were so lucky with the weather, but there seemed to be plenty to do in wet weather too. For one, you can look round Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse (45 mins drive from Keswick), which should interest anyone who’s seen the very tragic film about her life: Miss Potter. And Muncaster Castle (1 hr drive from Keswick) is one of the Lake District’s most popular family attractions with a haunted castle, 77 acres of woodland gardens and an owl centre.
Having never been to the Lake District before I was bowled over by its beauty, as I so often forget about how stunning some areas of the UK actually are. Keswick Country House Hotel was the perfect base for a weekend away and rooms start at just £50 per person per night including breakfast (you can book online here), which is an incredible price considering the grand architecture, spacious rooms, buffet breakfasts and excellent treatment we were given by the staff. Add Keswick in the Lake District to your bucket list, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!