Desperate to get away from it all? We reckon a road trip is just the tonic, free from pre-departure tests and cancelled flights. We downloaded car sharing app Turo (shameless plug) ventured north of the M25 (!) and up to Cumbria, seeking out the best places to roam free and wild swim.
There’s an abundance of impressive places to stay near Lake Windemere, and further afield: check out our favourites, then get booking!
Perched on a hilltop overlooking Windermere, Linthwaite House is the perfect base from which to get your wild swim on. Legions of city types are cottoning on to the trend of cold water therapy, and here’s one of the country’s finest places to try it. Plunge under the water (you can do it!), then sprint back out for a hot cup of tea.
Prefer dry land? Try a game of boules, challenge your travel buddy to a giant outdoor chess game or just take a stroll around the impressive grounds, admiring the hotel’s huge art sculptures and local flora. A quick cycle takes you to the chocolate box village of Bowness-on-Windermere, or you can explore the private tarn via row boat.
Planning your trip around food? Don’t miss Simon Rogan’s modern fine dining concept, Henrock. The handiwork of Executive Chef Tom Barnes and Head Chef Sam Fry (ex L’Enclume) has gained this gorgeous spot a Michelin Plate. Try the Saikyo miso-glazed aubergine (doused in black garlic, yum) followed by the herb-crusted loin of cod. For dessert, it’s got to be pineapple upside down pudding.
Don’t forget to pack: Your dryrobe: a huge, artfully oversized coat slash blanket perfectly designed to make you instantly warm and dry following a dunk in icy cold water (complete with zip up pockets for your valuables). Pack this, and you’ve officially run out of excuses. Magic.
Also enjoying an enviable waterfront location is the legendary Storrs Hall, recently updated with a clutch of stylish lakeside suites. The main restaurant boasts long lake views, which catch the morning sunshine as you’re served a full breakfast. We loved wandering along the bank of Lake Windermere first thing, before heading back to our spanking new suite, to settle in the Japanese-style cedar wood hot tub.
Beautiful woodland forms a cosseting canopy around the suites, with many enjoying uninterrupted views of the water. If the weather’s not on your side (often the case this far up North), the room’s amenities will keep you more than busy: electric fireplaces, flat screen TVs (there’s even one at the foot of the indoor bath) and hand-delivered meals mean you can slip in and out of sleep ’til dinner.
Don’t forget to pack: Walking boots, thermal layers and a waterproof. There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!
If you’re not into huge hotels, check out The Yan at Broadbane. Total paradise for foodies, it’s a memorable little restaurant with boutique rooms, set in the middle of the Central Fells – and just five miles from famed Ambleside.
A nice walk or quick drive from iconic Grasmere (probably Cumbria’s most famous village), The Yan is a brilliant base from which to start serious hikes. Work up a huge appetite to help you tackle the hearty dishes at Yan Bistro: expect rustic Cumbrian classics and nostalgic British fare. We gobbled down handmade onion bhajis and spicy fish stew.
Don’t forget to pack: A bit less in your suitcase than usual. You’ll need the extra room, to accommodate bags of gingerbread bought in the iconic Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.
Craving country house vibes? Rothay Manor delivers on every level. Stunning contemporary design (we Googled the wallpaper, immediately), 3 AA rosette dining, charming staff and an enviable Ambleside location: tick, tick, tick, tick. This one’s perfect if you want the quintessential Lakes experience, but don’t have tons of time to explore the area.
The 4 Silver Star Grade II listed building is beautiful to behold (despite some building work happening in parts – we can’t wait to see the renovations when they’re done!). Our bedroom boasted a freestanding bath, sumptuous living area, cosy walk-in closet, and pretty views of the stream below.
And the food? Sensational. Our tasting menu featured turbot with kohlrabi and saké, plus a chicken wing with wild garlic caper and koji – to name just a couple of stand-out dishes.
Don’t forget to pack: Your swimming cossie. Just a 10 minute drive away you’ll find ski lodge-like Brimstone hotel, home to a lavish, uber contemporary spa. We adored the outdoor jet pool and sauna, complete with a fireside. Sit back and watch the logs crackle with a glass of something fizzy. Happy holidays, indeed.
You’re going to need a car. It’s quicker, easier, and allows you to pack all the things you don’t know you need for a hiking and swimming trip, until you get there. Bung a ton of layers, towels, coats and walking shoes into the boot and you’re good to go.
We had an amazing experience testing out Turo, a car sharing app who kindly lent us a set of wheels. You can browse cars by destination (and owners, a bit like Airbnb). You choose whether you want to pick up the car, or pay a little extra to have it driven to you. Cars come with a full tank of petrol (make sure you fill up on return) and contact details for the owner, should you need to extend your hire or contact them. Much better than lugging your stuff on the train *and* better for the environment. Everyone wins!