AN OASIS OF CALM AND BEAUTY
By FIONA McILWAINE-BIGGINS
THE Cumbrian Lake District is one of the most stunning corners of England and a favourite with my husband, Richard and I.
However, it was with some apprehension that we set off for a recent weekend family break with our three-year-old daughter Amber.
You can never predict the qualms and foibles of young children so we went prepared for all eventualities, or so we thought.
As we drove off the Stena Line ferry at Cairnryan, the sun was shining with a long distance forecast of inclemently good weather, Amber had already drifted off to the Land of Nod and all seemed well with the world.
Unfortunately, less than an hour later, we were sitting stationary at now our third set of road works and Amber had unexpectedly awakened and was demanding to get out of her car seat. Thankfully having deployed the iPad for her back seat amusement and to ease our already frayed patience, we were soon back on the road and heading south covering the motorway miles uneventfully.
But no sooner had we exited onto the tranquil twisting roads of the Lake District that Richard and I so loved, than Amber hit her driving limit. Clearly expecting a three-year-old to endure a nine hour door to door trip to a destination was pushing our luck, especially for just a weekend. The journey that we had so often done ourselves, marvelling at the breathtaking passing scenery and relishing the little refreshment breaks, was not nearly so enjoyable with a bored, tired toddler in tow. Parents take note!
But as if by magic, as soon as we finally turned into the leafy lakeside car park of the Beech Hill Hotel on Windermere and Amber leapt down triumphantly from her car seat, she was reinvigorated with enthusiasm for her holiday and excited to see her room.
It was indeed a warm welcome we received from the moment we walked through the impressive front entrance of this distinctive 57-bedroom four star hotel. Situated on the East bank of Lake Windermere in elegant grounds gently sloping down to the tranquil shore, our hopes of a relaxing and restorative break were quickly, albeit tentatively, reignited. Smouldering, at least, since we had an energetic toddler to take into account.
Our Select Plus family room was spacious and comfortable and we were soon breathing in the fresh Cumbrian air and enjoying the unrivalled views from our windows across Windermere to the distant Western Fells and Coniston Old Man standing proudly surveying the spectacular scene. The room boasted the ubiquitous flat screen TV, tea & coffee making facilities, wifi access and an ensuite bathroom complete with power shower, toiletries and hairdryer. There was a spare put-up bed perfectly serviceable for Amber in the room too and use of the hotel’s leisure facilities also came as part of the package.
Despite the late hour for Amber’s normal dinner, even she was temporarily distracted by the panoramic vistas around this charming, waterside hotel that had retained over its numerous levels and floors, many features that harked back to a bygone era. As we sat on the stylish terrace nibbling indulgent canapés and perusing the restaurant menu, we were constantly drawn to stare again across the lapping lake to the mountain backdrop that was nothing short of breathtaking in the sunset.
For the first time that day we were able to sit, relax and soak up the atmosphere. Now this was the life. The testing car journey was behind us, for another day at least, and the unprecedented warm weather made for a perfect outdoor evening.
Leaving the fabulous views for a while, we were treated to a truly mouthwatering array of cuisine in the hotel’s AA award winning restaurant, Burlington’s. Undoubtedly the jewel in the Beech Hill’s crown, we enjoyed a host of memorable meals during our stay that were of exceptionally high quality. They were meticulously presented, using locally sourced ingredients and even the vegetarian and children’s options on the menu were original and inventive. There was also an extensive wine menu providing the perfect accompaniment to any meal.
After a good night’s sleep and a leisurely buffet breakfast of fresh fruits, cereals and cooked fayre, we were ready for adventure on our one day in the Lakes. We piled into the car for the short drive to Bowness and Windermere - beautiful little towns - one on the lakeside and the other at the top of the street that weaves up from the shore. Brimming with boutiques, shops and cafes, it was ideal for a family day out and we also discovered it was home to the wonderful World of Beatrix Potter. A real hit with Amber!
Then it was back to the hotel for an afternoon in its splendid Lakeview Spa. There was plenty of splashing fun for Amber in the 40ft indoor pool while Richard and I took turns to escape to the outdoor vitality spa pool that was bathed in glorious sunshine throughout our visit. Surrounded by a scented garden, it again afforded unrivalled views of Windermere studded with sailing boats and the dramatic soaring ranges and secluded properties beyond.
The Spa also included two treatment rooms, a Himalayan Sauna and an aromatic Steam Room. For full details on the Elemis treatments available at Lakeview Spa visit the hotel’s website.
After another exquisite dinner that evening, we retreated to the comfort of the well-worn leather Chesterfields in the cosy open plan lounge complete with intricately carved fireplace, thankfully not lit, and a selection of board games to occupy Amber before bed. This opened onto the terrace, and was a perfect cooler area as the hot weather had made the restaurant almost unbearably warm.
It was all too soon when we had to pack up and head off on the return leg home the following morning. This proved less challenging all round as the traffic flowed uninterrupted and respective service stations were dotted at suitable intervals along the journey.
Our brief foray as a family to the Beech Hill was enough to have us hankering for a return trip to this wonderful location. And while the Spa is brand new, this homely hotel is currently undergoing further refurbishments to areas around the characterful building; so what better excuse do we need to visit again soon.
FACT-BOX ON BEECH HILL HOTEL
The Beech Hill Hotel & Spa on Windermere offers a range of rooms right up to luxury suites and even a five star Gold award winning cottage set in the landscaped grounds.
Rates (Per room, per night)
B&B Rate ranges from £115 to £358 – they also offer “hot rates” so prices can be lower. Add dinner for £34.95 per adult and £14.95 per child per night. For full details and special offers online visit www.beechhillhotel.co.uk
THE Stena Line Belfast to Cairnryan service offers a direct link from Northern Ireland to Scotland on the Stena Superfast VII and Stena Superfast VIII from as little as £10*day return for foot passengers or for single car and driver from £79 (when you book 60 days in advance based on an economy crossing for a car and driver). The crossing time is approximately 2 hrs 15 mins with a choice of up to six sailings a day.
Experience the various lounges and Taste restaurant onboard the ships as well as the Curious George kids play area and POD Lounge with iPads and Xboxes so you can stay connected throughout your journey. Customers can upgrade to the luxurious Stena Plus lounge while onboard and indulge in a wide selection of complimentary snacks and beverages or indulge in the Pure Nordic Spa where you can make the most of the only Jacuzzi and sauna on the Irish Sea from £10 per person.
Those looking to book a Superfast Suite cabin for their crossing can do so from £20 per cabin. Upgrade to Stena Plus from £12 per person single.