I’ve just returned from a fantastic weekend on Lake Windermere in the Lake District. Whatever the weather, this exquisitely beautiful part of the country never loses its sense of drama and majesty. It’s been interesting to observe the changes in accommodation provision in the Lakes over the years, with a significant shift towards luxury accommodation and fine dining, so it was with great interest that I visited one of the newer openings last weekend.
Where to stay
My base for the weekend was the Winander Club at Low Wood Bay on the eastern side of Lake Windermere, between Ambleside and Windermere. For me, this was a wonderfully convenient and beautiful location, with lovely lake views, and very easy access to the many activities and services available in both Ambleside and Windermere, and good access to the wider National Park.
Low Wood Bay invited me to stay as their guest, but honestly, I had such a fantastic stay, I’d recommend it without hesitation. Low Wood is a very long-established hotel, and anyone familiar with the location will know it well – it’s a real landmark on the Lake. It describes itself as a resort, with two restaurants, a spa, pool and gym on site, and on this occasion, we absolutely loved having a range of lovely activities on site, especially as the weather during our trip was mixed, it was great to have some great activities to enjoy on the doorstep when it rained and the visibility was poor.
Our accommodation was at the Winander Club, a new addition to the site, which is a newly-built private club, with 29 bedrooms, a private bar and separate lounge where breakfast is served. Rooms are light, very modern and comfortably furnished, with very high quality, luxurious bathrooms and ESPA toiletries.
With its own staff, check in is very attentive, offering a glass of Prosecco (excellent Villa Sandi), before being shown up to the room. It is a cosy and personal haven from which to enjoy the rest of the resort.
The Low Wood Spa is absolutely lovely, and we thoroughly enjoyed their massages with the charming staff, and their ‘Thermal Journey’, which is essentially a tour of their top quality spa facilities, which includes two infinity pools (one indoor, one outdoor), an outdoor wood fired sauna, and several indoor steam, sauna and relaxation rooms. The Health Club has a very nice pool, sauna and steam room, plus a good gym and range of bookable classes. Sadly, a lack of time prevented me from trying the lake SUP yoga class! Opposite the hotel is the water sports centre, on the shore, which offers a further range of activities. What really made Low Wood Bay special was the warm, genuine service and the attention to detail, which really surpassed expectations.
Where to eat
On the first night, we ate at Blue Smoke on the Bay, Low Wood Bay’s flagship restaurant. The menu is focussed around the enormous wood-fired stove in the centre of the open kitchen. All dishes on the menu feature at least one ingredient that has been cooked over the fire.
We started with the crispy duck and hot smoked salmon, which were both delicious and generously portioned. We then chose the show-stopping Chateaubriand, which was really excellent. Perfectly cooked, juicy, and flavoursome beef with chargrilled Tenderstem broccoli, good sauces, especially the shallot and red wine jus, and excellent triple cooked homemade chips. I would have loved the menu to show off where the beef was from, as it was excellent, and judging by the delivery vans I spotted on site, from a quality, local butcher. The choice of wines is very strong, featuring some great bottles from excellent producers, and we genuinely struggled to choose. Bottles were priced fairly, too. To finish our meal, we shared a very good homemade strawberry cheesecake, with a gluten free oaty base, and wood-fired strawberry compote, and a selection of cheeses, including Colston Bassett stilton and Eden Valley brie. We enjoyed our meal so much, we went back for lunch the next day, and would happily visit again if we weren’t staying. It was a real treat though to enjoy a great meal and wine and just stumble back to our room afterwards.
Breakfast was very nice at the Winander Club. We enjoyed a good cooked breakfast with lovely, thick cut smoked bacon, and Cumberland sausages, with good sourdough toast, smoked salmon and buck’s fizz. All with a wonderful panoramic lakeside view and charming service.
Other recommended suggestions for nearby places to eat include Lake Road Kitchen and Kysty in Ambleside, Chesters by the River at Skelwith Bridge and the Drunken Duck at Barngates.
What to do
Ambleside and Windermere both offer plenty to do. There are lots of nice walks and boat trips, shops restaurants and coffee shops in both towns.
There is a great circular walk from Low Wood Bay, up to Wansfell, via Jenkins Crag, Ambleside and Troutbeck, through Skelghyll Woods. I’d really recommend that, although it is a 2-3 hour walk with steep, uneven stretches. The view of Low Wood Bay in the first photograph is from that walk.
Langdale is a short car or bus ride away, and its scenery is some of my very favourite in the Lakes. There are dozens of walks to try, but my favourite is the Langdale Pikes from Stickle Ghyll car park. It is a steep ascent, with a bit of a scramble and light rock climbing up to the top, but the views are immensely rewarding. A shorter, easier walk takes you up to Stickle Tarn alongside the waterfall, which is lovely, and significantly easier.
The Grasmere Gingerbread shop is not far away in Grasmere, which is worth a stop, as is Grasmere itself, and Keswick and Derwentwater, further afield is a great town to explore with lovely views and walks.
Thank you to Low Wood Bay for inviting me to stay as a guest.