Picture the scene…middle-aged couple, two monsters children, busy working lives, and never any time to be together. Not even date nights. Such is my life. And then … a surprise birthday gift. Vouchers for GilpinLodge, a luxury country house hotel in the heart of the Lake District. My mind was made up. No flitting this on just dinner, oh no, I wanted the full Monty and all parents’ dream, a childfree night away!
Needless to say, it took flipping ages to find anyone stupid willing to have our darlings for just one night’s sleepover. So six months later, we’re booked, sleeping bags and pyjamas delivered (not for us) and we’re outta here! To make things even better, we received a call earlier from Gilpin to say we’d be getting an upgrade to a junior suite. Oh the excitement. So what if the journey was only 30 minutes from home? We still felt like tourists.
There was no gleaming glass-fronted behemoth when we arrived. Just a secluded house set back behind the mature garden. This was far from a typical overnight experience. It felt like someone’s home. A grand one, mind. We were welcomed and checked in though it didn’t really feel like checking in. The suite was a delight. A massive bed that was just asking to flopped upon – so we did. A large living area with French windows looking out, not just at countryside, but at … llamas. Not what you’d expect in the Lake District. But that’s Gilpin all over. Uniqueness and details. We made tea and were happy to find delicious homemade biscuits to go with it. Feet up and just relax.
A thought came to us. Best work up an appetite for that evening’s gastronomy. So off we zoomed down to Bowness and the Old England Hotel and its spa and pool. A quick swim, a pause to admire the view of Windermere from the water plus time in the steam, dry heat and ice rooms. Then it was back to our suite for a sleep. All this relaxing was exhausting. Or perhaps it was just our bodies telling us something?
We dressed smartly for dinner and made our way smartly to the bar for an aperitif. The bar was unstuffy and has an unusual walk-in wine cellar so guests can explore their ample and tempting collection. In the past I’ve felt a bit self-conscientious in similar hotels. Not here. Here we felt at ease. It was like being with friends. We made our choices and treated ourselves for the recommended wine with our courses. Never done anything like that before; naughty but hopefully nice.
The dining room was spacious so we didn’t have to whisper for privacy or shout to be heard. And the meal was heavenly… Gilpin’s chef has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants previously so we knew we were in for some great flavours – Cumbrian rarebit soufflé, Celtic scallops, local pheasant, wild mallard – all mouthwatering. With wines to match, expertly poured and explained by sommelier Ziggy. We could have finished the evening with coffee and petit fours in the comfy lounge. Instead we climbed under our duvet and slept like logs!
We woke late, no little feet bothering us this morning. Breakfast was magnificent as expected and we were sad to check out. But for that shortest of breaks, the weight of the world was no longer on our shoulders and we floated off to the car park without a care, ready to face modern life once again.