Within walking distance of Ambleside town centre can be found Rothay Manor: for many years a byword for good taste, comfort and fine dining.
The country house hotel sits in its own beautiful grounds and exudes an old world charm that in places takes visitors all the way back to the Regency period in which it was built.
It is not the biggest hotel in the Lake District; it doesn’t boast the pool, gym and sauna combo to be found at quite a few rivals’ premises; and it has shunned certain (but not all) modernisations that certain others have undergone.
But what you do have is the lap of luxury and a warm, warm welcome.
Each of Rothay’s 19 rooms have a character and style of their own, from what I could see of the publicity, and ours wanted for nothing.
The room was large, palatial even, complete with mock fireplace and high ceiling, and we had a lovely long balcony with table and chairs which would have been much used had not precipitation been so in evidence during our stay.
It still afforded a lovely view of the grounds though.
The decor had more than a touch of chintz - which is, of course, far from in vogue at present - but the room didn’t look at all tired and, in any case, it’s not the sort of place where the current fad for lurid wallpapers, marble, slate and square porcelain would necessarily seem right.
The bathroom was beautifully appointed with a free-standing bath (not the biggest I’ve seen, mind) and a shower cubicle that was anything but cramped.
Either was ideal for unwinding in after an arduous day on the fells.
I liked those little luxurious touches beyond the prerequisite hot and cold drinks facilities: including towelling robes and notepaper, both adorned with the RH monogramme. The huge bed made for a very restful night’s sleep.
And so to the rest of the hotel. It is extremely stylish with several comfortable sitting rooms to which guests can retire for a quiet read or a preprandial drink.
The staff were welcoming and polite without being obsequious and nothing is too much trouble for them.
I should mention at this stage that it is also a dog-friendly establishment.
Not being pet owners ourselves, my wife and I did wonder if this might prove a bit of a negative. But Rothay does insist on canine visitors’ being well-trained and, while we saw several during our stay, they were all on their best behaviour and no source of nuisance at all.
We took up the offer of dinner which comes in two formats: a three-course a la carte menu at £45 a head, including canapes and a pre-dessert course; and an eight-course tasting menu for a further £15 each.
In for a penny, in for a pound, we both opted for the latter. And while, yes, it is quite a sum to pay out for a meal for many, in terms of craft and taste, it was worth every cent and would be perfect for a very special occasion.
Our dinner too was prefaced by a trio of canapes, the highlight of which was a delicious piece of seared octopus.
Attractions on the menu itself were many. The mackerel with beetroot, apple, creme fraiche, and wood sorrel was sensational; we enjoyed beef tartare with kohlrabi, shallots, hay mayonnaise and lovage; there was a lovely, delicate turbot course with fennel, haricot blanc, bitter lemon and camomile beurre blanc; and the main was loin, shoulder and belly of Ambleside lamb with two types of artichoke, cevenne onion and cured spinach which simply melted in the mouth.
As you might expect given the fine dining cachet and number of courses, portions were on the smaller side, but on completion of the meal we didn’t feel hungry (which has happened before when style has taken too much precedence over content at other establishments).
After an excellent night’s sleep we were back in the dining room for a full English breakfast about which we could have few complaints. There are plentiful supplies of food for those wanting a continental alternative too (or both) plus other options such as eggs Benedict. All very classily done.
I should also mention - although we didn’t have time (or the appetite after our other meals!) to try the hotel’s afternoon tea which is, by all accounts, excellent.
And it’s all within easy reach of the lovely town of Ambleside which boasts a beautiful town centre packed with varied shops.
We were only a couple of miles in different directions from attractions dedicated to the likes of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, Wray Castle and, of course, a multitude of lakes to walk round and mountains to climb up and down.
And after a day of such leisure exertions, there can be few who would quibble about being pampered by or relaxing at Rothay Manor.
Address: Rothay Manor, Rothay Bridge, Ambleside LA22 0EH
Telephone: 015394 33605
Ratings: Four AA stars and two AA rosettes for culinary excellence