Fun for all the fam­ily at the lake­side

ANDY CRONSHAW finds a ho­tel that is just per­fect for adults and chil­dren alike

Accrington Observer - - TRAVEL -

WHEN my first daugh­ter Ni­amh was born, nim­ble-fin­gered Aunty Lorna knit­ted her a Peter Rab­bit, closely fol­lowed by Jemima Pud­dle­duck and Jeremy Fisher.

The toys have been trea­sured ever since, while a Beatrix Pot­ter box set has pro­vided many a night-time story.

Hav­ing al­ways viewed the Lake District as an out­door ad­ven­ture play­ground, the Beatrix Pot­ter sto­ries and toys be­gan to re­fo­cus my view.

In my younger days, tourist hon­ey­pots and traf­fic hotspots such as Bowness, Am­ble­side and Lake Win­der­mere were to be avoided.

But now there are lit­tle legs to con­sider and minds that fix­ate on smaller fea­tures than the heady heights of Helvel­lyn and Skid­daw.

The re­lease of the re­cent Peter Rab­bit full-length movie, ap­pear­ing on the back of a pop­u­lar BBC an­i­ma­tion, means that the Beatrix Pot­ter sto­ries have never been so pop­u­lar.

In the Lakes, chil­dren will find Peter in his nat­u­ral habi­tat.

For the ul­ti­mate in strate­gic po­si­tion­ing, that gives you boat-borne ac­cess to the Lake District’s fam­ily at­trac­tions, there is the Lake­side Ho­tel.

There can’t be a more ap­pro­pri­ately named es­tab­lish­ment; a four-star ho­tel which sits con­ve­niently on the south­ern shores of Lake Win­der­mere, near Newby Bridge and close to the nearby train sta­tion along the Lake­side and Haver­th­waite her­itage rail­way.

If you’re com­ing from the south, it’s not long be­fore you ar­rive there af­ter leav­ing the M6.

In fact, pe­rus­ing a map of pre-1974 Eng­land you’ll dis­cover that the Lake­side area was ac­tu­ally in Lan­cashire be­fore the county re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of the same year.

For­merly a coach­ing inn built in the 17th cen­tury, the place is hewn from Lake­land vol­canic rock in the re­gion’s clas­sic ar­chi­tec­tural ver­nac­u­lar.

An airy con­ser­va­tory looks out to­ward the lake where they are sev­eral jet­ties and boats moored.

I strolled out at night to the end of a jetty to grab two min­utes of peace and quiet.

A pair of swans, heads nes­tled in their wings as they slept, drifted close by and there was barely a rip­ple across the sheen of the lake – a serene in­ter­lude that lives vividly in the mem­ory.

Rooms are tra­di­tion­ally dec­o­rated with­out be­ing fusty and are very fam­ily friendly with in­ter­nal bed­rooms for the chil­dren.

The ho­tel also has some other ex­tra spe­cial touches for fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing daily duck feed­ing for younger guests on the lake shore.

Food is ex­cel­lent, and at £30 to £40 a head it’s very good value, with the op­tion of go­ing for the Chef Ex­pe­ri­ence (or­ganic hen’s egg, truf­fle, gar­den pea es­puma is one choice) for £52 and then £77 with wine.

There’s a tra­di­tional feel but there’s also lean­ing to­ward the con­ti­nen­tal and Mediter­ranean.

The Lan­cashire Cheese Souf­flé with tomato jam is punchy but light.

And dishes don’t come any more lo­cal than pressed Herd­wick lamb shoul­der.

Like­wise, there’s an ex­cel­lent se­lec­tion of fish; the Lakes are, of course, not far from the Ir­ish Sea.

Like steak? You’ll be spoilt for choice with Gali­cian Blond slabs from the famed ma­ture diary cows, Belted Gal­loway from Scot­land and Wagyu from Ja­pan.

If you can get be­yond Lake­land Gold, made by the won­der­ful Hawk­shead Brew­ery, and on of­fer in the bar and restau­rant, then there’s also a rather well-stocked wine cellar with bot­tles rang­ing from £25 to £50.

To work up an ap­petite you may want to make use of the 17-me­tre swim­ming pool and as­so­ci­ated spa with its plethora of com­ple­men­tary treat­ments and mas­sages.

The pool is one of the best I’ve vis­ited in the Lakes and there is no time-limit for the fun.

As if be­ing lake­side isn’t enough, the ho­tel is sec­onds from the afore­men­tioned Lake­side train sta­tion, the marvel­lous Lakes Aquar­ium and the jetty for the Win­der­mere fer­ries.

Climb­ing aboard the Win­der­mere Lake Cruises ser­vice will have you in Bowness in 40 min­utes, and what a 40 min­utes! Even in rain and mist the lake is a won­der­ful sight.

A stroll through town gets you to the Beatrix Pot­ter mu­seum and the­atre.

I’ve been to the Lakes scores of times over the years but have never set foot in the Beatrix Pot­ter mu­seum. And I’ll ad­mit the de­lights of this minia­ture world of Beatrix Pot­ter char­ac­ters is de­light­ful enough to put a smile on the face of even the grump­i­est mid­dleaged mis­an­thrope.

The sly old fox Mr Tod and the wad­dling squat­ter Tommy Brock, the badger, ap­pear in a scene straight out of the Tale of Mr Tod.

Mrs Tig­gy­win­kle, the hedge­hog, can be wit­nessed hard at work in her kitchen while the sow, Aunt Pet­ti­toes, is spot­ted des­per­ately try­ing to feed her piglets.

My favourite ex­pe­ri­ence, how­ever, was peer­ing into the nooks and cran­nies to find some of the mice en­joy­ing a nat­ter or a tea party.

Lunch in Bowness was spent jostling with Chi­nese tourists at lo­cal chippy Vine­gar Jones, but it was worth it; clas­sic fish and chips with the all-im­por­tant mushy peas.

An at­trac­tion that only re­quires a few sec­onds’ walk to reach from the Lake­side is the Lakes Aquar­ium.

I have to be hon­est; I didn’t ex­pect much from it.

But in the end, I was more than pleas­antly sur­prised.

Apart from dis­plays and tanks that rep­re­sent the var­ied flora and fauna of Lake­land wa­ter­ways, there are some more ex­otic an­i­mals in the rain­for­est and African en­vi­ron­ments.

A glass tun­nel sub­merges you be­neath the lake it­self to re­veal an un­der­wa­ter world team­ing with life.

Of course, from the ho­tel’s po­si­tion lake­land walks abound, even if you only want to make the short jour­ney to the view­ing point at Claife Heights and en­joy a cuppa in the nearby cafe.

For the sum­mer ahead with the chil­dren in tow, the Lake­side is a re­gal treat.

Mr Tod re­laxes with the Wood­land Gazette at The Beatrix Pot­ter Mu­seum

The Lake­side Ho­tel

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