Indulge in the Lake District

by Jeanette Smith

If you are looking for a pamper break to ready yourself for the hassles of Christmas then may I suggest you head for the hills of the Lake District for a bit of self indulgence.
The Sun Inn
The Sun Inn

My husband and I did just that and found ourselves in the beautiful market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, staying at the 5* 17th century Sun Inn. This was a wonderful way to start three days of total relaxation.

The Inn stands right in front of St Marys Church, parts of which date from the 12th century. Although very old, once you step inside you discover a modern hostelry with a calm and welcoming ambience. Steve, the manager, soon organised cases up to our room and a welcoming cup of coffee was freshly brewed at the bar as we sunk into a comfy sofa.

Photo by Daniel Wildey
Photo by Daniel Wildey

The bedrooms, all different, boast comfortable beds, hand-made furniture and bang-up-to-date pristine bathrooms, complete with shower and deep baths, and fluffy bathrobes. Bath House toiletries, made locally at Sedbegh, are a treat, and I scooped several portions of bath salts from a wooden bowl into a steaming deep bath and enjoyed the luxury of a pre-dinner soak, inhaling the wonderful lemon aroma.

Downstairs there is a traditional bar with ancient oak flooring, overhead beams, real fires and leather seating. However, after a short walk down to the River Lune, to Ruskin’s View – ‘the fairest in England, and therefore the world’, and on to Devil’s Bridge, we headed back to market square where they have held markets since 1227 to freshen up for our meal. 

Dinner was one of the highlights of our trip. Awarded 2 AA rosettes for its mouth-watering menus and gourmet breaks, owners Mark and Lucy Fuller pride themselves on sourcing local, seasonal produce wherever possible. Although there is an extensive a la carte menu, we chose from the table d’hôte at a reasonable £25.95 each. First there was a complimentary cup of tasty vegetable soup, before I tucked into pear, walnut and blue cheese salad, my husband choosing what he termed a ‘gorgeous’ mackerel pate. For our mains we both could not resist the sea bream, cooked to perfection. To top it all off I had the best pudding I think I have ever had! A soft and delicious walnut tart with banana and walnut ice-cream. The other half chose the apple crumble and was also wowed by its taste.

The Sun Inn regularly has Posh Noshers’ nights, each with a theme. The next one is on November 26 based around Bordeaux wines, at £55 each, with another on January 21 – perhaps a post Christmas treat to wash away those winter blues?

Overwater Hall
Overwater Hall

Next we motored to the 3* Overwater Hall, two miles from Bassenthwaite Lake in 18 acres of luscious gardens and woodland with the dramatic backdrop of Skiddaw and the Uldale Fells. This grade II listed 18th century Georgian country house has been in Tripadvisor’s top 25 Uk Hotels’ list for two years’ running, and we soon found out why. The façade sports white fairy-tale turrets and like the Sun Inn also has two AA rosettes for food. In 2012 it also won the Taste of Cumbria Award.

As soon as we drew up in the forecourt, out popped Stephen Bore, one of the owners, greeting us warmly, and taking our cases up the portico steps to be placed in our rooms.

The hotel is true country house style, with chintzy wallpaper, comfy sofas, chandeliers and high ceilings. What does hit you, once you are out of the cold of an English autumn is the warmth, which with blazing open fires, is a good as their welcome. 

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Our bedroom, with a separate sitting area and large modern bathroom, had subdued lighting – and with the total quiet outside – more than made one relax.  The views from the windows revealed lush woodlands and distant hills, and we waited to spot the ever-present red squirrels, but only saw one!  What Overwater Hall boasts is a plethora of  bird-life and red deer. Visitors had recorded many species of birds in the grounds and nut feeders are strategically placed on the balustrade outside the large cosy drawing room for a closer view.

There is an mahogany-panelled bar near the dining room, that one could sit in all evening and just while away the time. That is what Overwater Hall does to you. It makes you slow …right… down ...and relax.  Again the food was all we could have wished for.

Dinner at £45 per head gives you an inkling that you are in for a special treat

Dinner at £45 per head gives you an inkling that you are in for a special treat. Co-owner and chef Adrian Hyde, with his wife Angela, serve up an exceptional menu using the freshest local produce. Dinner is an event – not just a meal. I chose the trio of figs with port, juniper, goats cheese and thyme – delicious! My husband chose the plate of mixed fish dishes, all lovingly prepared and succulent.  A small fish course kept us going until the mains arrived. I again chose a combination of fish – sea bass, monkfish, king prawns, king scallops and red mullet all beautifully executed, whilst himself chose the trio of Cumbrian lamb each portion prepared in imaginative ways.

The deserts, mine a trio of rhubarb confections and my husband’s lavender scented crème brulee, all home-made, were also wonderfully tasty.

To finish off Stephen took us through to the lounge for coffee and wonderful petit fours, whilst heaping more logs on the fire.

Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale
Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

Usually we head for hotspots we know, Keswick, Ambleside, Kendal, Grasmere, so it was a revelation to find that Kirkby Lonsdale and Ireby provided spectacular scenery with less traffic and a more relaxed ambience. Just what we needed to calm us down before the headlong rush into the festive season. We now feel truly pampered and revitalised. 

Jeanette Smith was a guest of the Sun Inn, Kirkby Lonsdale: and the Overwater Hotel, Ireby:

Apart from walks and sightseeing Jeanette also took advantage of special rates on Lake Windermere Cruises for those who are retired:

And visited she also  the Bath House, to experience the wonderful toiletries at The Grain Store, Busk Lane, Sedbergh, (Also in Kirkby Lonsdale and Ambleside)

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Photo of Jeanette Smith
Jeanette Smith
Jeanette Smith, 67, has been a journalist since 1966 up to the role of local newspaper editor, and has worked on many local and regional papers. She has been a senior university lecturer teaching journalism and media law at Liverpool John Moores University for 12 years. Now retired, she is a Freelance Journalist, writing travel articles, reviewing plays, shows and gigs on Merseyside, as well as helping to publicise charitable causes she is involved with.

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September 2014 in Travel