The Lake District

The Swan Ho­tel and Spa, Newby Bridge

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - WORDS matt ris­ley

While our king­dom might feel es­pe­cially united right about now (oh hai Brexit), it’s good to know that the land­scapes of our “green and pleas­ant land” are at least fly­ing the in­ter­na­tional flag of en­vi­able won­der­ment.

The en­tirety of the Lake District was named a World Her­itage Site by Unesco back in July – a not-too-shabby ac­co­lade when you con­sider its peers in­clude the Great

Wall of China, Grand Canyon and Taj Ma­hal.

As a Lake District vir­gin, it was a sta­tus we were du­bi­ous of. Fast-for­ward past a long week­end spent hik­ing, wa­ter sport­ing, cake gorg­ing and over­load­ing our cam­era roll with 72,385 pho­tos of stun­ning scenery, and I can con­fi­dently say it’s a stay­ca­tion bet­ter than a whole host of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal get­aways.

Step one is work­ing out where to stay. The mag­ni­tude of the area is as im­pres­sive as it is over­whelm­ing (es­pe­cially for those of us whose mapread­ing skills ex­tend to bus routes and tube lines), and with (thank­fully) no ob­vi­ous tourist-cen­tral mecca, it can be con­fud­dling where to be­gin.

We headed to the The Swan Ho­tel and Spa in Newby Bridge – a gor­geously aged get­away that’s not only a short taxi ride from Ox­en­holme train sta­tion, but quite lit­er­ally perched on the edge of Lake Win­der­mere and the heart of the Lake District.

While it’s a near-on lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion when it comes to the swanky stakes (more than a few lo­cals gave us the ol’ raised eye­brow and high pitched coo when we said where we were stay­ing), its newly launched Loft Suites – a col­lec­tion of adult-only lux­ury boudoirs – are the epit­ome of next-level com­fort.

Not only do you get a bold but im­pres­sively de­tailed decor through­out, a TV pop­ping up out of your bed, log fire, and a frankly arous­ing stand­alone bath sit­u­ated in the mid­dle of your open-plan liv­ingbed­room, but the loft-ness of it all brings with it high vaulted ceil­ings and gor­geous wooden beams through­out.

As far as lux­ury in the coun­try goes, the bal­ance doesn’t get much finer.

While there are more than enough ameni­ties through­out the ho­tel for those look­ing for a truly veg-out break, it’d be a waste to pass up on all the in­cred­i­ble scenery right out­side.

Nearby Gum­mer’s How is a short drive (or calf-bol­ster­ing walk) away, and of­fers some of the great­est views our coun­try has to of­fer. The walk to the sum­mit is a good 15 minute hike from the car park, past dozily me­an­der­ing cows and with vis­tas as good for the soul as they are your lungs (a good in­hale of Lake District air is as good for you as 37 disco-spinHIT-aerial yoga-what­ev­er­the-chuff-is-IN-rn classes).

Even bet­ter, at the bot­tom of said mega-hill is a Na­tional Trust trea­sure, Fell Foot

Park, a seem­ingly an­cient stone struc­ture with a boathouse cafe that backs onto the south­ern tip of Lake Win­der­mere, and of­fers cake and waters ports in equal mea­sure.

The whole re­gion is a hub for both ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties and an ar­ray of an­cient, quaint and adorable Na­tional Trust hide­aways. Whether you’re hir­ing a bike and cy­cling the length of the lakes, or sail­ing/ wa­ter­ski­ing/row­ing your way down the wa­ter­ways, there’s more than enough to keep you en­ter­tained.

Speak­ing of which, there’s much more than just Lake Win­der­mere to ex­plore. Tech­ni­cally, if you want to get nau­ti­cally nerdy about it, there is only one lake in the area (Bassen­th­waite Lake), but there are around 16 ‘bod­ies of wa­ter’ that pass for lakes for you to ven­ture around.

‘Must dos’ around the lakes in­clude ven­tur­ing to Der­went­wa­ter and strolling along the Cat­bells Lake­land walk in Keswick, while the heartier among you can give it a shot strid­ing up

Scafell Pike.

And then there are the peo­ple you’ll meet along the way. Not to get all Last of the Sum­mer Wine about it, but it’s easy to for­get quite how friendly, con­vivial and gen­er­ally lovely every­one is in the coun­try­side.

Even those with the most cyn­i­cal of ‘you’re not lo­cal’ ex­pec­ta­tions will be pleas­antly sur­prised, as lit­er­ally ev­ery­body we came across ei­ther of­fered us a ‘hello,’help­ful ad­vice, or some form of pas­try or pint. Whether you’re a flan­gob­bler or a hill-climber, a day out on the Lakes can be an en­joy­ably ex­haust­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Which is where The Swan’s spa and gas­tropub-tas­tic restau­rant come into play – com­fort­ing and zen-re­fresh­ing in equal mea­sure, they of­fer topof-the-range fa­cil­i­ties and ameni­ties; grab a mas­sage or spa treat­ment from their ESPA-only range of smelly de­lights, or set­tle in for a three course meal of hearty, tasty, su­pe­rior pub grub.

At a time when the coun­try’s eco­nomic, so­ci­o­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems seem de­ter­mined to hara-kari, a trip to the

Lake District is the per­fect, zen-in­duc­ing an­ti­dote, and a timely re­minder that when it comes to spec­tac­u­lar scenery, su­perla­tive hospi­tal­ity and world-class cake, we re­ally do have some­thing pretty darn im­pres­sive on our very own doorstep.

The Swan Ho­tel and Spa,

Newby Bridge, swan­ho­tel.com. en­quiries@swan­ho­tel.com. Prices for the Loft Suites start from £259 per night for the

Cosy Loft, £284 per night for the Lovely Loft and £299 per night for the Fab­u­lous Loft, based on two shar­ing.

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